In California, a state where the main mode of transportation is driving, car accidents are bound to happen. If you are a driver or passenger in the state of California and you were involved in a car accident, there are certain steps you can take in order to ensure your rights are protected in the case of an injury or property loss.
Remain at the Scene
In California, if you leave the scene of an auto accident where a person has been injured, you could be charged in criminal court with hit and run. Penalties can include a fine of up to $10,000 and up to one year in jail (more if the injury is serious or someone dies).
If the only harm appears to be property damage, you may legally leave the accident scene after identifying yourself to the parties involved. Failure to identify yourself is a California misdemeanor hit and run. Penalties can include a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to 6 months in jail.
If the other involved driver(s) fled the scene, contact the police immediately. If the police can track the hit and run driver down, then you can file a claim against his/her insurer. And if the at-fault driver is never found, you may still be able to recover damages from your own insurer if you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage and/or comprehensive and collision coverage.
Call the Police
After the accident occurs, even if it was minor, call the police. Upon their arrival, make sure to accurately describe the timeline of the collision to the police for their report. Once the reporting officer collects information from all parties involved, they will provide you with a report number. Make sure to take note of this number so you are able to attain the police report whenever it is filed.
Photographic evidence can be very useful should you decide to file a claim. If you are able to safely, take pictures of the accident, even if there seems to be no damage. Take a picture of your car in the area that was involved in the accident and do the same for the other vehicles involved. This way you have a record of all damages that may or may not have been occurred.
Before leaving the accident site, make sure to exchange information with the other drivers, passengers, and witnesses that were involved. Take a photo of their driver’s license and insurance card.
Seek Medical Attention
Seek medical attention immediately after a car accident. Often times, adrenaline hides injuries, fooling accident victims into thinking they are “ok” and other injuries just don’t show up until a few days after the accident. The best thing you to do to protect your health and your legal rights down the line is to been seen by a healthcare professional who can properly assess and treat your injuries.
Report the Accident
Once you have been treated for any injuries and have had a moment to collect yourself, contact your insurance company to report the accident and if you haven’t before, find out what exactly your policy covers in terms of potential medical bills related to your accident. If you are put in touch with a claims adjuster from your insurance company, do not overshare. This is an area where we see many clients get nervous and mention something about fault. If you have any concerns or questions, you should reach out to an experienced accident attorney right away.
At Dennis Law Group, we offer complimentary consultations. Contact us today to see if you have a case.