WHAT TO DO AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT?
Beyond any potential injuries and property damage, a car accident can be a shock because it’s sudden and unexpected. You may feel unable to do anything to cope with the situation. In a time like this, you need a good lawyer to defend your rights and secure any compensation for any liabilities you’ve sustained. At the very least, calling us puts control back in your life again. Our Los Angeles car accident attorneys advise you on what to do next and investigate the facts of an incident. But as quick as we are in handling your situation, we cannot be there at the moment of impact. The things you do then can affect your emotional, physical and financial well-being as well as the final disposition of any legal action. It’s therefore important to take as many of the following steps as you can.
Check for injuries.
Your first priority after any accident is to ensure that everyone is okay. Determine if you or anyone in your car is injured. Then approach the other vehicles and check on the conditions of their occupants. Finally, if pedestrians are involved, find out how they’re doing as well. If someone is hurt, phone 911 immediately and ask for help. Your taking the initiative in seeing to everyone’s well-being will weigh in your favor.
You want to keep the accident scene untouched until first responders get there. However, if doing so could possibly endanger anybody, you want to take steps to put everyone out of harm’s way. For example, in fast and heavy traffic, you may want to pull your vehicle over to a shoulder. Whenever possible, you should handle your own vehicle and issues with your passengers, and let other individuals deal with their own concerns. Otherwise, if you start helping someone else push their car, you could be accused of causing a problem later on.
Beyond finding out everyone’s condition, you do not want to say much else. What you say can be used against you. Even a sympathetic utterance such as “I’m sorry that I didn’t see you there” may be taken as admission of guilt and will be seized upon by opposing council. If first responders ask you questions, answer truthfully, simply and succinctly. Be even less forthcoming if civilians want your declaration. The only thing you need to exchange with other people involved is insurance information such as policy number, insurance agency, agent name and contact info.
Write down what happened.
While the accident is still fresh in your mind, use your smartphone’s memo function to write down what happened from your point of view. (If you don’t have such an app, try sending yourself the details via email or text.) Detail the date, time, and location of the incident; vehicles involved, including their license plate numbers; the people at the scene, including your passengers, occupants of other cars and any witnesses; weather and traffic conditions; condition of any vehicles; speed; and any other contributing factors. Put down specific numbers whenever possible. Don’t just say “Other driver was speeding.” Instead, write down “Other driver seemed to be going 75 mph in a 40 mph zone.” If anyone says anything to you, such as about their health conditions, make a note of that as well.
Obtain witness information.
Find out if anyone other than the involved parties witnessed the accident. An independent witness can sometimes make or break a case. If any bystander or other motorist witnessed the accident, obtain their name and number.
Pictures and video can be far more accurate, detailed and credible in showing what happened than even the most extensive prose. So use your camera to get shots of everything to do with the accident. Take pictures of the people, witnesses and vehicles involved; surrounding traffic, buildings and property damage; damage to individual vehicles; injuries; and first responders and their actions. If any movement is happening, record it with your video and audio functions.
Don’t sign anything.
It’s not likely that in the immediate aftermath of the accident, anyone will have the presence of mind of foresight to come up with a document and ask you to sign it. However, such paperwork often materializes many days after the incident. You may be told that it’s just an insurance formality, when in fact it may be your admission of guilt or a way to eliminate your rights. It’s best to tell them that you’d like to look over the words first and then get back to them. Then take the document to us, unsigned, so we can evaluate its purpose.
Don’t go it alone.
The other people involved may be sympathetic or attractive, or may remind you of someone you care for. That’s no excuse to make decisions about them even if you’re an excellent judge of character. Unless you have accidents every day, you can’t possibly be familiar with the legal and financial consequences of what just happened. You need an experienced and objective third party who is on your side to determine what’s best for you. We can be that party but only if you contact us as soon as possible.
Call Us For A Free Consultation
Contact one of our offices in Los Angeles, Santa Ana or Riverside to discuss your car accident injury claim with a lawyer. We offer a free initial consultation where you can get honest answers to your questions. You can reach us toll free at 800-615-6595 or via email to schedule an appointment.