Unfortunately, car accidents are an inevitable reality in a city like Los Angeles. Considering that the stretch of the 405 freeway that runs through Los Angeles averages about 379,000 vehicles each day, it is easy to understand why. Regardless of whether you have actually been involved in a car accident recently or if you are simply being proactive in the case that you are ever in one, it is extremely important to know what steps you need to take after a vehicle collision.
In this article, our team at Forward Law Group provides a comprehensive list of what to do after a car crash, beginning from the time the accident occurs. By having this information and being prepared, not only will the situation be a little less stressful, but you will be in a better position to deal with the accident as effectively as possible.
After an accident, if you think you may be hurt or injured, it is safer to err on the side of caution and call 911. You may not initially feel injured due to the shock and adrenaline of the crash. For this reason, after the crash, take a few deep breaths to help calm yourself down, then do a quick self-assessment to see if you’re hurt or injured. For example, check to see if you’re able to move all of your muscles in routine motions without experiencing pain. If you are seriously injured, get to a safe location and then try to keep your movement to a minimum until paramedics arrive. By doing so, you will avoid making your injuries more severe.
Even if there are not any serious injuries that require emergency medical assistance, it is important to call the police to get a report of the accident. This way, there is a trusty report of how the accident occurred, where the accident occurred, and who may be at fault. It is extremely important to call the police if you suspect that the other driver is under the influence or if they do not provide you with valid insurance information.
Calling the police in the event of a hit and run is also extremely important. If the other driver did not leave their information or fled the scene of the accident, the police will provide an official report with key details that will be useful down the line. In addition, they may be able to collect evidence that could potentially identify the hit and run driver.
Some key details the police dispatcher will likely ask you are:
If no one is seriously injured and the vehicles are still in drivable condition, move over to the side of the road to avoid obstructing traffic. However, if it is safe to do so, get your phone out and take a video of the cars involved before you move the vehicles (more on this below).
If your vehicle is not safe to drive, leave it where it is, turn on your emergency hazard lights, and call a tow truck. If the police show up quickly, they will help guide people away from the wreck until a tow truck comes. Remember to gather all your important belongings from your vehicle before the tow truck gets to the accident scene. Additionally, because the tow truck will need to tow your truck to an auto body shop, it is a good idea to do some research and find a body shop you trust in case you ever have an accident. Before they tow your vehicle, ask the tow truck driver to provide you with documentation, such as an invoice or receipt.
While some people cannot take pictures after an accident due to injuries, others simply forget to because of the stress brought on by the crash. It is critical to take as many photos as possible of the car accident scene immediately following the crash. Take pictures of both vehicles, including areas where there is damage, as well as of the general accident scene. This includes taking photos of traffic signs close by, images of the intersection where the accident occurred, images of tire marks on the pavement caused by the vehicles involved in the accident, and anything else that seems relevant.
Always remember—it’s better to have too many pictures than not enough of them! Videos are also helpful. Walk around the accident scene while recording a video and capture all of the aforementioned details. One useful tip with videos is to narrate what the video is showing as you are recording it. In the case that you are injured and cannot take photos or videos yourself, kindly ask a witness to capture them for you and send them to you.
If there are any stores nearby that have security cameras, it is helpful to try and see if they can provide you with footage of the accident that their camera might have captured. In some cases, security camera footage is saved for only a few hours, so try to do this as soon as you can.
Never immediately leave the scene of an accident. Leaving an accident scene without providing information is a criminal charge. Always collect the necessary information from the other driver(s) such as:
Much of the information in the list above can be found on the driver’s license and the vehicle registration card. Be sure to provide the other driver(s) with your information as well. If, by chance, you crash into a parked vehicle and the other driver cannot be located, be sure to leave a note that includes your name, telephone number, and address.
Remember to also get the contact information of witnesses who saw the accident occur. Creating a new contact on your phone is a multi-step process that might not be easy to do immediately following an accident when you are stressed out. One tip we recommend to make it easier is to instead send a text message to the witness’ phone number with their name. This way, you have a record of their contact information and can avoid a situation where you accidentally forgot to save their information.
As the saying goes, anything you say will be used against you. In some cases, people admit fault for an accident when in reality, the accident may have occurred as a result of the other driver. Do not make any statements relating to fault, and in addition, avoid having any conversation about fault with the other driver. It’s highly recommended to also avoid apologizing because it can be interpreted as admitting fault. Instead, you can be polite and kind by asking the other driver if they need medical assistance.
Similarly, do not make any statements regarding not having any injuries, not feeling pain, etc.
In most cases, people who have been involved in a car crash do not feel all of their injuries right away because of the adrenaline their body is feeling from the crash. Muscle pain, for example, can take as long as 24 to 48 hours to feel in some cases. It is key to remember that your words can be used against you, so it is best to refrain from making any statements related to fault or injuries.
As soon as you are home, grab a pen and a notepad to write down all of the details when your memory is still fresh. Important details to note include the time and date, weather conditions, cross streets where the intersection occurred, the direction that each vehicle involved in the crash was traveling, the estimated speed of the vehicles, traffic signs near the accident scene, and your location on the road during the time of the collision.
Navigating a vehicle accident on your own can be stressful in all cases, particularly if the accident was serious and if you have sustained injuries. A lawyer can help you review documents that you receive from the other driver’s insurance company, as well as help you recover compensation for your injuries and other damages that were a result of the accident. At Forward Law Group in Los Angeles, our attorneys are experienced in effectively dealing with vehicle accident cases and will work around the clock to achieve the best possible outcome for you. Some of the specific things that an experienced attorney can help you with immediately following a car accident include:
This is not something that you need a lawyer to do, but having a lawyer notify your insurance company will give you extra protection. In some cases, people include unnecessary details when notifying their insurance company that ultimately ends up working against them because the details get misinterpreted. An experienced lawyer will know the exact details they need to provide to your insurance company.
Talking to the other driver’s insurance company by yourself can be tricky. The primary reason for this is that their employees are adept at using sly tactics to manipulate questions and get you to make statements that ultimately give them the upper hand. An experienced lawyer knows all of the tricks that insurance companies use, and furthermore, how to maneuver around them.
Dealing with an excessive amount of paperwork related to your crash can be a nightmare. With so many different documents, it is easy to misplace or lose documents that are essential to your case. An attorney will take care of all paperwork matters such as processing letters you receive from insurance companies (you own insurance and the other driver’s), requesting the police report, keeping record of medical treatments, and so on.
To be able to prove liability and damage, a high-quality lawyer will review all of the evidence you have (pictures and videos), speak with any and all witnesses to collect statements, and obtain all reports (police, medical, and so on). In many cases, a store might be hesitant to release security camera footage of an accident to an individual, but lawyers know how to approach and communicate with management to ensure this evidence is collected. A good lawyer knows exactly how to organize all of the evidence to build a strong case that will help secure a settlement that covers all of your damages.
If you are someone who wants to feel completely prepared in the event of a car accident, we also recommend getting a dash cam that continually records as you drive. Many dash cams on the market today feature high-definition video quality, as well as night vision capability. While dash cams are an investment that requires you to spend approximately a couple hundred dollars, they will provide peace of mind.
The information we have outlined above is intended to help you be prepared in the unfortunate situation that you are ever involved in a car crash. By following the steps that we describe here, the accident will hopefully be a little less stressful and a lot easier to navigate. Our friendly, experienced attorneys at Forward Law Group are always only one call away anytime you need help or guidance with a car accident case in Los Angeles. Over the years, we have helped numerous clients across Los Angeles and California get the best outcome after a car accident. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, call us today at (818) 471-8389.
Also Read: WHEN IS A PROPERTY OWNER LIABLE FOR A SLIP AND FALL ACCIDENT?