Step 1: Safety
After impact, your initial concern should be the physical safety and welfare of everyone involved. Take a look around and ask yourself:
Was Anyone Injured in the Accident?
First, make sure you are okay. Then, assess how the passengers in your vehicle are doing – look out for any injuries. Next, check to see if the passengers in the other vehicle are hurt. Keep in mind, injuries are sometimes not immediately apparent and can be more serious than initially presumed. Use caution in assessing any injuries on the scene and if you can safely help anyone, you should do so.
Are you Located in a Dangerous Zone?
Vehicles displaced in an accident present a danger to yourself as well as other motorists and oncoming traffic who may not have clear visibility or proper warning of the accident. Additional damage, injury and death can occur if vehicles and individuals remain in a problematic area. It is imperative to move off or to the side of the road onto the shoulder and deploy emergency signals. If the car is immobile and is standing in an unsafe area, turn off the engine, turn on your hazard lights and safely move to a secure area, but do not leave the scene.
Step 2: Do Not Admit Fault
Even if you consider yourself to be responsible for a wreck or an automobile accident, do not admit fault. Apologizing and saying “sorry” can constitute an admission of guilt. It is best to refrain from speaking about the accident because there are always additional or unknown factors that cause and contribute to accidents that you may be unaware of initially.
California Contributory Negligence Law: Pure Comparative Negligence
California follows a pure comparative negligence law, which affects the determination of liabilities in the event of an accident. Pure comparative negligence is a concept that calculates damages based on the level of attributed fault. For example, if someone seeks $10,000 in damages and is found to be 25% responsible for causing the accident, the maximum settlement is $7,500 (the total minus 25%).
Step 3: Call the Police & Seek Medical Attention
Even in the case of minor injury or light physical damage, it is important to alert authorities as soon as possible to ensure proper care. Some injuries, like brain trauma from car accidents, can take weeks or months to manifest. Having detailed official medical records are important for any future car accident claims you might make in California.
At the scene of the accident, the police will conduct a preliminary investigation and create an accident report which holds their findings and important details about the circumstances of the incident, which can be crucial to a car accident lawsuit and insurance claim.
Step 4: Call a Lawyer
Contacting and hiring a lawyer after an accident can guarantee and protect your rights. Legal specialists provide consultation and advice on different formalities or legal processes such as writing statements, filing claims or lawsuits, recovering losses and receiving damages as part of a settlement. Depending on the type of accident and outcome, there are different types of lawyers who can take on your case. Often, lawyers are paid based on contingency, meaning legal fees are only applied if the attorney is successful in receiving a settlement for the injury, damage or death.
Car Accident Injury Lawyer
Car accident injury lawyers are practitioners that provide legal services for anyone that experiences physical or psychological injury as the result of an accident or collision.
Car Accident Property Damage Lawyer
Car accident property damage lawyers are professionals that help facilitate claims and repairs for damaged vehicles or property in the case of an accident. They often correspond and represent their clients in negotiations with the other parties involved in the accident and/or their insurance companies regarding settlements for damages incurred.
Car Accident Wrongful Death Lawyer
Wrongful death lawyers represent clients whose loved one’s fatality was caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness. In car accident cases, they are tasked with representing the families of the deceased in filing claims against those responsible for the accident and facilitating financial damages. View the 10 common types and causes of wrongful death lawsuits.
What Evidence Will My Attorney Need for My Car Accident Lawsuit?
In order to pursue claims for car accident lawsuits in California, attorneys need all relevant documentation and information related to the accident. This includes the accident report, insurance policy information for anyone involved, witness statements and photographic evidence of injuries and property damage. While it is best to gather all information and evidence at the time of the accident, it is not always possible, as victims and those responsible can be transported from the scene to the hospitals or police station right away.
The accident report is an itemized detailed account of facts and events related to the wreck. Issued and filed by law enforcement, this report is considered a formal written statement that certifies the conditions in which the accident happened.
Information of Everyone Involved
It is important to collect as much vital information as possible from everyone involved in the accident. This includes:
- State-issued licenses with names and addresses
- Insurance carriers and policy numbers
- Vehicle registrations
Witness statements can be powerful in proving liability and fault. Because witnesses of accidents do not have a personal or financial interest in the outcome of the claim or lawsuit, they are considered unbiased. Their testimony can be used to prove responsibility, defend innocence, corroborate injuries and support claims. If there are witnesses, it is important to have them write or record a statement and then sign, date and provide their personal information to law enforcement at the scene, which can be referenced in the accident report.
Photos & Videos
Photographs and videos taken at the scene of the accident can be a great source of illustration of what exactly occurred and provide visual evidence of damages. They are used as important tools to support and verify claims. Photos not only better inform law enforcement and legal teams; they are also used by insurance adjusters when investigating claims. Take photos of each vehicle and any damage that occurred, as well as any injuries of anyone involved in the accident.
Other Helpful Items to Consider:
Important details and questions to answer include:
- Location of cars before and after collision – How did the cars involved collide? Where were they located? What was their position on the roadway?
- Weather conditions – Was it raining, foggy, or icy?
- Road conditions – Did adverse road conditions affect the accident? If so, what was hindering a safe traffic pattern?
- Time of day – When did the accident take place?
Step 5: Dealing with Insurance and/or Filing a Lawsuit
After an accident, dealing with insurance companies and filing motions in court are not easy to handle without proper legal consultation. Coordinating the repair of damages or filing claims with multiple insurance companies and pursuing litigation in the court of law require significant attention to detail and legal competence. Hiring an attorney can guarantee compliance with the law and maximize potential outcomes.
To speak with a car accident legal specialist in California today, call 818-873-0807 or fill out the form.
Notify Your Insurance Carrier That You’ve Been in a Wreck
Regardless of personal involvement or responsibility in an accident, it is very important to contact your insurance company right away and disclose detailed information about what happened.
Should I Contact the Other Driver’s Insurance Carrier
There are certain risks of directly communicating with insurance carriers after an accident. Insurers might try to issue a quick settlement that does not adequately cover all costs incurred. Speaking to an insurance agent can potentially hinder your case and endanger the likelihood of a future settlement. This process is best mitigated by an experienced attorney.
Filing a Lawsuit after a Car Accident
Filing a lawsuit in the wake of an accident is not an easy task to handle independently, or without the help of a skilled attorney. Lawsuits that involve compensation for damages or injuries are civil suits, which are initiated by filing a claim within the statute of limitations. In California, the statute of limitations to bring a personal injury claim is two years from the date of the accident, and three years to file a property damage claim.
How We Can Help
The processes and procedures required in the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident are best handled by legal professionals. Finding and hiring an attorney can ensure that victims of accidents receive the best settlement and fully exercise their rights to compensation, retribution and damages.
Car Accident Attorneys in California
The Law Center partner, Karns & Karns is one of the leading firms in personal injury cases throughout California. Karns & Karns is a premier law firm focused on personal injuries from car accidents. With over 65 years of combined experience, the firm has a proven track record in helping their clients receive restitution and compensation in addition to rehabilitation, medical care and support. Their commitment to their clients and expertise in the personal injury law sector have helped build their reputation as one of the most resolute personal injury firms in the State of California.
The Law Center
The Law Center is dedicated to helping people who have been injured by the wrongful acts of others. From our dynamic and dedicated network of legal partners, we facilitate the connection of victims to the expert legal practitioners who can best help them.
If you are searching for legal help in the aftermath of a car accident, we are here to help. Call 818-873-0807 or fill out the form below to speak with an attorney and begin your path toward justice and recovery.