Like some motorists, you might have gone years without getting in a car accident. Yet, no matter how skilled a driver you are, your ability to avoid collisions is in part due to luck. If you find yourself involved in one, you may have no idea how to proceed in its aftermath. There are certain steps you must take, though, that will offer you protection.
Take safety measures
Immediately after your accident, you must determine whether you – and any other drivers involved – have sustained injuries. If anyone has, you must call 911 right away. Regardless, you will want to call the police as a precaution. If you can, you will also want to move your vehicle out of traffic.
Document the accident
Once you have moved your vehicle, you will want to exchange information with the other motorists involved. In doing so, you must make sure you take down:
- Their name
- Their contact information
- Their insurance company and policy number
- Their vehicle’s make, model, color and license plate number
Using your smartphone camera, you will also need to photograph the accident and any damage to the vehicles involved.
Once an officer arrives at the scene, they will prepare an accident report. This report will summarize the collision and can establish who was at fault for it. You will want to request the accident report’s number from the officer so you can access a copy.
If you do not call the police, you must, under California law, report your accident to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles if the total vehicle damage exceeded $750 or if someone sustained injuries. You must do so within 10 days of when it happened.
Make an insurance claim
After your accident, you will want to get in contact with the at-fault motorist’s insurance company. Because California follows a fault-based insurance system, your claim – in most cases – will go through their policy, rather than yours. Yet, you will also want to inform your insurance agent about your accident. Contacting them is important in case the at-fault motorist lacks auto insurance or has limited coverage. It is also important to do so in case the at-fault motorist’s insurance company disputes your claim.
By knowing how to respond to an auto accident, you can work toward collecting compensation that is appropriate for your injuries. A legal professional can help you make sure you take the proper steps to do so.