Car accidents happen every day across California. In 2016, car accidents accounted for 9,746 fatalities and injuries in San Diego County. Any accident can be traumatic. Those involving serious injury or death can leave you feeling lost and uncertain as to what comes next. However, taking the appropriate steps after an accident is important to protect your rights. After experiencing an accident for the first time, the following days and weeks can be confusing. Below, we offer a guide of some important steps you should take if you have been injured in a California car accident.
At the Scene of the Accident
First and foremost, immediately after an accident, you should determine whether you have suffered any injuries. It doesn’t matter what type of accident you were involved in making sure everyone is alright is important. If you discover any potentially life-threatening injuries, call 911 right away. If there are no emergent injuries to yourself or the occupants of your vehicle, check the other vehicle to see if anyone needs help.
Once you have addressed any possible injuries, you should speak with other drivers involved in the accident. However, you do not give an account of what you think happened or assign any blame. Individuals may exhibit extreme emotions after experiencing a traumatic event. If the other driver is emotional, hostile, or under the influence, use extreme caution. Do not confront the driver or yell at them. If you can safely do so, exchange information. Basic information from the parties involved in the accident are critical should you decide to later file a personal injury suit.
Information You Should Gather After an Accident
Some of the more important information you should gather from your accident include:
- The driver’s name and phone number;
- The other driver’s insurance information, including the name of the provider, policyholder, policy number, and contact information;
- The license plate number of any vehicle involved in the crash; and
- Witness names and phone numbers.
Don’t Ignore Your Injuries
After an accident, it’s easy to say, “Oh, that doesn’t hurt,” or, “I’ll feel better in a couple of weeks.” But what happens five years from now when that “little problem” is still causing you pain? As humans, our natural instinct is to tough it out. Admitting that we are in pain is hard. But after an accident, acknowledge your injuries. Ignoring them will only lead to bigger problems down the road.
In California, accident victims only have two years to file a personal injury suit. If you are still experiencing pain beyond two years after the accident and you haven’t filed a claim, you’re out of luck. Healthcare is expensive. The law allows you to seek damages when someone else causes you injury. If you don’t make a claim, you’ll have to cover the cost of any medical care on your own.
Seek Immediate Medical Attention Right Away
You have two years to file a personal injury suit, but you should seek medical care as soon as possible. This will allow your care provider to evaluate your injuries and prevent any further damage. Some symptoms, including those of life-threatening injuries like spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries, don’t show up right away. Just because you feel okay, doesn’t mean nothing is wrong. It is always best to get evaluated after any motor vehicle accident.
When you go to the doctor, be honest about how you are feeling. Don’t hide any symptoms, but you also shouldn’t exaggerate any symptoms either. Exaggerated pain or made up symptoms will prevent the doctor from providing an accurate diagnosis. In addition, any discrepancies in your report of injury can ruin your credibility in a personal injury case. When you hide your symptoms, the doctor can’t provide a proper treatment plan and you may diminish the value of your case.
When it comes to talking about the accident, the doctor will probably have questions—”Were you wearing a seatbelt?” “Where were you sitting?” and “Did you brace for impact?” Be very careful when answering any questions about the accident. Your medical record will be a part of your personal injury case. Avoid admitting fault and don’t say anything that you would not want to be presented in front of a jury.
Report The Accident
California law requires drivers to file an accident report if the accident involves an injury, fatality, or damage of $1,000 or more. If the police arrived at the scene of the accident, they will take care of the accident report. If the police were not at the scene of the accident, you will need to fill out a report yourself. You can visit your local DMV office or print the form online and mail it in. You must return the form within 10 days of the accident. Be prepared to provide:
- The name of all drivers;
- The date of the accident;
- The location of the accident; and
- Insurance information for both drivers.
Follow Your Doctor’s Orders
It’s always a good idea to follow your doctor’s treatment plan. Even if you feel like you are getting better, you still need to attend all follow-up appointments and take any prescribed medication. Your doctor knows the best treatment to help speed up your recovery.
If you plan on filing a personal injury suit, the insurance company will track your behavior after the accident. If you skip an appointment or don’t fill your prescription, the insurance company will know. Failure to complete treatment will lead the insurance company to believe your injuries are not as serious as you reported. Questionable behavior related to treatment for your injuries, will likely result in the insurance company significantly lowering their settlement offer.
An Experienced Car Accident Attorney Can Answer Your Questions
Any time you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, you have legal rights that need to be protected. The law allows you to see damages for your injuries. A car accident attorney can help you gather evidence and build a strong case on your behalf. In the aftermath of a traumatic accident, focus on your physical recovery and let your car accident lawyer handle your legal claim. If you have questions or need more information, contact an experienced personal injury attorney can help.