Traffic injuries and fatalities have been on the rise throughout the nation, and California is no exception. The California Office of Traffic Safety reports that in 2021, the fatality rate jumped 7.6% from 3,980 deaths to 4,285 deaths as compared to 2020.
Serious injuries resulting from car accidents have also been on the rise. In 2021, the state recorded 17,920 serious injuries, a significant jump from 2020’s recorded 15,392 serious injuries.
Motorcycle fatalities have also increased over the years. Despite motorcycles making up only about 3% of all registered vehicles on our nation’s roadways, they account for about 14% of all traffic fatalities.
Drug-impaired driving, alcohol-impaired driving, speeding, failure to yield, and distracted driving remain some of the common culprits for these higher injury and fatality rates.
If you have been injured in a car accident in California, you do not have to navigate the aftermath alone. More importantly, you can take legal action against negligent parties to recover compensation for your injuries and pain and suffering.
At the Sette Law Office, our team is committed to representing victims just like you. When you schedule a free case consultation with our team, we will work to determine the strength of your case and help you explore your available legal options.
Contact our offices today to get the representation you deserve and get on the path to healing and recovery after your car accident.
What To Do After A Car Accident In California
After a car accident, it can be overwhelming to think about what you’re supposed to do, who to contact, how to pay your medical bills, the damage to your vehicle, and other stressors.
It’s important to understand the general components that are at play after a car accident in California. Doing so allows you to make the best decision possible during every stage of your car accident. After a California car accident, the following will generally happen:
- Police will arrive on scene and document a police report of what happened
- Both drivers should contact their insurance company to report the accident
- The insurance companies will investigate the accident
- A determination of fault will be reached
- The victim will receive compensation from the other driver’s insurance company
Of course, the circumstances of your accident will determine how the order of events plays out. For example, if the victim is unsatisfied with the insurance company’s appraisal, they can take additional action to recover the compensation they feel entitled to.
If the other driver’s insurance company feels that another third party should be held responsible for the accident, under subrogation, the insurance company has the legal right to go after the third party as well. This can impact your financial recovery and can lead to lengthy liability and settlement debates.
Having an experienced California car accident attorney on your side allows you to navigate your car accident with the legal representation you can trust.
California’s At-Fault Auto Laws
As with a majority of states, California adheres to “at-fault” auto laws. This means that the driver who caused the accident will be responsible for any losses the other driver suffers. Under California auto insurance laws, all drivers are required to carry driver’s insurance when operating a motor vehicle. Under California’s minimum insurance requirements, drivers are required to have the following liability protections in place:
- $15,000 per person in bodily injury liability coverage
- $30,000 per accidental injury liability
- $5,000 for property damage liability coverage
If a driver’s negligence caused an accident, their liability coverage will kick in to cover the losses the other driver has sustained.
Many California drivers also carry additional protection coverage to help pay for their medical and property losses, even if the accident wasn’t their fault.
If you have been injured in a car accident and your injuries exceed the liability coverage of the other driver’s insurance, you may be able to take additional legal action to recover compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit.
What To Do Immediately After A Car Accident
Whether it’s a hit-and-run or a road rage accident, knowing what to do immediately after a car accident is just as important as having an overview of how to navigate a car accident in California. If you have been injured in a car accident, be sure to do the following:
Check On All Occupants If It Is Safe
Whether you are the victim of a car accident or the at-fault driver who caused the accident, it’s important to check on all occupants of your vehicle to ensure they are okay. You can check on the occupant of the other vehicle as well, especially if the situation requires that all individuals involved move away from where the accident has happened.
If you know that individuals in either your vehicle or the other vehicle have suffered injuries from the car accident, you should call 911. Calling 911 will dispatch an ambulance to the scene so that injured individuals can get the medical attention they need.
Calling 911 also ensures a police officer will arrive to document the accident via a police report. The police report will detail information, including how the accident happened, who was hit and injured, witness statements, and any additional information describing the scene. A police officer may also take down a statement from you and any other motorists involved in the accident. Officers may include witness statements as well.
If Possible, Move The Vehicle To A Safe Location
If you are able to, you should move your vehicle to a safe location to keep from obstructing traffic. In severe accidents, you will want to wait until a responding officer arrives until you move your vehicle.
Do Not Leave The Scene
Whether or not the accident was your fault, you should never leave the scene of the accident. Doing so can complicate any claim you want to bring forward. It is also against the law to leave the scene of an accident in California. Doing so can result in a misdemeanor charge.
Get Contact Information From Witnesses
There will often be other motorists, pedestrians, and others who witness the car accident happen. Collecting the contact information of the other witnesses can be incredibly valuable in helping you build a case, especially if you were not the at-fault driver. In today’s technological age, it is as easy as pulling out your cell phone to record and ask any witnesses to describe what they saw happen.
Exchange Info With Other Drivers
Exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver is imperative to get the claims process started. In some situations, if you don’t feel comfortable asking the other driver for the contact or insurance information, alert the responding police officer, and they can help you obtain this information.
Do Not Get Involved In Arguments
Car accidents are understandably stressful experiences and can generally cause tension between drivers and witnesses. When communicating with the other driver, keep communication short and direct and avoid confrontation and arguing.
Do Not Admit Fault
Never admit fault following a car accident. It’s human nature to feel sympathetic after an accident, and for many, unfortunately, this may result in them taking responsibility for the accident even when they are not to blame.
If you feel you may be at fault, you only understand your perspective of what happened and may be unaware of other events that caused the accident. By admitting guilt or taking even a little ownership of what happened, the other driver’s insurance company could conclude their investigation, putting full blame on you.
Instead, allow the insurance companies to do their job and conduct an investigation into the event that happened.
Save Your Side Of The Story For The Police And Your Insurance Company
Immediately after the accident is not the time to discuss with the other driver what happened, who is to blame, and who is liable. When you engage in this type of conversation with the other motorist, you could inadvertently be incriminating yourself, giving the other driver information that they can use against you.
Instead, communicate with the responding police officer and your insurance company about the accident and what happened.
Don’t Sign Anything Or Give Statements
The other driver’s insurance company may try to contact you to learn more about the accident and what happened. If the other driver’s insurance company reaches out, direct them to speak with your insurance company representative.
Insurance companies understand the tactics of getting important and often incriminating evidence from the other driver. Often, the other driver’s insurance company may try to force you to give a statement or sign a statement about the accident. You should never do either without consulting with a California car accident attorney. An attorney will review any documentation or settlement requests to determine if they will help or hinder your case.
What Else To Do After A Car Accident
The evidence collection process starts immediately after the car accident. Do the following to ensure your rights are protected when you file an insurance claim or decide to take additional legal action:
Document The Scene
Documenting the scene is critical in the evidence-collection process. Try to do the following:
- Photograph the accident, including photographs of the damage to your vehicle, the damage to the other vehicle, and a general snapshot of the accident location
- If there’s inclement weather, take images of any skid marks, tire tracks, or signage that could prove the other driver’s negligence
- Take notes of things the other driver says, witness statement, and contact information
- Note any injuries that you or the other driver sustained. This can also include notes of airbag deployments or medical services rendered at the scene.
- Note the name and badge number of the responding officer and ask for a copy of the police report
- Any other important information that relates to your accident
Contact Your Insurance Company
Contacting your auto insurance company immediately after the car accident is essential. Generally, the time frame is within 24 hours. Some insurance policies will have strict deadlines on how long you have to file a claim. Waiting beyond this deadline could keep you from collecting the benefits you’re entitled to.
Follow Up On All Medical Recommendations And Appointments
Seek medical assistance for any injuries you’ve sustained immediately after your car accident and keep up to date with appointments. Don’t wait days or weeks to seek medical attention, as this can weaken your claim that your injuries were the result of your car accident.
Do Not Speak To The Other Driver’s Insurance Company
Avoid any communication with the other driver’s insurance company. It’s common for the other driver’s insurance company to contact a victim to get more information about the car accident. When speaking with an insurance agent, always ensure it is the representative you are talking to. Even then, it’s best to stick with the facts and answer their questions instead of offering additional information. When speaking with an insurance company, generally, less is more.
Do Not Accept Settlement Offers Before Speaking With An Attorney
Insurance companies like to resolve car accident claims as quickly as possible. The other driver’s insurance company may offer you a settlement check days after your car accident. Your case is closed once you accept the check and sign off on confirmation of the settlement.
Unfortunately, insurance companies will often give lowball settlement offers. Never accept a settlement offer unless you speak with an experienced car accident attorney first.
How A Car Accident Attorney Can Help You
Working with an experienced California car accident attorney means you’ll have legal support and a representative on your side who will help you do the following:
- Determine liable parties
- Speak with all parties on your behalf
- Collect critical evidence, including police reports, surveillance footage, witness statements, and more
- Assess your losses and fight for recovery of those losses
- Negotiate diligently with insurance companies and push against lowball/unfair offers
If you have been injured in a car accident in Sacramento or the surrounding area, Sette Law is here to help. Schedule your free case consultation to get a one-on-one analysis of your accident with a legal expert you can count on.
Get the car accident compensation you need. Call Sette Law today.
Automobile Insurance Text Version. (2023).
Kagan, J. (2022). Subrogation in Insurance: What it Is and Why It’s Important.
Motorcycle – Injury Facts. (2023).