This page explains what you should do after you’ve been in a car accident. Lots of people have questions after an accident. What if you’re injured? When should you consult with a car accident attorney? When should you hire one? What does it cost? This page provides answers to many of the common questions that auto accident lawyers get on a daily basis.
The failure to use reasonable care in driving a vehicle is negligence. CACI § 700. A person is negligent if he or she does something that a reasonably careful person would not do in the same situation or fails to do something that a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation. CACI § 401
While this page provides some basic information for people, it is not a substitute for speaking with a car accident attorney. Every case is different and this page should be treated simply as information, not legal advice.
What Should You Do After a Car Accident?
- First and foremost, stop the vehicle. California Vehicle Code requires you stop immediately if you are involved in an accident. If someone is injured, do not continue driving to a convenient location.
- If nobody is injured, the Vehicle Code permits you to stop at the nearest location that does not impede traffic if only property (i.e. cars) are damaged.
- If you need immediate medical attention due to an injury, get it and give your physician as many details as possible about the accident and pain you are suffering.
- Obtain insurance information, registration information, license plate number, and driver’s license number, and address from the other driver(s) involved in the accident. There may be times when this is not possible, such as a hit and run, but otherwise it can be a misdemeanor, fine, or worse if the other drivers do not give you the items listed above. California Vehicle Code § 20002(b)-(c).
- Obtain the names and contact information of all witnesses. This includes people who saw the accident, and people in all the involved vehicles. This can help your claim tremendously regardless of when resolution occurs. If someone is injured in the accident, you will be required to disclose the names and contact information of occupants in your vehicle.
- Take pictures of the accident, damage to the vehicles, and, if possible, injuries. Do not forget that your cell phone probably has a camera!
- File a written report as soon as possible. If anyone is injured in the car accident, requires you submit a written report to the California Highway Patrol within 24 hours.
- Call a car accident attorney.
What NOT to Do After a Car Accident?
- Do not admit fault. Car accidents are complicated and something the other driver did may actually be the root cause of the accident. You do not want to unknowingly hurt your case!
- Do not sign anything without your lawyer, except if a ticket is issued by a law enforcement officer. You should sign that.
- Do not talk to the insurance companies of the other driver(s). They are out to minimize your compensation.
- Do not post anything on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram about your accident. Social media statements may come back and harm your case.
- Do not discuss the accident with anyone, but your physician or attorney. This can be vitally important should your car accident go to trial.
Let your Car Accident Attorney Determine Fault
After an accident, it is difficult to figure out who, or what, was legally at fault. The other driver may have been texting. Or maybe your vehicle was defective for some unforeseen reason. Maybe the other driver failed to maintain her vehicle. There are infinite variables that come into play. Long story short, you shouldn’t be trying to determine fault. A car accident attorney will be able to help you get through this maze to figure out if you have a case and who the case should be brought against.
When Should You Consult with an Attorney?
The easiest way to answer this question is to say, “AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!” Without legal advice, it is almost impossible for you to make an informed decision on how to move forward. Without a lawyer it is difficult to recover from the insurance companies what you’re legally entitled too. Insurance adjusters are extremely sophisticated and know how to minimize the amount of money they owe to people injured in auto accidents.
Money aside, consulting with a great car accident attorney brings tremendous piece of mind. After an injury, most people are shaken to the core. Life changes overnight. Most accident victims are afraid of what to say, who to talk too, or how to get treatment. Consulting with an experienced and compassionate car accident attorney solves these uncertainties.
Your Car Accident Attorney vs. the Insurance Adjuster
Insurance adjusters for the at-fault driver often try to trick accident victims so that the liability of the insurance company can be minimized. While the adjuster is just doing his job, it may mean that the victim will lose out on the thousands of dollars they need to recover after the accident. Having a lawyer prevents this from happening.
A car accident attorney will also maximize the compensation you receive from the accident. The goal is to put you back where you would have been had the accident never occurred. This may include any emotional distress suffered by close family members who witness, but are not involved in, the accident, your spouse due to loss of intimacy, lost income from rehabilitation, and, possibly, punitive damages.
Your insurance company, while being a little helpful, will be looking to fight for all of these potential losses. The insurance company of the other driver(s), even more so, will avoid bringing up these losses as they try to write you the smallest check possible. Since your car accident attorney will be working on a contingency fee, he will seek to maximize the value of your claim.
When Should You Hire an Attorney?
As mentioned above, first take care of yourself by seeking medical attention if it is needed urgently. Depending on the timing accident and how it unfolds, you may have a law enforcement officer on the scene filling out a report before you are able to contact a car accident attorney. This is fine and you may answer his questions, but be sure that you do not admit fault.
Once you have addressed your medical needs and/or the law enforcement officer on the scene, call a car accident attorney. Not your insurance company, they will be open all night. Definitely not the insurance company of the other driver because they would like nothing more than to get a hold of you before you have proper representation. Call your car accident attorney first and he or she can advise you on what to say and how to say it so as to best position your case for the maximum compensation possible.
Car Accident Facts, Figures, & Truth
Did you know that California has over 12.5 million drivers on its roads? That’s over 12% of all drivers in the United States and that number does not even include those driving without a license. From those 12.5 million drivers, and however many unlicensed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 3,074 fatal car crashes that same year. Just one year earlier, in 2013, the California Highway Patrol reported that 223,128 persons were injured in motor vehicle traffic collisions.
According to the NHTSA, there are 2.34 million injuries on America’s roadways each year. In 2014, there were 32,675 people who died in motor vehicle traffic crashes. According to the California Highway Patrol, there were 223,128 people injured on California roadways in 2013.
Even if you have been fortunate enough not to have been involved in a car accident, the reality of life on the road means you might be someday. It would be wise to review the below information in case the unfortunate happens.
Personal Injury Attorney Cost & Consultation
Our attorney provides hope for seriously injured people. If you’ve been injured in a car accident you should contact our San Diego personal injury lawyer immediately and receive a free consultation. There is no risk or obligation in calling a car accident attorney. Personal injury lawyers are compensated via a contingency fee. That means they don’t get paid a penny unless they recover money on your behalf. There is zero up-front cost.
If you were in a motorcycle accident, visit our motorcycle accident attorney page. If you were in an accident involving a truck, visit our truck accident lawyer page. If you were a pedestrian, and a vehicle injured you, visit our pedestrian accident lawyer page.
 California Vehicle Code § 20002(a)
 California Vehicle Code § 20003(a).