If you are driving down a road in California, the odds are 1 in 3 you will be injured or killed while behind the wheel. As more drivers are on the road, so are a variety of problems that lead to serious accidents. Whether this involves drivers distracted by their cell phones, impaired due to alcohol or drugs, or perhaps are simply ignoring the safety of others by driving in a reckless manner, these and other situations are becoming much more common. Unfortunately when these situations result in accidents, the injuries can be serious or even life-threatening. Yet if you find yourself involved in an accident, it is important to keep your wits about you and take various steps to ensure not only your safety, but also position yourself well should the need arise to take legal action at a later date. Rather than find yourself unprepared in these situations, here are the steps you should always take after a car accident.
Don’t Open Yourself Up to Hit and Run Charges
When you are involved in an accident, always remain at the scene until authorities have completed their investigation and give you permission to leave. In some situations, drivers panic and leave prematurely, or in some situations get scared and fail to stop when an accident takes place. If this happens and police are able to identify you and your vehicle, it is possible you may be charged with being a hit and run driver, which is a felony and can carry serious criminal penalties.
See if Others are Injured
If you can do so, check to see if anyone else is injured and if the injuries are serious. By doing so, you will be able to provide assistance until rescue personnel arrive, and also help authorities at the scene by directing them to those you believe to be in need of medical assistance.
Call Police to the Scene
If there are injuries and property damage at the accident scene, always call 9-1-1 to summon police and other rescue personnel to the scene. Once authorities arrive, they will be able to assess the situation, secure the scene to keep everyone safe, and begin to render assistance. But in addition to this, police will also make determinations as to who was at fault for the accident, and also file an accident report. Once this report is completed, it is crucial an accident attorney near you obtains a copy. If the officer determined the other driver was at fault, your auto injury lawyer can use this to not only help develop a legal strategy, but also in negotiating a settlement with the other driver’s insurance company.
Exchange Information with Drivers and Passengers
When you are involved in an accident, always make every effort to exchange contact information with other drivers and passengers. This should include names, addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers. In addition, also make sure you exchange the necessary insurance information, and always make note of any license plate numbers of other vehicles involved in the accident. By having this contact information, you will make it easier for your car accident personal injury lawyer to get in touch with these individuals.
Get Witness Accounts of the Accident
At any accident scene, there are almost always people around who saw what happened. Whether this involves other drivers or pedestrians who were nearby, always try to get their accounts of what happened before everyone leaves the accident scene. Should you pursue litigation at some point, the testimony of witnesses might be the determining factor in whether or not you win your lawsuit. Therefore, since the memories of witnesses often fade quite quickly after the accident, do not hesitate to write down or record with your smartphone anything they saw leading up to the accident. Also, just as you did when speaking to other drivers and passengers, always get up-to-date contact information for any witnesses to whom you speak. This information will be crucial to your Los Angeles accident attorney at West Coast Trial Lawyers, since they will likely want to interview these people at some point.
Take Pictures and Videos
While the police accident report, your account of the accident, and witness testimony can often provide a clear picture of what transpired in a car accident, pictures and videos can also bring a new perspective to what actually happened. Therefore, if you have a smartphone with you, use it to take pictures and videos of the accident scene. Focus primarily on damage to vehicles, nearby property damage, visible injuries you and others sustained, road conditions, skid marks or other indications that speed or reckless driving may have been a factor, and nearby stop signs or traffic lights that other drivers may have ignored. By having this evidence that can be presented to your auto injury lawyer, you may have just the leverage needed to force an insurance company to work out a reasonable settlement regarding compensation for your injuries.
Use Discretion at the Scene and Online
When you are at the accident scene talking to police, getting contact information from other drivers, speaking to witnesses, or even when you are at home on your social media sites, always try to use as much discretion as possible regarding what you do and say. While it may seem natural for you to say something like “I’m okay” or “I’m sorry” to other drivers or police, doing so can actually hurt you from a legal standpoint. By saying these things or going online and posting pictures of yourself or making angry comments about the other drivers, you are giving the defendant’s lawyers and the insurance companies plenty of ammunition they can use against you. In many cases, what seem like harmless remarks may be used against you in an attempt to show the accident was your fault or that you were not seriously injured. Therefore, listen to the advice of your car accident personal injury lawyer and be as discreet as possible in these situations.
Document Your Injuries
To make sure the other driver’s lawyers and insurance company are not able to say you were not seriously injured in the accident, have your injuries documented as soon as possible after the accident. Since you will likely receive medical treatment at the accident scene, it is often best to allow rescue personnel to transport you to a hospital for further examination. However, if you choose not to do so, always visit your primary care doctor within no more than 48 hours after the accident.
Along with verifying your injuries, also document all damages you incurred as a result of the accident. These should include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional difficulties associated with your injuries, such as missing out on vacations or other family events. This can be crucial, since your Los Angeles accident attorney can use this to show the court just how seriously the accident has impacted your life and that of your family.
If you have been in a car accident, contact West Coast Trial Lawyers for additional information about scheduling a consultation and discussing your case with an experienced auto injury lawyer.