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FAQ: I JUST GOT INTO A CAR ACCIDENT. I’M STILL SITTING IN MY CAR. WHAT DO I NEED TO DO?
In the seconds following a car crash, you may undergo a feeling of shock, followed by a feeling that you’re completely overwhelmed and aren’t sure what to do. Our Los Angeles car accident lawyers recognize that knowing what to do after a car accident can be challenging. However, we also believe that by taking the appropriate steps after a car accident, you can ensure that you get the medical treatment that you need and that you’ve done everything necessary to improve the chances of recovering your maximum settlement amount. Here’s what you need to know about what to do following a car accident if you’re still sitting in your car—
Move Your Vehicle to a Safe Location
Your first move should be to move your vehicle to a safe location that is out of the way of traffic if possible. If you are in a remote area and your vehicle is already out of traffic’s way and is in a safe spot, don’t move it – vehicle positioning should be recorded, whenever possible, before a vehicle is moved. This is an important clue into how an accident occurred.
Check to Make Sure Everyone in Your Vehicle Is OK
As soon as your vehicle is in a spot where it will not be at risk of being hit again by oncoming traffic, you should check to make sure that everyone in your vehicle is OK. If anyone is injured, especially seriously, you should call 9-1-1 immediately and report the injuries to the operator. The operator will be able to guide you through any treatment that can be administered while you wait for authorities. Be sure to provide the operator with as many details about the injuries as possible, as well as your location.
Check in With the Other Driver
Once you have checked to make sure that everyone in your vehicle is injury-free and not in need of emergency care, you should check in with the other driver. If the driver or any passengers are harmed, you know what to do – call 9-1-1. If the other driver is fine, now’s a good time to tell the driver that you are going to call to report the accident to the authorities.
Report the Accident to the Police
After an accident in Los Angeles, you need to report the accident to the police if any injuries occur or if there is any property damage that is valued at more than $1,000. If you’re unsure, it is best to report the accident just as a precaution. In fact, not only is failing to report an accident against the law but if you don’t have an accident report, you will have a very tough time convincing an insurance company to pay any damages you’ve suffered.
You can report the accident to the police by calling 9-1-1 if necessary or calling the non-emergency police dispatch number. Prove the police with your location, and they will come to the scene of the accident.
Exchange Information with the Other Driver
As you wait for the police to arrive at the scene of the accident, take advantage of the time to exchange information with the other driver involved. Important information to both give and receive include:
- Contact information;
- Vehicle make and model;
- Driver’s license number;
- Vehicle license plate number;
- Insurance information; and
- Registration information.
In addition to the above, you should also collect the names of any witnesses to the accident, as well as their contact information and a brief description about what they saw. Now is also the time to take notes about what you believe happened – while it may seem fresh in your memory now, accidents can be traumatic, and you may not remember small–yet important–details later. Writing down as much as you can as soon as possible can help.
Another thing that you should do while you wait for the police to arrive is to take pictures of the accident scene. Important things to photograph include:
- Vehicles, including exteriors, interiors, any damage, and vehicles’ positions;
- Any obvious injuries you have suffered;
- Damage or debris in the road and surrounding the accident location;
- Signage and traffic lights surrounding the accident; and
- Skid marks or other signs that an accident happened.
Pictures can be used to prove how the accident occurred and the fault of the other party. They can also be used to demonstrate causation between the accident and your injuries.
File Your Police Report
Remember that merely calling the police to inform them of the accident is not enough; you will also need to provide details of the accident when the police arrive on scene. When doing this, remember to stay honest, do not exaggerate, and don’t make guesses about what you believe happened or blame the other driver. If you don’t know anything about the accident, such as how fast you were going, don’t make any declarations! This is also true when reporting your accident to your insurance company.
Be sure to request a copy of the police report for your records – you’ll need this when filing your claim.
Call Your Insurer
While you don’t have to call your insurance company while you’re still at the scene of the accident (although you’re welcome to), you should call your insurer within 24 hours of the accident’s occurrence. The sooner that you call your insurer, the better; your insurance company reserves the right to deny your claim if it is not given enough time to investigate the accident.
Note that when you leave the accident scene, your first stop should be the hospital or your doctor’s office. Even if you don’t think you are seriously injured, it’s important to get checked out by a medical provider.
Call an Experienced Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney
Finally, call an experienced Los Angeles car accident attorney after your accident. Your attorney can guide you through the claims process and will represent you in seeking damages. You can reach the attorneys at the office of El Dabe Ritter Trial Lawyers online or by phone to request your free consultation.
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