Car Accident Dos and Don’ts in California

Los Angeles sees more than double the number of fatalities than any other part of California. Since 2013, car accident rates have been increasing. Here is some helpful information to remember the next time you are in an accident.

Important Information to Gather for a Car Accident

Car accidents can be the result of many different acts. As such, individuals involved in an accident are often angry, upset, confused, and/or in serious pain. Please be patient as you deal with other parties. Incidentally, being patient and thorough will help you take notes, pictures, and any other information relevant to the car accident.

Here is a list of noteworthy information:

  • Names of all parties in the accident
  • Driver’s license numbers
  • Vehicle identification numbers of all vehicle involved (license plate/ Vin number)
  • Address and contact number for parties involved
  • Insurance company and policy information
  • Contact information for people who have witnessed the accident
  • Pictures of the damages sustained, and anything relevant, (ex: tire marks, signage)
  • Look around to see if any businesses or homes have surveillance cameras and mark those addresses for future use (these can be found very helpful when insurance companies try to deny coverage)
  • If a police car comes to the scene, obtain a copy of the police report and officer identification information

Do I Need to Report the Accident?

Under California Law, if there are no injuries, a simple exchange of information will be sufficient and you can be on your way. California Law, however, mandates individuals to report a car accident if there is injury to an individual or if the accident caused any type of property damage.  If accident involved more than $750 dollars worth of damages, you are obligated to report the accident within 10 days to the department of motor vehicles.

The reasoning for providing a prompt report of the incident, is to preserve evidence of the negligence (fault) in a car accident, which may disappear after a certain amount of time passes, for example: road conditions; tire marks, and relevant witnesses. In some instances, failing to report an accident can prompt citations and fines. Most importantly, failing to report an accident can also affect your ability to receive compensation for losses you may have, as a result of the negligence of the driver at fault.

We further advise clients in car accidents to call local law enforcement agencies designated for the city. If none, call California Highway Patrol. It is important to get your version of the story written down. Police will use your story to determine who is at fault. Although these police reports are not determinative for proving liability for insurance companies, it is considered persuasive. It is always a good idea to have a written record by a neutral party such as the police department.

There is no law requiring individuals to report accidents to their insurance company. However, there may be agreements with the insurance company requiring you to report such incidents which could result in a rejection of coverage if it goes unreported.  Feel free to call Gould & Jefferson LLP for more information.

What You Should Avoid in a Car Accident

Things that an individual does after a car accident can have a direct result on whether they may or may not recover compensatory damages.

Here are a list of things you SHOULD NOT do:

  • Don’t admit fault in any way
  • Don’t say you are sorry or apologize in any way (insurance companies may take depositions later and use your words against you)
  • Don’t  talk about the specifics of the accident
  • Don’t post anything related to the accident on any social media
  • Don’t post anything related to the severity of your injuries on social media (This may hinder a car accident victims ability to receive compensation for their pain and suffering)
    •  pictures of going out with friends, traveling, exercising
  • Don’t discuss the accident with the other party, their attorney, or their insurance company (Please seek legal advice from Gould & Jefferson prior to making any statement)
  •  Don’t accept a settlement offer from an insurance company without speaking to an attorney first. Victims of car accidents generally undervalue their claim, and can lose their rights to obtain a higher award damage by accepting a low settlement offer.

When Do You Need a Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney?

There are certain situations where an attorney should be retained where car accidents are concerned. You may be able to get a settlement without the use of a lawyer; however, these offers will likely be very low and can cause you to miss out on the true value of your case.

Here are some instances of such cases that practically require the assistance of an attorney:

  • When the other party is denying fault
    • If this occurs, it is important to have an attorney on your side that can assist you in investigating, obtaining the proper evidence and proving the negligence of the other party in order for you to recover any sort of compensation.
  • When there are catastrophic injuries or permanent injuries that will have an impact on an individual’s life for a significant period of time. Such as loss of employment and permanent medical conditions that require in home nursing assistance. These victims can also be compensated for loss of enjoyment of life. 
    • An attorney will be needed to evaluate your claim and assess the value of the future treatment and the losses correlated to such injury.
  • When there is a severe psychological injury involved
    • These damages are hard to prove but attorneys can help to obtain a record to provide as evidence to insurance companies and obtain monetary compensation for such injuries.

When Should I Call a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney?

It is best to consult with an attorney immediately after an accident. An attorney will be able to direct you to get the proper medical attention at no out of pocket cost. They will also be able to investigate the scene and make sure that fault is not denied by the opposing party’s insurance company. 

Victims of car accidents have two years from the date of injury to file a claim, so it is essential that you seek an attorney as soon as the accident occurs and begin getting the treatment that you need, so that you can recover for such treatment. In California, if the victim is a minor, his or her 2 year period begins once he or she turns 18. State law also provides a three year time frame for property damage claims to be filed. These statutes of limitations do not apply to your insurance company’s claim and therefore, you should claim property damage and personal injury to your car insurer immediately after the accident.

Closing Thoughts

The unfortunate truth is that there are thousands of car accidents every day, many of which cause property damage, physical injury, or death. When such car accidents are caused by the negligence (fault) of another party, victims of these accidents are frequently compensated for their loss, through monetary rewards.

This recovery does not occur automatically, as insurance companies are businesses with the primary motivation of maintaining profit. Insurance adjusters will always to try get away with paying as little money as possible. The attorneys at Gould & Jefferson know how to approach, deal, and settle with insurance companies to get car accident victim the highest compensation for their loss and injuries.

The attorneys at Gould and Jefferson have an extensive network of doctors and experts to help you obtain monetary damages that you are entitled to. Call Today!

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