Minor car accidents happen every day in California. In some cases, these crashes are little more than an inconvenience for those involved. In other cases, the resulting injuries and property damages turn out to be more severe than they initially appear, leading to costly medical expenses, and significant vehicle repair or replacement costs.
However, if the accident was caused by another person or company's negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for injuries and other losses. Here's what you need to know—and do—to protect your right to seek a financial recovery for damages sustained in a minor California car crash.
What to Do at the Scene
What you do immediately after an accident can have a lasting impact on your ability to collect compensation. Here's a quick overview of what you should—and shouldn't—do at the crash scene:
- Don't leave. California law requires you to stop and exchange information with the other driver after an accident, even if the crash was minor. Leaving the scene of an accident without exchanging information may result in criminal hit-and-run charges.
- Check for injuries. Call for an ambulance if you, your passengers, or the occupants of the other involved vehicles are injured.
- Don't block traffic. Move your vehicle to the side of the road if it's safe to do so.
- Exchange information. Trade contact and insurance information with the other driver, and write down contact information for witnesses so that they can be contacted by your attorney if necessary.
- Stay cool at the accident scene. If you were struck, emotions often run high after an accident, but it's important to keep a cool head.
- Avoid shady on-the-spot agreements. Don't agree not to sue or accept an under-the-table cash payment for damages.
- Report the accident. If you asked for an ambulance, the police will respond to the crash as well. Otherwise, notify the police of the accident and ask them to come out and complete a report. If they will not come out, then make sure you go to the police station and have a report made.
- Gather important evidence. Take photos or video of the accident scene, injuries, and property damages, and any relevant road or weather conditions.
- Go to the doctor to be evaluated. Go to the doctor, urgent care or an emergency room to be evaluated and to document ALL of your injuries. Then follow-up with additional medical care so your injuries are documented and you get the care you need.
Reporting the Accident
In California, drivers are required to report accidents that result in injury or death. However, it's almost always in your best interests to report a crash to the police, even if you aren't sure whether you're legally obligated to do so.
To report an accident to law enforcement, call 9-1-1, the local police department, or the California Highway Patrol (CHP). Though it's preferable to report the crash to authorities while you're still at the scene, if you didn't, you can file a written report with the CHP or with the police department in the city where the accident happened.
California drivers may also be required to report their accident to the state DMV. For example, if the crash resulted in injuries (however minor), deaths, or more than $1,000 in property damage, you must report it to the California DMV within 10 days. You complete and submit an SR-1 form.
Notifying Your Insurance Company
You should also report the accident to your own auto insurance carrier. Most car insurance policies include a provision requiring the policyholder to notify the company of a crash as soon as possible—or risk having their coverage canceled.
Consult an Experienced California Personal Injury Attorney About Your Car Accident Case
Even a minor car crash can leave you facing unexpected medical debt, property damage costs, and other losses. That's why it's important to consult an attorney about your legal rights and options as soon as possible after an accident.
Contact the Inland Empire Law Group today at (909) 481-0100 or (888) 694-3529 to schedule an appointment to discuss your case with a knowledgeable member of our legal team. We can help evaluate the strength of your case, and help you understand your rights and options. Don't wait—the time to file your car crash personal injury insurance claim or lawsuit is limited.