Ten Tips : What To Do After An Auto Accident

Obviously, nobody is prepared for an auto accident. They happen out of the blue when you least expect them. But being familiar with the steps to take after an accident can save you a lot of headache in the long run.

(1) Stay Calm!

The minutes after an accident may feel surreal to you. It’s because your natural fight-or-flight reflex has you in a state of frenzy, with your adrenaline pumped up. You may also be in shock from injury and not know you are injured yet. This is all a matter of the human body’s natural defense mechanisms – which are notoriously poor at coping with auto accidents. The point is to be aware that you may have impaired judgment for a while after an accident – and so may the other driver.

The takeaway: THINK before you act and speak. Take a moment to compose yourself and assess the situation.

(2) Take Safety Measures First

If there’s any injuries to drivers or passengers, call 9-1-1. Common sense, of course, but again you may not be the best judge of how serious an injury is right now. Something you may brush off as a minor ache right now can develop into whiplash a few hours from now. If you have the slightest feeling that you’ve sustained injuries, it may be best not to move and stay put until the ambulance gets there.

Do not move your vehicle unless it’s blocking traffic. If you have to move your vehicle and it’s in shape to move, do so carefully, as it might have sustained damage and unexpectedly have a part fail. Move it just as far as it’s out of traffic, then stop. Regardless of whether you had to relocate the vehicle or not, it might be a good idea to set out markers from your emergency road kit, if you have one.

(3) Exchange Info With the Other Driver

Make contact, if possible, with the other party. You can just exchange contact info such as name, phone, email, and insurance. Try to keep things civil. Under no circumstances should you leave the scene, and if the other driver leaves right away, they are guilty of hit and run.

(4) Avoid Saying Things You’ll Regret Later

From a legal standpoint, this is not a good time to be chatty and sociable. Avoid admitting fault for the accident! Even if you’re convinced it was your fault, this isn’t a trial, and later litigation and discovery may turn out to reveal that you weren’t at fault. Furthermore, accidents can be ranked as things like “75% one driver’s fault and 25% the other driver’s,” so even partial liability is better than taking all the blame.

(5) Document the Scene

Note the license plate and make/model of the vehicle of the other driver. Get out your phone and take photos of the damage to vehicles, or injuries to yourself or passengers. Write down the time, date, and weather conditions. You might even want to note a diagram showing the position of vehicles and direction they were headed. If there’s something about the other driver, such as they were impaired or smelled of alcohol, note that down too. You can keep this information to yourself and use it to assist your case later.

(6) Contact Law Enforcement

Either California Highway Patrol or local police will do.

Be sure to get your copy of the police report! Double-check it, because officers of the law may sometimes get a detail confused on the scene.

You may now leave the accident scene.

(7) Seek Medical Attention

Get to a hospital to have yourself checked for any injury. Auto accidents can cause things such as shock trauma to the body and brain, whose symptoms may not show up right away, so trust the medical exam over your initial instinct.

(8) Assess Vehicle Damage

Assuming your vehicle didn’t get towed away from the scene, it’s still advisable to take it to your mechanic or contracted service tech for a once-over. Accidents can cause all kinds of things to get knocked loose, such as fuses, sensors, vacuum tubes, and so on.

(9) Notify Your Insurance

As soon as practical, notify your insurance company. Provide them with copies of all your information. Be sure to save full documentation of your incurred costs, for both your injuries and vehicular damage.

(10) Consult an Attorney

Find an accident attorney that specializes in California traffic law. A free consultation is useful to determine if you have a case or something to grapple about with one or the other insurance companies.


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