If you are driving down the road in California, statistics show there is a one in three chance you will be injured in a car accident. While some accidents are minor, others are much more serious. As a result, you may find yourself facing prolonged medical treatment, disabilities that may last a lifetime, lost wages from being unable to work, and an array of pain and suffering. When this occurs, you must begin to consider filing a personal injury lawsuit so that you can receive compensation for your damages. But before doing so, it is crucial you know what to do or not do immediately after your car accident. By having this knowledge, you will be able to overcome the chaos and stress surrounding the accident and make sure you do what is needed to ensure you can be compensated for your injuries.
Remain at the Accident Scene
When involved in a car accident, always remain at the scene until you have been given clearance by police to leave. If you do not stay at the scene, you may risk serious legal consequences, such as being charged with leaving the scene of an accident. Also, should you be involved in an accident and simply refuse to stop, police may charge you with hit and run.
Assess Your Injuries
If you can, try to assess how seriously injured you believe you may be following the accident. In doing so, you will be able to give rescue personnel key information that may allow them to treat your injuries much more effectively. In addition, by having a better idea of your injuries, you may be able to take steps at the scene to avoid making your injuries even more serious.
Contact Police and Rescue Personnel
As soon as you can after the accident, dial 9-1-1 to request police, fire, and rescue personnel are sent to the scene. Once they arrive, they will be able to secure the scene and keep it safe, and can also begin to treat injuries and assess how the accident happened. After doing so, police will write an accident report detailing not only how the accident occurred, but also their opinion as to who was at fault for the accident. Once this report is filed, make sure your auto injury attorney receives a copy of this report. If police determine the other driver was at fault, your Los Angeles personal injury lawyer can use this to create a legal strategy which may lead to the defendant’s insurance company agreeing to an out-of-court settlement.
Exchange Information at the Scene
Before you leave the accident scene, make sure you exchange certain information with the other driver and passengers. This should include names, addresses, phone numbers, insurance information, license numbers, and makes and models of vehicles involved in the accident. Once you obtain this information, hand it over to your car accident injury attorney, since they will likely want to speak with individuals involved in the accident.
Be Treated for Your Injuries
When you are injured in an auto accident, always allow rescue personnel to treat your injuries at the scene and transport you to a hospital for additional tests and examinations. Even if you believe you may not be seriously injured, it is still better to let trained medical personnel assess the situation. Should you refuse treatment at the scene or decide not to go to a hospital, the other driver’s lawyer and insurance company will use this to claim you do not need compensation for anything, since you were apparently not injured in the accident.
Be Careful with Your Words
While at the scene speaking to police and other drivers and passengers, always make sure you use sound judgment regarding what you say regarding the accident. For example, if you are speaking to the other driver or police and say something as simple as “I am sorry,” these three words will be construed by those to whom they are spoken as an admission of fault for causing the accident. If this should find its way into the police accident report, your car accident personal injury lawyer will have a much harder time creating a legal strategy that will counteract the police assessment. Therefore, while you should be as polite as possible, also make sure you don’t say something that will jeopardize your chances at gaining compensation for your injuries.
Get Witness Statements
When an auto accident occurs, there are always witnesses that see what transpired. Because of the important information they can provide, always make sure you speak to witnesses before they leave the scene. Along with getting their contact information, get their statements regarding what led to the accident. While you can write down these statements, it is better if you can use your smartphone to make a video recording of the witness statement. By doing so, it will be impossible for a witness to later claim they did not say something or change their story. Once you obtain witness information and statements, immediately give this to your auto injury attorney, since your lawyer will want to interview witnesses to gain additional facts about the accident.
Take Photos or Videos
While at the scene, try to take as many photos or videos as possible that can be given to your Los Angeles accident attorney for further analysis. Examples of what to focus on include damage to vehicles, visible injuries you or others sustained, property damage due to the accident, skid marks on the road that may point to speed being a factor in the accident, stop signs, traffic lights, and crosswalks that may be factors, and anything else you believe to be important. Remember that since you will only have one opportunity to do this, it is always better to have too many photos or videos than not enough. This will be crucial to your auto injury attorney, since they can examine the evidence as well as consult with accident reconstruction experts to learn more about what happened. In many situations this can strengthen your case, which may allow you to seek even more compensation for your injuries.
Say Little to Insurance Companies
Once you are a victim in an auto accident, the other driver’s insurance company will set its sights on you. In doing so, it will first try to engage you in a conversation aimed at confusing you to the point of where you accidentally say something that implies the accident was your fault. If this strategy fails, the company’s next move will be to offer you an immediate financial settlement. While this may sound good to you, never jump at the chance to accept this offer. In most cases, this offer will not approach the level of compensation you deserve and need for your injuries, lost wages, and pain and suffering. To make sure you don’t make a mistake, let your car accident personal injury lawyer deal with the insurance company.
Since these accidents can be complex, contact West Coast Trial Lawyers for additional information about what to do next. By scheduling a consultation with a Los Angeles accident attorney from this firm, you will be well on your way to gaining the compensation you deserve.