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Important Actions to Take After an Auto Accident in California

Being the victim of a car accident is incredibly stressful and often frightening. Whether you have experienced a fender-bender or a severe crash, collisions are extremely distressing. In the immediate aftermath of an auto accident, drivers are usually shaken up and highly upset. While we all understand that crashes are an inevitable risk for all drivers, the increased adrenaline and anxiety from an accident can leave drivers feeling confused about what to do next.


Because a crash is so stressful in the moment, it is important to become familiar with the basic things you should do after a crash has occurred. Taking the appropriate actions is vital to your personal health and safety, your legal status as a driver, and also to any claims or settlements that may arise. No matter who is at fault for a particular accident, the steps you take will greatly influence your legal and financial outcome.

Safety First

Clearly, the highest priority in the moments following a car accident is the bodily health and safety of everyone involved. Drivers should determine whether anyone involved in the crash requires emergency medical assistance. If the collision has resulted in any injuries or death, it is important for drivers to remain at the scene and contact emergency services by calling 911. 

In California, when a driver flees the scene of an accident before police arrive (except in cases where they require emergency medical assistance), they face felony hit-and-run charges. These charges can result in fines of up to $10,000 or up to a year of jail time.

If a driver does require emergency medical assistance, they are legally permitted to leave the scene before the arrival of law enforcement. If possible, motorists should provide contact information to other drivers before leaving the scene to seek medical attention.

Move Vehicles to a Safe Location

Drivers should move vehicles off of the roadway where the accident occurred, when possible. Leaving cars in place after a collision can present a hazard to other drivers and result in further damage or injuries. 

However, do not move the vehicles involved if it would be dangerous for any reason. For instance, if anyone has been injured or killed, drivers should leave their cars where they are until law enforcement and medical assistance arrives.

Document All Relevant Information About the Accident

After seeking medical attention for anyone who needs it, contacting emergency services, and moving the vehicles to a safe location, it is important to document all relevant information about the auto accident.

Either write down or photograph the following material:

  • License plate numbers of each vehicle involved 
  • The make, model, year, and color of each vehicle involved 
  • All other cars’ Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN)
  • Other drivers’ contact and insurance information, as well as the contact information of any relevant witnesses to the accident
  • Details of the specific damage to the relevant vehicles

This documentation will be necessary when reporting the crash to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which is a legal requirement in many instances. It will also be useful if any claims or settlements occur. 

However, do not take photos of another driver’s vehicle if they do not provide consent for you to do so. It is inadvisable to take any action that might escalate the inevitable tensions after an accident, especially before law enforcement has arrived.

Do Not Say the Wrong Things

It is both ethically and legally important to check with other drivers about whether they have sustained any injuries or require medical assistance following a crash. However, there are also several things that drivers should not say.

When speaking to another motorist following an accident, never admit fault. Even if you believe you are in the wrong, admitting fault can significantly decrease the likelihood of a favorable legal outcome.

Also, drivers should never determine that they are not injured in the moments immediately following an accident. While you might feel uninjured at the time, some symptoms only appear hours or days later. 

While drivers should never lie about having an injury if they don’t have one, it is prudent to simply reserve judgement unless an injury is apparent.

Contact the DMV and Your Insurance Company

In California, you are legally required to report an accident to the DMV if:

  • The accident has resulted in anyone’s death
  • The incident has resulted in an injury
  • There was at least $750 of property damage

Failure to report a qualifying auto accident may result in citations or driver’s license suspensions.

In addition to reporting the accident, drivers should file a claim with their insurance agency. By California state law, insurance companies are prohibited from raising rates for drivers who are not found to be at fault. Filing a claim as early as possible protects the policy holder from the possibilities of canceled auto insurance or a suspended license.

Locate Trusted Legal Representation

If you have been involved in an auto accident in California and believe that you are entitled to a settlement, consider contacting a personal injury attorney. The veteran legal team at Lalezary Law Firm provides a results-driven approach that allows us to offer clients a no-fee guarantee unless we win. Our trusted attorneys and friendly staff can provide personalized legal support to guarantee that you get the compensation that you deserve.

Contact Lalezary Law Firm online or call (888) 788-8888 today. We Fight. You Win. They Pay.

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