When you’ve involved in a car accident, everything can seem to be moving too fast. It’s hard to know what to do next when you’re in the moment: the situation can be loud, confusing, upsetting, and even dangerous. That’s why it pays to think about things ahead of time. When you take the time to learn what to do after a car accident, including the specific rules you should follow here in California, then you’ll have one less thing to worry about when you’re in a scary situation following an accident. Here’s what you need to know.
First things first: are you okay?
The very first thing that you should do in the moments following an accident is evaluate your own safety and condition. Are you alright? Are you in pain? Can you move? If you’re hurt, call 911 or ask someone else to do so. Act fast to protect your health.
If you’re alright, consider the safety and injury status of others next. Check with your passengers and, if relevant and if possible, with others involved in the accident.
To move or not move your car
The next part of reacting to an accident can be confusing. Should you move your car?
That all depends, say experts. Use your common sense to evaluate your situation. Are you able to safely drive your car? If so, where might be the safest place to go? In some situations, it may be safer to leave your car where it is and move yourself to a separate area.
In other cases, your car may be blocking traffic or in danger of being hit by other cars in the moments following the accident. If it appears to be safer to do so, your best bet is to move your car to the side of the road or onto the shoulder. This is legal and, in fact, the correct thing to do here in California.
Call the police and document the scene
Here in California, you are required by law to call the police to the scene of any accident that involves an injury (even a minor one) or damage that amounts to more than $1,000.
That means $1,000 in damage to both cars or to any other kind of property, or an injury to anyone at all who was involved in the accident. If that seems like an unusually high price tag, keep in mind that this California statute ends up applying to a large number of car accidents.
Even if the crash doesn’t appear to have caused quite enough damage to be covered by that particular California law, it’s still a good idea to call the police. Having a police report as evidence can help you later on if your accident leads to insurance issues or a legal situation.
In addition to any police documentation, you should take some photos of the damage and document things yourself. And continue to document things: if you end up in the hospital or have to go to the doctor, keep evidence and receipts. You may need them down the line.
Exercising your legal options in California
The aftermath of a car accident doesn’t end at the scene. You’ll still have to deal with your insurance company and, possibly, with doctors and financial fallout from injuries and other consequences of the accident.
If you’ve been injured in an accident that was not your fault, says an expert Long Beach car accident lawyer, then you should reach out to a trained attorney about a possible personal injury lawsuit. Here in California, victims of car accidents that were caused by another person’s negligence may be able to recover funds to help them pay for medical treatment, make up for lost wages, and more.