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Protect yourself

Here’s What to Do if You Are in an Automobile Accident

There is a lot going on following an accident. The first and foremost thing to do is to make sure you are OK. Do not get out of your vehicle unless you are physically able to do so and that your vehicle is in a safe place. You will then need to deal with the other driver, witnesses, police and insurance companies.

The following information will greatly assist you in the event that you find yourself in one of these extremely stressful situations. This list is intended to provide you with a general check list of things to cover following an accident. This list is not completely exhaustive but will cover the most basic issues.

Safety should be your first concern

  • Make sure your vehicle is properly parked with the emergency brake on.
  • Activate your emergency hazard lights to warn other vehicles of the accident situation
  • A significant number of injuries occur in a secondary accident because traffic is not properly alerted to the first accident
  • Place cones, warning triangles or flares when available
  • Check for injuries
  • Check yourself, passengers and others for any and all injuries
  • Always assist those with the most serious injuries first, do not move anyone when you believe it may cause further injury
  • Always call 911 for emergency services as soon as possible if medical attention is necessary and appropriate
  • After exiting your vehicle try to move behind a permanent barrier

Call the police

  • Call police and report your accident
  • Be polite and cooperative with the police
  • If asked to make a statement be concise
  • If you do not need “medical transport” from the scene of the accident, make sure you seek treatment/evaluation as soon as possible
  • The longer you wait to seek medical treatment the more difficult it will be to establish that your injuries were related to the accident
  • Take photos of your injuries (bruises, cuts, stitches etc.)

Identify all vehicles

  • If you are able to move about safely, make a note of all vehicles and their license numbers
  • If there are witnesses to the accident, get addresses and phone numbers, if possible
  • If someone drives away from the accident try to record their license number as well as a description of the vehicle and driver
  • Be sure to get the drivers’ license and insurance information for all vehicles involved
  • If an individual resists supplying the required information (drivers, license/proof of insurance) take appropriate measures for proper identification
  • If you possess a camera, use it to record the incident
  • Take photos of the accident site as well as the individual vehicles
  • Take photos of the skid marks
  • Make a diagram of the accident scene

What are you legally responsible to do following an accident?

  • You must stop at the scene
  • Failure to stop and provide accurate identification and insurance may result in a vehicle code citation and loss of driving privileges
  • Every motor vehicle accident must be reported to the DMV if there are any injuries, or property damages in excess of $750.00
  • You must complete an SR1 form for the DMV to comply with this obligation.
  • The adverse insurance company will insist that you make a statement to them as to how the accident occurred. It is our belief that you should wait until you see the traffic report before giving a statement to the adverse insurance carrier.
  • Every individual in an accident must exchange information with each other. Get names, address, phone numbers, vehicle registration, owner’s registration and insurance information.
  • Failure to have insurance may affect the compensation you receive for your injuries

Contact an attorney

It is very important to contact an attorney as soon as possible to be advised of your rights and obligations. An attorney will advise you as to what is appropriate to discuss with both your insurance carrier and the adverse insurance carrier. In most cases, it is better to have the attorney make all contacts for you to both insurance carriers in any accident situation. You should never agree to make a written or a recorded statement without being advised by an attorney.

Contact your own insurance company

You should always contact your own insurance company as soon as possible to advise them that you have been in an accident. The information that you have collected in the investigation of the incident will greatly assist them in facilitating their portion of your claim. Your insurance company will not assist in collecting your damages as caused by the responsible party. They will assist in the repair or replacement of your vehicle if you have collision coverage. When at all possible, you should try to contact and attorney before even speaking to your insurance company.

Contact the other driver’s insurance company

You should only give the other insurance company your basic insurance and drivers license information. It is a common practice for the other driver’s insurance company to insist on receiving a written or recorded statement shortly after the accident. You are not required to give a statement. Please remember that the other insurance adjuster knows the law and in most cases accident victims do not. When at all possible you should speak with an attorney prior to making contact with the other driver’s insurance company.

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Wiles & Wiles
Attorneys at Law, LLP
518 Ocean St., Ste. B
Santa CruzCA 95060