Car Accident Victim Guide
Crashed cars are filling California’s roads. More than 3,600 California residents died after car accidents in 2019. That’s nearly 10 per day.
Accident victims may be left with expensive bills that can cause financial strain and distress. You can start the path to recovery right after your accident and get the compensation you deserve for your losses. What should be the first thing you do after an accident? What evidence do you need to build your case? When should you call a car accident attorney?
Answer these questions and you can find the path forward after a car accident in California. Here is a quick guide.
Get Medical Help
Your first priority after an accident has to be yourself. Stay at the scene, and pull over to a safe, well-lit area unless your car is unable to move or you are injured. Call 911, let them know if you and others are injured, and remain on the line with the responder.
Have first responders do a medical evaluation of you, even if you have no apparent injuries. The signs of concussions and other serious injuries can take a few hours to appear.
You will need to be hospitalized if you have a brain injury, broken bones, or intense bleeding. This may be inconvenient, but going without medical treatment can result in complications. It’s also best to document your car accident injuries and keep records of them as evidence.
Monitor your symptoms as time goes on. You may need physical therapy if you have difficulty walking, sitting, or focusing on work. You may also need to speak to a psychiatrist if you are having trouble with anxiety, depression, or PTSD.
Record Your Observations
If you’re able to do so, take photographs of the accident. Show what the road conditions were like, where you were when the crash occurred, and how your vehicle got damaged.
Take photographs of any injuries you see as well as skid marks on the road and broken glass.
Once you can do so, you should document how the accident occurred. Describe how you drove and what you saw. You can make an audio or video recording of this if you’re not comfortable with writing.
Do not admit any fault in your statement. Apologizing for something can be seen as an admission of guilt, which can hurt your case.
Obtain an Accident Report
An accident report is a document from the police department that describes what officers saw and did at the scene of the accident. Most courts do not allow you to use police reports as evidence.
A police report will have the contact information of all drivers, their insurers, and witnesses to the crash.
If an officer issued a traffic ticket, they will mention it in the report. They will also describe how the accident happened.
You or a personal injury lawyer can go to your police station to obtain one. You can keep it for yourself, but you can also give it to your insurer. This can show your insurer that you were not at fault for the accident, which can increase your compensation.
Gather Additional Evidence
Once you have your accident report, you can start talking to witnesses. Ask them to write their own statements with their observations. They can write and sign a declaration, which you can present in court.
If your car was damaged, you should take photographs of the damage and keep documents related to the expenses. You can claim money for your damaged vehicle, even if you were not injured. You can also use the photographs to corroborate your statement and establish you were not at fault.
If you did not get photos of the crash scene, you should go to the crash scene and take photos as soon as possible. Point out where everyone was and any features of the road that might affect your case like a dip in the concrete.
Get the paperwork related to your medical treatment, including any therapy you received after the accident. You can claim money for your treatment as long as you show clearly how much you spent.
Hire a Lawyer
Once you’ve found some good pieces of evidence, you can contact a personal injury attorney. Ask them to look everything over and determine if your case is strong.
Ask a few attorneys in your area who specialize in car accidents. Attorneys with car accident specialties are more likely to have experience and expertise in car accident cases than people without specialties.
Hand over your evidence and ask them questions about their experience and qualifications. You can also ask for references from satisfied clients who can discuss their experiences with your lawyer.
Press for a Settlement
After you’ve hired a lawyer, you can start your case in civil court. However, most car accident cases do not result in trials. They lead to settlements that help car accident victims cover their bills.
Try to work out a settlement with the other people involved in your case. Your lawyer will try to get you as much compensation as possible. But get enough money from the other driver’s insurance company so you can cover the damages.
If you have a very strong case and significant expenses you need to pay, you may want to focus on filing a lawsuit. Talk to your lawyer about your options before you agree to settle the case.
Move Forward After a Car Accident
Be assertive once a car accident happens. Get help from a first responder, even if you don’t have a scratch on you. Write notes and take photographs of what you saw.
As you’re recovering, you should build your case. Get a copy of the accident report and find documents related to your vehicle damage. Hire an experienced lawyer who can investigate the accident and reach a settlement with the other driver.
Your car accident recovery is in your hands. The Greenleaf Law Group serves the Whittier area. Contact us today.