Driving in the state of California takes courage. It can also take deep pockets, as any California driver who has ever had to pay out traffic violation fines and penalties already knows.
California is what is known as a “fault” state for handling car accident insurance claims. What this means is that, before claims can be processed for payout after an auto accident, the drivers involved in the accident must be assigned one of three categories: no fault, partial fault or full fault.
The reason for this is because the insurance companies for the driver(s) declared to be partially or fully at fault will be on the hook to pay out insurance claims related to that accident.
You can bet no California auto insurance company wants to make any payouts, however. So this frequently causes disruption and delays, as well as unfair claims denials. In this article, learn when is the right time to contact a Los Angeles car accident attorney to get your claims process back on track.
When Are You Required to Notify the Police After a California Car Accident?
In the state of California, traffic law requires that you notify the authorities within 24 hours after you are involved in a car accident where either or both of the following conditions are met:
– The accident caused $1,000+ in property damage.
– The accident caused an injury (even a minor one) or a fatality.
For minor fender-benders where both drivers agree about the cause and insurance claims are relatively minor, you probably don’t need to involve the police.
But for all other California auto accidents, you want to notify the California Highway Patrol or the appropriate local precinct in the area where the accident occurred.
However, if you are medically able, it is really best to call the police right away after a car accident has occurred. This way, you can get an official accident report underway while everyone is still at the scene.
Your personal injury lawyer can then use this official, court-recognized legal document to start working on your case right away.
What to Do Right After a Car Accident in California
Here are the recommended steps to take in order right after you have been involved in a California car accident.
1. Contact 911 if anyone is injured.
If you or someone else has a known or suspected injury related to the auto accident, don’t delay – call 911 right away and ask for medical personnel to come to you.
2. Contact the police.
Once you have tended to your own or others’ medical needs, the next step should always be to call the cops and ask to have a patrol unit sent to your location to write up an official accident report.
Be sure to get the responding officers’ names, contact information and badge numbers before they leave the scene. Your personal injury lawyer can use this information to track down the completed accident report on your behalf.
3. Record what happened to the best of your ability.
It can often take the police some time to arrive at the accident scene. You can use the time productively to record everything you remember about what happened to cause the accident.
Also take videos or pictures if you are able and it is safe to do so. Capture photos of the condition of your car and the other vehicle(s). Also take photos of the roadway and intersection.
If you don’t have paper and pen handy to jot down your notes, use your phone app or take a video and narrate what you remember so you can write it down later.
Be sure to record information about the time of day, road conditions, lighting, whether it was clear or stormy, signage (or lack of signage), traffic conditions and other details that your personal injury lawyer may find useful later.
4. Exchange insurance information with the other driver(s).
You will definitely want to exchange information with the other driver(s) involved in the car accident.
Your Los Angeles car accident attorney will need this information to contact the other drivers’ insurance companies to expedite processing of your insurance claims.
While you can expect that the other drivers’ insurance claims agents will want to talk with you by phone, never agree to this. It can be used as an admission of guilt (even if you did not say anything incriminating). Also, you are under no legal obligation to do this.
Just exchange information calmly and politely and go back to your vehicle to wait for the police to arrive.
5. Call your own insurance company to open a claim.
After you have completed the first four steps, you can contact your own auto insurance provider and open a claim ticket.
It can take some time in California to sort out the issue of who was at fault, how much at fault they were and which insurance company will eventually be on the hook for the insurance claims payouts.
But in the meantime, you may need to use the benefits you are paying for right away, whether for medical care, vehicle repairs, temporary transportation or something else.
Your insurance claims agent will ask you for the information for the other driver(s) involved in the accident, so you can give them the information you received in step four.
When to Contact an Attorney After a Car Accident in California?
Because California handles auto accident claims payouts using a fault system, it can be extraordinarily difficult to get claims settled in this state.
The longer the claims process drags on, the more the continued negotiations and documentation requests can start to interfere with your regular daily life.
Sometimes it can feel like you are never going to just be done with the car accident so you can put it behind you and move forward.
When you get this feeling, it is always the right time to contact a Los Angeles car accident attorney.
However, there are some times when you don’t want to wait that long to reach out for legal guidance.
If there has been more than $1,000 in property damage or if there was an injury or fatality as a result of the auto accident, you will want to contact an attorney right away.
Because California traffic law is so complex, you don’t want to hire a general practice attorney to handle your auto accident case. You want to choose an attorney that specializes in auto accident claims and spends the majority of every day studying and interpreting California traffic law.
Be sure the attorney you choose offers you a free initial consultation to determine what your case is worth and how to proceed. Ultimately, you want to pick an attorney you trust and feel comfortable with to handle your car accident case.
Have You Been Involved in a Car Accident in California? We Can Help
California is one of the toughest states in the nation when it comes to driving. California traffic law is strict about applying fault and points on your license. And California penalties and fees for traffic violations are extremely expensive.
If you have been involved in a car accident and are having trouble receiving reimbursement for property damages or personal injury, we can help. Contact West Coast Trial Lawyers for additional information and to schedule your free initial no-obligation consultation.