How to Respond to a Car Accident in California
Car accidents are traumatic and confusing, and it can be easy to lose one’s head in the moment. There are generalguidelines to follow in any circumstance, such as checking to make sure everyone in your car is unharmed. People in the other involved vehicle(s) should also be checked for injuries, and anyone hurt should be given first aid ASAP.
Beyond such common sense responses however, the best way to proceed varies from state to state. It’s important for you to know the procedures for reports, insurance practices, and claim filing for any state you drive in. This is especially true if you want to prove another driver is at fault. If you’re in California, here are some important things to remember about car accident laws.
Reporting an accident
Whether you need to file your own report after an accident depends on the circumstances. For example, if an officer arrives on the scene for any reason, the officer will file a report, and you do not need to make a separate one. After any accident which resulted in injury or death, the drivers of the vehicles involved have 24 hours to file an accident report with either the California Highway Patrol or the police department of the city where the accident took place.
There are many circumstances where you’ll need to file a California DMV accident report within 10 days after the accident occurred. Most commonly, this applies if the accident resulted in injury or death or if more than $750 was done in property damage. The report should include detailed insurance information, and not having liability insurance during the accident or failing to file the DMV report can result in suspensions. While there is no law dictating this, accidents should also be reported to your insurance within 48 hours to ensure coverage.
If you’re planning to make a claim following a car accident, it’s important that you understand California’s comparative negligence laws. Put simply, these laws can affect your claim if it’s deemed that you shared some of the fault for an accident. If your case goes to court, any California judge will follow comparative negligence rules, and any claims adjusters will factor in these laws when estimating the value of a claim.
Essentially, these laws allow you to claim compensation from all other at-fault parties, but the amount actually recovered is determined by your degree of fault in the accident. This means that even if another driver is considered “mostly” (say 90 percent) at fault for the accident, you will still lose 10 percent of your compensation based on your small role in the accident.
Involving an attorney
If at any time your initial claim gets denied when you believe you’re entitled to compensation, or
if you feel like any of these laws are treating you unfairly, it’s appropriate to seek services from a Sacramento car accident lawyer. In fact, if you suffered injuries in the accident, it’s recommendable to hire an attorney in advance. This is because the defendant may know that they owe more since they need to cover medical expenses, and they may fight the claim. An attorney can fight back much more effectively and ensure that you receive your compensation in a timely manner.
Speaking of timeliness, you’ll want to get things moving as quickly as possible when filing an injury claim because of California’s statute of limitations. These laws impose a limit of two years to file a personal injury claim. You’ll have three years in a case where you’re seeking compensation for property damages. Either way, acting as quickly as possible after an accident is highly recommended.