What should California drivers do after auto accidents?

Knowing what to do if they are involved in a car crash may help drivers in California protect their rights.

There were an estimated 6.3 million motor vehicle collisions reported to law enforcement officers in California and throughout the U.S. in 2015 alone, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports. Whether auto accidents result in little or no damage or in serious injuries or death, the experience may be jarring and upsetting for those involved. Knowing what to do after getting into a car wreck, however, may be essential to helping drivers protect their rights.

Stop

Immediately following an auto accident, the first thing motorists should do is stop at the scene. Leaving may be considered a criminal offense. If they are able, they may move their vehicles out of the lanes of traffic to help avoid causing additional wrecks. If no one has suffered serious injuries, people should call their local law enforcement agency's non-emergency line to report the crash. When motor vehicle collisions result in injuries, drivers should call 911 for emergency aid.

Exchange information

Most people know they should exchange contact details, vehicle registration and insurance information with the other drivers after they get into car wrecks. It is also advisable for drivers to collect the names and phone numbers or email addresses for the passengers of the other vehicles and anyone who witnessed the accident. This information may be useful when they are filing their insurance claims, or down the road should they choose to take legal action.

Take photographs

Even if the authorities come out and make an accident report, drivers should document the scenes themselves. This includes photographing any visible injuries that were suffered and the damage caused to the automobiles involved. Additionally, taking pictures of the actual area where the collision occurred may also be helpful. Such documentation may be useful should people have to prove fault either to the insurance companies or in a civil lawsuit.

Avoid admitting guilt

What people say to others immediately following a car wreck may affect their rights, as well as result in them being blamed for a collision that was not their fault. Therefore, when talking to the other drivers, passengers, law enforcement officers and insurance companies after an auto accident, motorists should use care not to admit guilt. Something as seemingly innocent as apologizing could be construed as an admission of fault, and affect people's ability to seek compensation for their injuries.

Obtaining legal representation

As a result of motor vehicle collisions in California, people may suffer serious injuries for which they must seek extensive medical treatment. In addition to potentially keeping them out of work and costing them wages, this may result in undue medical bills and other expenses they were not prepared for. Depending on the situation, the drivers who cause auto accidents may be held responsible for the resulting damages. Thus, those who have been injured in car crashes may find it helpful to consult with a legal representative to discuss their options for pursuing compensation.