Besides being in shock and traumatized after an automobile accident, a lot of people are often unaware of exactly what they should and should not do. We have compiled a list of 10 frequently asked questions that accident victims often have, as well as providing answers to these questions. These questions are however inexhaustive and there are many more that we have not addressed.
1. What Should I Do If I Have Just Been in an Accident?
Answer: There are a number of things you need to do. First, keep your cool. Second, determine the severity of your injuries, if any. It should however be stressed that many injuries are not immediately apparent and may be worsened if not treated promptly, or may simply not appear immediately. For example, internal or whiplash injuries. If you have suffered any apparent serious injuries, it is important that you try not to move, or at least not move a lot.
If you have sustained injuries that incapacitate you, chances are the police or nearby witnesses will call for medical help. If you are able, you should visit a hospital emergency facility as soon as possible. Next, it is important to call the police, or have someone else call on your behalf and make sure than an incident report is filed. You should also obtain the names, addresses, and phone numbers of any witnesses to the accident. Take photographs of any injuries you received in the accident. Also, take photographs of the damage to the vehicles involved in the car accident.
2. Should I Move My Car to the Side of the Road?
Answer: If your car is still capable of being driven, is blocking traffic, and you have not been seriously hurt, then yes, you should move it to the side of the road so as to not obstruct traffic flow. However, before you move your car, be sure to take as many pictures of the vehicles as possible, before they are moved.
3. What Information Should I Get From the Other Driver?
Answer: There are several information you should seek to collect from the other driver in the accident. The more you are able to collect, the better. If the driver of the vehicle is not the owner of the vehicle, be sure to also collect all the relevant details of the vehicle owner.
One important situation you will want to be aware of, is one where the driver of the vehicle is not the insured owner of the vehicle. In such cases, the permissive user car rule applies.
The following information is what you should seek to get from the other driver:
- Names: The full name of the driver, and possibly all other occupants of the other car(s).
- Contact Information: Be sure to collect all the addresses (home and office,) phone numbers and email address of all occupants of the other vehicle(s)
- Vehicle Details: Including all necessary information regarding the cars involved in the accident, such as license plate numbers, vehicle make, color, year, model and registration number.
- Insurance details: Since the state of California requires every driver to have insurance, and insurance companies issue each policyholder with an insurance identification card, ask to see the driver’s insurance card.
- Driver’s license number.
4. Is there Anything I Should Not do at The Accident Scene?
Answer: Yes. There are several things. Some of the things you should not ever do at an accident scene are:
- Do not admit fault: Even if you believe you are at fault. This is because you are not 100% certain of all the circumstances surrounding the accident. You may think you were at-fault and admit liability when in fact you were not wholly or partially responsible for the accident. You may think you were the cause of the accident when in fact it was due to a dangerous roadway or intersection, or the other driver being intoxicated or under other influences, etc.
- Avoid making comments such as “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you,” and don’t say you weren’t hurt. Injuries from vehicle accidents may not show up for a couple of days, even months.
- Never ever drive/run away: Especially in cases of hit-and-runs (where you did the hitting), or parked vehicles that you crash into,
5. Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer/How Soon After Should I Hire a Lawyer?
Answer: After a vehicle accident, especially one which any form of personal injury, you should speak to an injury lawyer as soon as possible, first and foremost to determine if you have a personal injury compensation claim case against the other party. There is also the probability that the insurance company will assign an adjuster to the case as soon as it is reported to them. The adjuster will want to take your statement as soon as possible. Do not give the adjuster a statement until you have consulted with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
The adjuster is trained to ask questions that are biased in favor of the insurance company and designed to trip you up and possibly help avoid or limit their payout. You should never give a statement to an insurance company adjuster or other representative without the guidance and/or presence of your attorney.
6. What Type of Losses or Damages Can I Seek Compensation for?
Answer: You are entitled to recover monetary damages for all losses reasonably connected to the accident. This includes medical expenses, lost wages, the cost of a rental car, money for damaged or destroyed property you had in the car, damages for pain and suffering, and loss of affection or companionship. However, the amount of this compensation is limited by and determined by the degree of fault you have in causing the accident, which is briefly described in the #10 under California’s comparative negligence laws.
7. What if I Do Not Have Insurance?
Answer: As previously mentioned, California law requires all drivers to carry automobile liability insurance, which at a minimum covers $5,000 for property damage, $15,000 for injury/death to a single person and $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person. If you did not have the required amount of liability insurance at the time of your accident, your rights to recover damages are severely restricted by California’s Proposition 213.
Proposition 213 provides that uninsured motorists are not entitled to recover any non-economic damages resulting from an automobile accident, even if the other driver was completely at fault. Non-economic damages include compensation for pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, and other damages.
8. Can I Still Get Compensation for My Injuries If I Was Injured in an Accident That Was Partially My Fault?
Answer: In short, the answer is yes. California follows a Pure comparative negligence law, whereby the amount of compensation you may be entitled to, is determined by the percentage of your fault in relation to the other party’s fault in the accident. The amount of money you may be awarded will be reduced by the percentage that you were at fault. For example, if a judge or jury determines that you were 25% at fault for the accident and the other party was 75% at fault, you will be entitled to recover 75% of your damages.
9. How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?
Answer: The first point to note about this is that there is no definitive guarantee that a lawsuit will need to be filed. Generally speaking, after a vehicular accident in which you have suffered personal injury, the first step that will need to happen regarding seeking compensation, will be to file a car accident claim with the insurance company. It is only in the event that the said insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement, or worse denies responsibility for settling your damage claims, only then will it be necessary to file a lawsuit.
Having said that, the statute of limitations to file such a lawsuit is a fixed period of time dictated by .law which varies from state to state. In the case of California, you are required to file your case within two years from the date of the accident. If your claim is against a government entity, you must file a “Governmental Claim” within 180 days of the incident or you can lose your right to proceed against that entity in Court.
10. How is Fault Determined?
Answer: It is not always easy or clear-cut in determining who is at-fault in causing an accident, or in the case of states that use a comparative negligence system of law, apportioning specific percentage of fault to each party to the accident. Generally speaking however, there will be several factors that will be taken into consideration in determining the party at fault, but ultimately, it might include a two-step process that first involves gathering all the evidence then applying the evidence.
In conclusion, if you or a loved one has been involved in any car accident in which any type of personal injuries or damages was sustained, then you should contact our office to speak to one of our Ventura car accident lawyer and let us help you get the just compensation you deserve.