Help Center-What to Do if You're Injured
The law firm Amos, Dittrich & Ushana devotes a significant portion of its practice to handling personal injury claims on behalf of auto accident victims in Salinas, San Jose, and throughout Central and Northern California. We provide the following information to help you identify your responsibilities and determine your best course of action after being involved in an accident. For more information, please contact Amos, Dittrich & Ushana for a free initial consultation. Se habla español.
Know What to Do After an Accident
When you are in a serious accident, it can be hard to focus on anything other than the physical and emotional aftermath. However, obtaining as much pertinent information as possible is important to protecting your rights, ensuring a maximum insurance settlement, or to substantiate a lawsuit if necessary.
You Must Stop Your Vehicle
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, California law requires you to stop your vehicle. Pull over in a safe place and warn motorists by activating your hazard lights and/or use flares (only use flares if there are no flammable fluids or items nearby).
Also, you are required to exchange information with the other driver. If you drive away, you can be charged with a hit and run even if the accident was not your fault. If the other driver does not stop, take down the license plate number. If you hit a parked car, try to find the owner, but if you cannot find the owner, you must leave behind your name, address, car insurance information, and an explanation of the accident. Hit and run penalties are severe.
What to Do at the Scene of the Accident
Call 911 to contact the police or California Highway Patrol (CHP). An officer will come to the scene and conduct an investigation. If an officer does not come to the scene, make a written report at the police department or CHP as soon as possible. You and the other driver should show each other your driver's licenses and car registrations. Take down the following information from the other driver:
- The driver's name, address, and date of birth
- His or her driver's license number
- Car insurance information
- The make and model of the vehicle
- License plate number
If possible, take photos of the scene and of the vehicles involved, and make note of the direction and position of each vehicle after the accident. Also, write down the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any witnesses to the accident. If witnesses insist on leaving the scene, ask them what they saw. Remember: take the time to write everything down.
What to Do if You Think the Accident was Your Fault
You may think that the accident was your fault, but do not volunteer any information about who was to blame for the accident. The other driver may be more to blame than you. Anything you say to the police or to the other diver may be used against you later.
Report the Accident to the DMV
Every motor vehicle accident must be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if the accident resulted in bodily injury, death, or property damage of $750.00 or more. To report the accident, you must file an SR-1 Report of Traffic Accident form, which is available at your local DMV office, police, or insurance company, within ten days.
What to Expect in Regards to a Personal Injury Claim
If you were the victim of an accident and the other party was negligent, you may be entitled to compensation, including past and future medical expenses, property damage repair costs, past and future lost earnings, and compensation for pain and suffering. In regards to a personal injury claim, be aware of the following:
- After the Accident - Contact your attorney, and notify your insurance company. Do not contact the adverse driver's insurance company, and do not give a statement to the adverse driver's insurance company. Statements may be used against you, so do not discuss your claim with anyone. Take photos of your injuries and damage to your vehicle. Do not sign anything without consulting an attorney.
- Medical Care - Obtain treatment immediately. If you fail to get treatment, your condition may worsen, which may damage your claim. Also, the insurance company will argue that the injuries for which you obtained delayed treatment were not related to the accident, and will refuse payment. However, keep in mind that obtaining treatment to inflate the value of your case will damage your claim. The law permits you to recover for medical expenses that are medically necessary and of a reasonable cost. You may be responsible for excessive or unnecessary treatment. Save all receipts and bills.
- Property Damage - You are entitled to compensation for the depreciation of value of your vehicle and for loss of use. Save repair estimates and receipts.
- Wage Loss - You are entitled to recover damages for past and future lost earnings. You must prove the amount you lost and the amount you are certain to lose in the future as a result of the injury. Save all paycheck stubs and be prepared to request wage loss verification from your employer.
Do not delay in pursuing a personal injury claim. In California, you may lose your right to file a lawsuit if you fail to do so within two years from the date of the accident. Contact Amos, Dittrich & Ushana to discuss the various statutes of limitations, as several may apply, and if you have been in accident, contact our office in Salinas or our office in San Jose as soon as possible.