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September 28, 2023

Car Accident in California? Learn What to Do & What Not to Do

Legally reviewed by: Jessica Anvar Stotz, JD, MBA

Navigating the aftermath of a car accident in California can be a daunting and bewildering experience. From dealing with injuries and vehicle damage to understanding the intricacies of settling a claim, settling the aftermath of a car accident can leave anyone feeling overwhelmed.

In an era of digital solutions, many turn to California car accident settlement calculators as a tool to help them make sense of it all. These online tools aim to provide an estimate of the potential settlement for a car accident claim. While these calculators offer a glimpse into what you might expect, they are far from foolproof.

Online calculators, as convenient as they may seem, cannot take every detail of your case into account when generating an estimate. To gain the most accurate understanding of what you could receive in recovery, our recommendation is clear: consult with a highly qualified personal injury or car accident attorney. Opting for a conversation with an attorney offers several advantages over relying solely on an online settlement calculator:

  • Personalized Advice: An attorney can provide tailored advice based on the specifics of your situation and the unique facts of your case. Unlike online calculators, which offer a one-size-fits-all approach, an attorney considers every critical detail related to your claim.
  • Experience: Attorneys bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table. They can guide you through the complexities of your case, helping you grasp its strengths and weaknesses and making well-informed decisions about your path forward.
  • Representation: Attorneys can act as your legal representatives in court and negotiate with the opposing party on your behalf. They are adept at navigating the legal system, ensuring your rights are safeguarded throughout the process.
  • Complexity: Some cases are inherently intricate, demanding an in-depth understanding of the law that only an experienced personal injury attorney possesses. Online calculators may struggle to handle such complexity and, consequently, provide inaccurate advice on the settlement.

While online car accident settlement calculators can serve as useful tools to estimate the potential value of a claim, they should not be seen as a substitute for the expertise of a seasoned attorney. An attorney not only offers a more precise assessment of your claim’s value but also works tirelessly to maximize your settlement, ensuring you receive the compensation you rightfully deserve.

Most Common Steps to Take After a Car Accident in California

If you are not at fault for the accident, take these steps:

  • Ensure safety.
  • Check for injuries and call 911 if needed.
  • Contact the police for a report.
  • Exchange information with the other driver.
  • Gather evidence and take photos.
  • Collect witness information.
  • Seek medical attention if necessary.
  • Document expenses.
  • Consult an attorney if needed.

If you believe that you might be at fault for the accident, we recommend the following actions:

  • Ensure safety.
  • Check for injuries and call 911 if needed.
  • Contact the police for a report.
  • Exchange information with the other driver.
  • Cooperate with authorities.
  • Avoid discussing fault with others.

car accident evidence

What You Shouldn’t Do After a California Car Accident

Here’s a list of what you should avoid after a car accident in California:

  1. Don’t Flee the Scene: Leaving the accident scene, especially if you were involved, is illegal and can result in serious consequences, including criminal charges.
  2. Don’t Admit Fault: Regardless of whether you believe you are at fault, avoid admitting responsibility to the other driver, witnesses, or authorities. Fault should be determined by insurance companies and investigators.
  3. Don’t Get Aggressive: Avoid getting into confrontations or arguments with the other driver(s) involved. Keep the situation calm and respectful.
  4. Don’t Neglect to Call the Police: Even for minor accidents, it’s generally a good idea to call the police. They can create an official accident report, which can be valuable for insurance claims.
  5. Don’t Neglect Medical Attention: If you or anyone involved in the accident appears injured, do not refuse medical attention. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent but require prompt medical treatment.
  1. Don’t Forget to Exchange Information: Regardless of who is at fault, do not neglect to exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver(s) involved. If the other driver is uninsured, collect their contact information, including their name, address, and contact number. You should also gather details about their vehicle, such as the make, model, and license plate number.
  2. Don’t Post on Social Media: Avoid posting details or pictures of the accident on social media until the claims process is complete. What you share online can be used against you.
  3. Don’t Sign Anything Without Understanding: If the other driver’s insurance company or legal representatives approach you, don’t sign any documents or statements without fully understanding their implications. It is wise to consult with your own attorney first.
  4. Don’t Forget to Document Expenses: Keep thorough records of all accident-related expenses, including medical bills, car repair receipts, and rental car costs. Neglecting this can affect your ability to claim damages later.

Your Rights as a Californian

You reserve the following rights in the state of California:

  • Right to Safety: Californians have the right to safety while using public roadways. This includes the expectation that other drivers will adhere to traffic laws and exercise reasonable care to prevent accidents.
  • Right to Compensation: If you are not at fault in a car accident, you have the right to seek compensation for damages, including medical expenses, lost wages property damage, and, in some cases, pain and suffering, from the at-fault party’s insurance company.
  • Right to Legal Representation: You have the right to consult with and hire an attorney if you believe your rights are not being respected or if you need assistance navigating the complex legal processes following an accident.
  • Right to Privacy: Your personal information and medical history are protected under privacy laws. Insurance companies must adhere to strict regulations when collecting and using your data during the claims process.
  • Right to Fair Treatment: You have the right to be treated fairly and with respect by insurance companies, law enforcement, and other parties involved in the accident.
  • Right to Choose Repair Shop: You have the right to choose where your vehicle is repaired, and insurance companies cannot force you to use a specific repair shop.
  • Right to Seek Accountability: If you are a victim of a hit-and-run accident or if the at-fault party is uninsured or underinsured, you have the right to seek compensation through your own insurance policy’s uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

Understanding your rights as a Californian following a car accident ensures that you receive fair treatment and compensation when dealing with insurance companies and legal processes.

car accident damages

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if I’m involved in a car accident in California?

If you are in a car accident in California, follow these steps:

  • Remain at the scene.
  • Check for injuries and call 911 if needed.
  • Move to a safe area if possible.
  • Exchange information with the other driver(s).
  • Report the accident to the police or California Highway Patrol (CHP).

What if there are injuries in the accident?

If there are injuries, call 911 for medical assistance and wait for help. Do not attempt to move injured individuals unless it is absolutely necessary for their safety.

What is the statute of limitations for filing a car accident lawsuit in California?

In California, there is a two-year statute of limitations for filing a car accident lawsuit. This means you generally have two years from the date of the accident to initiate a lawsuit.

Are there specific guidelines for the car accident settlement process in California?

California’s car accident settlement process typically involves assessing economic damages, such as medical bills and property damage costs. You can use a car accident settlement calculator to estimate these damages.

What if I am involved in an accident and the other vehicle or property is unoccupied?

If the other vehicle or property is unoccupied, leave your contact information in a secure and visible location.

Final thoughts

When it comes to car accident settlements, it’s clear that there is no one-size-fits-all formula for calculating compensation. Factors such as injuries, property damage, and liability all play a role in determining settlement amounts. The intricacies of each case are multifaceted, with numerous variables contributing to the determination of settlement amounts.

Navigating the aftermath of a car accident in California can be can incredibly challenging experience, nonetheless, being well-versed in the essential steps to take immediately following an accident and remaining cognizant of your legal rights can make an immensely positive difference in your pursuit of justice and fair compensation.

About the Author

Jessica Anvar

California Consumer Litigation Attorney Jessica Anvar, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Lemon Law Experts California’s leading lemon law firm. She has multiple years’ worth of experience working with both state and federal lemon laws. Her practice focuses exclusively on consumer protection cases. Ms. Anvar received her J.D. from Loyola Law School. She also earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Loyola Marymount University. Jessica is very active in her local legal community and has helped thousands of clients across the state of California. She has an outstanding record as a true advocate for consumers.

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