Injured in a Car Accident in California? A Guide to Taking the Right Steps

Have you or a loved one been injured in a car accident in California? The unfortunate reality is you’re far from alone. The California Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) shows the number of fatalities and serious injuries reached an all-time high in 2021 and only dipped slightly in 2022.

While the Golden State population climbed a modest 2.5% between 2013 and 2023, fatalities and serious injuries on the road shot up 61%, reaching 19,465 in 2022. As we reported in this post on the rise in fatal traffic accidents in California, 4,407 people died in 2022, which represents a 22% increase compared to 2019.

Being involved in a car accident can be a harrowing experience, leaving individuals with physical injuries, emotional distress, and financial burdens. While no case is the same, you can better protect your health, well-being, and legal rights in the aftermath of a car accident in California by knowing which general steps to take.

What Should You Do After a Motor Vehicle Accident?

We should note that in the event of a serious injury, following these steps may not be possible for the injured party. In such cases, the priority should always be seeking immediate medical attention. Once the injured person’s condition has stabilized, they or their loved ones can begin taking these steps on their behalf or seek assistance from a trusted family member, friend, or legal representative.

Step 1: Ensure Safety

A key priority after a car accident is to ensure the safety of everyone involved. If possible, move your vehicle to a safe location away from traffic to prevent further accidents. Check yourself and others for injuries and seek medical attention immediately if necessary. It is important to prioritize your health and well-being above all else.

Step 2: Call Law Enforcement

Contact law enforcement to report the accident, especially if there are injuries or significant property damage. A police report will be crucial for documenting the details of the accident and may be required for insurance claims and legal proceedings later on. Be sure to provide accurate information to the responding officers and cooperate fully with their investigation.

Step 3: Exchange Information

Exchange contact and insurance information with the other parties involved in the accident, including drivers, passengers, and witnesses. Gather details such as names, phone numbers, addresses, license plate numbers, and insurance policy numbers. This information will be essential for filing insurance claims and pursuing legal action if necessary.

Step 4: Document the Scene

Take photos of the accident scene, including the vehicles involved, any visible injuries, road conditions, traffic signs, and any other relevant details. Additionally, write down a detailed account of how the accident occurred while the events are still fresh in your memory. These documentation efforts can provide valuable evidence to support your insurance claims and legal case.

Step 5: Seek Medical Attention

Even if you believe your injuries are minor, it is important to seek medical attention promptly after a car accident. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent and can worsen over time if left untreated. A thorough medical evaluation will ensure that you receive the necessary treatment and documentation of your injuries, which will be essential for any insurance claims or legal proceedings.

Step 6: Notify Your Insurance Company

Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible to initiate the claims process. Provide them with all the relevant details of the accident, including the police report, photos, and medical records. Be cautious when speaking with insurance adjusters and avoid admitting fault or making statements that could be used against you later on.

Step 7: Consult with an Attorney

Consider consulting with a qualified personal injury attorney specializing in car accident cases. An experienced trial attorney can help protect your legal rights, negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, and pursue compensation for your injuries, damages, and losses. They can also provide valuable guidance on navigating the complex legal process and advocating for your best interests.

To take an example of the value of seeking the right representation:

In a recent case handled by Penney & Associates, a 66-year-old certified nursing assistant sustained severe injuries in a car accident. While on her way to work early one dark December morning, our client’s vehicle collided with a disabled car that had come to a stop on the freeway. The other driver had lost control of her vehicle, causing it to block two lanes of traffic.

Initially, the investigating officer assigned 100% of the blame to our client. However, further investigation conducted by independent experts revealed that our client was not at fault. Instead, it was determined that the other driver bore complete responsibility for the accident. Sadly, the other driver suffered fatal injuries in the collision.

After thorough legal proceedings, the case was resolved with a settlement reaching the insurance policy limit of $1.5 million.

Step 8: Keep Records and Follow Up

Keep thorough records of all medical treatments, expenses, and communications related to the accident. Follow up with healthcare providers, insurance companies, and legal counsel as needed to ensure that your case progresses smoothly. Stay organized and proactive throughout the recovery process to maximize your chances of a successful outcome.

Penney & Associates: Your Trusted Team of Trial Attorneys

At Penney & Associates, we are dedicated to helping car accident victims obtain the justice and compensation they deserve. Our team of experienced trial attorneys has a proven track record of success in handling car accident cases throughout California.

If you have been injured in a car accident, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation. We will review your case, explain your legal options, and guide you through the process every step of the way. Let us fight for your rights and help you get back on the road to recovery.

Read more:
Accident or Negligence? What to Keep in Mind if You’ve Suffered Traumatic Injuries
The Alarming Rise in Bicycling Accidents: How to File a Lawsuit
Deadly Road Crash Spotlights Implications of Common Carrier Law

* This blog is not meant to dispense legal advice and is not a comprehensive review of the facts, the law, this topic or cases related to the topic. For a full review of our disclaimer and policies, please click here.

Long exposure image from the inside of a self driving car with map showing on inside console screen

Who’s Driving? Determining Liability in the Age of Autonomous Cars

Self-driving cars, once the stuff of science fiction, are rapidly becoming a reality. While they promise a future of safer roads and less traffic congestion, this exciting new technology also...
Image of broken glass on a wet roadway

Traffic Fatalities Surge in California: Understanding the Numbers and Implications

Amid population shifts and changing travel patterns, California is grappling with a concerning trend: a significant surge in traffic fatalities. According to a recent report by TRIP, a national transportation...
Person's leg in hard cast with crutches leaning on a window

Personal Injury Statistics: What Three Studies Reveal About California

What does Google search data reveal about personal injuries across the country? How does California fare compared to other states when it comes to the rate of preventable injury-related deaths?...