Any time you are in a car wreck in California, the law places certain duties on you. In addition, after you have met your legal obligations, there are certain things you can do to protect your best interests, whether or not you were at fault for causing the accident.
A brief description of the legal requirements you must meet after an accident is Stop, Help, Exchange, and Report.
First, STOP your car, even if you think nobody was hurt, no property was damaged, and the accident was not your fault. If you do not stop, a criminal charge of hit-and-run can be brought against you. If no one is around and there is only property damage, you must try to find the person who owns the damaged property. If you cannot, you must leave a note that includes your name and contact information, as well as a description of the accident. If you do not own the car, you must also include the car owner’s name and contact information.
Next, assess whether anyone was injured. Under California law, you must HELP—provide reasonable assistance—if someone was hurt in the accident, whether another driver, passenger, or pedestrian. This means that you may have to provide first aid, call 911, or even take the person to the emergency room yourself, depending on the circumstances.
You must also EXCHANGE the following information with other drivers involved in the crash:
- your name and contact information;
- your driver’s license number and vehicle identification number (VIN);
- if the car is not yours, the name and contact information of its owner;
- your insurance company’s name and contact information, as well as your policy number (or other evidence of financial responsibility).
If anyone was hurt or killed, you must REPORT the wreck to the local police or the California Highway Patrol immediately. If an officer does not come to the scene of the crash, you must file a written report of the accident. You must also file a report with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if anyone is hurt or killed or if there is any property damage to any car that exceeds $750. You will also have to provide evidence of your financial responsibility to the DMV.
In addition to meeting these legal requirements, if you are able, you should take notes or pictures to collect information about the accident and the people involved.
- information about other cars, drivers, passengers, insurance companies, and witnesses;
- the location of the accident, as well as traffic signs, lights, and cameras;
- the location and length of skid marks and debris, if any exists;
- the names of businesses located near the accident scene;
- the name of the investigating officer and his or her department; and
- the weather conditions at the time of the accident.
Sorting out who is responsible for an accident is tough and often requires an examination of all of the evidence after the wreck. If you or a family member were wrongfully injured in an accident, call us at 888.777.1776 oruse our online contact form. Delays can hurt your case, so please don't wait.