Getting into a motor vehicle accident is always an inconvenience for everyone involved, including both the at-fault party as well as the innocent party. However, these kinds of events do occur, and it is important that you are prepared for the situation when it arises. Although a lawyer is usually preferred in these situations, there are things you can do in the immediate moments after the accident that will make it easier for your lawyer to deal with your case.
It doesn’t matter whether you are the innocent party or are the at fault party, it is never a good idea to drive (or walk) away from the accident. You should remain calm and in your car so that you can gather your thoughts about the incident that just occurred. It is important to remember that this is not only for monetary liability, as leaving the scene can expose you to criminal charges.
Just as you should not leave the scene, it is just as important to account for everyone who was involved in the accident. This is especially true if the crash was one with serious injuries. If someone is injured, their well-being is a priority, so try to help out where you can. However, you should refrain from moving someone, unless it is absolutely necessary. When accounting for all people in the accident, a good tip is to double check the drivers licenses of all parties involved.
Unless the damages are very minor (like in a slight fender bender), it is mandatory that you call the police to the scene of the crash. You may be exposed to criminal charges if the property damages are high or the injuries sustained are serious, and you had refrained from calling the police (or attempted to stop someone else from calling the police). If you are inured, the police will write an incident report, and if you are not injured, no report will be written.
Using either your phone or a notepad, start taking notes of the following: the damage done to the vehicles, the events that led to the accident, name, address, driver's license number, insurance information, license plate number, and the damage done to any public or third-party property. You can also take notes of any road / weather conditions, as well as the contact info of any witnesses to the accident. Also, you may want to use your phone to take pictures of any visible injuries you may have sustained or damages to your vehicle.
Contributory negligence refers to the concept that someone who negligently causes harm to another person is not responsible if the injured party’s negligence caused his / her own injuries. This basically means that if you make a mistake while driving and get hit by someone else, you may be barred from all recovery. Due to the fact that this is pretty harsh to the victim, many states (including California) have chosen to follow the rule of comparative negligence. Under this latter concept, you can still collect a portion of your damages, even if you share some responsibility for the accident. However overall, it is important to note that each accident is analyzed on a case-by-case basis, therefore it is a good idea to speak to an experienced attorney.