What You Must Do After an Accident

After an auto accident

What You Must Do After an Accident

I’m Ed Smith, a Fresno car accident lawyer. Even though car accidents happen every minute, drivers often believe it will happen to someone else, failing to prepare for the possibility. It is important to have a plan of the steps to take if an accident happens.

Remain in Control

It is important not to feel out-of-control. An accident happens despite our precautions, so thinking ahead is important. Keep a checklist of all the things you should do in the glove box. You can use your mobile phone to take notes or write them down. Losing the information can lead to gaps in the accident timeline. You’d be surprised at what you can forget when you leave the scene.

Don’t Leave the Accident Scene

It is important to remain on site until law enforcement representatives say you can go. This is particularly true if someone was injured or killed. The penalties for a hit and run driver range from jail time and fines and can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. Even if the collision was not your fault, it is vital that you remain.

Check for Injuries

If you physically are able to, check the passengers in your car for injuries, both minor and catastrophic.  Do the same for the occupants of the other motor vehicle(s) involved in the accident. If your vehicle might be struck by roadway traffic, decide if it is possible to move your motor vehicle to a safe location. In the event that the vehicle might catch fire, see if you can help the occupants out of the car or truck. If you are unsure of what to do, call 911 and explain. They will be able to provide guidance about the situation.

Call the Police

Depending on if people were injured or died or $1,000 in damages occurred, it is necessary to phone the police and report the accident. In the event the accident happened in a local area, call the city/town/county police or sheriff’s office. If the accident happened along the highway, phone the California Highway Patrol. The police officer on the scene will fill out a police report. It is a good idea to obtain a copy. In addition, ask for the officer’s name and badge number.

Take Photos

Pictures are worth a thousand words after an accident. Use your cell phone to take pictures of your vehicle, documenting the damage to your car. Take pictures of the other vehicles as well. Make sure to document how the vehicles are positioned after the accident.

If there are skid or yaw marks, make sure to document them too. They are useful in showing the speed with which a vehicle was traveling and how and when the brakes were applied. An accident expert can use the pictures to determine if the driver slammed on his or her brakes or did not brake. Sometimes an inebriated driver is oblivious and does not apply the brakes as does a driver who falls asleep at the wheel.

Document Roadway or Environmental Damage

Use the pictures to show that the roadway was damaged or littered with debris. Also, note if the roadway was wet at the time of the accident. No matter what the condition is, the effects of weather and roadway debris can be used to explain how the accident happened. In addition, if the accident was due to poor roadway conditions, the state, county or city may be partially responsible for the crash.

Get Information

If you can do so safely, exchange contact information with the other drivers and passengers. Also, write down the vehicle’s license number and the driver’s license number and registration as well as their insurance information. Keep the conversation polite and directed. Do not apologize for the accident. This might be misinterpreted to mean that you thought you caused the crash.


In many accidents, witnesses are available who saw the crash. Obtain contact information and if possible, get them to write it down along with a short account of the accident. You can also use the record/video function of your mobile phone to take their statement. Make sure they know they are being recorded.

Medical Care

It is important to be seen by a doctor after the accident. Sometimes, given the adrenaline pumping that occurs, you may not realize you’ve been injured. Some injuries are not obvious right away, appearing hours or even days later. Your physician will document your injuries, and this record is important later on. Make sure to keep and track all your doctor visits and make note of all prescribed medications, tests such as X-rays or physical therapy.

Call the DMV and Your Insurance Agent

If someone was injured or killed in the accident or if damages exceeded $1,000, you must call the DMV within a 10-day window. If a police report was filed, the police representative will forward their report to the DMV.

Call your insurance company, and report the accident. If you don’t, you may find you will not be covered. When you speak to the insurance company, simply provide the facts of the accident. Sometimes, the company representative will ask questions or tell you the report is being recorded. If you are uneasy with that, tell them to contact your attorney.

Fresno Car Accident Lawyer & Personal Injury Attorney

I’m Ed Smith, a Fresno car accident lawyer. If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you have the right to collect fair compensation. Even if the accident was partly your fault, you receive compensation minus the percentage of damages assigned to you. Call me for friendly and free advice at (559) 377-7676. You can also reach me on my toll-free number at (800) 404-5400.

For 35 years, I have worked as an injury lawyer in California by representing victims of traumatic injuries and the families of those killed by a negligent driver in a wrongful death lawsuit.

You can read reviews by former clients and peers on Avvo, Google and Yelp. Settlements and verdicts of prior clients are posted on my Verdicts and Settlements page.

I founded and own autoaccidents.com, a website in Northern California that is a source of information about personal injury law.

Photo Attribution: Depositphotos_30979427_original.jpg

:cd bw [cs 1057] cv