California is a big state, and it has some big roads. California’s famous highways and scenic byways are the stuff of pop-culture legend, and the traffic in and around California’s biggest cities is infamous. California’s more than 40 million people is fairly reliant on cars, as is the population of the United States in general. The state of California has 14.5 million registered vehicles. At a given moment in Los Angeles traffic, you might be surrounded by hundreds of those vehicles.
Californians are, by and large, pretty good drivers. The state is not the most dangerous one to drive in (that would be South Carolina, believe it or not), and things go pretty well considering the terrible traffic that sometimes afflicts California’s more populated areas. But being fairly safe is not the same thing as being completely safe, and there is no surefire way to avoid a car accident in California.
Someday, you may find yourself in an accident in California. If you do, here’s what you should do.
Start with safety
In the aftermath of an accident, your primary concern should be your safety and that of others in the accident and in the area. That means you should start by checking on yourself: Are you OK? If you are, check on your passengers (if any) next, then the other drivers and others who may be involved in the accident. If anyone is injured, call 911 right away.
If you’re safe, you need to stay that way. Take stock of your situation. Is your car safe to drive? Is it smoking or leaking anything? What is the traffic in the area like? And where are you and your vehicle?
Use common sense and make things as safe as possible. That may mean pulling over, or it may mean getting out and getting far away from your vehicle.
Call the police
In California, you are required by law to call the police after a car accident if anyone was injured or if more than $1,000 in damage was done. Considering modern car repair costs, that’s not much. A typical accident will mean calling the police. Even if you are not required to call the police, you may still do so. It may be a good idea, because the police will document the scene and produce a report that may be helpful as you deal with insurance companies and, possibly, with attorneys. Be sure to get your copy of the police report.
Report the accident to your insurance
The next step is to deal with your insurance. Call up your insurance company right after things are sorted out at the scene of the accident. Give your account and ask any questions that you might have. Keep an eye on your insurance company as things progress, and don’t accept any deal that you don’t think is fair — because you have legal options here in California.
Work with an attorney
The consequences of a car accident can be dire. You could end up in a hospital or dealing with lingering health issues that cost you big bucks in medical bills. Health care isn’t cheap in California.
And the cost of living is high in California, too — which is bad news if your injuries keep you from working and earning your keep. You could end up with mounting debt and other personal and financial issues.
You should consider reaching out to a California personal injury lawyer. California’s tort laws provide you with options, including a personal injury lawsuit. If another party’s negligence caused the accident that injured you, you could be entitled to compensation. A court award or settlement could make you financially whole again after your terrible accident.