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April 16, 2024 #1 Local News, Information and Event Source for the Century City/Westwood areas.

RIGHT AFTER AN ACCIDENT

 “BE PREPARED BEFORE AND WHAT TO DO AFTER AN AUTO ACCIDENT” < ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

                                                                    by Attorney Ronald M Papell

Being involved in an automobile accident is potentially a serious event that can, of course, involve personal injuries or damage to property.  While most accidents are avoidable, some aren’t.  Getting rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light can hardly by prevented.  Perhaps most important is that you be prepared to comply with the law and protect your legal interests should  you have an accident. 

Some advance planning can be most helpful and make the unpleasant experience a little less stressful.  You are required by law to have your registration and insurance information available at all times while operating a motor vehicle.  You should also make sure that you have a pad of paper and a pen as well as a disposable camera.  The camera can be a very important piece of equipment should there be an issue of who was in what lane or who was travelling on what street.  Believe it or not, some people will claim that you, not they, had the stop sign!  A photograph showing the position of the vehicles after the accident can be invaluable in establishing who was at fault.

I would recommend that you place all of these items in an envelope marked “In Case Of Emergency†and place it in your glove compartment.  Should you have a medical condition, make note of your condition and list the name and telephone numbers of the person(s) that should be contacted as well as the name and number of your family physician.  If you are unable to communicate for any reason, this information could be life saving.

You should also keep a warning triangle, flares or similar device in your trunk.  A first aid kit and a bottle of water as well as a blanket can also be of great comfort should you need them.

AFTER THE ACCIDENT

Once an accident occurs you should try to remain calm.  Jumping out of your car may result in further injuries to you by passing vehicles.  If the accident is not serious you should try to pull your vehicle to the curb or side of the road or freeway where it will be safer to get out of your car.

Always turn on your emergency flashers to warn other motorists of your vehicle being stopped.  This is especially true on freeways where other motorists may not realize that your vehicle is stopped and may assume that you are moving.  Raising the hood of your car is also helpful in alerting other motorists that an accident has occurred and that they should proceed with caution.

The law requires that you must stop at the scene of an accident even if you believe that no one was hurt.  Your failure to do so may constitute hit and run for which you could be charged with a crime.  You must also exchange information with the other party even if you feel that they are at fault.  While many people remember to get the other drivers name, address, telephone number and drivers license, often they forget to get the license plate number of the other car and its make and model.  As insurance coverage on the vehicle is normally the primary coverage, it is important that you obtain this information.  Likewise, you should obtain the names, addresses, dates of birth and license numbers, if any, of passengers in the other vehicle. 

Witnesses often stop to render assistance.  You should always get their names addresses and telephone numbers as well as their drivers license number should they agree to provide it.  Witness can often be the deciding factor in determining responsibility for the accident.  Unfortunately, even honest people can sometimes revise their statements made at the scene after speaking with their family or insurance company.  Independent witness are often critical in arriving at the truth and you should ask them to remain at the scene until the police arrive.

Should the witness refuse to stay, take down the license number of their vehicle as the authorities or an attorney will be able to locate them at a later date.

While you are required  to notify the police or CHP should there be injuries, the unfortunate reality is that the police will often not respond unless the injuries are more than superficial.  Financial realities have resulted in police departments refusing to come to the scene of accidents or prepare reports.    They will frequently ask if the vehicles are blocking traffic or otherwise creating a danger to other motorists.  Needless to say, the failure of police to come to the scene makes the availability of the items in your envelope even more important.  Should the accident occur on a freeway, the California Highway Patrol has jurisdiction and will normally come to the scene because of the danger of people walking around trying to gather information near vehicles traveling at freeway speeds.  Should you get out of your car on the freeway, walk to a place a safe distance from your vehicle lest another car collide with your stopped automobile.  Never stand near, behind or in front of your car as you are courting disaster!

Assuming an officer doesn’t come to the scene, your insurance company may require that you report the accident to the police department on an approved form within 24 hours of the accident.  Should the other driver not have insurance coverage, this report will be required if you are injured and wish to pursue a claim under the uninsured motorist coverage of your policy.  While insurance coverage is required on all vehicles, many people continue to drive without coverage.  If you should be seriously injured you will find that you cannot recover for any pain and suffering that you might experience if your vehicle was not insured at the time of the accident.  Should the police not come to the scene, it may be helpful to draw a small diagram of the accident, noting the presence and approximate length of skid marks, the location of any crosswalks or stop signs or other landmarks.  If the accident happens at night, make a note of any street lighting nearby and its approximate distance from the point of impact.   Of course, should there be any unusual conditions on the roadway, rain, foreign substance, etc…be sure to note that as well.

If the other driver or their passengers are injured you are required to provide reasonable assistance including calling an ambulance or providing first aid if you are able to do so.  If necessary you may be required to take injured persons to a hospital or doctor.  Should the other person be seriously injured, it is usually advisable that you not try to move them as you may cause further injury.

Should officers arrive at the scene, answer their questions truthfully but don’t volunteer information unless the authorities ask for specific responses.  You may feel it appropriate to accept responsibility for the accident only to find out later that the other driver was more to blame than you were.  If you feel that you are clearly responsible and want to resolve the matter without involving insurance companies, you should probably not sign anything without speaking with an attorney.  If there is an issue of driving under the influence you must cooperate with the investigating officers in performing sobriety tests or providing of samples of blood, urine or breath.  Should you refuse to do so you may face the loss of your driving privilege.

Even if the police do not come to the scene, you may be required to report the accident to your insurance company or face a denial of coverage at a later date.  Likewise, should the accident result in damage to either vehicle in excess of $750 or in injuries or death, you must report the accident to the DMV or face the possible suspension of your driving privilege.  The report to the DMV must be made on their SR-1 form.

If you feel that you are injured, it is always advisable that you be checked by a physician as soon as possible.  This is a good idea even if you have no intention of making a claim.  Should your injuries be significant, it may be advisable that you speak to an attorney before making any statements under oath to your insurance company.  You should never speak with the other parties insurance company unless you are certain that nobody was hurt and that the accident was your fault.  Giving a statement to the other parties insurance company may result in your being held responsible for the accident when you were not legally at fault.  With the high cost of insurance coverage, being charged with causing an accident can often result in higher insurance premiums.

Remember, obtaining as much information at the scene of the accident is imperative to protect your rights whether you intend to pursue a claim or not.  In my following article I will discuss your rights to compensation and whether your should make such a claim in the first place.  While many claims require that you consult with an attorney, the Small Claims Courts now have jurisdiction of claims up to $7,500.00 and may be an efficient and economical way of recovering your losses.

Ronald M Papell

Attorney at Law

< ?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />11111 Santa Monica Boulevard

Suite 1000

Los Angeles, California 90025

Phone: (310) 477-4775

Fax: (310) 477-4252

Website:  rmplaw.com

e-mail: rpapell@rmplaw.com

in News
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