What To Do After A Car Accident in California

A car accident can be traumatizing, and many car accident victims don’t have the presence of mind to protect their legal interests. Of course, the first thing to do following a car accident in California is to secure medical treatment. Once your medical needs and the needs of other injured parties are secured, there are also important steps to protect your right to compensation for property damage and personal injury. In light of the physical shock many car accident victims experience following an accident, this page will identify the critical steps to protecting your claim following an auto accident.

First, A Note About California Car Insurance 

California law requires drivers to carry what is commonly termed as 15/30/5 insurance, which is the minimum requirement under the law. The name is derived from the insurance coverage which includes:  

– $15,000 if there is injury or death of a person 

– $30,000 if there is injury or death of two or more persons. 

– $5,000 if there is damage to property. 

Since this is just the minimum coverage required by law, a driver can still take advantage of additional insurance, which might be helpful in case there is an accident.  

Medical Assistance & Exchange Insurance Information

If you are involved in a car accident, assess the damage to your car and the other vehicle. Check if the driver has sustained injuries. If there are passengers, check on their well-being as well. If someone has suffered an injury, you are required by law to render assistance. You can do this by calling 911 and staying with them until help arrives. It is also necessary to exchange insurance information with the other driver involved in the crash. You should at least be able to list down the following information: 

  • Names of the Drivers 
  • Addresses  
  • Phone and contact numbers 
  • Driver’s license number 
  • Vehicle identification numbers and license plate 
  • Relevant Insurance information 

Police Report

If the car accident results in injury or death, California law requires that the persons involved make a written report and submit it to the police department or the California Highway Patrol. There is no need to make the report yourself if a law enforcement officer has responded to the scene, as they will write the report for you.  In reality, any car accident involving injury will involve a police response, so the report will almost always be handled by the police. In Sacramento, you can request a report of your car accident.


Documentation is also essential. If you have a cellphone or a camera with you, it is helpful to take photos of the injuries suffered. The site of the crash and the conditions of the vehicle should also be documented, as accident reconstruction experts may find it helpful later. This information is beneficial, especially when it is not clear who was at fault or when both drivers seem to be at fault. If the accident involved damage to property, then the same should be documented as well. 

Final Steps

If the car owner cannot be located, it is helpful to leave a note explaining the situation with your phone number.  

If you are insured, you should also notify your insurance company of the accident right away. You will need to file a claim. After which, there might be an investigation on the part of the insurance company through an insurance adjuster. It is not unusual for the company to require a sworn statement and to interview other parties involved.  

Most importantly, contact a car accident lawyer and inform them of the circumstances of the car crash. It is a significant boost to your case if your lawyer is involved early in the case rather than near the end of the applicable statute of limitations.

Accidents can sometimes lead to heated altercations, so it is essential to keep a cool head while waiting for help. Do not argue with the other driver. If you are provided a document to sign that is not a report, do not sign it without your lawyer’s advice.  

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