As a San Francisco accident attorney, I have helped several clients through more than one accident. It is all too common to get into more than one wreck in your lifetime, so even if you have already been through this process, it is helpful to refresh your checklist with these frequently asked questions:
What is the very first thing I should do after getting into a wreck?
Move your car to safety if possible. If it is drivable, you should put your emergency flashers on and move it to the side of the road. Get as far onto the shoulder as possible. If, however, you cannot move it to safety, put your hazards on, call 911, and be prepared to honk if it appears that someone is heading straight towards you. Getting out of the car may be an option, but very often this proves to be more dangerous. There have been numerous cases of people being killed while walking on the side of a freeway or busy road, so this is an option you have to weigh carefully. If the weather is bad, it is very dark, or the traffic is thick and fast, you may be safer staying in your vehicle where there is at least some metal between you and oncoming traffic.
Do I have to call the police?
Yes, and you should call them anyway. It is a legal requirement to file an accident report within ten days in the state of California. If you call the police, they can help you do so, which will prevent you from being exposed to a potential fine. Simultaneously, they can help you get to safety and ensure that the other driver doesn’t leave without giving their information first.
Will I need to get information on the other driver?
Yes, in order to protect yourself financially, you need to get the other driver’s information. This should include personal information, contact information, driver's license number, registration number, insurance information, and the make and model of the vehicle. You will need this in order to seek damages later on and to complete the accident report. You should also bring this information with you when you come in for a consultation.
Do I have to go to the ER?
Not necessarily. If you have injuries, you certainly should. Otherwise, you could also drive yourself to your primary care doctor or have someone else take you there. You do need to see a doctor that same day, though. It is very possible to suffer a brain injury, internal bleeding, or a back injury that does not show up immediately. These are often harder to diagnose, and the shock of the accident may prevent you from feeling the discomfort or pain that you normally would. Heading to the ER or to your doctor will ensure that you do not have any injuries that need to be attended to immediately.
Is it important to get information on passengers or witnesses?
Absolutely. After you have been in a car crash, you will need to prove negligence on the part of the other driver in order to demonstrate that the crash was not your fault. Witnesses and even passengers can help me (as your attorney) to build a strong case. When you come in for a consultation, I can provide you with additional direction regarding what information you need to gather and who I may want to speak with in order to help build your case.