The California Office of Traffic Safety statistics don’t lie – serious and fatal car accidents are on the rise throughout the state.

During your driving lifetime, you have approximately a 33 percent chance of being involved in a serious auto collision. You see the horror stories on the news every night. But do you know what you will do when this happens to you? Who will you call for help? How will you begin the long process to heal and put your life back together?

Even the best car accident personal injury lawyer will only be able to assist you in full if you take certain key steps in those first few critical moments after an auto accident has occurred.

Read on to learn exactly what to do in the event of a West Coast car accident.

Document, Document, Document

A car accident will have a measurable impact on your life in several ways and on multiple levels. Physical, emotional, mental, financial – all will be impacted by your involvement in the incident.

The first rule of thumb to protect yourself is one you will want to memorize: document, document, document. You want to document everything you can so you can give this information to your car accident personal injury lawyer to go to bat for you and get your life back and protect your loved ones.

First, Always Stay at the Scene of the Accident

Whatever you do, do not leave the scene of the accident (unless, of course, medical needs prevent this).

Not only do you need to remain so you will not later be accused of leaving the scene of an accident, which is a crime, but you also need to stay and document everything for your own protection.

Contact the Police to Create an Accident Report

Your first instinct after being involved in an auto incident might not be to contact the police, especially since California is currently an “at fault” state when it comes to processing the aftermath of car accident claims.

But the police truly can be your friend in this type of situation. Not only will their documentation be held up in court, but they can fill in any gaps in your knowledge since you may still be somewhat in shock from the trauma of the experience.

Do not ever agree to simply exchange information with the other parties and then leave. Always remain until the police arrive to write up their official accident report. Always get their badge numbers and contact information and find out exactly how to access your accident report. This is gold to your Los Angeles car accident lawyer who will be able to refer to it as a part of your legal protection strategy.

Stick to the Facts In Every Exchange

You will need to talk with the other involved parties to exchange insurance information. When you do this, whether they approach you first or you approach them first, just stick to the facts.

Never, ever say anything that sounds like an apology or an admission of guilt, even though this is how you may be feeling on the inside! Just be polite, calm, try to smile or at least not scowl, offer your insurance information and ask for theirs and keep the interaction as brief as possible.

The same holds true when the officers arrive to create their accident report. In most cases, you will have already exchanged insurance information with the other parties before the police get to the scene. Sometimes it can take awhile, especially in the busy Los Angeles traffic.

But when the officers do arrive, refrain from any type of apology or admission of guilt. Simply request the accident report and answer any questions they ask briefly. Do not give any more information than what they directly ask you for.

Get As Much Other Information As You Can

In addition to exchanging insurance information, you will want to write down for yourself and the best auto collision lawyer representing you the following information:

– License plate number(s) of the other driver(s).
– Make, model, year of the other vehicle(s).
– Description of each vehicle.
– Note about any damage to the vehicles (yours and theirs) you observe.
– Photographs and videos of the scene itself and each involved vehicle.
– Road signs, road markers, road conditions, nearest cross-sections.
– Anything else you see at the scene that you think may be relevant.

Here, it is both perfectly fine and quite smart to sketch out the entire scene of the incident. Note where you and the other drivers were when the incident occurred.

Describe weather conditions, time of day, traffic conditions, presence or absence of road construction, road signs, road conditions, light and visibility, the speed you were going and anything else that can fill in the blanks for those who were not present who may later be in charge of reviewing your case.

Talk to Witnesses If At All Possible

If the opportunity presents itself and it is safe to do so (i.e. don’t run across a busy highway just to do this), make every attempt to talk to anyone who might have seen the auto accident happen.

The testimony of willing witnesses can be very valuable as you and your car accident personal injury lawyer build your case. When you talk to the witnesses, be sure to get their contact information and their willingness to talk with the police or your attorney, West Coast Trial Lawyers, to support your personal testimony of what occurred.

While witnesses are typically not required to offer this, if you are friendly and approachable and genuinely grateful for their time and testimony, many will agree to remain in contact and help you with any problems that may arise later as a result of the incident.

Contact Your Attorney Without Delay

Every day, somebody else in California suffers through the experience of being involved in an auto incident for the very first time.

This can be so stressful and so scary and frustrating. But you can avoid making common first-timer mistakes by following the actions described in this blog post to the letter and contacting the best auto collision lawyer to represent you without delay.

Your memory will be freshest in the first few hours and days following the auto accident. So this is also the best time to make contact with your car accident attorney and begin the process of building your case.

Remember to request the official police copy of your accident report as soon as it has been processed and is available. Provide this document along with all your pictures, videos and written information from the day of the accident to your personal injury attorney. Finally, be sure to keep receipts for all accident-related expenses.

How West Coast Trial Lawyers Can Help

If you have been involved in an auto collision, you may be feeling confused or scared about how to protect yourself, heal physically and emotionally and get your life back on track. We can help. Contact West Coast Trial Lawyers for additional information today.