Steps to Take After a Rear-End Accident in California

Imagine driving along California’s sunny roads, minding your own business, when suddenly, you are in a rear-end accident. Getting rear-ended can be a stressful and confusing experience. And it can happen to anyone. So, what should you do if you find yourself in this unfortunate position? Nobody wants to be a car accident victim, but when it happens, knowing the proper steps to take afterward can help manage the consequences more effectively. In this guide, we will break down what to do if you are in a rear-end accident, providing a clear and straightforward roadmap for handling a rear-end collision in the Golden State.

What to Do If You Get Rear-Ended

A rear-end collision can be a jarring and disorienting ordeal. But by following these guidelines, you can ensure that you handle the aftermath of a rear-end collision in a way that protects your health, rights, and interests. Also, always remember safety is your most important concern. So take care of yourself and seek professional help when needed.

Check for Injuries

The first and most important step after a rear-end accident is to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Immediately check yourself and any passengers for injuries. Even a minor rear-end accident can cause whiplash or other harm. If anyone is hurt, call 911 right away.

Move to a Safe Location

Turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers, and if necessary, use cones or warning triangles to mark the accident scene. If the rear-end collision is minor and your car is drivable, move it to the side of the road or another safe location. This step is crucial to avoid obstructing traffic and prevent further accidents. Moreover, California law requires it. If you do not move your vehicle from the street or highway, any peace officer or authorized personnel may have your vehicle removed and impounded. However, if the accident severely damages your vehicle, kills or injures someone, or if moving it is unsafe, it is legal to leave it where it is.

Call the Police

Even if you have a minor collision, it is essential to call the police. A police report can be valuable when dealing with insurance companies or if legal issues arise, especially if injuries or significant property damage occur.

When the police arrive, tell them precisely what happened, but avoid admitting fault or making accusations. If a police officer is not present at the scene, you must report the collision in writing to the police or CHP if the accident kills or injures someone.  

Exchange Information

After ensuring everyone's safety, exchange information with the other driver. You will need the other driver’s name and contact information, insurance company name and policy number, and license and plate number. You will also need to know the type, color, and model of the other driver’s vehicle and contact information from any witnesses.

Document the Scene

Documenting the accident is crucial for insurance claims and potential legal proceedings. Use your smartphone to take pictures of the accident scene from different angles. Document the vehicle damage, injuries, and relevant road conditions or traffic signs.

Write a detailed accident description, including the date, time, and weather conditions. If a police officer arrives at the scene, get their name and badge number for your records.

Seek Medical Attention

It is crucial to see a doctor or a healthcare professional soon after the accident. They can assess if you have hidden injuries like whiplash, which is common in rear-end accidents. A medical evaluation will also provide documentation of any injuries for insurance claims.

Report the Accident to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

Whether you caused the collision or not, you must report a rear-end accident to the DMV using an SR-1 report and send it to the DMV within ten days if someone is injured—no matter how minor the injury—or killed in the accident or property damage is over $1000.

Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company

Contact your insurance company to report the accident and start the claims process as soon after the accident as possible. Provide them with all the information you gathered from the accident scene. Be honest about the details and your injuries, but do not admit fault. Your insurance company will guide you through the process of filing a claim.

Keep Records

Keep a file of all your accident-related documents and information. This includes:

  • Police report,
  • Insurance claim information,
  • Medical records and bills,
  • Car repair receipts,
  • Rental car expenses,
  • Any lost wages due to missed work, and
  • Correspondence with insurance companies.

Organized records will assist in the claims process and help ensure you receive fair compensation.

Consider Legal Advice

If fault is disputed or you suffered significant injuries or financial losses, consulting with a lawyer specializing in car accidents is worthwhile. They can advise on how to proceed and represent your interests in dealings with insurance companies or in court, ensuring your rights are protected. It is also often wise to consult a lawyer before agreeing to any insurance settlements.

Know the Statute of Limitations

California’s statute of limitations sets the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit after an accident. Typically, you have two years from the accident date to file a lawsuit. However, it is best to consult with an attorney to understand the specific deadlines that may apply to your case.

Starpoint Law LC, Your Rear-End Accident Advocates

If you were rear-ended in California, Starpoint Law, LC, can help. At Starpoint Law, we have won over $11 million in settlements and verdicts for clients. We understand the importance of holding wrongdoers accountable and are dedicated to treating you and your case with respect, compassion, and dedication.

At our firm, we not only provide legal services but also support you every step of the way. Contact us for a free consultation. At our core, we are dedicated to ensuring that our clients always come first and are committed to providing you with the highest level of service possible.

Author Photo

Aidin Ghavimi

Aidin is a partner at Starpoint LC, Attorneys at Law, and focuses on personal injury and employment law cases in and around Southern California. He earned his Juris Doctorate from the Loyola School of Law and his Bachelor’s from USC. Aidin’s primary goal is to bring justice to his clients and to ensure they are able to move on with their lives after a serious injury.

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