What Should I Do After a Car Accident?

November 27, 2023 | Article by Chain | Cohn | Clark staff

If you’ve ever been in a car accident, you know the rush of sensations that follow—jittery hands, surging adrenaline, and thoughts flying in a thousand directions at once. Because you might not be thinking clearly, it’s important to learn beforehand what to do immediately after an accident. You might even consider carrying a checklist like the one below in your car’s glove compartment.

9 Steps to Take After a Car Accident

Car Accident Checklist

After a car accident, you should:

1. Stop

California law requires you to stay at the scene of an accident to exchange information with other drivers and cooperate with the police.

2. Call 911

Immediately notify police and emergency services of the accident. Check yourself and your passengers for injuries.

3. Stay Safe

If possible, move your vehicle out of traffic. Alternatively, set up cones or flares or turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers of the accident.

4. Help Out

If you’re able to, assist others involved in the accident.

5. Don’t Admit Fault

Admissions of fault can be used against you in insurance negotiations or in court. So, even if you think you’re at fault, don’t say anything. It’s not uncommon for an investigation to reveal more about the causes of an accident later on.

6. Provide Info

Give your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance information to the police and other drivers involved in the accident. If you hit a parked car and can’t find the driver, leave your info in a note.

7. Gather Info

Collect driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance information from the other drivers. Ask witnesses for contact information, too.

8. Document

Use photos, videos, and notes to document the accident scene, vehicle damage, skid marks, traffic signs and signals, and other relevant information.

9. Report

You must report a car accident to the police, the DMV, and your insurance company.

  • Police: In California, accidents involving injuries or fatalities must be reported to the police within 24 hours. If police officers do not come to the scene of the accident, file a report with the nearest police department or California Highway Patrol (CHP) office. If you hit a parked car, you are required to notify the police or CHP.
  • DMV: You must report an accident involving injuries, fatalities, or more than $1,000 in property damage to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 10 days using California form SR-1.
  • Insurance: Many people wonder how long they have to report a car accident to their insurance company. Since reporting requirements vary from one insurer to another, the only way to answer this question definitively is to read through your insurance policy. In general, it’s wise to notify your insurance company as soon as possible.

10. Beware

Don’t sign anything at the scene of the accident except if a police officer tickets you for a traffic violation. Don’t give a statement to the other driver’s insurer until you’ve talked to a lawyer. The insurance company may use what you say to negate or diminish your claim.

11. Get Checked Out

See your doctor for a medical exam as soon as possible, whether you’re injured or not. After a car accident, symptoms of injuries—including serious internal injuries—may not appear immediately. (Wondering when to see a chiropractor after a car accident? Check out our FAQ.)

12. Contact a Lawyer

You may not need a lawyer for a minor accident involving only property damage. But for any accident involving injuries or fatalities, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney like the ones at Chain | Cohn | Clark.

No one wants to be in a car accident. Check out our car accident prevention tips.

Bakersfield Personal Injury Attorneys

The Bakersfield personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Clark specialize in helping those who are injured due to the carelessness of others receive the compensation they deserve. Our lawyers work on a contingency basis—you don’t pay anything upfront, and your lawyer is paid only when you receive a settlement or jury award.

You might wonder what a personal injury lawyer does. Your personal injury lawyer knows the ins and outs of insurance claims, can accurately assess the potential value of your claim, and can investigate and support your claim with evidence and expert witnesses. Consequently, most people recover more in damages when they’re represented by an experienced personal injury attorney.

For a free, no-obligation consultation about your personal injury case, contact us today.