05 May What To Do After A Car Accident That’s Not Your Fault
When you get into a car accident, it’s a frightening experience. But what to do after a car accident is not your fault?
No one wants to get into an accident, but unfortunately, it can happen when we least expect it. And if the accident was not your fault, it can be even more confusing and stressful to deal with. But don’t worry, we have listed the steps you can take after an accident that is not your fault:
But first, it’s important to know what kind of system California follows when it comes to determining the liability of parties involved in a car accident.
Is California a no-fault state?
The financial responsibility for damages from a car accident varies by state. Some states follow an at-fault system, where the party responsible for the accident is liable for damages, up to the limits of their insurance policy.
Other states have a no-fault system, where each party is responsible for their own damages, regardless of who caused the accident.
California is an ‘at-fault state’ where the financial responsibility is to be borne by the party that causes the accident.
If you are wondering what to do after a car accident not your fault, here are the steps you should take.
Steps to take after a car accident that’s not your fault
Prioritize your safety
The first thing you should do after any car accident is to seek medical attention. Even if you do not feel you are injured, it’s important to get checked out by a doctor. Some injuries, such as whiplash or traumatic brain injury may not manifest themselves until hours or even days after the accident.
The next thing to do is to move to a safe place so that you avoid getting hit by oncoming traffic. Depending on the location of the car accident, you can find a safe spot to stand until the police or medical assistance arrives. If possible, try to move your vehicle also to a safe spot.
Here are the other things you can do immediately after the accident:
- Compose yourself and try to stay calm
- Turn on hazard lights
- Place warning triangles, orange cones, or emergency flares at the site of the accident
- Check if your passengers’ are injured
Even if you are not at fault, it is important that you stay at the site of the accident till the police arrive. If you leave the site without talking to the police, you may end up with a hit-and-run charge.
Call the police
If you are involved in a collision on a public road, you will need to call the police so they can file a report. This is mandated by law, and even if the damage seems minor, you cannot have the other party compensate for the damages without involving the police.
The police officer’s first task is to call for medical assistance if anyone is hurt. After this, they will assess the scene, take notes on the damage to the cars involved and assess who is at fault. They will also question the witnesses, the drivers, and the passengers involved in the car accident.
The police will then generate a report on the basis of the statements both parties involved give and the physical evidence at the accident site.
You will need to get this report from the police department and make copies of the same. While you need to provide a copy to your insurance company, you will need a copy for your own records.
In order to prove that the accident was not your fault, you need to gather evidence. Make sure to gather evidence from the scene of the accident, including photos of the damage to both cars, skid marks, and witness statements. The police report is also an important piece of evidence that you should preserve.
This will also help your attorney assess the extent of damage and arrive at the compensation that you deserve.
Another effective piece of evidence is eyewitness statements. If there were pedestrians, bystanders, or you had other passengers in the car, try to get their names, addresses, and contact detais.
In case of a lawsuit, these witnesses can provide evidence as to:
- How the car accident occurred
- Which driver was at fault
- Whether there was property damage or bodily injury
- What each party did immediately following the crash
To sum up, the different types of evidence that you should gather to prove you were not at fault include:
- Bills related to property damage
- Videos taken at the scene of the accident
- Photos of traffic signs, vehicle damage, broken glass, skid marks, and any other relevant pictures at the site of the accident
- Eyewitness statements
- The police report
- Ask the other party to show you the insurance ID and driving license
- Record the model, make, and VIN of all cars involved.
- Document the weather conditions, time, and the date of the accident
In some cases, an expert on car accident reconstruction may be called to determine the contributing factors and the cause of the car accident.
Do not admit that you were at fault
As we already pointed out, California follows an “at-fault” system. One of the most important things to do after a car accident not your fault is to say so.
In addition, ensure you do not admit any fault or apologize to the other party that can be used as evidence against you.
Your apologies can be enough for the insurance company to deny your claim.
In case the other driver tries to put the blame on you for the accident, do not agree with their assessment. Also, avoid saying that you are feeling fine and that you are not injured.
After a car accident, it is common for adrenaline to be coursing through your body. This can mask the impact of any injury you sustained and make it difficult to assess the extent of the injury.
Instead of downplaying your injuries, you can say that you will seek medical care at a later time.
Be careful when talking to anyone
You should also be careful when talking about the car accident with anyone else, including your friends, bystanders, or anyone else. Following an accident, it is quite natural that you may not be thinking clearly and may end up saying things that you regret later. The only people you should talk to after a car accident not your fault are your attorney, insurance company, and the police.
In addition, you should also avoid doing these things:
- Do not argue or get violent with other drivers or passengers.
- Avoid signing any statements about a promise to pay or admitting your fault
- Tell your story only to the police, insurance company, and your attorney
Share insurance information
If you are in an accident, you will need to provide your insurance information to the other driver. You should also ask for their insurance information. This will help you file a claim as you are not responsible for the accident.
As per state law, all drivers in California are required to carry evidence of their financial responsibility with them.
The proof is generally in the form of insurance that offers the minimum liability coverage mandated in California :
- $15,000 for death or bodily injury to one person
- $30,000 when there is bodily injury or death of more than one person.
- $5,000 for property damage
While these are the prescribed minimum amounts, many drivers buy additional insurance. If the at-fault driver’s policy limits exceed, they are responsible for paying the additional damages.
Insurance claims are getting much easier to file, including virtual car insurance claims accompanied by pictures of the accident. Algorithms will instantaneously evaluate the damage.
While drivers can agree between themselves as to who was at fault, most times, this is determined by the insurance company.
When both parties file their claims with the respective insurance companies, the insurers will evaluate the accident and decide who was at fault.
If the fault lies with the other driver, your insurance provider seeks restitution through “subrogation” from the other party’s insurer.
This means, your insurance provider will ask the other insurer to reimburse the damages.
Notify the California DMV
As mandated by California law, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has to be notified within 10 days in case:
- There is a death
- Someone was injured
- The damage due to the accident was $1,000 or more
Notify the DMV, even if you are unsure of whether to report, especially if you are claiming through California auto insurance.
You will need to use the DMV Form SR1 to report the accident. Note that your driving license can get suspended for a year if you fail to report the incident to the DMV.
Contact Your insurance provider
In California, people sometimes do not file a car accident claim because they are afraid their insurance rates might go up. However, California has a law that prevents insurers from raising insurance rates if the policyholder was not at fault.
This means that you need not hesitate to file a claim, particularly if you are not at fault. The earlier you report, the better the chances you have to prove your claim in the car accident case.
In case the insurers do not agree on this matter, the case is referred to the Arbitration Forums Inc.
This private company will then decide who pays and the extent of the compensation.
Know about ‘comparative fault’
Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine who was at fault.
In California, the law recognizes a concept known as comparative fault. This means that each driver involved in an accident will be assigned a percentage of responsibility for the accident. This percentage will be based on the driver’s role in causing the accident.
For example, if Driver A was 30 percent at fault and Driver B was 70 percent at fault, then each driver would be responsible for paying an equal amount of damages.
In other words, if Driver A is found to have caused $10,000 in damages, then Driver A would be responsible for paying $3000 (30 percent) in damages. If Driver B is found to have caused $10,000 in damages, then Driver B would be responsible for paying $7000 (70 percent) in damages.
Hire a car accident attorney in Yuba City
One of the most important answers to your question on what to do after a car accident not your fault in California is to hire an attorney. There are a few reasons why you might want to hire an attorney.
First and foremost, an attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries. In addition, an attorney can help you deal with the insurance company and make sure that you are treated fairly. Finally, an attorney can help you resolve any legal issues that may arise as a result of the accident.
When you are not at fault and have not been able to prove the fact to your insurance company, you may have to file a lawsuit.
In California, per the statute of limitations, you need to file a lawsuit within two years of the crash.
An experienced car accident attorney in Yuba City will evaluate the available evidence including your photos, witness statements, and the police report to plan the next steps.
If there has been a wrongful death as a result of the other driver’s negligence, your Yuba City attorney can help you file a claim for the same. The statute of limitations for wrongful death can range from six months to 2 years.
Your car accident lawyer can also help you get the medical treatment you need by finding a doctor who accepts medical lien, in case you cannot afford the treatment.
A reputed Yuba City car accident attorney who specializes in car accidents will negotiate with the insurance company to make sure you get the compensation you deserve related to:
- Existing medical bills
- Lost income – past and future
- Future medical expenses
- Disability accommodations
- Suffering and pain, including traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and other non-economic damages
- Property damage (repair and replacement of your vehicle)
Call us for a free consultation
This article provides information on what to do after a car accident not your fault. If you have been injured in a car accident for no fault of yours, call the Law Offices of Steve Gimblin for a free consultation and case evaluation.
As experienced car accident lawyers, we specialize in protecting your rights and getting you the compensation you deserve.