Wherever, whenever and however it happens, nobody likes an accident. And yet at one point or another it happens to nearly everyone. True, some are more serious than others, but there are some things to keep in mind that will ensure the safety of everyone involved, and reduce the associated damage to the extent possible. While these may seem rudimentary, many of us fail to take follow one or more of the steps suggested herein in such times. That’s why we figured we’d put together a simple “to-do” guideline.

Remain Calm And Keep Out Of Harms Way

Regardless of whatever damage is caused by the accident itself, it is important to prevent additional damage. It is essential to all parties involved to remain calm immediately following an accident. Instead of panicking, whoever is behind the wheel should move the vehicle to a safe place and out of the flow of traffic, turn off the ignition, turn on the hazard lights, and when everyone is out of harms way, take a deep breath.

Carefully Check To See If Others Are Alright

After moving yourself and your vehicle out of harms way, check to see if the others involved in the accident severely injured, and if not, that they have moved their vehicle out of harms way and basically done as you have already done. If there has been a serious injury, or even if you are unsure as to how serious it may be, call 911. This not only ensures that no one gets hurt, but if the accident has seriously injured someone, then offering “reasonable assistance” to such persons is actually required of the other persons involved. Furthermore, Good Samaritan laws in California protect those from liability for helping others, and depending upon the circumstances, offering a helping hand in a cautious and responsible way may operate in your favor, not to mention in the injured person’s favor as well.

Call the Police

Regardless of whether the accident has resulted in serious bodily harm or mere property damage, call the police. If a person involved in an accident leaves prematurely, that could lead to criminal charges. When the police arrive, you must also provide them with certain information under California law, including your name, current residence address, the names and current residence addresses of any occupant of the driver’s vehicle injured in the accident, the registration number of the vehicle you’re driving, and the name and current residence address of the owner of the vehicle to the other persons involved. This information must also be given to the police officer when he or she arrives at the scene.

Assess the Damage

Assess the damage to the automobiles involved, and do your best to record the extent of the damage. If possible, photograph the damage to the automobiles involved.

Be Careful What You Say, And To Whom You Say It

Drivers should be careful about what they say and who they say it to immediately following an accident. Saying in an apologetic way, “sorry, it was my fault” is definitely not a good idea, as that can be used against you later on in court. Furthermore, do not sign anything unless it’s for the police, and even then you should be aware of what you are signing and what its legal implications are. Not only should you avoid admitting fault, but don’t start pointing fingers either. Tensions are high during such times, and there is no reason to make things worse. Simply focus on getting the necessary information such as the information mentioned above, which you are also entitled to under California law, namely contact information of those involved in the accident as well as witnesses, vehicle descriptions and identification numbers, license plate numbers, insurance information and photos of the damage to the vehicles.

Consult With An Attorney

Consult with an attorney to understand the legal implications of your situation. You may wish to explore potential claims or defenses, and an attorney will be happy to provide an initial consultation at no cost. An attorney with the right experience can help to ensure that you don’t lose more than you need to in an auto accident.