Getting into a car accident is a stressful experience that can leave you not knowing which way to turn. Unfortunately, many drivers in California are not sure what to do in the immediate aftermath of a collision, and failing to take the right steps could increase the risk of a subsequent accident and impede your ability to file a successful car insurance claim.
Your top priority after any collision is to get medical assistance for yourself and for anyone else who was injured. But what if nobody was injured? Do you still have to contact the police?
The answer to this question varies by state. In California, drivers are required to report any accident that results in death or injury to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) or the city police within 24 hours. Even if nobody was seriously injured, it’s a good idea to contact the police anyway so an officer can compile an accident report. This report will be valuable evidence if the other driver or the insurance company disputes your account of the collision. Also, some injuries take several hours or even days to manifest symptoms, and it will be harder for you to file a successful claim if you do not have an accident report.
Reporting An Accident To The State of California Department Of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
Besides reporting the collision to the CHP, you are also required to file a report (called a Traffic Accident Report SR 1) with the DMV within 10 days if you are involved in an accident that results in death, injury, or property damage in excess of $1,000. The form can be mailed in or submitted electronically. Failure to submit this form could result in license suspension.
Reporting A Collision To Your Insurance Company
Many drivers wait too long to report a collision to their insurance company, often because they don’t want their premiums to increase or they simply do not want to deal with the hassle of filing a claim. This could prove to be a costly mistake since your insurance company will likely dispute or flat-out deny your claim after a certain timeframe has passed.
The exact amount of time you have to report a crash to your insurer depends on the language of your policy. A good rule of thumb is to notify your insurance company about your collision as soon as possible.
Common Mistakes To Avoid After A Car Accident
Your actions and statements immediately after a car accident will have a major impact on your ability to file a successful insurance claim. Unfortunately, many drivers in California know very little about the claims process until they are involved in an accident.
Here are a few common mistakes that could cause your claim to be undervalued or denied:
- Forgetting to contact the police at the crash scene;
- Not writing down the contact information of eyewitnesses;
- Waiting too long to file a claim;
- Not gathering evidence at the scene;
- Delaying or failing to visit a doctor for a medical evaluation; and
- Posting information about your car accident on social media.
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