Dealing with the legalities of a car accident in California

San Francisco County contains a network of bridges, highways, freeways and streets that crisscross each other with thousands of cars traveling on them every day. It is also an area where car accidents are common and people are severely injured because of the negligence of another driver.

Here in California there were over 161,000 injury collisions according to the 2010 annual report from the California Highway Patrol. Since 2008, the number of accidents resulting in injury has slowly been coming down but Californians should be aware of the legalities involved in a car accident and how to deal with them.

California collision laws

The California Department of Motor Vehicles states that if a person is involved in a car accident there are several things that he or she must do in order to comply with state law. These items include:

  • Stopping at the scene-all drivers involved must remain at the accident scene.
  • Moving vehicle off of road if there are no injuries or fatalities.
  • Find owner of parked vehicle; if the owner cannot be found, then a note with the driver's contact information must be left on the vehicle.
  • Find owner of an injured animal, contact animal control, or call the California Highway Patrol.
  • In an accident where someone was injured or killed, someone should contact law enforcement. In the rare case where law enforcement is unable to arrive, then the CHP should be notified in writing.
  • The DMV needs to be informed of the accident if someone was injured, killed, or the accident caused over $750 in damage. The notification to the agency needs to be made within 10 days of the accident.

Any violation of these laws can result in criminal charges against the driver and result in further legal problems.

Protection against legal actions

Anytime someone is injured, killed, or property is damaged in a car accident, there is usually an investigation conducted by law enforcement to determine fault. Therefore, it is important that a driver take steps to protect themself from being held legally accountable for the collision. A driver should avoid saying anything that could imply guilt and should never offer up information during the course of speaking with other drivers, passengers or law enforcement officers. Doing so could result in their being found at fault for the crash.

Documentation is also very important in proving one's case in the event that a personal injury lawsuit is later filed. The driver should take pictures or video of the scene, the damage done to the vehicles and of injuries sustained as a legal safeguard. Furthermore, a copy of the accident report should be obtained as well as written statements and contact information from witnesses and people involved in the accident. The more documentation that a person has, the stronger their case will be. If you have been injured in a car accident, then you should consider meeting with an experienced personal injury attorney to understand what your rights are and what you may be entitled to under the law in terms of compensation.