California Car Accident Checklist

Was a police report filed?
  • The steps you take after a serious car accident can save lives, reduce injuries, help ensure fair settlement of your injury claim, and keep you out of trouble with the law; however, when you are hurt and shaken, it can understandably be difficult to remember what to do after a crash.

    The best way to keep your cool in a bad situation is to be prepared with a plan of action. This checklist goes over what to do immediately following a car accident and in the days after.

    Stay Calm

    Don't panic. Take deep breaths, reel in your emotions, and wait till your adrenaline settles back down before you make any move. This will help you think straight and make it easier to talk with the other motorist(s) without getting into a heated argument.

    Make Sure Everyone Is Safe

    If there are injuries involved, do not hesitate to call 911 for medical help. If someone is seriously injured, do not move them unless it is absolutely necessary. Turn on hazard lights and set up warning triangles or flares if you have them. If the accident is minor, it is probably best to move the vehicles off the road and out of the way of traffic.

    Get a Police Report

    Call the police if the car accident involves considerable property damage, injury, or death. Make note of the responding officer's name, badge number, phone number, and report number. Also make sure that the officer takes a written statement. Be persistent if you have to, but remain polite.

    Exchange Essential Information

    After a car accident, the only information you are required by state law to provide to the other driver is your full name, insurance company, policy number, and the phone number for your insurance company. If the other driver insists on your providing more information, remain calm and wait for the police to arrive.

    Gather Information from Witnesses

    If there were any witnesses to the accident, ask them if they'd be willing to give you their information in case you need someone to verify the events that took place. You don't want them to wander away from the scene before you get their information.

    Take Photos and Notes

    If you have smart phone or camera, take photos to document the scene if it is safe to do so. Include pictures of:

    • License plates of involved vehicles,
    • Damage to your vehicle and other involved vehicles,
    • Damage to other property,
    • Any injuries,
    • Objects at the scene, including debris, skid marks, etc.,
    • Street signs or other landmarks to identify the accident location, and
    • Any contributing factors to the accident, such as obscured traffic signs.

    Also write down the details of the accident as you remember them. If you wait too long, your memories may fade.


    What you say to the other driver or the police can and will be used against you. Therefore, cooperate fully with the other driver and the police but do so without apologizing or speculating that you may have been at fault. Also, don't sign any documents unless you are legally required to do so.

    Get Legal Help

    If you or anyone you care about has been injured in a car accident, especially if there is any permanent injury, you should see a lawyer about representing you in a claim. Having an attorney who deals with personal injury (especially relating to auto accidents) can provide you with peace of mind that no stone gets left unturned.

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