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What Should I Do if I've Been in an Accident?

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Modesto Car Accident Attorneys Explain What to Do If You’re in a Car Accident

Many people are shaken after an accident, and it can be hard to know what to do. The steps you take after an accident are important in the event that you need to take legal action down the road. Below, our Modesto car accident attorneys provide a guide about what to do if you’re in a car accident in Modesto, Turlock or Stanislaus County.

What Do I Do After a Car Accident?

Right after an accident, you should take the following steps:

1. Call the police.

Immediately after an accident, you should call 9-1-1. If anyone has suffered injuries, ask 9-1-1 to send an ambulance.

The police will secure the accident scene, investigate the accident and prepare a report. This accident report may include information including:

  • Names and contact information of involved parties
  • Witness names, contact information and statements
  • Insurance information of involved parties
  • Opinion about the cause of the accident

Police reports can be valuable evidence when trying to establish who was at fault for an accident. You should write down the name of the investigating officer and his or her badge number. You should also ask the officer which agency you can request a copy of the accident report from.

2. Exchange information with all parties involved.

You should gather basic contact information and insurance information from everyone involved in the accident. If able, write down information from each driver involved, including:

  • Name
  • Contact information
  • Insurance company and policy number
  • Driver’s license number
  • License plate number

3. Take pictures and notes about the car accident.

You should document the accident to the best of your ability by taking pictures and writing down important information. Take pictures with your phone or another camera to document the following:

  • Vehicles involved. You should take pictures of all vehicles involved. Include pictures of license plates, make and model of the vehicles and any visible damage. Try to take photos from multiple angles and locations.
  • Injuries. Take pictures of any visible injuries. Once your injuries start healing, it will be more difficult to show the extent of your injuries.
  • Accident scene. You should take pictures of the area surrounding the accident. Photos help preserve the scene and can be used by reconstruction experts to analyze the scene later. These photos can show road conditions, light conditions, weather, traffic conditions and more.

You should also write down other important information about the accident, including:

  • Location and time of day. Where did your car accident occur? What time did the accident happen? Write down this information.
  • Witness information. If there were any witnesses at the scene, write down names and contact information.
  • Your recollection of the accident. Write down as much as you can about any potential factors that could have contributed to the accident.

4. Contact your insurer.

You must report your accident to your insurer. Your policy may have a time limit about how long you have to report your accident. Do not miss this deadline.

5. Go to the doctor.

Even if you do not feel injured, it is important to see a doctor after an accident. Some injuries may not show up right away. For example, brain injuries from concussions may take days or even weeks to appear. You want to make sure that you do not have any underlying injuries. You also want medical records to document your injuries and connect them to the accident.

6. Call an experienced car accident lawyer.

You should speak with a car accident lawyer after an accident, especially if you suffered injuries or damages. You want to make sure that you cover your bases and that you are doing everything right to protect yourself legally. An attorney can help you understand your legal options and may be able to help you build a strong case if you have a viable claim.

What Should I Not Do After a Car Accident?

Here are a few steps not to take after a car accident in Modesto, Turlock or Stanislaus County:

1. Do not leave the scene of the accident.

It is against the law in California to leave the scene of an accident without exchanging certain information and providing assistance to the other drivers. If anyone has suffered an injury, you should call the police and wait for them to arrive.

2. Do not apologize or take responsibility for the accident.

You should avoid taking responsibility or apologizing for the accident. Even a simple “I’m sorry this happened” could be construed as fault admission and used against you. You should also avoid talking about the accident in general because these conversations could be used as evidence against you later.

3. Avoid talking to the other driver’s insurance company without a lawyer.

We recommend that you have a lawyer represent you when talking to the other driver’s insurance company. Avoid giving any statements to the other driver’s insurance company, agree to any damages or accept any settlement money.

Speak With Our Modesto Car Accident Attorneys About Your Accident

Swingle, Van Egmond & Heitlinger represents individuals who have suffered injuries in auto accidents throughout the Central Valley and Northern California. 

If you got hurt in an accident, get help by calling us at (209) 340-1110. You can also reach us online to discuss your situation.


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- James M.
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