Any car crash can leave you feeling confused and overwhelmed. It’s best to know, in advance, what to do if an accident occurs. Below, our California car accident lawyers explain the steps to take after an auto accident. We also explain how we can help – if you need us, call to schedule a free consultation.

Car Accidents in California

In the state of California, accidents happen every day. The most common types of crashes are:

  • Intersection accidents
  • Parking lot crashes
  • Rear-end collisions
  • Head-on collisions
  • Colliding with stationary vehicles or objects

There’s no “one” cause of car crashes. And sometimes, they’re unavoidable. However, if someone else’s negligence or recklessness causes a crash, you might have a personal injury claim. You may also have a claim if your vehicle is at fault from technical issues and caused the crash.

Consequences of Car Accidents

The consequences of car accidents vary, from minor to life-changing. In some crashes, the consequences are fatal. Car accident injuries include:

  • Musculoskeletal injuries 
  • Head injuries 
  • Neck and spine damage
  • Nerve damage (including paralysis)
  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
  • Bone injuries and fractures
  • Cuts and lacerations

Accidents most likely to cause severe injury include:

Car accidents can be life-changing. If you lose a loved one in a crash, or you’re left with long-term injuries, we want to help. Our clients mean everything to us at the May Firm. Call today to discuss your case with California accident lawyers.

Car Accident Claims in California

If you’ve never had a car crash, you won’t know what to expect from the claims process. Briefly, here’s what happens when you call an attorney. 

  • An accident lawyer reviews your case. If you have a claim, they’ll file a lawsuit on your behalf. They’ll also handle the insurance claim paperwork for you. 
  • Your attorney gathers evidence and determines the strengths and weaknesses of the case. They value how much your case is worth and how best to move forward. 
  • While you focus on recovery, your attorney negotiates on your behalf. If the insurer makes an offer, they’ll help you understand your options. 
  • If the case doesn’t settle, or there’s no fair offer, your case may go to trial.

Most car accident claims settle within a few months. Some take a year or longer, depending on how complex the case is.

What to Do After a Car Crash

If you’re in a car crash, don’t panic. Instead, follow these steps to get through this stressful time as quickly as possible.

Check for Casualties

Immediately after the crash, check for medical emergencies. Call 911 if necessary. If safe to do so, move away from the immediate crash scene.

Young woman in red cardigan and black top hand on forehead using phone after crashing black car in background

If you can’t move safely, don’t attempt to move yourself. Wait for help to arrive.

Health always comes first. Once you’ve established there are no emergencies, you can proceed to the next step.

Contact the Authorities

You only need to report a crash in CA if there’s significant property damage and/or personal injury (however minor). In reality, though, this means you should probably report any accident. 

  • It’s hard to quantify car damage at the scene. The damage could be more extensive than you think.
  • Injuries can take time to manifest. If you don’t report the crash, you could face legal consequences for failing to report an accident.

The police will provide you with an accident report. This report helps to prove what happened and who caused the crash. You can use it as evidence to support your claim.

Document the Scene

If you’re well enough to move around, try to capture the scene. 

  • Take pictures of any damage e.g. injuries and property damage. 
  • Try to identify possible witnesses and get their details. 
  • Exchange information with the other driver. 
  • Try to capture the road and weather conditions e.g. fog, heavy rain.

Don’t admit fault or say anything which could imply fault. And if the other driver flees the scene, or you feel intimidated, call the police immediately.

Seek Medical Attention

Your health matters. Even if it’s just a minor crash, you should seek medical attention.

Until a doctor examines you, it’s hard to know for sure if you’re injured. Some injuries take time to show up. And other injuries may be more serious than they look at first glance.

You can use medical records to support your crash claim. Visit your doctor or attend the ER as soon as possible.

Contact a California Auto Accident Lawyer

Next, contact an attorney. They will immediately evaluate your case and explain if you have a claim. They’ll help you feel more in control of the situation and put your mind at ease.

Emergency red triangle stop sign warning car accident car in background at night

Reach out to us now to schedule a free, no-obligation meeting.

File an Insurance Claim

If you haven’t already called them, now’s the time to contact your insurer. The details for filing a claim should be set out in your policy.

  • Stick to the facts. Don’t say anything which might be construed as admitting fault. 
  • Don’t accept any settlement offer without talking to an attorney.

Your California accident lawyer can help if you haven’t filed a claim yet.

Gather Evidence

You can file a claim before you have all evidence to hand. So, now, it’s time to gather all the evidence together. Evidence includes:

  • Photographs
  • Medical records
  • Receipts for losses e.g. transport costs
  • Medical bills
  • Proof of lost income
  • Quotes for property repair 
  • Accident reports

Your attorney can explain what evidence will help depending on your case.

Why You Need a Car Accident Lawyer in California

You may still be unsure about hiring an attorney, especially for a minor crash. These reservations are understandable. However, here’s why hiring an accident lawyer should be a top priority. 

  • Insurers are experienced negotiators. Without help, you may accidentally implicate yourself or say something to decrease the value of your claim. 
  • An attorney knows how much your case is worth. They can advise you whether a settlement offer is fair so you can make an informed decision.
  • If your case is complex, your losses may be significant. A lawyer can ensure you sue the right parties and claim for every relevant loss.
  • Although rare, some cases do proceed to trial. An accident lawyer knows how to build an effective case strategy and guide you through the process.

Even if it’s a seemingly minor crash, call an auto accident lawyer in CA. We offer free consultations – there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Do I Need a Lawyer Even if it Wasn’t My Fault?

It’s even more important to hire a lawyer if you didn’t cause the crash. Here’s why.

California is a “fault” state. This means that the at-fault driver should pay for the damage they caused. Insurance companies may try to dispute fault, though. They may try to say that you caused the crash or you’re at least partly responsible.

Put simply, they may try to deny you the compensation you’re entitled to.

An attorney will ensure that insurers treat you fairly. They will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. And if you’re partly responsible, it’s still possible to seek damages. Our California accident attorneys can explain what compensation you can claim.

When to Contact California Accident Lawyers

If you’ve been in a car crash, there’s no need to wait. You can call an auto accident lawyer in California immediately. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the full extent of your injuries or losses yet. At this point, a lawyer can determine if you have a claim and explain how you might proceed.

If you retain us, our team will immediately get to work on filing a claim and gathering evidence. As more evidence – such as repair costs – becomes available, we can decide how to move your case forward.

Time Limits for Filing Car Accident Lawsuits in CA

Even if you don’t contact a lawyer right away, you only have so long to file a lawsuit. In California, you have:

  • Two years from the accident date to file a personal injury claim
  • Three years from the accident date to file a property damage claim.

Other time limits may apply if there are, for example, children involved or the claim involves a government agency.

Time limits exist to help resolve claims as quickly as possible. Call our California auto accident lawyers to begin your case.

Get a Free Consultation with California Accident Lawyers

Car accident cases don’t need to be complicated. Not when you have experienced attorneys on your side. Our injury lawyers can walk you through the process from start to finish. We’ll review your claim, explain if you have a case, and help you get a fair settlement.

Remember, you don’t need to wait to call an attorney. We can start right away. So don’t struggle with a car crash claim alone. Contact our auto accident lawyers in CA to discuss your case.

Call a California Car Accident Lawyer Today.


The content in this article is provided for general informational purposes only and may not represent the current law in the recipient’s jurisdiction. The content and information should not be construed as professional legal advice from The May Firm or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. Any and all information included in, or accessible through, this article should not be used to act or refrain from acting without the appropriate legal or other professional advice from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s appropriate jurisdiction. Any reliance you place on such information is strictly at your own risk.