San Jose has implemented a safety policy, known as Vision Zero, in an effort to reduce the number of car crashes that result in injuries or fatalities. As San Jose car accident lawyers, we applaud that effort while recognizing that thousands of people are injured every year in San Jose car crashes.
What should you do if you have been in a San Jose car accident? You should obey the law while protecting your health and your rights. Here are some ways you can accomplish those goals.
Stay at the Scene
California law requires drivers who are involved in an accident that injures another person or damages another person’s property to stop at or near the accident scene. Failing to obey that law can result in a hit-and-run prosecution.
If you are injured by a driver who fails to stop at the accident scene, try to get the license plate number of the vehicle that struck yours. If you can’t do that, do your best to get a description of the vehicle. If you have a chance, use your cellphone to take a picture of the fleeing vehicle. Then call the police immediately and report that information.
Report the Accident
The best way to protect your rights is to ask the police to come to the accident scene. Call 911 or the local police department to report the accident.
Everyone who is involved in an injury accident has the duty to make a written report of the accident to the Highway Patrol or (if the accident was within the city limits) to the San Jose Police Department. That report must be made within 24 hours. A standard form is available. You may want to obtain legal advice before filling out the form.
Drivers who are involved in a car accident that causes an injury must exchange certain information. You might want to wait until the police arrive to do that, particularly if the other driver is reluctant to comply with that law.
The driver who injured you must tell you:
- His or her name
- His or her current residential address
- The names and addresses of all other occupants of the driver’s vehicle
- The vehicle’s license plate number
- The name and address of the vehicle’s owner
You must give that same information to the driver who hit you.
Both of you must give that information to a police officer who arrives at the scene to investigate the accident. If no officer arrives, you should make sure to write down the required information (or record it on your smart phone).
If you were struck by the other vehicle, you have the right to ask the other driver to produce a driver’s license. A police officer will do that if an officer responds to the accident, but if no officer comes, you should write down or record the driver’s license number, its expiration date, and the name shown on the license.
If an officer comes to the scene, you should explain the circumstances of the accident to the officer if the accident was not your fault. If you caused the accident (or if you are not sure how it occurred), you might want to tell the officer that you need to obtain legal advice before you discuss the accident. You have the right to do that. If you lie to the police, you can be charged with a crime, but the only information you are required to give to the police is listed above.
Get Medical Attention
If you are seriously injured, call 911 (or ask someone to do it for you) and ask for an ambulance. If you cannot move (or if moving is painful), do not let anyone else try to move you. Wait for the arrival of paramedics who are trained to move accident victims without worsening their injuries.
If paramedics tell you that should take an ambulance to the hospital to be evaluated, follow their advice. Even if you do not think you have been seriously injured, paramedics are trained to recognize injuries that need a prompt evaluation.
For example, a concussion can lead to bleeding inside the skull or brain swelling. Both of those conditions can be fatal even if the accident victim does not feel intense pain in the immediate aftermath of the collision.
Make sure you tell the paramedics about every pain or problem you are experiencing. If you later testify about an injury that doesn’t appear in the paramedics’ report, an insurance adjuster might not believe the injury is real.
If you do not need the attention of paramedics, visit your doctor (or an urgent care clinic) as soon as you feel any pain. Some injuries, such as neck injuries resulting from a rear-end collision, might not become painful until a few days have passed. Delaying treatment of those injuries may prolong your recovery while making it more difficult to convince insurance companies and jurors that your pain is real.
Render or Ask for Assistance
All drivers involved in an accident have a duty to render assistance to injury victims. That usually means calling an ambulance. It does not mean providing medical treatment, because only trained paramedics or doctors should treat an injury victim.
Upon request, a driver has a duty to transport an injury victim to a physician or hospital. If you are injured and nobody has a cellphone with which to call an ambulance, asking for a ride to a hospital may be your best option.
Take note of people at the accident scene who may have seen the accident. Try to get their names and telephone numbers in case they leave before the police arrive.
If you have a camera (even a cellphone camera), take pictures of the accident scene from several angles and distances, including damage to both vehicles. Try to take pictures of the vehicles in contact with each other before they are moved. You should also take pictures of skid marks, gouges in the pavement, debris from the vehicles, and everything else you see that pertains to the accident.
Contact a San Jose Personal Injury Lawyer
Take care of your health immediately, but as soon as you are able to do so, contact a personal injury attorney in San Jose. Do that before you talk to any insurance adjuster. Your lawyer will give you advice that will help you protect your rights while maximizing the compensation you will receive for your injuries.