According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA, the nation is experiencing an increase in traffic fatalities.
The roads of California are dangerous, and the San Francisco Bay Area is not immune from the recent uptick in car accident-related injuries and fatalities. If you are driving, you are at risk of traffic accidents. Thus, it is paramount to know what to do in advance or make an effort to educate yourself following a collision; you can avoid costly mistakes, whether the accident is a minor “fender bender” or a major injury accident.
Let’s discuss what to do first and how long you have to file an injury claim after an accident.
The Importance of Reporting the Accident
After the initial impact of a collision, a victim’s mind and body begin flooding with emotions, adrenaline, and questions. Typically, the initial question we ask ourselves after a crash is, what should I do first? Unfortunately, the answer is not always clear, and it’s challenging to prioritize which steps should take precedence over others following an accident. However, in most cases, you should first get yourself (and any fellow passengers) to nearby safety where you can check yourself and any passengers for immediate injuries, examine your vehicle, but most importantly, call the local police to the scene and begin the process of filing a police report.
Note: In California, a police report must be filed within 24 hours if anyone sustained an injury due to the accident.
Documentation is Crucial Throughout any Claim.
Aside from the police report and photographing damage to the vehicles involved, you should begin documenting any injuries. Documenting injuries could mean calling 911 if injuries sustained are immediately apparent, painful, or life-threatening. EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) dispatched to the scene will begin assessing your condition, documenting injuries, noting symptoms, and tracking vitals. Otherwise, it is always best to be seen as soon as possible at an urgent care, hospital, or by your primary care physician, regardless of how you may feel initially. Tell the physician or other attending healthcare provider you were in a car accident. Be advised that many injuries commonly sustained in a car accident are not always visible or felt instantaneously. Whiplash, for example, can take several days to show signs and symptoms.
When to Notify Your Insurance Company
Many insurance companies have their own policies regarding notification and filing timelines following an accident. If you have been in a car wreck, you should report the accident to your insurance company as soon as you get home. If your injury has left you incapacitated, your attorney can assist you with this step and those to follow. Be aware that procrastination or delay could result in losing your right to coverage.
Note: Whether in the police report or when notifying your insurance company, when you can do so, be sure to disclose any injuries you’ve sustained and that you believe you were not at fault.
The California Clock is Ticking to File a Claim
Just as insurance companies have time limits in place for filing a claim, each state does, too, known as a statute of limitations.
A statute of limitations is a law that specifies the maximum period parties have to commence legal action (i.e., file a lawsuit). This law is designed to encourage accident victims to file a claim as swiftly as possible.
In California, claims are subject to strict deadlines to ensure a fair process for all parties involved. California’s Statute of Limitations for personal injury claims is two years from the date of injury. If the injury was not discovered immediately, it is then one year after the date of discovery.
Note: If the accident involved a minor who sustained an injury, the victim has time to claim until they reach the age of majority (18 years of age).
A Bay Area car accident lawyer can assist you if you have been injured in a California car accident due to the other driver’s negligence. By filing your claim with the guidance and experience of a San Francisco Bay Area personal injury attorney, you can significantly strengthen the likelihood of a positive outcome for your claim and in receiving complete compensation for your injuries and related damages.