What To Do If You Are in An Accident

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Driving on California’s highways can be a risky proposition. Whenever you are in a vehicle, there’s a chance of being involved in a traffic accident. Whether it’s a small “fender bender” or a major injury accident, knowing in advance what to do can help you avoid costly mistakes.

Here is a checklist of tips from the California Department of Insurance regarding what to do if you are in an accident.

• Stop immediately and move only if it is safe to do so.

• Call 911 if there are injuries.

• Call the police. In some areas, police authorities may respond to every accident scene. They may consider factors such as the severity and location of the accident (some police authorities will not come to the scene if the accident is on private property). However, you should attempt to notify the police. You should also be aware that most policies require notification to the police within a specified time period if the accident is a hit and run.

• Obtain names, addresses, telephone numbers, and driver’s license numbers from all drivers.

• Obtain license plate(s) and vehicle identification numbers. Ask to see driver’s license(s) and vehicle registration(s) to verify the information is accurate.

• Obtain names, addresses, and telephone numbers of other passengers and any witnesses.

• If you have a camera or a cellphone, take photographs of the damage and the accident scene (traffic controls, visual obstacles

• If the owner of a damaged car or damaged property cannot be located, leave a note with the names and addresses of the driver and owners of the involved cars.

• Notify your agent and/or your insurance company immediately.

• If anyone is injured or the vehicle damage exceeds $750, you must report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 10 days. Failure to notify the DMV may result in the suspension of your driver’s license. Things To Avoid

• Do not argue with other drivers and passengers.

• Save your story for the police and your insurance company.

• Do not sign statements regarding fault or promise to pay for the other party’s damages.

• If the other party offers to pay your deductible, don’t sign anything.

• You must show your driver’s license, vehicle registration card, evidence of financial responsibility, and current address to the other driver or persons involved or to a peace officer. Your Rights Under the Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations According to California law under the Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations, insurance companies are required to do the following if you have been in an accident:

• Advise you of all benefits, coverage, time limits or other provisions of your insurance policy.

• Acknowledge a claim, start an investigation, provide forms and instructions, and provide reasonable assistance immediately but in no event later than 15 days after receiving notice of claim. (Notice of claim is any written or oral communication to the insurance company which reasonably apprises the insurer that you wish to make a claim).

• Respond to communications received from you immediately but in no event later than 15 days.

• Accept or deny the claim immediately but in no event later than 40 days after receiving proof of claim. Proof of claim is documentation in your possession that provides any evidence of the claim and supports the magnitude or the amount of the loss, such as estimates of repair or police report indicating theft of your vehicle, etc.

• Unless the insurer has provided you with the name of a specific towing company prior to your using a towing facility, the insurer must pay reasonable towing expenses.

• Offer a fair settlement. If you suffered a total loss, the settlement must include taxes, license and transfer fees. The settlement must reflect the value of a comparable vehicle of like kind and quality. If you retain the salvage, deductions from the settlement for salvage must be fair, measurable, and discernible.

• Once the claim has been accepted, the insurer must pay the claim immediately but, in no event, later than 30 days from the date the settlement was reached.

• Advise you whether or not they will pursue subrogation. If the insurance company pursues subrogation, they must include your deductible unless you have already recovered your deductible.

Information for this article was provided by the California Department of Insurance, which is the state agency that regulates the insurance industry. It also works to protect the rights of insurance consumers. Learn more at