Car accidents can occur at any time, especially when it may be least expected. The immediate actions taken after a car accident, even if you are not at fault, are crucial for ensuring safety, prevention against unwanted lawsuits, and possible insurance faults. Therefore, it is essential to understand what to do in an accident before it happens. Being prepared for these situations can also help reduce stress, time, and expenses. This article will discuss the steps to proceed after a car accident.

What to do After a Car Accident

After a car accident, individuals should proceed to these 6 steps with precautions whether or not they were at fault.

1. Assess the situation

Assess the situation to ensure that everyone involved in the accident is okay and see if paramedics are necessary for any needed medical attention. This step is essential to ensure that any medical injuries are recorded and connected directly to the accident.

2. Don’t obstruct traffic

If possible and safe, move the vehicle(s) involved to the side of the road and stay out of the ongoing traffic to avoid any other potential collisions or traffic issues.

3. Call the police

No matter how minor or severe the accident is, call the local police station so they can send an officer to file an accident report. Some insurance agencies require the parties to obtain an accident report to file a claim. This is especially important when you are involved in a car accident that you are not at fault. The accident report is crucial for insurance agencies to decide whether or not to make a claim or if the insurance company later denies the claim. Further, an official report can help you hold the party liable for damages and other repair costs.

4. Gather information and keep them documented

Gather important information on the accident such as;

  • name of the drivers
  • pictures of the accident
  • their insurance companies
  • policy numbers
  • license plate numbers
  • driver’s license numbers
  • the addresses of the drivers,
  • names and addresses of any passengers in the involved vehicles

Additionally, it may also be a good idea to collect information on any witnesses’ names, addresses, and phone numbers if more testimony is needed. It is always better to have more evidence than less if there is a disagreement over fault in the accident.

It is also vital to note obstructions, road hazards, traffic control devices, speed limit signs, and weather conditions. Additionally, it can be helpful to locate any cameras in the area, such as CCTV cameras or traffic cameras. These can all be beneficial evidence in proving fault in an accident.

5. Contact your insurance agency

Contact both your insurance agency and other parties involved in the accident to inform them of the accident. Typically, if you are involved in a car accident that you’re not at fault, the at-fault insurance should cover all the damages and costs of repairs. It is not uncommon that they may deny the fault in some instances. In this situation, your insurance may foot the cost by paying out of collision insurance or uninsured motorist insurance. The insurance agency will likely sue the other agency or subrogate the claim which will be further discussed below.

6. Report accident to DMV

If the total damage of the accident exceeds $750, all parties must report the accident to the California DMV within ten days. Failure to do so can result in the suspension of your license even if you’re not at fault.

Who Should I Talk to After an Accident?

Be careful who you discuss the details of the accident with. Take precautions to only speak with your own insurance company, paramedics, or police officers. Even if you believe that you are not at fault, statements can be used to compromise the case and negatively affect the outcome.

For instance, take a look at the difference between these two statements; “I think my light was green,” versus “I know my light was green”. The definitive statement, in this case, could be taken more seriously. Admitting to something that may not be one’s fault could impact the claim similarly.

Who Decides Fault in a Car Accident?

A combination of factors decides the fault in a car accident, but it ultimately resides in the insurance company’s hands. While a police officer may offer a recommendation of fault in the accident report, the insurance company has the final decision. It may come down to several conclusions when determining fault. For example, some faults may be attributed to each party as a percentage, and in other cases, the fault may simply be unclear.

When fault cannot be agreed upon, the insurance companies may sue each other or arbitrate the case privately. Alternatively, suppose one company pays the initial cost, but later the other representation of the other company is found to be at fault. In that case, the not-at-fault agency may choose to subrogate and charge the individual or company for all costs, including the deductible the not-at-fault driver would have paid.

What Does it Mean to Subrogate a Claim?

When a claim is subrogated, it means that the insurance company has decided to pay the initial cost regardless of the fault. Upon finding the fault, they sue the at-fault party and their insurance company for the deductible and costs of the accident. If this occurs, the insurance company will notify their client that they are pursuing subrogation.

In this case, you would not need to hire an insurance lawyer to pursue repayment. If an insurance company does not decide to subrogate the claim, you may choose to do so independently. However, they must take precautions not to sign anything that may interfere with the insurance company’s pursuit to collect damages from the at-fault individual or their insurance provider.

What to Do if You are Being Accused of Being at Fault

Typically, the at-fault’s insurance company is the one that pays for all damages and injuries related to an incident. You should keep a careful record of all correspondence, as well as notify your insurance company immediately. However, if the at-fault party’s insurance later decides the other party is at fault, they may also subrogate them. In a case such as this, if action is taken, the newly charged party could be held liable for all the car accident damages. By informing an insurance company of the fault placement, they may contest the claim and defend their client. If the agencies cannot agree on fault, the cause will either go to arbitration or court. A cost-benefit analysis of the court fees and legal fees that are involved will also be noted. Hiring a lawyer during this process is recommended to help you navigate through legal rights.

Can I Choose Any Repair Shop After an Accident?

You may choose any repair shop that offers competitive market rates for labor and parts to repair their vehicle after an accident. Keep in mind that it is illegal for an insurance company to suggest or demand their client use a particular shop. This behavior can often be a sign of unlawful insurance fraud schemes. An individual may request a recommendation from their insurance company, but this is optional.

Can I Hire My Own Insurance Appraiser?

An insurance appraiser is an insurance representative that will work on gathering information on your claim. Insurance companies will usually provide an auto appraiser at no charge to determine the damage value of the accident. However, it is not uncommon that claimants may disagree with the initially assigned appraiser. In this case, claimants may simply request the company for a different appraiser or hire a private appraiser, at their expense.

If the appraisers cannot reach an agreement, the claim is sent to a neutral third party for arbitration. Each party must pay for their appraiser, and the third-party fee is split if necessary. Suppose the parties involved in the accident cannot reach a fair settlement through the appraiser. In that case, they may also pursue recovery through the California Insurance Department by filing a consumer claim.

What Should You Expect After an Auto Accident?

After an automobile accident occurs, you can expect to be contacted by your insurance company. In some cases, you may also be contacted by the insurance company of the party involved, or in rare cases by court order to appear if a party presses charges.

It is important to note that individuals have the right to prompt compensation from the insurance company. By California state law, the insurance company must compensate the individual immediately but no later than thirty days after accepting a claim. This also includes receiving an immediate response from the insurance on whether or not they will accept the claim immediately, but no later than fifteen days after receiving notice.

What Are My Rights After a Car Accident?

The insurance company is required to;

  • Explain all benefits, deductibles, and the amounts covered under the policy, any time restrictions, and the other provisions of their policy.
  • Respond to any written correspondence within fifteen days of receipt.
  • Acknowledge all filed claims, begin an investigation, supply forms and instructions regarding them, and provide a good-faith amount of assistance immediately upon receipt but later than 15 days after receiving a claim.
  • Decide on claims within forty days of receiving proof of claim.
    • Proof of claim is any documents detailing the losses in an accident, including repair estimates or a police report detailing the theft of the vehicle.
  • Offer a fair settlement
    • For instance, a total loss settlement must include taxes, license fees, and transfer fees. The settlement must reflect the actual market value of a similar vehicle make, model, and prior condition. If the salvage is retained, the settlement must reflect fair pricing for the salvage appraised by a certified appraiser.
  • Send out compensation within thrifty days of settling a claim
  • Provide their client with notice if they plan to subrogate the claim.
    • If they do so, they must include any deductible paid on their client’s behalf. If the company does not pursue subrogation, they must inform their client so that they may do so on their own.
  • Complete “Rights Under the Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations


  • Do not sign any document unless asked to do so by your insurance agency or an officer of the peace.
  • If someone is injured in an accident, call 911 immediately.
  • Keep all receipts and invoices related to injuries or car repairs concerning the incident.
  • When speaking with an insurance agent, keep track of the conversations and what was discussed in case the company fails to act on any promises.
  • Keep track of any received written notice
  • Upon returning from the scene of an accident, document all the events. The more time between an accident and the time a testimony is taken, the harder it may be to recall important information.
  • Not all injuries are realized in the direct aftermath of a car accident. Keep a good record of any health issues that appear following the incident.
  • More information can be found on the California Department of Insurance’s webpage here

Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.