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Your Sacramento Car Accident: The Basics

Last updated: October 18, 2013

You took the day off work and chaperoned your son's field trip to the California State Railroad Museum. The kids were taking the school bus back, but you had driven so you could run some errands afterwards. As you exited the parking garage on I Street, you were rear-ended by another car. What do you do? What happens now? Here is some basic information to help you with your car accident in Sacramento.

First Steps

The most important first step after an accident is to stop your car at, or as close as possible to, the scene and check whether anyone is injured. You are required under California law to render "reasonable assistance" to any injured party if it is apparent that treatment is required or even if you are simply asked. You are also required to provide your contact and vehicle information to the other driver. It is a good idea to exchange the following with the other driver at this time:

  • Name, address, phone numbers;
  • Driver's license number;
  • Insurance carrier and policy number; and
  • Vehicle registration information.

If there were any witnesses to the accident, you should get their names and contact information. You might also want to take pictures of any damage to the cars and jot down some details about the accident (time of day, what direction you were heading, what the weather was like, what the traffic was like, etc.)

If the accident results in injury or death, you must report the accident right away to the California Highway Patrol or the Sacramento Police Department. You must also report the accident by way of a Traffic Accident Report SR1 to the California DMV within 10 days in cases involving injury, death or $750 or more of property damage.

Insurance

Drivers in California need to carry proof of financial responsibility for their vehicles. Most people do this through automobile liability insurance. In California, you must carry insurance to cover at least $15,000 for injury to one person, $30,000 for injury to 2 or more people, and $5,000 for property damage. Many people carry additional, comprehensive coverage.

As soon as you can after the accident, you should contact your insurance company. There are certain timelines and rules that they must follow. For example, they must accept or deny your claim within 40 days and must offer a fair settlement. You can refer to the California Department of Insurance website for more information about automobile insurance claims.

Determining Who Was At Fault

Determining liability in a car accident usually turns on figuring out who was negligent. Basically, someone is negligent when he acts carelessly and that carelessness causes or contributes to the accident. If you are trying to show that the other driver was at fault you will likely rely on things like police reports, traffic laws, and the type of collision itself. Check out FindLaw's section on Proving Fault in a Car Crash for more information.

Often, both drivers are partially at fault in an accident. If this is your situation and you were partially at fault, you can still bring a claim against the other driver in Sacramento and the rest of California. In what is known as a pure comparative negligence system, California allows even a person who is 99% at fault to bring a claim against the other driver, although your damages will be reduced according to your fault. So, for example, if you were 50% responsible for an accident and your damages were $10,000, you could still pursue a claim against the other driver for the remaining 50% or $5000.

Getting An Attorney

The aftermath of an accident can be overwhelming. You may wish to hire a lawyer to help you. Here is some helpful information on Car Accident Legal Help including what to look for in an attorney, as well as the typical types of legal fees and costs.