Car accidents happen daily. Accidents, like rear-end collisions, can result in a mere scratch or a small dent. Perhaps you and the other driver agree that you do not need to file a report — but be careful.
Failing to report an accident is an illegal, citable offense in most states. In addition, if any complications pop up in the future, you will have a much harder time establishing your basis for a personal injury claim.
Learn how to protect yourself best and decide when to get a lawyer after a car accident in this article.
What To Do After You Get Rear-Ended
First off, no matter how minor a car accident is, you should always follow these five steps:
- Exchange contact information with the other driver. If any witnesses are present, request their contact information as well.
- Take photos and videos of all cars involved in the accident and any factors that may have contributed to the accident.
- Report the accident to the police and request a copy of the police report.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible, as you may have injuries that are not visible to the naked eye.
- If you were injured, call a car accident lawyer.
In a minor accident, you should not be content if the other driver’s insurance company covers the basic repairs for your car. Many wake up weeks after the accident with symptoms of whiplash — the most common injury after a rear-end collision. However, the moment you accept a settlement from the insurance company, you effectively give up your right to future legal action and can no longer recover compensation for your injuries.
Suing after being rear-ended may seem excessive for a minor incident, but you have the right to compensation whenever you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence. You should always consult with a car accident lawyer before agreeing to any settlement. To ensure the best outcome for your case, remember that the insurance companies are not on your side.
California Is Not a No-Fault State
Before proceeding with a claim, you need to understand how California handles car accidents.
In a no-fault state, each driver involved in the accident has to file a claim with their own insurance provider, regardless of who was at fault. Twelve states in the U.S. operate as no-fault states, but California is not one of them.
Instead, California operates as an at-fault state, where the at-fault driver’s insurance provider has to cover the costs of injuries and property damage in an accident. In addition, California also applies pure comparative negligence rules.
This means you still have the right to compensation. However, your compensation will decrease in proportion to your responsibility. For example, if you were 25% responsible for the accident, you could recover 75% of your damages. However, if you were 99% responsible, you could recover 1% of your damages.
How to File a Rear-End Collision Insurance Claim
File a claim with your own insurance company and that of the at-fault driver. You should always report accidents to your own insurance provider so that they can keep a record. If your policy includes Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, you should also benefit from it.
When filing a claim with the other party’s insurance, you want to back it up with as much evidence as possible. You can use:
- The driver’s information (including their name and license plate number)
- Information about the accident (the location, date, and time)
- Photos and videos of the accident scene
- A copy of the police report
- Proof of property damage and injury (medical bills, medical records, records of missed work)
Collect evidence and present a strong argument for why the at-fault driver owes you compensation. After filing a claim, the insurance company will typically attempt to negotiate the amount owed. This is affected by many factors, such as the extent of damage, pre-existing medical conditions, the need for future medical care, and the at-fault driver’s minimums.
Get Experienced Lawyers By Your Side
At the Law Offices of John J. Perlstein, we have decades of experience navigating insurance claims and car accident cases, including rear-end collisions. Our lawyers are always ready to battle for maximum compensation and help our clients get back on their feet. Feel free to call us at (213) 252-1070 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation about your case today.