In the state of California, licensed drivers are required to accomplish specific actions when involved in an automobile accident with another vehicle. Maj. Deric Prescott, March ARB active duty staff judge advocate and Moreno Valley Police Department volunteer, explained that by following a few simple, common sense rules and guidelines, the misfortune associated with an automobile mishap can be lessened and more manageable.
If involved in a collision, the following actions should be accomplished at the scene:
- Do not panic
- Do not leave the scene of the accident – it is considered a “Hit and Run,” which carries severe criminal penalties
- Render reasonable assistance if anyone has been injured — this entails dialing 9-1-1 for an ambulance and/or police officer — if qualified, administer self-aid and buddy care. Explain the situation to the operator and give the exact location of the accident so that responders can be dispatched immediately.
- If no one has been injured or killed, safely move the vehicles out of traffic. Prepare to provide proof of insurance, driver’s license and vehicle registration to the other driver
- When the police officer arrives, present proof of insurance, driver’s license and vehicle registration
- When ambulance arrives, describe injuries to the best of your ability
- Collect the following information at the scene of the accident:
- The other driver’s name, address, date of birth, telephone number, DL number, expiration date and insurance company. In addition, retrieve the names, DOB, address, DL number (if applicable) and telephone number of any passengers in the other car.
- The other car’s make, year, model, license plate number and expiration date and vehicle identification number
- The name, address and telephone number of any witnesses to the accident
- The name and badge number of the on-scene officer. Ensure to ask the officer when and where you can get a copy of the accident report
Actions taken after the accident:
- Do not admit to anything! It is vital that you do not volunteer any information about who was to blame for the accident. A full investigation will yield who was at fault.
- Immediately contact your insurance company and/or lawyer. Anything you reveal to the other driver or police can be used against you in a court of law during the proceedings.
- Most importantly, do not sign anything other than the citation issued by the on-scene officer. If you refuse to sign the ticket, you can be arrested.
- Ultimately, the safety of everyone involved in the accident is the most important issue of concern. Vehicles can be fixed or replaced – that is why there is insurance. If you have further questions, visit the March legal office to view ready-available handouts on a variety of situations, or make an appointment to discuss matters with the staff. However, keep in mind that “an Air Force legal assistance attorney cannot represent members in court, but can advise on general guidance and information that may be helpful, according to AnhTuan Dang, paralegal specialist, March legal office.
In the meantime, as the summer driving season gets into full swing, please drive safely.