Riverside Car Accident FAQ

The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) estimates that more than 3,000 people were killed and injured in Riverside car accidents in 2016. Car accidents might occur for a variety of reasons, but most result from the negligent actions of another party. If you or a loved one were harmed in a car accident in Riverside, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact the experienced car accident attorneys at Aitken * Aitken * Cohn for a free consultation to discuss the path forward for your individual circumstances. Below are some answers to frequently asked questions regarding Riverside car accidents:

Do I Have to Report My Accident to Law Enforcement?

California law requires that you report any accident that results in property damage, injury, or fatality; however, requirements differ slightly if the accident only involves property damage. Keep in mind that if you are involved in a serious accident in Riverside, it’s highly likely the Riverside Police and/or the California Highway Patrol will come to the scene of the accident. In the event that law enforcement does not show up, you must adhere to the following accident reporting requirements:

Property Damage Only

  • Stop your vehicle as soon as possible in a location that will not interrupt traffic or put other drivers in danger.
  • Locate the property owner and notify him or her of the accident and damaged property.
  • Provide the property owner with your name and address and the name and address of the owner of the vehicle if you are driving someone else’s car.
  • If the property owner requests your license and registration, you must cooperate.
  • If you cannot locate the property owner, leave a written notice that provides your name, address, and a statement of the circumstances, and immediately notify the Riverside Police Department.
  • Failure to comply with these requirements will result in a misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 fine.

Injury or Fatality

  • The driver who struck another vehicle must provide their name, address, driver’s license, and vehicle registration to the driver or an occupant of the other vehicle, as well as law enforcement.
  • The driver who struck another vehicle must also provide contact information of any injured occupants in their vehicle and the contact information of the vehicle owner, if the driver does not own the car.
  • The driver must also provide “reasonable” assistance to those injured in the accident. This includes transporting someone to the hospital or making arrangements for transportation. You can fulfill this requirement by calling 911 as soon as possible.

In the case that an accident causes injury, fatality, or more than $1,000 in property damage, you must also submit a Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California to California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This form provides information to the DMV that shows you have complied with California’s Compulsory Financial Responsibility Codes. Most often, drivers prove financial responsibility with an auto insurance policy; however, the DMV also accepts self-insurance certificates and financial responsibility bonds.

How Do I File a Police Report After a Car Accident?

If police did not come to the scene of the accident and you need to file a report, you have some options. If the accident occurred in Riverside, you can head to one of the two Riverside Police Stations and file a report in person, or you may file online. If the accident occurred on a state highway, including on and off ramps, Riverside Police does not have jurisdiction. You need to file a report with the California Highway Patrol. You can visit the office closest to you or you can call their non-emergency hotline, 1-800-TELL-CHP (1-800-835-5247).

How Do I Request a Copy of My Police Report?

Any party involved in a car accident has the right to obtain a copy of the official accident report. If you filed your accident report with the Riverside Police Department, you must provide identifying information such as the police report number, date of the accident, driver’s license, and date of birth with a $12 fee in person or by mail. For an extra $10 you can request a copy online through Riverside Police Department’s partnership with LexisNexis.

If you filed your report with the California Highway Patrol, you must request a copy in person or by mail. CHP requires a completed Collision Request Form (CHP-190). You must provide your name, address, incident date, incident location, and your reason for requesting the report along with required fees. CHP’s Collision Reports cost $10 for the first 25 pages.

Do I Have to Seek Medical Treatment After a Car Accident If I Feel Fine?

Whenever you are involved in more than a little fender-bender, you should always get checked out by a doctor. If you are involved in a severe accident, emergency responders will likely transport you to the nearest emergency room via ambulance. If you are lucky enough to walk away from an accident and refuse an ambulance ride, you should still have a doctor examine you. Soft tissue injuries, like whiplash, and head traumas, like traumatic brain injuries, don’t always immediately present symptoms. If you go home without seeking medical treatment, you may do more damage.

Seeking medical treatment matters because your health should be your first priority, but a doctor visit also provides evidence of an injury for insurance companies, defense lawyers, and the court for insurance claims and personal injury lawsuits. A common defense tactic for someone accused of causing a car accident involves claiming that the accident did not lead to the victim’s injury. The victim was injured at a different time and place. Seeking immediate medical treatment after a car accident makes it more difficult for insurance companies or defense teams to use that argument.

Should I File a Claim With My Insurance Carrier Even Though I Didn’t Cause the Accident?

California is a tort state, which means that those who cause an accident and injury are liable for damages. In some cases, drivers are reluctant to file a claim with their carrier because they worry it will raise their rates. In other cases, drivers figure that if they didn’t cause the accident, they should go ahead and file a claim with the at-fault driver’s carrier. In the vast majority of cases, it’s in a driver’s best interest to report an accident to their own carrier, regardless of fault, for the following reasons:

  • Your policy requires you to report the damage. Most auto insurance companies require that you report any damage where their coverage might apply. Read your policy closely because not reporting an accident might have negative consequences with your carrier. In fact, they may deny coverage or cancel your policy.
  • You want to get your car fixed or replaced. Waiting for the at-fault driver’s carrier to accept liability may not happen without a lawsuit. If you file a claim under your collision policy, if applicable, you can take your car to the shop or replace a totaled vehicle. Your auto insurance carrier will seek reimbursement from the other driver’s insurance company.
  • Your insurance company can defend you against claims. Although you may be certain that the other driver caused the accident, it doesn’t stop them from filing a claim against you. Your carrier will defend you against these claims if you immediately report an accident.

Keep in mind that insurance companies stay in business because they don’t approve every claim that comes their way. Failure to cooperate with your insurance carrier might result in higher premiums or a policy cancellation, so you should give all the necessary information to the adjuster or claims representative; however, keep your comments factual and don’t speak about fault or blame. Your carrier will investigate the accident and determine liability. It’s in your best interest to consult with an experienced car accident attorney who can guide you as you communicate with your insurance company.

The Driver Who Hit Me Doesn’t Have Insurance, Now What?

If you are self-insured and an underinsured or uninsured motorist strikes your car, you will be stuck paying for all of the damages unless you can recover them through a personal injury lawsuit. This isn’t likely; if the driver had the financial means, he or she would probably have auto insurance. If you have auto insurance coverage, your minimum limits under California law for underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage are $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident. If you are involved in an accident and the other driver doesn’t have coverage, you will fill a claim under your underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage.

What Other Information Do I Need for My Insurance Claim?

Most of the information that you need to file an insurance claim is the same as what you provided for a police report; however, you can help your claim and potential lawsuit by collecting additional information at the scene of the accident. Sometimes it takes law enforcement a great deal of time before they show up at the scene. If you are physically able, you can use this time to do the following:

  • Gather contact and insurance information from all drivers involved and any occupants and eyewitnesses.
  • Use your cell phone to take a video or photos of the damage.
  • Take photos of any hazards that might have caused a car accident and take notice of drivers who might be impaired by drugs or alcohol.
  • Take photos of any visible injuries.

Gathering this information will help protect against potential mistakes in the police report as well as provide photographic evidence to help determine liability.

The Other Driver’s Auto Insurance Company Offered Me a Settlement. Should I Accept?

The first settlement offer that you receive will most likely fail to fully compensate you for the damages that you deserve. Insurance companies start with low-ball offers for a variety of reasons. Of course, protecting their bottom line motivates them, but in some cases an early settlement offer serves as a way to avoid liability. If the insurance company has determined that their policyholder is liable, they might avoid paying out a large claim, or even more substantial court-awarded damages later on by enticing you to settle for a lower amount.

In the vast majority of cases, you are best served by thinking of a settlement offer as a starting off point for negotiation. If you haven’t already hired a personal injury attorney, you should consult one as soon as possible. They can advise you on the best course of action, which often includes negotiating a better settlement. Insurance companies take notice when a car accident victim involves a lawyer with their claim.

If I Am Partially to Blame for the Accident, Can I Still Get Compensation?

California applies pure comparative negligence to personal injury cases. Comparative negligence is the notion of shared liability which takes into account the extent to which a plaintiff might have caused the accident or their injuries. When you file an insurance claim, your carrier and the other driver’s carrier will investigate to determine liability. The outcome of most personal injury lawsuits hinges on proving negligence. If the court finds in your favor, they will assign a percentage fault to each party in the lawsuit, reducing any court-awarded damages by that amount.

For example, if you are suing the other driver for $5,000 in damages and the court finds you are 20 percent at fault, you can only collect $4,000. By the time you go to trial, you and your attorney might have a good estimate of how much your actions contributed to the accident. You can still get compensation, but if you contributed to causing the car accident, expect a reduction in the amount that you receive in a settlement or verdict in your favor.

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer?

If you suffered an injury in a car accident in Riverside, you might feel overwhelmed with legal issues, physical pain, emotional stress, and financial burden that often accompanies an accident. You don’t have to sort through these things alone. The compassionate and experienced Orange County personal injury lawyers at Aitken * Aitken * Cohn can guide you through the insurance claims process and advocate for you, while you focus on healing and recovery. Contact us at Aitken * Aitken * Cohn online or call (951) 534-4006 to schedule a free consultation and discuss the details of your case.