What you need to know if you are in a car accident

Cartwright - May 29, 2013 - Blog, Car Accidents

If you are ever involved in car accidents, there are some things we at The Cartwright Law Firm would like you to remember: it is likely no one else will be looking out for your best interests, so you need to know the right things to do, if possible at the time of the accident, in order to be able to fully recover from all injuries and damages:

Identify Witnesses

If your accident occurs in the view of another person or persons, they are potential witnesses. Because you cannot know at the time of the incident exactly how bad your injuries might be, having a way to identify and contact witnesses at a later time is critical. If you are able to, ask for the names and contact information of anyone who tells you they saw the accident. Or ask someone else, either a witness or a companion, to help you get this information. This information may make all the difference in the event you need to seek legal representation as a result of your injuries.

Take Photographs and/or Video

Most people today have camera-equipped cell phones, or carry a small camera with them. And many phones and small cameras also allow video to be shot at a reasonably high resolution. Taking pictures at the scene of the accident may help provide information that suggests a different situation than does a police or other first-responder report. Again, if you are incapacitated but are able to contact someone else at the scene of the accident, ask them to help you with this. Photos and video serve to effectively counter insurance company versions of an accident.

Insist on an Ambulance

Many accidents cause what appear at first to be mild trauma. But don’t be fooled! It is not uncommon for a small soft-tissue injury, or an apparent lack of injury in the first minutes after an accident, to be tossed aside with the common statement that “it’s OK, I’m not hurt,” which are words you should never say to the other drivers or witnesses.  Even a low-impact accident can prove far more damaging than it may at first appear. It is not uncommon for low-impact injuries to only make themselves known hours, days, even weeks after the accident. If you do not claim you are injured, there is a very high likelihood the police will not even come to the scene of the accident to make a report. And while this is most often due to the massive cutbacks in public sector funding, it won’t help make the resolution of your case any easier. Even if you don’t need an ambulance, make it clear to whoever is calling the accident in to emergency responders that you feel as if you have an injury, and want the police to come to the scene. Again, you need to protect your rights in every way you are able.

Listen! And Remember!

When an accident occurs, many things may happen that at first blush seem unremarkable. But it is also not uncommon to hear various individuals, including emergency personnel, witnesses, and the other parties in the accident say things like:

“I’m sorry, I didn’t see you;”

“I saw that guy going too fast;”

“She was talking on her cell phone;”

Your ability to recall such statements can often spell the difference in the outcome of any case you may decide to pursue.

It’s Often the Little Things

The other party exits their vehicle with a cell phone glued to their ear. There is a crying baby in the other party’s car. The car is packed with kids, or luggage, or the windows are covered with bumper stickers. The other vehicle’s headlights were not on, or the wipers were not on. Remembering and when possible documenting the little things can go a long way toward either an early, favorable settlement, or a positive outcome at trial.

Remember – Safety First

What you should not do may be as critical as what you should do. You should not place yourself in any further jeopardy. Stay inside your car unless it is clearly unsafe to do so. Don’t claim responsibility, and more importantly, don’t set about blaming the other party for the accident. Try to get focused, if possible, and work to continue to do as many of the above-listed items as possible. And do not immediately hurry out of the car, even if you at first feel fine. Take the time to clear your head and make good decisions, assess every part of your body. If you immediately jump out, a later claim of injury may be suspected as fraud. And if you are injured, stay in the car until emergency responders arrive and assess your injuries. A minor injury can become a major injury if not properly attended to.

Report the Accident Immediately

If the accident involves motor vehicles, whether privately or publicly owned, Californians have a responsibility to duly inform the California DMV within a narrow time period that an accident has occurred. This can also help protect you in the event the other party fails to report the accident. The proper forms can be found on the State of California DMV website here. Check with the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state for the proper regulations. Remember, you need to establish a paper trail on every aspect of your accident and injury.

And Then, Call Us

Regardless of how small your injury may be, and even if you have been unable to gather any of the above information after your accident, consider having a free consultation with one of the most respected consumer attorneys in California, The Cartwright Law Firm. We can offer you more than excellent representation – we can dramatically increase the odds fof success for your case. With our highly skilled and well-seasoned legal team, we work constantly to get the very best outcomes for you and your family. Call us as soon as is practical, as the longer you wait after your accident to seek a partner like The Cartwright Law Firm can cause witness recollection to become fuzzier, and your recollections, as well.

So for your sake, and the sake of your loved ones, stay safe. And remember The Cartwright Law Firm – we’re there when you need help the most.


  1. Identify Witnesses
  2. Take Photographs and/or Video
  3. Insist on an Ambulance
  4. Listen! And Remember!
  5. It’s Often the Little Things
  6. Remember – Safety First
  7. Report the Accident Immediately
  8. Call The Cartwright Law Firm – 415-433-0444


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Our successful case results are a reflection of the values and virtues we believe in and uphold at Cartwright Law Firm. Nothing stops us from pursuing justice on behalf of those who need it.

Robert E. Cartwright Jr.
Founder and Managing Partner

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