10 Things To Do When In A Car Accident (Part 2) Reasons #15

6. What if I get a ticket?

Sign it. A ticket has nothing to do with your guilt or innocence. When you sign, you are only promising to appear in court to contest the ticket, or to pay it later if you wish. If you do not sign the ticket, the police officer can arrest you.

While it is okay to sign the ticket, you may want to talk with your lawyer before you pay a fine or plead guilty to the charges. Find out if you can attend traffic school instead. If you plead guilty, you may hurt your chances of collecting damages from the other driver later. Or, you may help the other driver to collect damages from you.

  • Drunk driving. Driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher (or any percent if you are under 21) is illegal, and the penalties for drunk driving in California are severe.
  • Seat belts/child passenger restraints. You can be pulled over and ticketed by the police if you or your passengers are not wearing seat belts. In addition, children must be protected by a special safety seat until they turn 6 or weigh at least 60 pounds. Children who are required to be in safety seats also must sit in a back seat under most circumstances. (There are exceptions for, among other circumstances, when a vehicle does not have a back seat or when all rear seats are already occupied by children under 12.) And youngsters are not permitted to ride in the front seat of a vehicle with an active air bag if they are under a year old, weigh less than 20 pounds or are restrained in a rear-facing car seat.
7. Do I need auto insurance?

California’s compulsory financial responsibility law requires that every driver and vehicle owner have insurance or other proof of financial responsibility. You must carry written evidence of financial responsibility whenever you drive. For most of us, that means evidence of an automobile insurance policy.

Often, that evidence takes the form of an insurance card issued by your insurer. However, if the name of the insurer and the policy number are contained in the DMV’s vehicle registration records, you may simply write your automobile insurance policy number and the name of the insurer on the back of your vehicle registration. If you don’t have this evidence to show to a police officer after a citation stop or an accident, you may have to pay a fine and a court may impound your vehicle. If you have an accident and can’t show proof of financial responsibility, you may also lose your driver’s license for up to four years.

The law says that you can prove your financial responsibility in one of these ways:

  • Insurance. For most drivers, you must have liability insurance that provides at least $5,000 coverage for property damage for one accident, $15,000 for one person injured or killed in an accident, and $30,000 for two or more people injured or killed. Low-income drivers in certain counties may qualify for state-sponsored, low-cost liability insurance that has lower coverage amounts.
  • Cash. You can deposit $35,000 in cash with the DMV.
  • Bond. The DMV also will accept a bond for $35,000, issued by a California-licensed surety bonding company.
  • A DMV-issued certificate of self-insurance.
8. Should I get a physical checkup after the accident?

A checkup may be a good idea for both you and your passengers if any of you have concerns about your health. You could be injured and not know it right away. You may wish to call your doctor or another health care provider for advice. Your automobile insurance may pay some or all of these health care bills (see #10 and #11). You should consult your policy or agent for details on what is covered.

9. Do I have to report the accident?

Yes. First, you may need to call the CHP or the local police (see #1). Second, report the accident to your insurance company. Ask your insurance company or insurance agent what forms you should fill out and to help you make other necessary reports on the accident. Third, you and the other driver must report the accident to the DMV within 10 days if:

  • the damage to either car is more than $750; or
  • anyone is injured or killed in the accident.

Get an SR-1 Report of Traffic Accident form from your local DMV office, CHP, police or insurance company.

10. Who pays if I’m injured or my car is damaged?

That depends on who is at fault, whether you and the other driver have insurance and what kind of insurance you have. There are two major types of automobile insurance: liability and collision.

  • Liability. If you are to blame for an accident, your liability insurance will pay the other driver for property damage and personal injuries up to your policy’s limits.
    If you are not at fault, the other driver’s liability insurance pays for your car damage and/or personal injuries up to the policy limits of the other driver’s policy.In California, if you and the other driver both have car damage or injuries and you both are partly responsible for the accident, you each may be able to collect part of your loss, but not all of it. How much each of you collects from the other’s policy (or from each other’s assets if there is no insurance) depends on the amount of your damages and on how much each of you is at fault.If you loan your car to someone who has an accident, your insurance can also help pay for the damages.
  • Collision. No matter who is at fault, your collision insurance pays for damages to your car (not your medical expenses), minus the policy deductible.
  • You may have other insurance, too. Your health insurance, for example, may pay your medical bills. Also, your automobile insurance may have medical payments coverage. If so, it can pay the cost of necessary medical treatment for you and your passenger up to the medical payment policy limits.

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