My name is Mason Rashtian and I manage a Santa Clarita Valley law firm called The Mason Law Firm. After graduating from law school and passing the California State Bar in 1997, I started practicing law with prestigious firms in Los Angeles and Orange County. My primary practice was litigation as an insurance defense attorney. This meant that if someone filed a lawsuit following an accident, I would get hired to defend the lawsuit.
After years of working for the insurance companies, I decided to work for the good guys. So in 2006, I opened my own practice in my hometown of Santa Clarita and I primarily help victims (injured parties) in personal injury matters, such as accidents, slip and falls, dog bites, burn injuries, food poisoning and electrocutions.
Since I have worked on the defense and the plaintiff’s side, I am very familiar with both sides of litigation. Throughout the years, I have discovered that parties involved in an accident often times do not know what to do after an accident. This is because getting into a car accident is not an everyday event. No one likes it and no one expects it. So, I have put together a simple guide on what to do and what not to do after an accident which I like to share with you.
1. Stay calm and collected.
Depending on the severity of your injuries, take a deep breath and collect yourself. Be civil with the other driver and do not get into an argument. Do not talk about the cause of the accident or who may be at fault – remember that anything you say can be used against you later.
2. Exchange all pertinent information.
Pertinent information includes names, addresses (both home and business), telephone numbers (home and business), driver’s license number, vehicle license number, and insurance information.
Not all of this information is crucial, but you do need at least the basic information of name, home address, driver’s license, vehicle license number and insurance information. If the other driver refuses to provide you with this basic information, you may need to contact law enforcement, such as the Sheriff or California Highway Patrol (CHP).
3. If possible, take pictures.
Today’s cell phones have a built-in camera and although it may not be of the best quality, use the camera in your cell phone (if you have one) to take photos of the other vehicle.
4. If you are injured, call law enforcement and ask that a report be prepared.
This step is not a necessary step. However, it can be helpful in proving your case unless you are the party at fault. Again, depending on the location of the accident, you may have to contact the Sheriff (streets) or the CHP (freeway).
5. If you are injured, get checked out by a professional.
Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may need paramedics. If paramedics are not warranted, then you may need to visit the emergency room or urgent care. This step again depends on the severity of your injuries.
After getting checked out, you may need treatment with a medical doctor or a chiropractor. Remember that getting checked out by paramedics, or getting checked out at the emergency room or urgent care is NOT the same as getting treated for your injuries. Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may need surgery or have a cast placed on broken bones – follow up treatment after these procedures generally includes physical therapy.
If you suffer from soft tissue injuries, such as whiplash (neck pain), strains or sprains and back pain, you will need treatment to alleviate those symptoms. Remember that medication (such as Ibuprofen) may help alleviate some pain, but it does NOT heal injured muscles and without treatment, your injured muscles will develop scar tissue which can lead to long term problems.
Do NOT wait to start on your treatment. Often times, injured parties wait to see if their symptoms subside before seeking treatment – they do NOT and all you will do is hurt yourself physically and hurt your injury case (the longer you wait to get treated, the harder it is to make an injury claim against the other side).
6. Do not discuss the accident with the adverse insurance company.
Do not discuss the accident with the insurance company representing the other side without first contacting an attorney – just give them the basic information such as name, address, telephone number, and information related to your property damage.
Never give a statement to an insurance company without conferring with an attorney first.
7. Never sign authorization forms given to you by the adverse insurance company.
Insurance companies are notorious for pressuring injured parties into signing medical authorizations, which will allow them open access to “all” of the injured party’s medical records. Insurance companies do not have a right to obtain records that are irrelevant to the subject accident. So, never sign authorization forms.
8. Call an experienced personal injury attorney.
The best, and sometimes only, way to protect yourself is to contact an experienced accident or personal injury attorney. Remember that most, if not all, personal injury attorneys take cases on a contingency basis, meaning that the attorney gets paid a percentage of the settlement or the judgment in the case and if there is no settlement or judgment, then the attorney does not charge a fee.