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What to do if you've been in a car accident

In the immediate aftermath of an auto accident, it's normal to feel shock and confusion. Yet some of the things you do and say at the accident scene can have a bearing on any future injury claim you may have. Here are a few things you should try to do - and some things you should avoid doing - right after a car accident. This information is general in nature and should not be considered legal advice.

First, it's important to remain at the scene. Leaving the scene of an accident without justification can lead to criminal charges in California. If you are in a dangerous neighborhood or a remote area, however, the best thing to do is drive to the nearest police station for help.

You should check on the condition of all persons involved in the accident. If a person appears to be seriously hurt, don't move them. Instead, wait for emergency personnel to arrive. Of course, if it is necessary to move someone out of harm's way for their own safety you should do so.

You should call the police right away if there is serious damage to the vehicles or if anyone is hurt. Make a note of all license plate numbers and exchange insurance information with the other drivers. You should also get the name, address, and phone number of every driver and all witnesses.

Don't apologize to anyone, even if you think you were at fault. Liability in a car accident is not always a simple issue, and an apology can be used against you in court as an admission of fault.

If you are hurt, seek medical attention. Contact your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident. Finally, if you were injured, consider contacting a personal injury attorney.

Source: Findlaw.com, "After a Car Accident: First Steps," accessed Nov. 22, 2014

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