In Orange County and beyond, California is a beautiful and comfortable place to live. But no place is without its dangers, and California’s heavy reliance on roads and cars makes it a place that is vulnerable to car accidents.

By practicing defensive driving and investing in a vehicle with great safety features, you can do a lot to protect yourself from getting into one California’s many car accidents. And the news isn’t all bad: California actually has a lower rate of car accidents (and fatal accidents in particular) than many other states, once you take population into account. But no matter how much precaution you take,you are not in complete control of your fate. There are bad drivers out there, and someone else’s negligence could easily put you in a dangerous situation. If you do end up in a car accident here in California, here’s what you need to know.

Injuries and safety

A car accident can have a lot of consequences, both immediate and long-term. But in the moments just after a car accident, only one thing should be on your mind: safety.

Take a deep breath and take stock of your situation. Are you hurt? Is anyone else in your vehicle hurt? What about in the other vehicle (or multiple other vehicles) involved in the accident? If anyone has been injured, call 911 right away.

Next, consider where you are and how safe you are. Depending on your situation and the status of your vehicle, it may make sense to stay put, pull your car over to the side of the road, or exit your vehicle and take refuge off the road. Never stay in a vehicle that is smoking or on fire, but don’t exit a safe vehicle unnecessarily if there is traffic on the road — you don’t want to be struck while outside your car.

Call the police

Even if you didn’t need to call 911 for an injury, you should strongly consider calling the police after an accident. In fact, California law requires that you do so (or else file a written report later on) for any accident that causes damages of more than $750— not much, considering the price of auto work. 

Calling the police is often a good idea even in situations where you don’t think you’re legally required to do so. A police report will help document the scene, and that can help if, later on, you realize that you suffered an injury you did not initially notice.

You can and should also document the scene yourself. Take cell phone photos and videos, jot down notes, and give your account to the police. Get the other driver’s information, including their insurance information. 

Finding justice

If you were hurt in your car accident, you may be in for a long road to recovery. California is full of exceptional doctors and medical centers, but car accident injuries can be very serious and may linger for weeks, months, and even years. You may even have suffered a permanent disability.

And caring for these sorts of injuries is expensive, to say the least. You may also lose money due to an inability to work as you did before the injury. In situations like this, you will want to consider what California’s personal injury laws can do to help you.

If you were injured in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, explains an Orange County injury lawyer, you could be entitled to compensation for all sorts of expenses and damages, from medical bills to pain and suffering. Head to a local attorney’s office and bring along any documentation you have, including the police report, your cell phone photos, medical bills, pay stubs, and more. From there, your attorney will advise you on your options.

If you are ever in a car accident, keep these steps in mind, and remember your options for seeking justice.