WHAT YOU NEED TO DO IF YOU GET INTO A CAR ACCIDENT: I am on both Sunland-Tujunga Community pages as well as the La Crescenta Community pages. As an attorney, I have recently received a handful of messages from members of both communities, asking what to do if you get into a car accident. These inquiries have undoubtedly been prompted by the several car accidents on Foothill over the last several weeks. I don’t know whether it’s more now than before, but it does seem like there are more accidents recently.

First of all, to all of us, Foothill Blvd. is NOT the Bonneville Salt Flats. Let’s decrease the number of accidents by each of us (not just the teenagers) slowing down just 5 mph when we’re on Foothill. If we all were to do this, I would bet accidents would decrease.

Now, if you (or a friend or family member) get into an accident, here are the important key points:

1. For any serious injury, DON’T MOVE! The main exceptions would be to stop severe bleeding, or if you are inside your car and it is smoking or on fire. Otherwise, let the police or paramedics take care of moving you. You’ve probably seen football games where trained paramedics and EMT’s very carefully position an injured player’s neck, because a serious injury can get worse in an instant if the neck or spine is moved the wrong way. This is particularly true for neck and spine injuries, but it can apply to other parts of the body as well. If at all possible, stay in your car, or stay where you are, and let the paramedics and EMT’s take care of securing your body and getting you onto a gurney.

2. Turn off the car’s ignition.

3. For anything more serious than a minor bumper-tap, call the police and request a police report. The police take extensive training in field accident reconstruction and are usually very good at determining the cause, or causes, of any accident. Later on, if you do file a claim or lawsuit for injuries, a police report in your favor can help your cause tremendously. (Depending on the severity of the accident, the police may or may not take a report, but I always advise my clients to error on the side of calling them to the scene.)

4. If you are capable of calling a friend or family member, do so.

5. If you are able to do so, and you have your smartphone, take pictures of the other driver’s license, insurance card and license plate. Otherwise, write the information down or record it any way you can. Also take pictures of the damage to your vehicle and the other driver’s vehicle. Take pictures of the accident scene, and include in the pictures any stop signs or traffic signals. If you are not able to do so, ask your friend or family member to take these pictures for you

6. I have also been advising my clients to take pictures of any immediately surrounding homes or businesses. A lot of homes or businesses have “Ring” doorbells or security cameras, which sometimes capture all or parts of the accident. Again, particularly if there’s a serious injury and the other driver has a lot of insurance, you run the risk that his/her insurance company will lie about how the accident happened, and getting footage from nearby homes or businesses can often win your case.

7. If anyone witnessed the accident and you can get their names and contact information, again this can be very helpful if you do pursue an injury claim.

8. For medical treatment (unless you are transported to a hospital), I advise my clients to first go to a nearby urgent care. Report ALL symptoms to the urgent care doctor; this is not a time to be “John Wayne” about your symptoms. Depending on your symptoms, the urgent care doctor may hospitalize you or may prescribe a series of treatments or medications. Follow these prescriptions.

9. After urgent care, I advise my clients to seek treatment first with their primary care physician, and to do this as soon as possible. If you go first to a doctor recommended by your attorney, without at least trying to see your primary care doctor, insurance companies will suspect a fake injury or unnecessary over-treatment, even if it’s not true.

10. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, if your insurance is limited or if getting an appointment is taking too long, then there is nothing wrong with asking your attorney for a referral to a doctor, for treatment on a lien basis (doctor gets paid when the case settles). Also, if your primary care doctor is not helping you (this happens), then there is nothing wrong with asking your attorney for a referral.

11. It’s common to feel disoriented in the moments immediately following an accident. However, if dizziness or a feeling of disorientation persists after a few days, you may have a concussion-type injury and need to report this to your doctor or to an urgent care doctor.

12. There is no reason not to seek alternative treatments, e.g. chiropractic care or acupuncture, particularly if you have a history of alternative treatments.

I hope this article is useful…and I hope people do slow down a bit on Foothill. Thanks for reading.

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