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Does California Law Require You to Stop after a Crash?

Thursday, May 18, 2017By Richard Alexander

A question that often perplexes drivers both old and new is whether they are legally required to stop after a motor vehicle crash occurs. While various state laws differ in this regard, this article will focus on the legal duty of motorists to stop, regardless of whether the accident has produced injuries.

Under California law, the nature of a motor vehicle accident does not dictate the duty to stop. Liability for a criminal offense applies as soon as a motorist leaves the scene of an accident; this is often called “hit-and-run.” The obvious follow-up question is what must a driver do at the scene of an accident in which he or she is involved?

If there are injuries, you must first contact emergency services. Law enforcement must be notified of the accident immediately, and this is not only prudent in terms of the law, but in terms of most recognized insurance companies’ policy payout procedures. Once you have contacted (or made every effort to contact) the police, your next priority should be to exchange details with any other motorists involved in the accident. Ordinarily, information that must exchange hands after an accident includes the following:

  • your name;
  • your driver’s license details;
  • the name and address of your insurer, and your policy number;
  • the registration number of the vehicle you were driving; and
  • name(s) and address of the vehicle’s owner(s).

The law states that there are different duties placed upon motorists depending on the circumstances of the accident. The tips above assume that the accident involves another motorist or person at the scene, but what are you legally required to do if you damage stationary property?

If you hit stationary property such as a mail box, vehicle, or boundary fence, you must take reasonable steps to notify the possible owner of that property of your name, address, and the details of the registered owner of the vehicle if it does not belong to you. In addition, you must provide an adequate description of what happened at the scene and also notify local law enforcement or the California Highway Patrol in the timeliest fashion possible.

Finally, an important aspect of what to know about post-accident conduct is what you should not do. Do not sign any promissory statements that may indicate that the accident is your fault. Stay calm and do not act in a hostile manner with other parties on the scene. Finally, never sign any document that releases another party from his or her liability to pay your insurance deductible.

If someone you love was killed or injured in a crash, contact the Alexander Law Group, LLP today at 888.777.1776. We are a nationally-recognized and award-winning personal injury law firm with offices in San Jose and San Francisco. We are passionate about our clients and our community. If you not sure, read what our clients have to say. All calls are free and confidential

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