You have legal rights if a negligent driver hits you on a California road, causing property damage and injuries. One of these rights is the ability to file a personal injury accident claim to recover compensation for your accident losses. However, you may not even know where to begin. A car accident can turn your life upside down. Don’t let the liable party get away without compensating you for the damages they caused. If you need to file a personal injury claim for a car accident in California, let the experienced legal team at The Paris Firm assist you.
The car accident claim process can be complicated if you don’t have any legal experience or history of filing a claim in the past. Here is what you need to know about California’s car accident claim process.
Notify Your Own Insurance Company
Even if you don’t believe you were at fault, contact your insurance company and report the accident. Policyholders must notify their insurance company of an accident that resulted in injuries. If you later find out the other driver was uninsured or their auto insurance company denies coverage, you might be able to bring an uninsured motorist (UM) claim on your policy, provided you have that coverage in your policy.
Report the Accident to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
California law requires you to file a report with the Department of Motor Vehicles if the car accident resulted in injury, death, or property damage exceeding $1,000. You must notify the DMV even if the police responded to the scene. Failure to notify the DMV and show proof of insurance could result in the suspension of your driving privileges.
Hire a California Car Accident Lawyer
While you are under no legal obligation to hire a California car accident lawyer following an accident, we highly recommend doing so. The car accident claim process can be complex, and you need someone with experience and knowledge to look out for your rights.
How Long Does It Take to Settle a Car Accident Claim in California?
Prospective clients often ask about the length of time it takes to resolve a personal injury claim for a car accident in California. Unfortunately, there is no “average” range we can share. All claims are different and resolved in vastly different time frames. Even two similar car accidents could resolve months or even years apart if one case settles but the other winds up in litigation.
Is There a Car Accident Claim Time Limit in California?
If you cannot settle with the at-fault driver’s insurance company within a certain amount of time, you would need to file a formal lawsuit in California. This deadline is called the statute of limitations. In most cases, you only have two years from the accident date to file a lawsuit.
However, this deadline is not absolute. Your case could be one exception that is subject to a different deadline. For example, if your accident involves a government agency, you might only have 60 days or six months to file a claim. Failure to do so could jeopardize your right to compensation.
Speak with the Claims Adjuster
If you reported the collision to the other driver’s insurance company, they would open a bodily injury claim. You will need to speak with the claims adjuster more than once throughout the process. The adjuster will likely ask you to consent to a recorded statement. It’s always best to have a lawyer do your talking for you when dealing with insurance agencies. That’s because the adjuster is always looking for any opportunity to pin the blame for the accident on you, thereby allowing their company to avoid having to pay you any compensation. Even something as simple as saying, “I’m sorry” after the accident can be used to attempt to prove you were at least partially at fault.
So you should not speak with the adjuster, and you should certainly not agree to give a recorded statement without legal representation. We will handle all communication with the insurance company when you hire The Paris Firm to represent you, including settlement negotiation talks.
Send a Demand Letter
When you and your lawyer believe you know enough about the car accident injury claim value to make a formal demand for compensation, you’ll send what is known as a demand letter. In this letter, you will provide the following details:
- Accident details and how you believe the defendant caused your injuries;
- Detailed information about your injuries, how these injuries affect your future, and what treatment you need in the future;
- Itemized details about the compensation you are demanding; and
- The settlement amount you are willing to accept.
Before resolving your car accident injury claim, your doctor should note that you have achieved maximum medical improvement. Either that, or you need an expert to assess what your future medical costs might be. If you try to settle your case too early, you risk asking for too little compensation. That means the responsible defendant won’t be paying for your future medical treatment or additional lost wages if you don’t calculate them into your demand before agreeing to a settlement.
Negotiate a Settlement
When you are unrepresented, you will need to handle all settlement negotiations. Having a lawyer helps in two incredibly significant ways. First, they know what your case is worth, and they know how to negotiate effectively with the insurance company. Also, having an attorney means that the insurance company knows that a trial is looming if they don’t settle for a fair amount. Without an attorney, you lose that pressure and leverage.
If you cannot reach a settlement, you must gather all evidence and file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations runs out. Once you resolve your case, the other driver’s insurance will send a release of all claims. You must return the signed original before they send the settlement or award check.
Contact a California Car Accident Lawyer
Don’t risk settling for less than your case is worth in a personal injury claim for a car accident. Instead, let The Paris Firm help. We have decades of experience assisting car accident victims like yourself. Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation to learn more about how we can help you fight for the maximum compensation possible.