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How To File A Personal Injury Claim After A Car Accident

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

Learn How To Get The Most Out Of Your Personal Injury Compensation With The Help Of A Car Accident Lawyer

Getting into a car accident is expensive. You have to deal with medical bills, and you might also lose some income and emotional security. That's why personal injury laws exist—they're meant to compensate you when you get into an accident.

However, getting compensation can be a bit challenging. You don't just come to an insurance provider and expect a payout; you need to prove the severity of the damages you incurred and convince them that it is tantamount to a specific monetary value.

In this post, we'll list all the essential tasks you need to do after a car crash in California to get the compensation you deserve.

1. Your Personal Injury Claim Starts Immediately After The Accident

Usually, people think about Personal Injury claims as something you do after an accident. However, many important things in the accident site can influence future claims and actions you must file. Most notably, evidence at the scene.

Here's what you need to do right after a car crash in California:

Call 911, And The Authorities

Call 911. Someone else should call for you if you're gravely injured. Inform the dispatcher of your location, any injuries you or others have sustained, and whether or not the scene is dangerous. Dispatchers are trained to get the necessary information to get people over to where you are, so make sure to clearly detail your current situation.

Don't let the other driver persuade you not to call the cops. The police record from the responding officer will be crucial in your personal injury case. An official car crash report details the at-fault driver's errors and citations, as well as:

  • names and contact numbers of the witnesses

  • the weather conditions at the time

  • accident details

  • insurance information

In some cases, you might also have to look around for missing road signs, safety hazards, road construction, and other causes of the accident.

Get Yourself Checked

At the scene of an accident, never reject medical treatment. Any symptoms you have, no matter how little, should be reported to emergency personnel. Not all injuries sustained in a car crash are immediately visible. The adrenaline rush from the accident's shock may disguise the pain of injuries like whiplash or head damage.

If paramedics offer to take you to the hospital, accept their offer. The EMS report will include your injuries as well as the medical treatment you received on the spot.

If you are not sent to the hospital from the accident scene, go to your primary care doctor. If your doctor isn't available, go to an emergency department or an urgent care center.

Remember, not getting immediate medical help can hurt your chances of maximizing your Personal Injury Claim later on. You need to examine your injuries and have the findings recorded. So when an insurance firm or at-fault party insists that your injuries weren't that bad, you can show them the medical reports as proof.

Gather Evidence At The Scene

As mentioned, your Personal Injury Claim will be supported by the police and paramedic reports, but they will not cover everything. After the car crash, if you are physically able, try to gather as much evidence as possible. The more information on the accident you have, the better your chances of receiving a higher insurance settlement.

On-scene police officers should assist in the transmission of information between drivers. In any case, jot down as much data as possible.

The following is a list of necessary evidence you might want to collect:

  • Name, address, phone number, and email address of the driver

  • The insurance provider, insurance contact number, and policy number of the driver

  • Passengers of the other vehicle's contact information

  • All witnesses' names and contact information

  • The date and time that the car crash happened

  • You'll need the make, model, license plate number, and vehicle identification number (VIN) for the other vehicles involved in the collision.

  • Take pictures and video documenting the accident scene, your injuries, and the vehicle's damage.

If you're seriously hurt, ask someone on the scene to assist you in taking photos. Don't force it if you don't have anyone to help you. Get all the evidence you can get without moving too much.

A good California Attorney For Car Accident can do supplementary investigations to get the evidence for you, like getting the records and tracking down possible witnesses.

2. Notifying Insurance Companies

It is standard practice to exchange insurance information with the others involved in the accident right after an accident. This is so insurance firms can get to work and start processing your accident claims. Here are a few crucial steps to do so:

Notify Your Own Insurance Provider

Even if the car crash was not your fault, notify your insurance company. A "notice provision" in your auto policy almost probably mandates you to notify the company of any incidents and participate in their investigation.

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You might want to take advantage of policy features like med-pay coverage, auto repair reimbursements, or coverage for a rental car while your damaged vehicle is in repair, provided you tell your insurance. However, suppose it turns out that the other driver's insurance has lapsed. In that case, you may need to use your uninsured motorist coverage.

Anyone covered by personal injury protection (PIP) can file a claim with their own insurance company. That may be your sole option in no-fault insurance states. Regardless of who caused the accident, your PIP claim will be reimbursed.

You safeguard your personal interests by alerting your insurer of the accident and your contractual obligations. You can bet that if someone from the other car gets a California Attorney For Car Accident, they'll demand money. If your insurance company hasn't previously heard about the collision from you, they'll be in a difficult situation.

Notify The At-Fault's Insurance Provider

After getting medical help for your injuries, notify the at-fault and their insurance company of your intention to file a claim. Call the at-fault driver's insurance company as soon as possible. Even though the at-fault driver is likely to have already reported the collision, you must do so as well.

If the accident has already been reported, a claim number and a claims adjuster will have been assigned. The role of the adjuster is to examine and settle accident claims. The corporation may assign separate adjusters to handle both property damage and bodily harm claims.

Property damage claims are usually simple and easy, and they are frequently reimbursed swiftly. On the other hand, personal injury cases can be difficult, costly, and time-consuming to resolve.

Don't say how long you'll wait for a response once you've been notified. You've painted yourself into a hole if you give them a deadline and don't hear back. What steps are you willing to take? You risk losing credibility with both the at-fault driver and the claims adjuster if you don't file a lawsuit.

Important Caveat: Don't Get Pressured By Insurance Firms

Here's the thing - insurance firms are a business. It is in their best interest to give you the lowest possible payout; sometimes, they'll use underhanded tactics. For example, they might try to trivialize your injuries, omit essential details that prove the severity of your losses, and try to get you to agree to a low payout out of frustration.

To avoid this from happening, consult with a Los Angeles car accident lawyer to negotiate your claims for you. Sometimes, a simple demand letter from an attorney will prompt the insurance firm and the at-fault to adjust their settlement offer. However, if they still refuse to do so, you can always take it to trial with a trusted attorney to back you up.

3. Sending A Notice to the At-Fault Driver

Most drivers are unaware that they, not their insurance company, are ultimately responsible for any damages they cause in an accident. The insured driver's car insurance covers them up to their policy limitations. Anything beyond that is the driver's personal responsibility.

If the adjuster seems to be dragging their feet on your claim, you can issue a formal notice to the at-fault driver. Because no one wants to be sued, the driver may persuade the adjuster to reach a settlement. In addition, your letter may pique the driver's interest in resolving the dispute privately.

Don't quarrel about who's at fault or mention your injuries if the at-fault driver calls you. Instead, tell the at-fault that you expect to hear from their insurance company and that you will only speak with the claim adjuster.

4. Calculating the Worth of Your Personal Injury Claim

The losses incurred as a result of personal injury or property damage are referred to as damages. These damages are added in the form of a demand letter.

Here are some of the most common damages in Personal Injury Claims in California:

  • Medical bills

  • Out-of-pocket expenses

  • Property damage

  • Repair costs

  • Lost wages/salaries/commissions

  • Pain and suffering

  • Loss of the enjoyment of life

  • Loss of relationships/consortium

Vehicle repair costs, the worth of your car (if it's a total loss), and the value of personal things lost in the crash (such as eyeglasses or clothing) are all considered property damages.

Adjusters and attorneys frequently compute personal injury compensation by adding multiple accident-related hard costs, such as medical bills and lost income, to account for pain and suffering. A pain and suffering multiplier of one to three times the hard costs is justified in most cases.

No matter how enraged you are with the other driver, you don't have a claim if you don't have damages.

Thus, this is the reason why you need all those records, evidence, receipts, and invoices to show that you have, in fact, incurred losses because of the accident. For example, if you missed work because you needed to recover from a recent car crash, that should count towards lost wages/income. Likewise, if you suffered a catastrophic injury after the event, your lawyer can calculate the future expenses you will incur due to your injury.

It's also possible that there aren't enough insurance payouts if only one at-fault driver and multiple vehicle accident victims (including passengers). Therefore, a judge may have to decide how the available funds should be distributed among the injured parties.

Contact a Los Angeles car accident lawyer to ensure you get the settlement offer your situation deserves.

5. Negotiating A Reasonable Insurance Settlement

Before moving further, consider if you can handle your claim independently or if you need to contact a car accident lawyer in Los Angeles. A layperson can manage a minor injury claim, but an experienced attorney should handle a more complicated case.

Most personal injury attorneys for car accidents provide free inquiries and initial case reviews, so you'll know how to weigh your options.

If you proceed on your own, have a well-organized folder of the following proof:

  • Evidence showing the at-fault's negligence

  • The severity of your injuries (i.e., as they are recorded in medical and police records)

  • The unfortunate consequences the event had on your life is the best approach to create a compelling injury claim.

As warned earlier, don't let insurance firms pressure you into a settlement offer that isn't enough to cover your losses. Instead, understanding a few phrases used by insurance companies and lawyers is beneficial:

  • Negligence is defined as failing to take reasonable precautions to avoid causing harm to others. When another driver fails to act appropriately (such as obeying traffic laws), they are being negligent. Negligence is exemplified by running a red light.

  • Liability entails accepting responsibility for what occurred. For example, the at-fault driver's failure to stop at the red light makes them accountable for the injuries sustained by the passenger in the impacted automobile.

  • When someone else's actions directly cause harm, this is known as proximate cause. For example, the proximate cause of the victim's injuries was running a red light and colliding with a car.

6. Proving The Other Driver's Negligence

It's not easy dealing with the other driver's insurance company. They have a responsibility to actively protect their insured. They also don't want to pay out money to claims like yours. It's not always easy to prove that the other driver is to blame for your injuries.

You must demonstrate the following to receive a fair settlement:

  • The other driver caused the accident

  • Your injuries were caused by the accident

  • The overall cost of your financial and non-financial losses due to the injury

If you somehow can't prove that another driver is responsible for the accident, your California Car Accident Lawyer might be able to point out other culprits: another at-fault, a bus supervisor, a product manufacturer, a rental car service, etc.

7. Dealing With An Insurance Firm

When you decide to go into a settlement negotiation with the defendant's firm, you need to be very mindful of what you do during then. During the negotiation process, you must observe and be wary of what's being said. If the agent tries to find ways for you to admit that the injuries and losses you sustained in the accident weren't as severe as you first claimed it to be.

Here are a few tips that might help you with the process:

  • Be careful of your words. The insurance adjuster will often attempt to get you to make a recorded statement. However, you don't have to give one, and if you don't, you might say something that undermines your assertion.

  • Don't panic. While you're still undergoing treatment, there's no need to start negotiating a settlement sum. Allowing the claims adjuster to persuade you to accept a low settlement offer is a bad idea.

  • Watch out for your private information. You are not required to sign the insurance company's medical release. However, you can provide a release after the accident restricting the insurance company's access to specific medical documents. For example, the adjuster will need verification of your injuries and medical expenses, but they will not have access to your personal medical records unrelated to the event.

  • Don't give up your rights by signing a waiver. You give up any right to seek reimbursement from the insurance company or the at-fault driver once you sign an insurance settlement agreement and release, even if your injuries worsen in the future. That's why you are generally advised not to speak to an insurance adjuster while you are dizzy or still recovering from injuries.

That said, instead of facing these issues on your own, you can have a car accident lawyer that will speak to these insurance firms for you. You can get started on your personal injury claims early and don't have to worry about straining yourself as you recover from your injuries.

If you have any questions regarding the conditions of a potential settlement, you should obtain legal guidance from a car accident lawyer before signing anything.

How Long Will It Take to Reach an Agreement?

Each vehicular accident is different. Your insurance claim may be resolved in a matter of months, or it could take a year or more. The length of time it takes will be determined by the severity of your injuries, the length of time you require treatment, and the complexity of your case.

Keep an eye on the statute of limitations in your state, which is the deadline for settling your claim or filing a lawsuit. In California, most Personal Injury Cases have a 2-year Statute of limitations.

Unfortunately, the adjuster isn't required to notify you when the statute of limitations is about to expire, and they don't have the legal ability to grant an extension. You will lose your right to compensation if you do not settle your claim or file a lawsuit before the deadline.

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5 Reasons Why You Should Hire the Top Car Accident Attorney in Los Angeles

Regardless of how cautious you are on the road, you still can't predict when negligent people are driving on the same road as you. Accidents also happen suddenly and unpredictably. There is only so much maneuvering you can do after a sudden swerve.

When you, unfortunately, get involved in a car crash, you must prepare for a long and unpleasant battle to obtain the compensation you deserve for the injuries, trauma, and inconveniences you have experienced.

So, why should you hire a car accident attorney in Los Angeles? Here's a list of reasons why:

1. Personal Injury Lawyers Know Their Way Around The Law

To win a lawsuit or get a proper settlement, it's not enough to snap photos of your damaged car or obtain medical papers from the hospital where you were treated. Insurance companies will pay the best adjusters and attorneys to deny your claim, so you'll need a skilled personal injury lawyer to show them wrong.

When filing your lawsuit or insurance claim, a California Car Crash Lawyer can assess the full amount of your injuries, the damages to your property, and the just compensation you deserve.

2. Your Lawyer Can Tell You All The Legal Factors In Your Personal Injury Case

When you've been injured and traumatized, it's easy for your emotions to get in the way of making decisions. In these cases, Your Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer will be more levelheaded and provide you with a more practical and logical perspective of your situation. This also allows you to make the best judgments possible regarding your lawsuit or claim.

Without good legal counsel to guide you, navigating the intricate world of law may be intimidating. Your lawyer will act as a guide for you.

3. Your Lawyer Can Save You Time And Money

It can be a long and arduous process to file an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit. However, getting someone to help you might alleviate some of the challenges.

Rather than acquiring copies of paperwork, speaking with insurance adjusters, and dealing with various persons, your California Personal Injury Attorney can handle all of these tasks for you while you concentrate on your recovery.

4. Your Personal Injury Lawyer Can Effectively Represent And Fight For You In Court

It's not easy going to court and fighting vehicle insurance companies who would do all they can to deny your claim or pay you less than you should. However, a knowledgeable Personal Injury Lawyer in Los Angeles can represent you in court and assist you in proving your case.

An excellent personal injury lawyer will take care of everything for you. They will already be familiar with dealing with insurance companies and employing the best methods to assist you in winning your case.

5. An Attorney Can Help You Avoid Losing More Money Than You Already Did Because Of The Accident

Finally, even if you are the victim of a car accident, there is a possibility that you will be held liable or framed as such. You'll also have to pay fees associated with filing your complaint.

An experienced personal injury lawyer specializing in car accidents in California can help you prevent this by ensuring that everything is done correctly the first time. Additionally, getting a lawyer ensures you are represented as well as possible, regardless of the circumstances.

Find the Best Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney For Your Case offers a free referral service matching you with a pre-screened Los Angeles Car Accident attorney most suited to handle your case.

We can help match you with the best California Personal Injury Attorney to handle your case via a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION through a submission form or our 24/7 live chat.

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