Each year, tens of thousands of people are hurt in car accidents in California. After a serious collision, it is crucial that you have the knowledge and resources that you need to navigate the insurance claims process effectively and successfully. Here are key things to know about the insurance claims process for a car accident in California:
1. You Must Seek Immediate Medical Attention
First and foremost, you need to seek immediate medical attention for your injuries. Do not put it off. Many car crash injuries are more serious that they initially appear. Common injuries such as loss of consciousness, concussions, upper back and lower back all have delayed appreciation. The of adrenaline associated with a car accident can temporarily mask the injury. The next day the insult sets in and so does the pain.
Seeking medical attention is crucial for your own health and well-being. It is also an essential part of the car accident injury claims process. Getting the medical care you deserve after an accident, assures the best diagnosis and recovery. It also documents proof of injury that is the foundation for recovering the financial compensation required to make you whole. Insurance adjusters and defense attorneys will quibble with the nature and extent of the injuries that you have suffered. It is the nature of the beast. Full medical documentation assures the best outcome. The key is to tell the truth to your care providers and report every symptom that you have suffered. That insures an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
2. Be Sure to Notify Your Insurance Carrier Promptly
Your medical needs always come first. Next, notify your personal insurance carrier that an accident has occurred and only discuss with your insurance company your property damage claim. Decline answering questions about your injuries. Simply tell your adjuster that you were injured but you do not want to discuss the details now. The goal is to avoid having your insurance company serve as a back channel to an adjuster for the defendant’s [person responsible for your injuries] insurance adjuster. More about that below.
3. California is a Fault-Based Car Accident
In California, serious car accidents fall under a fault-based legal standard. In effect, this means that another party—a negligent driver, a trucking company, a ridesharing service —could be held negligent and for that reason liable for your injuries.
4. Comparative Negligence May be a Factor
California is a pure comparative negligence jurisdiction. Under the state’s legal standard, each party to an accident will be legally responsible for their proportionate share of the fault that resulted in the mishap. If they can push part of the blame back onto you, it will reduce your recovery, limit any settlement offer and at the end of the day reduce a trial verdict in your favor. That’s why having an experienced lawyer will make sure any claim that you were at fault will be minimized.
5. Insurance Companies are Not on Your Side — Always Have an Attorney
Ultimately, insurance companies are devoted primarily to their own financial interests. They have a business incentive to resolve claims for the lowest amount possible. You should be ready for an insurance adjuster who tries to:
- Blame you for part (or all) of an accident; and/or
- Downplay the severity of your injuries.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do to protect your best interests is to consult with an experienced California car accident injury lawyer immediately, before you talk to anyone to avoid common pitfalls, like telling your full story to a defendant’s insurance investigator.
Your most valuable right is the right to make a policy limits demand.
That’s something you have never thought about because you are not involved in dealing the insurance claims on a day-to-day basis and are not intimately aware of the nuances of California law. Making a policy limits demand is a very valuable right, especially when the defendant is underinsured, which is commonly the case.
To meet the challenge of an insufficiently insured defendant and to protect your rights, ALG will demand that the defendant’s insurance carrier pay its policy limits in 30 days. The demand provides more than enough information to justify the defendant’s insurance company pay its policy limits. ALG makes sure the settlement demand meets the technical legal requirements of a “good faith settlement offer.”
In many cases, once the insurance company does not pay its policy by the deadline, a full and fair value can be recovered no matter how small the defendant’s policy.
California law provides that when an insurance company fails to pay a policy limits demand, it can become liable for the full value of the claim even if the value of the claim is far in excess of the policy limits. Here are real case examples:
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These actual results are not a guarantee, because every case is different, but unless your lawyer tries this approach you don’t have a chance when the wrongdoer has a minimal policy.
To qualify for a full value recovery, that is far in excess of a defendant’s insufficient insurance policy limits, which is all too often the case, here is what you have to do:
- Don’t open a personal injury claim with the defendant’s insurance company.
- When the defendant’s adjuster [who has had weeks of training] asks about your injuries, politely decline. Just say “not ready to discuss that with you now.”
- Don’t engage on the nature or extent of your injuries. This is important.
The defendant’s insurance company will be provided with a full explanation why it is liable and the extent of your injuries. That is done in a policy limits demand letter to fully protect your interests.
Any lawyer can collect policy limits of $15,000 when the damages are greater. Our goal is to collect all the damages. There is no guarantee we can do this for you, but we can give you the opportunity to do so.
Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a Car Crash Lawyer in San Jose
Alexander Law Group, LLP attorneys are available to answer questions and share our knowledge of the law and the results of our research and experience. Our goal as personal injury lawyers is to make a difference for our clients. Every day we deal with a range of health and safety issues that most people do not encounter until after an injury occurs. As safety lawyers we are committed to providing our clients and the public with information for safer and healthier living. Call 888-777-1776 or contact us online to schedule a consultation to see how we can help you.