Filing a Car Accident Claim
In California, people pay an average of $2,190 per year for car insurance. That’s over $400 more than the national average. So when you have an accident, one of your first actions should be to call the insurance company and file a car accident claim.
It’s important to deal carefully with insurance companies. Calls may be recorded, and the things you say could be used against you later. That’s why talking to a car accident lawyer early on in the process may be a smart move.
The legal processes vary from state to state, so we have put together this guide on how to file a car accident claim if you were involved in a crash in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Filing a successful personal injury claim will help you get the compensation you deserve while also avoiding potential pitfalls.
Reporting the Accident
The process begins with first reporting the incident to your personal auto insurance provider, regardless if you were not at fault or partially at fault. Regardless, the accident must be reported to your provider.
California State Law also requires you to report car accidents to the DMV within 10 days if the damage exceeds $750 or anyone is injured. This means that most cases must be reported.
Once informed, an insurance adjuster will be assigned to your case and begin pursuing damages from the at-fault party’s insurance. Part of this process includes being questioned by your insurance about the crash and an investigation into the extent of car damages, as well as your personal injuries (if any were sustained).
For peace of mind, you can also consult with a car accident attorney before reporting the accident. A knowledgeable car accident lawyer will be able to advise the best course of action and can also report the accident on your behalf.
What the Insurance Company Needs
To file a claim, the insurance company will ask for a detailed account of the accident. They may ask you to provide:
- Description of how the accident happened
- Location of the accident
- Date and time
- Contact and insurance details of all parties involved
- Photographs/videos taken at the scene of the accident
- Medical bills
- Vehicle repair or replacement costs
- Police report
When being interviewed, it’s important to remain honest and only state the facts. Being deceitful can dramatically affect the outcome of your case and even have legal consequences. It’s also important to never admit fault. Until the investigation has concluded, there will be no accurate way to truly determine fault.
Working with an Insurance Adjuster
The insurance company will appoint an adjuster to handle your claim. They must determine who is at fault and what each party must pay in damages. Be prepared for the other party’s insurance company to contest the claim and argue that their driver was not 100% responsible. They will conduct their own investigation, which may include a series of questions, as well. Here is what to expect during this period.
What to Share with the Insurance Adjuster
Keep copies of all expenses relating to your car accident case. Providing the insurance adjuster with this information can prove how much in damages are owed to you. This may include:
- All medical expenses, checkups, medications, and physical therapy
- Rental car expenses/other transportation costs
- Any repair costs to fix your vehicle or replace the vehicle
However, do not sign any documentation before a lawyer has reviewed the terms. Some insurance companies may try to obtain a medical release form that grants them authorization to your full medical history. If successful, the other party can claim the injuries are a result of previous injuries or ailments, and not from the car accident itself.
Limit the Medical Information That Is Shared
Try to avoid providing verbal information about your medical condition. You could inform the adjuster that you are happy to sign a release giving them access to your medical records. Also, do not submit to an independent medical examination (IME).
The IME isn’t truly independent. The insurance company pays for it. So it’s better for the insurance adjuster to get the information directly from your doctor.
Assessing Vehicle Damage
The insurance adjuster will also appraise your vehicle and approve repair costs. If the vehicle is too badly damaged to repair, they may offer you the actual cash value (ACV) of the vehicle or the salvage value.
In California, the insurance company must accept or deny the claim within 40 days of it being proved. However, this could take months or even years in complicated cases.
The Settlement Offer
After concluding their investigation, the insurance company will send you a settlement offer. This usually covers the repair of your vehicle, your medical expenses, and possibly a small amount for pain and suffering.
If you work with a car accident attorney, they may send a demand letter on your behalf. This sets out your version of events and what they believe the fair settlement figure to be. The settlement offer and the demand letter are usually round one in the negotiations.
After this, your lawyer and the insurance company will negotiate until they agree on an acceptable figure. If it’s not possible to achieve a fair settlement at the negotiating table, your lawyer can file a lawsuit on your behalf.
Remember, the settlement amount is not just for you. You will need to pay all outstanding bills with that amount, including repair shop bills, medical expenses, and other fees.
How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
Remember, the insurance adjuster is there to protect the insurance company’s interests, not yours. An experienced Rancho Cucamonga car accident lawyer has seen all their tactics before. They know how to help people pursue the compensation they actually deserve.
However the insurance company may make you feel, you have the right to consult an attorney who may be able to negotiate with them on your behalf. An attorney can advise you on what information the adjuster is entitled to and what they are not.
In addition, car accident attorneys look at the total compensation you deserve. This could include economic and non-economic damages. As well as the out-of-pocket expenses mentioned above, you may also be entitled to compensation for:
- Physical pain
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of regular daily activities and family life
Insurance companies may bombard you with settlement offers and try to make you feel that you have no choice but to accept. Unfortunately, their calculations are unlikely to be a fair settlement. A car accident attorney can calculate a fair settlement figure and fight for your rights.
Choose Sierra for Your Car Accident Claim
Filing a car accident claim can be a complicated and intimidating process. After a car accident injury, you want to focus on your recovery, not fighting with an insurance company.
At Sierra Accident Lawyers, we’re here to help. We could help you to pursue the compensation you need to rebuild your life. Contact us today to schedule a free case consultation.