Complete Guide to Understanding the California Car Accident Claim Process

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California Car Accident Insurance Claim Process Explained

California Car Accident Insurance Claim Process Explained

Jan 9, 2024

Car accidents impact thousands of California residents every year, with many leading to serious and long-term injuries and sometimes even tragic fatalities. Understanding the car accident insurance claim process can help you get the money you need to fully recover and move forward. You can use the information below to make informed decisions about the car accident insurance process and potentially filing a civil lawsuit.

Complete Guide to Understanding the California Car Accident Claim Process

In the majority of cases, it is recommended that injured victims work with an auto accident lawyer. Insurance companies may not pay out your claim in full, or they may deny it outright. Insurance companies will often fail to take into account the interests of claimants or victims, often trying to settle these cases quickly and paying as little money as possible.

You can avoid financial hardship and protect your right to maximum compensation if you know the rules and how to negotiate with adjusters after a car crash.

What should you do after a car accident?

After an accident, make sure everyone is okay (help anyone with serious injuries and remain alert for oncoming vehicles), get medical attention from the first responders, seek an immediate medical examination by a doctor, and call the insurance company to report the incident (without making a statement or admitting fault). Take pictures or videos to document the accident site, as well as your injuries and any physical damage to vehicles.

If witnesses are present, ask for their contact information. Gather insurance information and driver’s license/license plate number(s) of at-fault driver(s).

A police report is required to file an insurance claim, as well as proof of injury and/or damage. This can include receipts or medical records. The police report is important, as it provides a timeline of the accident and often includes a description of the scene. Insurance companies may claim that the accident did not occur as you described if there is no police report or other supporting evidence. California law requires that if a police officer does not arrive at the scene of an accident, you report it to the California Highway Patrol within 24 hours. In a personal accident report, you should provide all relevant details about the incident. Be sure to include the exact times, dates, vehicles, weather conditions, and circumstances.

The report may be sent to an investigation agency in cases of serious accidents or questions about fault. Accordingly, it is important to call the 911 immediately after any accident, no matter how minor it initially appears. If you fail to report an accident, you could face heavy fines and even jail time.

In an effort to reduce their insurance premiums, some claimants choose to not file a claim. This is a reasonable position, given the high costs of state-mandated coverage. However, it’s never recommended. If victims do not file official insurance claims, they could lose out on significant financial compensation for their injuries.

What type of insurance claim should I file after a car wreck?

In the insurance claims process, victims are tasked with comparing first-party claims to third-party claims. First-party claims are between the victim’s insurance company and themselves. In the event of a car accident, drivers can file a claim with their insurance company to receive compensation. The right to claim repairs, reimbursement for rental cars, and medical expenses is typically included in the monthly auto insurance premiums. If you back into a barrier on the parking lot of a grocery store, this would be an applicable first-party insurance claims accident.

Third-party insurance claims are filed by victims against the insurance policy of the party who is at fault.

Third party insurance claims can include:

  • Claims by drivers against negligent motorists
  • Passenger claims against negligent drivers
  • Insurance claims by victims against the insurance of a vehicle or company

What is the process for filing an insurance claim after a car accident?

Insurance companies will file a claim for you, record your statement, ask questions, and then deny or approve the claim. However, accident victims who put their claims into the hands of insurance companies could lose a significant amount of money or leverage in comparison to those who choose to let a personal injury lawyer from Dordulian Law Group fight on the behalf.

By hiring a car accident attorney, your legal counsel will bear the burden of fighting with the insurance companies as well as the at-fault driver.

After an accident, how long do you have to file a claim for insurance?

The deadline for filing an insurance claim if you have been injured in a car crash can vary from one carrier to another. Confirm the filing deadline with your insurance carrier. Some victims may want to file a lawsuit in order to recover more compensation. In California, the two-year statute of limitations is generally applicable to filing a claim for a car accident. There are some exceptions to this rule, including a three-year limitation period for property damage claims and a typical six-month deadline on government claims. But the general statute of limitations is two years for most accidents. To ensure that you don’t miss the deadline for filing a claim, consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer.

California also requires that insurance companies adhere to the time limits set by law. The insurance company must acknowledge receipt of the claim within 15 days and give the claimant all the necessary documentation. The claimant can contact the insurance company at any time and they have 15 days to respond. Within 40 days, insurance companies must inform claimants of the outcome, whether it is approval or rejection. The insurance company must pay the full settlement amount within 30 days if all parties agree to a settlement.

Insurance companies can choose to delay claims by 30 days if they receive written notice. A lawyer can help you if you believe that the insurance company has deliberately delayed a valid claim. They may also file a lawsuit if needed.

How does the insurance company evaluate vehicle damage?

Your insurance carrier will calculate the amount of your vehicle’s loss during the claim evaluation process. In order to pay a claim, the company must first determine the cash value of the car.

Insurance companies typically provide “first offers” on a vehicle’s repairs. A first offer should be only be considered a starting point in a negotiation – whether between you and your insurance provider (or among additional parties that may get involved, such as repair shops/dealerships). If you have a clean driving record and your car insurance premiums are up-to-date, you should have some negotiating power when it comes to the first offer provided by your carrier.

What Is a demand letter for car accident claims?

A demand is issued by either you or your attorney and explains the facts and reasons for why a carrier must pay for your injuries. Negotiating through an attorney is strongly recommended. A personal injury attorney with experience in handling car accident claims can help you secure a larger cash settlement.

A proper demand letter should include all relevant evidence and describe the events and injuries suffered by the victim. A doctor may include details about the victim’s treatment and care if necessary. Include any lost wages due to injuries and any property damage.

Even if the amount demanded is more than what the victim anticipates recovering, it should be included in the letter’s closing. It takes more time to complete this process, so it’s important to move quickly if you want to avoid delays or denials.

It is almost always best to hire an experienced lawyer for car accidents, due to the complexity of negotiating, writing and filing a demand letter.

What does Actual Cash Value (ACV), mean?

If the car cannot be repaired at a reasonable price, then the physical damage amount paid is determined by its actual cash value. In this case, the insurance company will simply write a check corresponding to the ACV. The only time an owner of a vehicle needs to use the ACV is at this point. An adjuster will review the vehicle damage, investigate the accident, and then send a settlement proposal. The victims are within their rights to refuse a settlement offer for a car accident claim. The claimant can now begin negotiations with the claims adjuster.

Negotiations will continue until the adjuster as well as the claimant agree on a figure. Negotiations may not always be successful, and the claimant may need to file a lawsuit to get the compensation they deserve.

What is the car insurance claims appeal process?

In California, you must respond to a claim denial with an appeal letter. This is a document that officially starts the appeals process (and simply calling the carrier to complain does NOT constitute an appeal). In the letter, victims can restate specific facts, explain why they believe their claim was wrongfully denied, and ask for appropriate coverage. In most cases, insurance companies will not change their decision. In these cases, litigation is usually the next best alternative.

Do I need a car accident lawyer?

A personal injury attorney can review the insurance policy of a claimant and determine the most effective strategy for successfully securing maximum financial compensation. These documents may contain legalese that is difficult to understand by consumers, but experienced lawyers are able to find loopholes or understand why the insurance companies often deny coverage.

A car accident lawyer can help speed up and simplify the claim process. A proven Dordulian Law Group (DLG) Los Angeles car crash attorney can combat insurance companies that use clever tricks to reduce or deny liability. Insurance companies employ armies of attorneys to protect their own interests. But you deserve the same level of representation.

Our attorneys can help you get justice by presenting all the evidence relevant to your case and submitting a compelling legal argument to prove fault. Remember that in California, the statute of limitations is two years after your accident. Talk to an attorney as soon as you can to avoid any delays and possible rejection by the court. A lawsuit often forces the insurer to settle because they prefer to not go to litigation. This allows claimants to receive compensation without having to go to trial.

Schedule an appointment online for a free consultation today, or call us directly to speak to our top-rated, expert car accident attorneys.

Follow the above mentioned steps in the auto insurance claim process provided by DLG to turn a tough situation for you and your loved ones into a win. Contact the Dordulian Law Group Car Accident Division today for a free and confidential consultation at 866-GO-SEE-SAM.


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