California Auto Accident Claims, Injuries, and Lawsuits

Get Legal Help Today

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

In 2008 in California, there were 3,434 total fatalities resulting from auto accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. In addition to these fatalities, there were countless other car accident injuries suffered by California drivers. If you are among the victims of a California auto accident, you need to understand your legal rights to make a police report and subsequent car accident claim.

In California auto accident law, pure comparative fault applies. This means that, unlike in a no-fault state where each driver’s own insurance pays the medical bills from an accident up to your chosen limits, in California, the driver who is at fault for the California auto accident pays damages for any auto body damage or medical expenses that arise.

How Do Insurers Know Who’s Responsible for the Cost of Repairs?

Fault is determined by either the insurance companies of both parties or by the court in the event that a lawsuit is filed to resolve a car accident claim. Insurance companies will look at the testimony of both parties to a car accident as well as the information from police, witnesses, and experts. If the insurance companies agree, the insurance company of the at-fault driver will pay. Sometimes, the investigation process is straightforward.

If the insurance companies disagree, the case may go to arbitration or an injured victim may file a California car accident lawsuit. Then the court will decide who was at fault and what the appropriate settlement is. Either way, in states like California, insurance can be cheaper because you don’t have to pay for PIP. Claims processes can also be longer depending on how an accident is evaluated.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

How Do You Recover Damages for Car Accident Injuries In California?

There are two main ways to recover damages after a car accident in California. First, you can negotiate directly with the insurance company without filing a car accident insurance claim or lawsuit. The insurance company may offer you a settlement for your car accident injuries, or you may send a demand letter explaining what your car accident injuries are and what amount of money is needed to make you whole. If you’re going to take this route, having a good accident lawyer is essential. They can gather documentation and determine how much you can fairly expect to get for your injuries.

If the insurance company offers a low settlement, if you cannot agree on the appropriate settlement, or if your car accident injuries were severe and/or the accident led to death, filing a car accident claim in the form of a lawsuit may be more appropriate. If you haven’t accepted a settlement, it’s not too late to call an accident lawyer.

By filing a car accident injury lawsuit, you can recover additional damages including damages for pain and suffering and emotional distress resulting from the accident. If you can prove that the defendant acted with malice towards you in causing your injuries, you may also be able to recover punitive damages under California law.

What Should You Expect When Suing after an Auto Accident in California?

If you wish to file a lawsuit to collect damages for your auto accident injuries in California, you must file the lawsuit within the two-year statute of limitations set forth. You should assess your own coverage options with your insurance agent. If you were partially at fault, the courts may only award you what your auto insurance company is already offering you. The difference would be you now have to pay legal fees with that money.

Sometimes you feel injuries right away. Other times, the injuries grow in severity year over year, and by then the insurance company doesn’t want to pay more. It’s not like a rental vehicle, which you know if you need right after the accident. If you suffer an injury that you were unaware of right away, you must file the California auto accident claim within two years of the date you first become aware of the injury.

A California auto accident lawsuit is handled under tort law, which means that a negligence standard applies. This means that you must prove that the other driver was negligent, or that he or she breached the standard of care required under the law, in order to recover for your damages. A reasonable person standard is used to determine if the defendant was negligent or not. In other words, if a reasonable person would have been more careful than the defendant was, then he or she can be found liable. It could be as simple as a driver speeding, or it could be more complicated.

You also must prove that the defendant’s negligence was the proximate (i.e. actual) cause of your injuries. If you were partially at fault, however, you are still able to recover, as California is a comparative fault state. This means that if you were 20 percent responsible for the accident, you can still bring a California auto accident lawsuit. Your damage award will simply be reduced by 20 percent.

How Important Is Your Insurance Policy in California?

Even if you assume you’re a good driver, accidents happen. It’s not always clear whose fault it is. A claims adjuster evaluates your accident and the damages, but the case starts long before that. If you only buy the minimum state required insurance, you could find yourself in a lot of trouble if the circumstances are murky.

Paying more in auto insurance rates isn’t a guarantee of a better auto insurance policy. It can certainly help, though. Asking an insurance professional to explain your insurance coverage options before you’re in an accident is essential. Under California law, you can recover damages for:

  • Lost wages
  • Medical bills
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Property damage that’s not just limited to a vehicle damage claim

If a car accident leads to death, the estate of the victim and the family members can bring a lawsuit and recover for:

  • Wrongful death
  • Loss of companionship or consortium

You will have to prove your damages in court. You will also need to prove that the defendant was negligent in causing them.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Who Do I Call for Help with Auto Insurance Claims in California?

One of the best ways to choose between any vendor is by looking at the reviews. See what consumers like yourself have to say about their insurance adjuster experience before you choose a policy. If you feel like you need legal representation, check out online reviews to see if a certain law firm meets your needs.

If you need help now, the Law Offices of Barry J. Simon can help. Barry J. Simon has been handling auto accident cases in California since 1979, and has won cases for thousands of victims. Barry J. Simon has won record victories for auto accidents, including one of the largest jury verdicts for an auto accident causing a herniated disc, and has negotiated thousands of settlements.

The Law Office of Barry J. Simon offers free consultations. So if you have suffered car accident injuries or physical damage and are looking for a California auto accident attorney, contact Barry J. Simon today for advice on your case.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption