California Car Accidents: Understanding the Process & Protecting Your Interests

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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...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Car accidents happen every day; it’s just a fact of life. When an accident happens, it’s important to understand the liability system and process your state follows and how to go about protecting your interests against insurance company tactics.

California Attorney Matthew Nezhad

Matthew Nezhad, a California attorney whose practice is dedicated to handling personal injury claims and cases for injury victims throughout California, recently sat down with us to explain California’s car accident liability system and how the process works in California.

California’s liability system

Nezhad told us that there are two systems governing this area of the law in the United States. “One is the no fault system and the other, which California uses, is the fault or tort liability system. The latter means whoever is at fault will obviously pay for the damages to that degree of fault. So, if the person is at fault by 75 percent, that’s all they would have to pay you for your damages.”

The process in California

How are car accidents generally handled in California? According to Nezhad, each accident case is fact specific, so depending on the type of accident, there’s some very important things that you want to do at the accident site to the extent that it’s safe. He explained:

Obviously, the first things to do would be to make sure that everyone’s safe, contact the authorities and make sure you obtain information on the other parties that were involved, such as a driver’s license, license plate and insurance company information.

Then, contact your insurance carrier to report the claim. In certain complex cases, or even in a case you may think is straightforward, you should always contact an attorney just to consult and ask questions to make sure that you know exactly what you need to do from day one with respect to your auto accident claim.

Protect your interests

We asked Nezhad if there is anything that you shouldn’t do at an auto accident scene to protect your interests? Emphatically, he told us that giving statements at the accident scene can only lead to trouble. “You should never give a statement to the other side’s insurance representative because they do not have your best interests in mind. Their basic idea is to get as much information as they can from you so that they can use it against you and your claim. So, initially, you should not admit fault, even if you think you’re at fault. Realistically, you might think you’re at fault, but legally, you may not be – so you should never admit fault until you speak with an experienced California car accident attorney.”

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