The car accident claim process is something you may have to go through if a crash injured you, took the life of a loved one or damaged your vehicle. Your case may involve insurance settlement negotiations alone or it may need to proceed to court for you to obtain fair compensation from the at-fault party. Either way, a car accident attorney could help you through the steps of a personal injury car accident claim.
Initial Gathering of Information
You can take steps immediately after a car accident to start building a claim. As the injured victim, it may be difficult to focus on the actions you need to take to protect yourself in the aftermath of a crash. Gathering information while still at the scene, however, can be imperative to the future of your damage claim.
Do your best to investigate the crash while still on site. This can include taking pictures of the scene of the crash, writing down the name and phone number of the other driver, talking to eyewitnesses, calling the police, getting your police report number, and going into nearby businesses to find out if they have surveillance footage. Investigating your crash right away could go a long way toward building a case against the at-fault party.
Medical Care for Your Injuries
Once you leave the scene of the crash, go directly to a nearby hospital for a checkup. Prompt medical care is something the insurance company will look for later. If you delay medical treatment, the insurer may use this as a reason to offer less compensation or deny your claim entirely. You may have hidden injuries a doctor can find through scans and x-rays, even if your adrenaline is masking symptoms. If you receive an injury diagnosis, keep your medical records and treatment plans. Follow the physician’s orders for recovery exactly.
Conversation With a Car Accident Attorney
Take the facts of your claim and your personal injury diagnosis to an auto accident attorney before making the phone call to the at-fault party’s insurance company. A lawyer can review the facts of your crash and give you advice on how to handle the insurance process. An attorney can warn you against accepting a first settlement offer, for example, or prepare you for how to talk to a claims adjuster. Most personal injury attorneys offer free initial consultations, so you can get advice you trust about your crash at no cost or obligation before beginning the claims process.
Auto Insurance Claim
Next, call the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company to file a crash claim. California is a tort-based car accident state, meaning the person that caused your wreck will have to pay for your damages. Call the correct insurance company and report the crash as soon as possible. Most insurers require reporting within 24 to 72 hours of the accident for a valid claim. Explain what happened and provide the information requested. Do not give your permission to record a statement and do not accept a quick settlement. Consider hiring a personal injury attorney to help you negotiate with the insurance company for fair compensation.
Settlement or Personal Injury Lawsuit
Upon filing your insurance claim, you and the insurer (and your attorney, if applicable) will engage in settlement negotiations. A lawyer may be able to negotiate a fair and full settlement for your losses without needing to proceed to court. If not, your attorney can take the at-fault party to trial in California for better case results.
Bringing a lawsuit could force the insurance company to pay a higher amount for your economic and noneconomic losses. A settlement takes an average of three months to complete, while a trial could take a year or longer to resolve. Trials can result in greater compensation for your damages, however. Hire a San Diego/East County car accident attorney to help you through each step of the car accident personal injury claims process.