After a collision on a California freeway, street, or boulevard the safety and care of those involved is the very first priority. In the hours that follow, victims will also, unfortunately, have to concern themselves with securing support for their recoveries from sometimes unhelpful insurance companies.
Knowing how to get your accident claim off on the right foot can shorten the time you are made to wait on compensation. Your prompt action also protects you when you are being unfairly blamed for what happened. Knowing how to file your claim and the deadlines that apply will make a frustrating process that much easier.
The First Steps When Filing a Claim Over a California Accident
Your welfare and the welfare of others will be your first concern after any crash. Contact 911 to have an ambulance rushed to the scene if anyone is injured. Law enforcement should be called in for even a minor accident. The collision report they prepare on the scene can be vital to the success of your insurance claim later.
Once things have wrapped up on the scene and your injuries have been stabilized, you should start thinking about your call to your insurer or in some cases another driver’s insurance provider.
When You Weren’t To Blame for the Accident
You should call your own insurance company first to let them know what happened. Make this call on the day of your accident if possible. You’ll also need to get insurance information from the at-fault driver and call their insurance representative to begin your claim.
Your insurance company is legally required to thoroughly investigate your accident. They should have the facts and evidence in hand in case another driver tries to falsely accuse you and files a third-party claim against you.
In California, your insurance provider is responsible for acting in “good faith” towards you. This means they work towards your best interest. They should give you every benefit promised by your insurance contract.
That means compensation to pay for your injuries if another insurance company isn’t covering those costs. They must also mount a legal defense when another insurer is trying to hold you liable for an accident you didn’t cause.
When you think an insurance company is not treating you fairly, contact a skilled personal injury attorney for a free consultation on your best options to hold them accountable.
When You Were to Blame for a California Traffic Accident
Never admit blame on the scene of an accident or when talking to third-party insurance companies representing other drivers. You might be mistaken about who was at fault and you could end up having your admission on the scene brought back up later to hurt your case.
Notify your insurance company after any accident, even if you think you caused it. They’ll find out anyway when the other driver, the third party, contacts them to file a claim against you.
Many insurance benefits kick in to help you in recovery, no matter who was to blame. Your insurance agent will be helping you get this support from coverage like Med Pay or Collision and Comprehensive.
When the Blame for an Accident is Shared Between Drivers
It’s important to notify your insurer of an accident because, in California, several drivers can be held liable for the same collision. This is known as “comparative negligence.”
If you and another driver are both assigned blame in an accident, the other driver can file a claim against your insurer and you would file a claim against the other driver’s provider.
This assignment of blame is never indisputable though. A California Car Accident Lawyer can take up your case and negotiate your percentage of the blame down so that you pay less and gain more in injury and property damage support. In the best circumstances, your attorney may be able to prove that you don’t bear any blame at all for an accident.
Reporting an Accident to the California DMV
After you have notified insurance representatives, in most cases you are also required to report what happened to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). When the crash totals at least $1000 in property damage to one person, including yourself, or if anyone is injured, even slightly, a report must be filed with the DMV.
You, your insurance agent, or a legal representative must file with the DMV because the California Highway Patrol or the Police will not do this for you.
You must make this report within 10 days on the Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California (SR1) form. The SR1 is also available at any DMV field office or CHP office.
The California DMV website details the requirements further. Failure to comply with this vehicle code can result in a driver’s license suspension.
After you File a California Car Accident Insurance Claim
After you’ve filed a claim, you’ll be assigned an insurance adjuster. Your adjuster is held to a 40-day time limit after they’ve confirmed your eligibility for benefits. Over this time, they must decide if they’ll fulfill your claim or reject it.
A straightforward case can take far less time. However, this 40-day deadline is often extended for additional months or over a year in complex cases. Cases can take longer to resolve when fault is in question and the costs of recovery from major injuries and care for lifelong disabilities must be determined.
At this point, insurance companies, even your own, will be tempted to provide you and your family less than you need to cover all of your medical bills and time missed at work. They’ll hope your desperation to pay bills will make you desperate enough to accept any settlement offer.
Having a traffic accident attorney holding insurance adjusters accountable through each step of your claim can help you maximize the compensation you’ll receive. An experienced attorney will also know what your injury is worth and make sure you don’t accept less than what’s fair.
Contact a California Car Accident Lawyer
Don’t trust your physical and financial recovery to an insurance company. Insurance adjusters work to save their own companies money while downplaying your injuries and financial hardships.
Reach out to Martin Gasparian, the founder of Maison Law, to find out how to fight back against “bad faith” insurance practices. He fights to make sure families receive the compensation they need to rebuild their lives after an accident.
Contact Maison Law for an absolutely free, no-risk case consultation. Even if you don’t end up needing our help to secure an insurance settlement, you’ll still receive valuable information on how to hold insurance companies fully liable for your recovery.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Do I Have To File a California Accident Injury Claim?
California sets the statute of limitations on injury claims at two years. If you wait longer than two years to file with your own insurance or with another driver’s insurer, your claim won’t be allowed to move forward.
What if the Other Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance?
You will have to file a claim against the uninsured motorist coverage on your own car insurance policy. You can receive injury and property damage compensation from your own provider, but they’ll be working to limit the amounts you earn.
How Long Should I Wait for a Response from an Insurance Adjuster?
15 days. Once you’ve filed a claim, California requires insurance companies to contact you within 15 days of filing. If they don’t, you should call them or contact the California Department of Insurance.