Over 277,000 people were injured in car accidents in California in 2017, according to the latest published data.
No matter how safe we are behind the wheel, we can’t prevent the negligence of other drivers. If you were injured in a car accident, you are probably wondering about car accident settlements.
It’s true that if you were injured as a result of another driver’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. The key to getting a good car accident settlement is knowing your rights and what to expect throughout the claim process.
Keep reading for our ultimate guide to car accident settlements in California.
What to Do if You’re in a Car Accident in California
Knowing what to do immediately following a car accident can significantly boost your chances of recovering all of your damages in a settlement.
While being in a car accident can be traumatic not just physically but mentally as well, it’s important that you try your best to stay calm. The first thing you should do if an accident occurs is to stop and make sure everyone is safe. If possible, move your car to a secure location so that it is not blocking traffic.
If you are injured, call 911 immediately. The most important thing is your health. Your car can be repaired or replaced but your life can’t be replaced.
Injuries from car accidents often don’t show up until days or weeks after the accident occurred. You may be in shock at the scene of the accident and fail to realize that you’ve been injured.
For this reason, it’s important to get checked out either by going to the emergency room or to your family doctor as soon as possible. If another driver was at fault for the accident, you will need to prove that you were injured and took steps to recover from your injury.
If you are able, you should collect as much evidence from the scene of the accident as possible. This includes taking photographs of all vehicles involved from all angles. Be sure to get the contact and insurance information from the other drivers involved.
Take a photo of their driver’s license numbers. If there were any witnesses to the accident, be sure to get their contact information. Witnesses can make or break a case down the road.
Of course, be careful not to make any statements that could be interpreted as admitting fault for the accident. Even if you are simply apologizing that the accident occurred, this could be misinterpreted as you admitting fault and could hurt your case.
Finding a Personal Injury Attorney
The next thing you should do if you are in a car accident that was not your fault is to contact a personal injury attorney. Look for an attorney who is experienced with the type of accident that occurred and has a proven record of success.
Most personal injury attorneys will offer a free case evaluation. At this time, you can evaluate potential attorneys to find the best one for your unique needs. Your attorney should be empathetic and have a genuine interest in helping you as a person.
Hiring a personal injury attorney is important because they will not only fight for your rights to compensation but they will help ensure you get the medical care you need right away.
Filing a Claim
In California, you have 2 years from the date of an accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. Most cases never go to trial because the claimant is able to settle out of court.
When an accident occurs, all parties should contact their insurance companies. The at-fault drivers insurance company will likely contact you for a statement. You should never provide a statement without your attorney.
Remember that the insurance company is not on your side. It is their job to protect their client and their own interests.
When you hire a personal injury attorney, they will represent you and negotiate your claim on your behalf. You don’t want to have to deal with greedy insurance companies on your own when you are already stressed about your accident.
To determine whether you are eligible for compensation for your injury, the insurance company will complete a liability investigation. This will include recreating the scene of the accident, taking statements from all involved drivers, and taking statements from witnesses.
The insurance company will make an evaluation and determine what percent at fault each driver was for the accident. In the state of California, you are entitled to compensation for the percentage of fault the at-fault driver(s) have for what occurred.
Even if you were partially at fault for what happened, you can recover based on the other driver(s) negligence. This is called pure comparative negligence.
Understanding Your Damages
If you were injured in a car accident and another driver was at fault, you can make a claim for non-economic and economic damages.
Economic damages include property damage to your vehicle, past and future medical bills, lost wages from time off work due to the accident, and other monetary losses.
Non-economic damages include pain and suffering and loss of consortium.
Negotiating a Settlement
As we mentioned before, the goal of negotiating car accident settlements is to avoid taking the case to trial. Civil lawsuits can be expensive and time-consuming. A good attorney can make your case and get you a fair settlement without having to litigate.
That said, you want to hire an attorney with trial experience in case the matter can’t be settled fairly. Insurance companies try to pay out as little as possible for claims. You need an attorney who can fight for your rights in and out of court.
Want to Know More About Car Accident Settlements?
Have you or someone you love been the victim of a car accident that wasn’t your fault? Accidents happen but most of the time at least one driver is at fault for what occurred.
If you’ve been injured in an accident and want to learn more about car accident settlements and recovering your damages, contact us today.
Click here to get started by scheduling a free case evaluation.