In a region where car culture reigns supreme, it is hardly a surprise that car accidents are so common. If you have been involved in a car accident in California, you are probably anxious and stressed out wondering how you're going to pay your medical bills, deal with lost income and a myriad of other expenses.
California Law Applies Pure Comparative Negligence
Comparative negligence essentially means that the responsibility for the accident may be divided between the parties involved. The claim amount could depend on the degree of fault of each party. For example, if someone who made an unsafe lane change struck you, they may be found 100% at fault.
But, if you were traveling at an unsafe rate of speed or above the posted speed limit, you may be assigned a portion of the blame. So, the other person may be found 75% at fault for the accident and you may be found 25% responsible. So, you will receive a settlement or verdict, but you will likely lose 25% of your compensation for your share of fault.
For example, if you had experienced a significant injury to your back in a car accident that you were found to be 25% at fault for, the amount you'd normally receive as part of your back injury car accident settlement would be reduced by 25%.
What Should I Do After the Accident?
It is critical to file a car accident claim in a timely manner. There are also a number of steps plaintiffs can take in order to protect their legal rights and options after a car accident:
Medical attention: It is important to contact a medical professional and get examined even if you feel fine after the car accident. There are several injuries such as whiplash or internal trauma that may not become apparent for days. Not getting prompt medical attention or failing to follow doctor's orders could affect your car accident compensation. So, it is crucial to seek and obtain medical evaluation, treatment and care as soon as possible after a car accident.
Insurance company: File a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible. Waiting too long to file this claim could result in your claim being denied or rejected.
Police report: If you've been injured in a car accident, make sure that you file a police report. Often, a police report will contain important information including who was at fault for the crash. Make sure you file a police report and obtain a copy for your records.
Lawyer: Contact an experienced injury lawyer who can help you deal with insurance company tactics. The insurance company might try to get you to settle for a lower amount. But, it is never a good idea to rush into a settlement before you've spoken with your car accident lawyer. Once you sign an agreement, it may not be possible for you to seek additional compensation.
Waiting Too Long Can Result in Your Claim Being Denied
Car accidents not only cause physical injuries, but also emotional suffering and financial strain. If your car has been damaged or totaled, you may need to repair your vehicle or buy a new one. You may miss several days or even weeks of work to recover from your injuries. Your daily routine may be interrupted. People injured in car accident go through physical ailments such as chronic pain. But, they also deal with stress, depression, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder.
Under California law, the statute of limitations in personal injury cases expires in two years. So, in most cases, if you fail to file your claim within two years, you may not be able to seek compensation. In some cases, such as situations involving governmental agencies, that deadline could be just 180 days. So, it is imperative that you contact an experienced Los Angeles car accident lawyer right away.
What does filing a claim accomplish? Filing a claim with your insurance company is typically the first step after the car accident. Collision coverage covers the cost of damage to your vehicle. Your insurance should also cover medical payments including emergency room visits, follow-up doctor's appointment, cost of medication, etc.
California's Auto Insurance Laws
Under California law, all drivers must carry insurance. At minimum, drivers in California are required to carry $15,000 in personal injury insurance for one person, $5,000 for property damage and $30,000 for injury to more than one person. It is illegal for drivers in California to operate a vehicle without auto insurance. If you have been hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver, you can claim compensation through the uninsured motorist clause of your own auto insurance policy. You may also file a personal injury lawsuit to get compensation from the driver's assets. However, it is important to bear in mind that an uninsured driver may not have significant assets in the first place.