California Car Accident Claim Process

Being in a collision is frightening and stressful, especially if you sustain injuries. Knowing how to handle a car accident in San Diego, CA – from steps to take at the accident scene to the claim process – will help alleviate your stress and put you on a path to recovery. 

The best thing you can do if you’ve been in a collision is to contact an experienced San Diego car accident lawyer for assistance. The legal team at Mission Personal Injury Lawyers has over 43 years of combined experience helping car accident victims recover fair compensation. We’ve used our experience to recover tens of millions of dollars for our deserving clients. 

Call us at (619) 777-5555 or contact our law firm online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your crash. We’re here to offer support and guidance during this challenging time. 

How a San Diego Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You During the Car Accident Claim Process

How a San Diego Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You During the Car Accident Claim Process

Our personal injury lawyers are well-versed in handling car accident claims in California. We know how to take on insurance companies and other opposing parties to obtain the best possible results for our clients. 

If you hire our San Diego personal injury lawyers for help with your car accident claim, we’ll: 

  • Investigate the crash by gathering evidence
  • Work to establish liability and the value of your damages 
  • Handle all negotiations and communications with the insurance company while you focus on resting and recovering 
  • File a personal injury case on your behalf and take it to court if we fail to reach a fair settlement agreement

Contact our San Diego car accident attorneys for a free case evaluation. In the meantime, continue reading to learn more about the California car accident claim process.

What Should You Do Right After a Collision in San Diego, CA? 

The steps you take following a car accident in California can significantly impact your ability to receive compensation if you are injured. Here are some tips on what to do: 

Stop At the Accident Scene and Exchange Information

California law requires that drivers involved in collisions causing injury or death to stop at the accident scene and exchange information, including: 

  • Names 
  • The current address of everyone involved
  • Vehicle registration number 
  • Driver’s license or other forms of identification

You should also exchange insurance information, render reasonable assistance to anyone who was injured, and call the local police or California Highway Patrol (CHP). 

If you were in an accident that only involved property damage, you’re required to stop and attempt to locate the property owner. If you can’t find them, you must leave a note on the property containing your name, address, and an explanation and notify the police. 

Violations of these requirements are considered hit-and-run accidents and can result in fines or jail time.  

Call 911 To Report the Crash

Not all car accidents must be reported in California. However, it’s always wise to call the police at the accident scene. The dispatcher will request details of the crash to determine if they’ll send an officer. 

If an officer is dispatched, they’ll prepare an accident report detailing the accident scene. It may contain a preliminary determination of fault.

If law enforcement doesn’t visit the accident scene, you must make a written report to the police within 24 hours if anyone is injured or killed. 

Document the Accident Scene

If you can, take photographs and videos of the accident scene. This may include damage to the vehicles and any other damaged property, skid marks, injuries, and the location of the crash. Photos and videos will be vital evidence for your insurance claim.

Seek Immediate Medical Attention

If you weren’t transported to the hospital from the accident scene, visit a medical provider for a checkup, even if you don’t think you sustained an injury. Many injuries take time to reveal symptoms. Additionally, if you’re injured, seeking prompt medical care proves a causal link between the crash and your injuries and shows that you mitigated your damages

Report the Accident To the DMV 

California drivers involved in collisions causing injury, death, or property damage exceeding $1,000 must report it to the California DMV within ten days of the accident. 

The Car Accident Claim Process in California – What To Expect

We’ve discussed what you should do to protect your rights immediately after a crash. Here are the general steps of a car accident claim in California: 

Notify the Insurance Company 

Even if you weren’t at fault, you should notify your own auto insurance company that you were involved in an accident. The other driver may not have insurance, or they may be underinsured. Additionally, your policy may outline reporting requirements.

You should allow an attorney to contact the at-fault party’s liability insurance company on your behalf. This will ensure that you don’t say something that could hurt your chances of getting fair compensation. 

Complete Your Medical Treatment

If you sustain serious injuries, it may take time to determine your prognosis and what future medical care you may require. That’s why it’s important to reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) before starting negotiations for compensation. 

You won’t know the full value of your losses until you understand the severity of your injuries and how they’ll impact your life. 

Investigate and Gather Evidence Proving Your Claim 

You’ll need evidence proving the elements of your claim, including causation, liability, and the value of your damages

Evidence may include: 

  • Accident reports
  • Surveillance footage
  • Police reports
  • Expert witness opinions
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Photos and videos of the accident scene 
  • Medical records 
  • Wage statements 

An attorney will help you gather the evidence needed to prove your claim and maximize your compensation. 

Send the Insurance Company a Demand Letter

Your attorney should draft the demand letter to the insurance company to ensure that it’s persuasive and contains the requisite information proving your claim. It will include the legal arguments as to why the at-fault party is liable and details regarding your injuries and losses. 

Engage in Negotiations and Reach a Settlement Agreement 

Once the insurance company receives the demand letter, they’ll conduct their own investigation into the accident to determine if they’ll accept the demand, deny the claim, or make a counteroffer. 

There could be negotiations that go back and forth for weeks or months. If the parties agree, you will sign a settlement agreement outlining the terms, and the insurance company will send a check to you or your attorney. 

File a Personal Injury Lawsuit If Negotiations Are Unsuccessful 

If you or your attorney fail to reach an out-of-court settlement, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit. California’s statute of limitations is only two years for car accident lawsuits, so your attorney will keep this deadline in mind when handling your claim. 

Even if you file a lawsuit, you can still settle anytime before the jury renders a verdict. However, if your case goes to trial, it will take much longer than if you reach an out-of-court settlement. 

Contact Our Experienced San Diego Personal Injury Lawyers for Help Navigating the California Car Accident Claim Process

If you’ve been involved in a wreck in San Diego, California, contact Mission Personal Injury Lawyers for help. Our legal team is available 24/7 to help you through the California car accident claim process.