How to File an Auto Insurance Claim in California

Author: Nicki Malekadeli
Posted on: August 7, 2019

Driving can sometimes be risky. That’s why it’s important to insure your vehicle in case you get into a car accident. Even if you just sustain minor injuries, a collision can still cost you hundreds of dollars. But how do you go about filing an insurance claim?

Report the Car Accident

The first thing you should do after an accident is to contact medical personnel. Call 911 immediately if someone has sustained injuries from the crash. Next, report the incident to the authorities. It is imperative that you get in touch with local law enforcement to acquire an official report of the event. This report serves as the primary foundation for the succeeding legal process.

As a driver, you are required to notify the police or the California Highway Patrol within 24 hours after an accident that results in injuries. In particular, accidents that result in personal injuries and property damage of at least $1,000 must also be reported to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

To file a report with the DMV, fill out the SR-1 Report of Traffic Accident Form and submit it within 10 days of the collision. You should also call your insurance company within 24 hours, regardless of who is at fault. Finally, jot down important details before leaving the scene like the name of the driver involved in the crash, the name of his or her insurance company, and the location.

Consider California’s Auto Insurance Claim Laws

In California, the outcome of your auto insurance claim is influenced by the state’s traffic laws and related policies. After notifying your insurance provider, familiarize yourself with your automobile insurance policy.

Take note that the state requires you to maintain minimum coverage of $15,000 for physical injury or death to one person, $30,000 for death or injury to more than one individual, and $5,000 for property damage. In the event of a car accident, you need to present a valid proof of financial responsibility to avoid fines and license revocation.

California is not a no-fault state for auto insurance. Those involved in a car accident must seek damages from the negligent party’s insurance provider. Claimants are also required to prove the liability of the negligent party before receiving compensation.

What If You Aren’t Sure Who’s at Fault?

California enforces the Pure Comparative Negligence Rule. This rule is used by insurance companies to determine the percentage of fault or negligence of each party. Under this jurisdiction, you can still recover damages even if you were partially at fault for the accident. The amount of compensation will be reduced, depending on your percentage of responsibility for what happened.

Talk to an Insurance Adjuster

Once the insurance company receives your report, they will conduct an investigation and assign an insurance adjuster to your case. The average auto accident settlement process typically involves creating a detailed account of the accident where you can name witnesses and submit proof of damages.

Be careful when speaking to an insurance adjuster. Try to avoid apologizing or admitting that you were at fault for the accident. Instead, stick to the facts and be wary of misleading questions. If you feel uncomfortable disclosing some details of the incident getting your statement recorded, you have the right to decline.

Review the Initial Offer

After investigating your claim, the insurance adjuster will make an initial settlement offer. If you have a straightforward case, the adjuster will make an offer enough to cover car repairs and medical treatment. But more complication cases could warrant a compensation that is less than what you deserve. Make sure you get the proper compensatory damages you are entitled to by assessing the settlement offer. Consider lost earnings, future lost income, property damage, medical expenses, and other damages.

If you believe you were offered inadequate coverage or got your case denied, the next step is for you to file an appeal. At this stage, you may be required to submit supplementary documents and evidence to back your claim.

Negotiate Your Claim

You have 40 days to firmly decline an unreasonable settlement offer. Proceed with the auto insurance claim process by securing more definitive evidence and examining the original police report for inconsistencies that could have diminished the value for the compensation you deserve. Remain patient when negotiating with your adjuster. Also, stay mindful of California’s statute of limitations when you file a car accident lawsuit while waiting for a resolution.

Review the Final Settlement Agreement

Once you receive a settlement offer you are happy with, don’t get ahead of yourself and sign the settlement agreement right away. Read the official document from start to finish and make sure you fully understand the contract. After all, signing the agreement will forfeit your right to sue. Review the statement thoroughly and make sure that none of the costs to damages have been miscalculated.

Get Your Car Accident Claims

Reaching an insurance claim settlement could range between a few days or several years. After receiving a signed copy of the settlement agreement, the insurance company will start with the process. If your repair shop is included in the insurer’s network, the insurance company will pay the shop directly. The rest of the damages will be paid as soon as the insurance company receives the signed settlement agreement. The proceeds will be given to you directly, but it’s your responsibility to pay other parties out of the proceeds—this includes body shops and doctors that your insurance company doesn’t pay directly, for instance.

Hire an Experienced Car Accident Claims Lawyer

It may seem tempting to proceed with the auto insurance claim process all by yourself. But always remember that an insurance adjuster works for their insurance company, and are not advocates of your cause. Hire an expert car accident claims lawyer in California to obtain the compensation you deserve. At Mesriani Law Group, you’ll find the best car accident attorneys in Los Angeles who will champion your case on a No Win, No Fee basis. Schedule a free consultation today.