When you are involved in a car accident, your world can feel like it is crumbling. Not only do you have to worry about replacing a damaged vehicle, but you may also have to worry about your health, the capacity to work, and the financial fallout after the accident.
Nevertheless, obtaining detailed answers to your specific questions and concerns can be as easy as picking up the phone and calling an experienced personal injury lawyer. In this article, we will discuss and answer some frequently asked questions regarding filing a car accident claim in California.
What Are the Requirements for Filing a Lawsuit After a Car Accident?
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident in California, you may or may not have a case to file a lawsuit in the courts for compensation. In order to sue someone in court, you must demonstrate that you incurred damages due to another driver's negligence. The damages can be emotional damages, physical damages, and any damage to your vehicle or property. Negligence can be established if the other driver did not act with a standard of care and violated the rules of the road, such as by drinking and driving, speeding, or failing to yield.
Should I Simply Take What the Insurance Company Offers Me?
Unless the damages are something as insignificant as a ding in your door or a scuffed bumper, you should never accept less than full compensation for your injuries. If you accept the offer, you cannot sue for any further compensation related to the accident. In fact, you should not even discuss your claims with the insurance company, sign anything, or provide them with any evidence of your injuries without first consulting an experienced car accident attorney.
When Should I File a Lawsuit?
In California, you have 2 years from the day of the accident to file a lawsuit in the courts. If you don't file a lawsuit in this timeframe, you will be unable to claim any damages ever again. While there are exceptions, the exceptions are very difficult to prove in a car accident case. Even if the insurance company actively misleads you in writing to believe that you have more time, you must still demonstrate that you never second-guessed their false representations.
Will I Have to Attend Court Proceedings?
Approximately 96 percent of personal injury claims are settled before trial. In most cases, the defendant is an insurance company that recognizes a fault and the reality of paying more if they go to trial. The cases that do go to trial are those which the insurance companies believe they will win. Not surprisingly, most of these cases lose at trial. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that you will ever have to go to court in-person to litigate your case. While your personal injury attorney will do everything in their power to ensure the insurance company pays up before trial, your attorney should also be prepared to defend your rights in court if it comes to it.
What Is the Outcome If the Driver Is Uninsured or Underinsured?
You may still be able to bring a claim against the driver and collect compensation off of them. However, you will not be able to bring a joint claim for compensation under your own insurance unless you have underinsured or uninsured driver insurance. This special coverage is important when you consider the high percentage of cases that are caused by unlicensed and uninsured drivers.
Furthermore, the caps on compensation at state minimums of basic coverage may not cover all your expenses and can lead to headaches when the defendant is not financially solvent. This is why it’s important to always be prepared with the proper insurance in case you are involved in an accident with someone who is uninsured or underinsured.
What Happens If I Was Partly At Fault in the Accident?
If you were partly responsible for your own injuries or failed to mitigate the damage, you may be held jointly liable under the theories of pure comparative negligence, as is the law in California. In a case of comparative negligence, the defendant is immune from damages if a jury finds that you were at least 50% responsible for your own injuries. This can occur, for example, when you both failed to stop at an intersection because you both were confused about who had the right of way.
In a case where you suddenly decided to make a turn without lengthy indications from your turn signals a few hundred feet before, you may be held 10 percent liable if the defendant was speeding and hit you. In this situation, your damages would be reduced by 10 percent under the theory of contributory negligence. In determining fault when both parties had done something wrong, the jury should logically weigh the severity of the driving infractions to determine who is most at fault.
Will I Have to File an Appeal?
It is highly unlikely that you will have to file an appeal in your case. Because most cases are settled before trial, there is nothing to appeal. A settlement agreement would eliminate the need for an appeal because an appeal is mostly related to trial errors and improper rulings by the court. If you are in a rare situation where an appeal is filed, you can expect the case to drag out longer.
Contact an Experienced California Personal Injury Attorney
Just like each car accident itself, each personal injury case involves unique facts and circumstances. Your personal injury should be able to look at the evidence and use the law to properly determine and show liability in order to help you obtain fair and full compensation for your injuries. If you live in the Southern California area, do not hesitate to contact McGee, Lerer & Associates for effective and passionate legal representation. We have over 40 years of experience helping injury victims obtain the compensation they need to heal. Let us put our experience to work for you so you can focus on moving forward.
Contact our firm at (310) 231-9717 for a free consultation to discuss your case!