The California Highway Patrol reported that more than 223,000 people were injured in California car accidents during 2013 alone. With statistics like these, it’s important to make sure you are prepared in the event that you or a loved one is ever seriously hurt in a crash or collision. If you are ever injured in a vehicular accident, you may be able to get compensated for your medical bills by filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company, or by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the careless driver. Ventura personal injury lawyers explain when to file an accident claim or lawsuit after getting injured in a car crash, with some background information about how car insurance works in California.
California Auto Insurance Laws
California is not a no-fault state for car insurance. Like most, it is a fault state. So what does that mean for drivers, and how does it affect the victim of a car accident?
When a crash occurs in California, the person who was injured may wish to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company if the other driver was at fault for the accident. If the claimant can prove that the other driver caused the crash, he or she can recover compensation up to the limits of the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy.
Many car accident claims are ultimately settled out of court. However, the injury victim may wish to file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver in a situation where:
- The at-fault driver’s insurance company refuses to settle.
- His or her medical bills exceed the limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.
In addition to suing the other driver or filing a third-party car insurance claim, the injury victim may be able to get additional compensation by filing a first-party claim with his or her own insurer – for instance, a UM/UIM claim. UM/UIM coverage (Uninsured Motorist/Underinsured Motorist) is designed to help bridge the financial gap between an at-fault driver’s inadequate (or nonexistent) insurance coverage, and a crash victim’s medical expenses.
California’s Financial Responsibility Law requires all drivers to purchase liability insurance, which pays for the other person’s expenses if the policyholder causes an accident, up to the policy limits. California’s minimum liability insurance coverage requirements are:
- $15,000 for death or injury (per person)
- $30,000 for death or injury (per accident)
- $5,000 for property damage
This is sometimes written as “15/30/5.”
Even if the injury victim was partially at fault for the accident, he or she may still be able to get compensated under California’s comparative negligence doctrine. However, the award will be reduced to match the plaintiff’s degree of fault – for example, a 25% reduction for being 25% at fault.
How Much Time Do You Have to File a Claim for a Car Accident in California?
Even if you think that you may have been partly at fault for your own accident, you still have a right to pursue fair compensation for your injuries. Do not let concerns about partial fault hold you back from discussing your legal situation with a Ventura car accident lawyer. If another driver’s careless actions contributed to your injuries, you deserve to seek the financial compensation to which you are entitled.
The question is, when should you begin that process? The answer depends on whether you are filing an insurance claim or filing a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who struck you.
- How long do you have to file a car accident claim in California? Though medical treatment should take top priority following a crash, you should report a car accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Once you are in stable condition, you should promptly notify both your insurer and the other driver’s insurer of the accident. If you fail to report the accident within the time limit specified in your policy, where such time limit is provided, the insurance company may refuse to cover your expenses. Before you accept a settlement offer or even file a claim, you should consult with an attorney about your legal rights, the claims process, and the potential worth of your injury. Insurance companies frequently try to settle claims for less than they are worth, so it is generally advisable to avoid taking the first offer you receive.
- How long do you have to file a personal injury lawsuit in California? The answer to this question is determined by the statute of limitations, which is the deadline on filing a lawsuit. California has a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury cases, which means the victim generally has two years from the date of injury to bring an action. Though the statute of limitations technically grants plaintiffs two years, it is advisable to start preparing each case as early as possible, ideally long before the statute expires. Even if the statute still has some time remaining, getting too late of a start can weaken the case, sometimes with dire consequences for the victim.
Ventura Personal Injury Lawyers Handling Car Accident Claims
If you or a loved one was injured in an automotive accident in Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Santa Maria, Lompoc, Simi Valley, Camarillo, Goleta, Orcutt, Moorpark, or anywhere else in Ventura or Santa Barbara Counties, it is in your best interests to contact a car accident lawyer, motorcycle accident lawyer, or truck accident lawyer to assist with your claim. For a free and confidential legal consultation with an experienced auto accident attorney serving Southern California, call The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC at (805) 643-5555 right away.