California is a fault-based car accident state, meaning that negligent drivers are financially responsible for their victims’ losses. Through a car accident claim, you can recover damages like medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
If you are filing a claim, you may wonder how the car accident settlement process works. This process involves more than submitting paperwork to an insurance company—depending on the complexity of your accident, you may need to engage in negotiations, escalate your claim to a lawsuit, and enter the courtroom. In these situations, it is important to have an attorney on your side.
Investigating the Car Accident
After a California car accident, you typically have two options to recover compensation for your injuries. You can file an insurance claim against the at-fault driver, or you can file a personal injury lawsuit against him or her in civil court. Most car accident claims begin in the insurance stage before escalating to a lawsuit if the insurance claim is denied or the settlement is insufficient to meet your needs.
Before you can file your claim, however, you will need to gather evidence about your accident. Your car accident lawyer will investigate your claim and monitor your medical records as you recover from your injuries. As soon as you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) and you have a better understanding of your injuries, damages, and long-term needs, your lawyer will initiate your claim.
Filing an Insurance Claim
If you file an insurance claim after your accident, you will submit information about the collision to the at-fault party’s insurance company. A representative will be assigned to your claim and conduct an investigation. At the conclusion of your case, the representative will determine whether or not you qualify for compensation and the value of your settlement.
Insurance claims typically take a few months to reach a conclusion. During this process, your lawyer will submit evidence and negotiate with the representative to secure the highest possible settlement. If you do not receive a settlement or if it is too low to meet your needs, your lawyer will either appeal the decision or file a lawsuit.
Entering the Car Accident Lawsuit Process
Before your attorney files a lawsuit in California civil court, he or she may choose to send a demand letter to the at-fault driver outlining your intent to file a claim and requesting a negotiation. If you engage in these negotiations, you may reach a settlement before filing a lawsuit. If these discussions are unsuccessful or either party chooses not to negotiate, your lawyer will file your lawsuit.
After filing your claim, you and your attorney will enter the discovery process and exchange information with the at-fault party. This phase can take six months to one year to conclude. Before trial, you may engage in negotiations with the at-fault party again and attempt to reach an agreement. If these negotiations are successful, your case will conclude before going to trial.
If these discussions are unsuccessful or do not take place, your case will enter the courtroom. The court will hear evidence from both parties and determine who is at fault for the accident. At the conclusion of your case, the court will decide whether to award a settlement and the amount of compensation you should receive.
If you are filing a car accident claim, it is important to have an attorney on your side. Your lawyer can represent you throughout your claim and help you recover the compensation you deserve.