I was in a car accident. What should I do?
If you have been in an accident and think you may need legal help, contact a personal injury lawyer right away. We recommend that you do not speak with the insurance company directly or provide any recorded statements until you have legal representation.
By seeking professional help from the beginning, your claim is likely going to be more successful and much less stressful for you and your family. Insurance companies, even your own, are not on your side and their goal is to pay you as little as possible.
6 things to do after a vehicle accident:
- If you are injured, get medical treatment as soon as possible. Do not wait to see a doctor.
- Get the contact information, insurance information, license plate numbers, and driver’s license numbers of the other people involved in the accident. The police may not write a report for every accident so do your best to collect this information for your insurance claim.
- Collect names of witnesses while they are still present at the accident. If needed, they may be willing to make a statement in your favor.
- Take photographs of your car, the other vehicles involved, and the whole scene of the accident if possible, and if it is safe to do so.
- If your vehicle is severely damaged or unsafe to drive after the accident, it may be towed by the police or Highway Patrol to a holding area. Try to get your car out of the tow yard as soon as possible to avoid paying daily storage fees.
- You can contact your insurance company to report the accident. However, many car accident lawyers advise that you have your attorney on the phone with you before you give an official statement, which includes specific information about what happened in the accident and your injuries.
What type of insurance do I have?
Insurance coverage rules can be very confusing on top of the stress you are already dealing with after being injured in an accident. What you will need to do is ask your own insurance company for your Declaration Page, which should list all of the coverage you pay for on each of your vehicles.
Here are some common terms:
Liability coverage is mandatory in California. Every driver must have at least $15k/$30k in Bodily Injury coverage and $5k in Property Damage coverage. This means that if you cause an accident, your insurance will pay each person hurt up to $15k each or up to $30k total if there are more than two injured parties. Your insurance will also pay them up to $5k total for their damaged vehicles, towing bills, and rental car expenses. Liability coverage will not pay for damage to your vehicle.
Collision (Comprehensive Collision) is optional in California and will pay for your car repairs or replacement regardless of who is at fault for the accident. Your insurance company will require you to pay your deductible if you elect to have your vehicle repaired or replaced under your Collision coverage. If you are not at fault for the accident, your deductible should be paid back by the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Medical Payments / PIP
This coverage is optional in California and will pay for your out of pocket medical bills regardless of who is at fault for causing an accident. Coverage is typically available in amounts of $1,000 and up depending on your budget. Please ask about Subrogation Rights if you receive a settlement from the at-fault driver for these same medical bills. Some medical payments require that you use private health insurance first if you have it.
This type of coverage is also optional in California and will pay for your bodily injury claims if someone else causes the car accident that has no insurance, or has insurance coverage that doesn’t fully cover your medical bills as well as pain and suffering claims. Making a claim under your Uninsured coverage should not raise your insurance rates if you were not at fault for the accident. It does not cover your property damage, only bodily injury.
What if I do not have vehicle insurance?
It is illegal to drive in California without at least liability insurance. Your driver’s license may be suspended for a year if you are reported to the DMV. If you are in an accident that is not your fault while having no insurance, you still have the right to have your car repaired or replaced, and your medical expenses paid by the at-fault driver or their insurance company. However, you do not have the right to receive pain and suffering damages no matter how severe your injuries. (Exceptions apply if your were hit by a drunk driver)
How long will my personal injury auto claim take?
A typical auto accident bodily injury claim can take between 6 to 18 months to settle depending on your injuries, insurance policy, and liability disputes. The property damage portion of a claim, such as getting your car fixed, typically takes a few weeks depending on the amount of damage.
What can I recover from a car accident claim?
- rental car costs
- property damage
- medical bills
- last earnings
- pain & suffering
Why does Medicare/Medi-cal/Healthcare Provider want to know about my car accident?
Most health insurance companies have a right to reimbursement for the medical treatment that they have paid for as part of the settlement. You are only required to reimburse your health insurance if you get a settlement from the at-fault driver or party. Typically, your health insurance will also only request that you pay back a partial amount because they understand that you have hired an attorney in order to reach a settlement.
What is a Contingency Fee?
Most personal injury attorneys are paid for their work on a case through a Contingency Fee Agreement. This means that the attorney only gets paid once they have obtained a settlement for you. If there is no settlement money awarded to you, there is no payment for the attorney. This type of agreement is beneficial for clients who cannot afford to pay an attorney upfront for their services. Most contingency fee agreements range between 33% to 50% of the total settlement amount.