To settle a car accident claim for a personal injury or injuries, you must know what the claim is worth, you must have persuasive evidence in support of your claim, and you must have a car accident lawyer in Fresno who has abundant experience negotiating with auto insurance companies.
What does it take to settle a personal injury claim after a traffic accident – and to obtain the compensation you need to cover your medical expenses and replace your lost wages?
The first and most important thing to know about personal injuries in California is that if you are injured by a negligent driver on a California street or highway, after you’ve been examined by a medical professional, you must take the case to a skilled auto collision attorney.
WHAT ARE YOU ENTITLED TO AS AN INJURED VICTIM OF NEGLIGENCE?
Your lawyer will explain your rights and options. If you’ve been injured by a negligent driver, filing a personal injury claim may be your best option for obtaining the compensation you need – the compensation that injured victims of negligence are entitled to by California law.
You’ll have a better chance of settling your personal injury claim quickly – and obtaining the compensation that you need – if you have strong evidence that supports your claim.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU’RE IN A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT?
This means – provided that you’re not incapacitated or knocked unconscious in a traffic crash – you’ll need to think clearly and gather some evidence at the accident scene. Here’s what you should do:
- Summon the police. Ask the officers how and when you can obtain a copy of their written accident report.
- Take photographs of the general accident site, the damage to the vehicles, and your own injuries to the extent that those injuries are visible.
- If there were eyewitnesses, try to obtain their names and telephone numbers or another way to contact them.
- Scan the area for retailers or others who may have a security camera that captured the accident on video. Tell your attorney if you believe that video of the crash may exist.
HOW WILL CAR CRASH LAW FIRMS IN CA HELP YOU?
Your injury attorney may seek assistance from an accident reconstruction specialist to establish exactly what happened and who’s liable. A medical expert may also be asked for a statement regarding the extent of your personal injury or injuries and your prognosis for recovery.
When your losses have been added up, and all of the evidence has been compiled, a personal injury lawyer can determine the value of your personal injury claim – the amount that you’ll seek in the settlement negotiations.
That amount will be based on your quantifiable economic losses – like medical bills and lost wages – as well as your “non-economic” damages like personal pain and suffering. Attorneys use several widely-accepted formulas to determine the “value” of your pain and suffering.
Additionally, your attorney will consider previous settlement amounts and jury awards in cases that are similar to yours.
WHAT COMPENSATION CAN YOU SEEK WITH A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM?
In California, injured victims of negligence are entitled to compensation for current and future accident-related medical expenses, for lost wages and lost future earnings capacity, for personal pain and suffering, and for all other losses and damages arising from the accident and injury.
Under California law, if anyone is injured (or killed) in a traffic collision, the collision must be reported to the local police or the California Highway Patrol within twenty-four hours. Don’t wait even one hour. If you’re injured, summon the police immediately to the accident scene.
The written police report of an accident provides the facts and details that your accident claim – or any legal action that you subsequently take – will be based on. Make sure that you ask the officer or officers when the report will be made available and how you can acquire a copy.
Additionally, in California, traffic accidents must be reported within ten days to the California Department of Motor Vehicles if anyone died – or was even slightly injured – or if the crash caused property damage in excess of $750.
HOW IMPORTANT IS EVIDENCE IN SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATIONS?
How the settlement negotiations proceed will depend in part on the evidence. Persuasive photographs, video evidence, and eyewitness or expert statements that offer strong support for your injury claim can mean a quick settlement without acrimony or contention.
But if your claim is disputed – if the other driver charges that you were, in fact, the at-fault driver in the accident, or if the insurance company claims that you are exaggerating the extent of your injuries – negotiations may continue for weeks or even months.
Some insurance companies will offer you a quick, “lowball” settlement offer immediately after an accident – sometimes before you’re able to consult an accident attorney. It’s always a good idea to reject that first offer – and then to refer the insurance company to your attorney.
When a settlement offer is made during negotiations, your lawyer will explain the details and will recommend that you accept or reject the offer. It’s imperative to consider your lawyer’s advice, but the decision to accept or reject a settlement offer is the injury victim’s decision.
WHAT AUTO INSURANCE COVERAGE DOES CALIFORNIA REQUIRE?
California law requires motorists to carry minimum auto liability coverage that includes:
- $5,000 for property damages
- $15,000 for the death or injury of one person
- $30,000 total for the deaths or injuries of multiple persons
If you’ve sustained a catastrophic injury and/or you’re dealing with a permanent disability, you will need the maximum available compensation – and maybe more. Your personal injury lawyer will identify every potential compensation source and will hold every liable party accountable.
Most personal injury claims in California are resolved out-of-court, and most settlement negotiations are routine. In most cases, your attorney will be able to resolve your claim – and obtain your compensation – in just weeks.
WHAT IF NEGOTIATIONS CANNOT RESOLVE YOUR CLAIM?
It’s rare when a personal injury claim arising from a traffic accident goes to trial. If you do not receive an acceptable settlement offer within a reasonable period of time, however, your attorney may recommend taking your case to court and asking a jury to order your compensation.
If that should happen, once again, you should heed your lawyer’s advice and insights, but the decision to go to trial will be yours alone.
If you have been injured by a negligent driver in California, seek medical attention first. That’s the top priority. Then arrange to meet with an experienced Fresno personal injury attorney.
WHAT WILL IT COST YOU TO SEEK JUSTICE?
Your first consultation with an accident lawyer is free, and there’s no obligation. You’ll learn exactly where you stand legally, and your attorney will recommend the best way to move forward.
If you file a personal injury claim, you’ll pay no attorney’s fee until compensation is recovered through a settlement or a jury verdict.
If you are the injured victim of a negligent driver, speaking to a good personal injury attorney – as quickly as possible – is your right, and it’s the right thing to do.