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  • By: David Kaufman, Esq.
  • Published: February 5, 2024
2 damaged vehicles, busy street, concerned onlookers In California - Law Offices of David A. Kaufman, APC.

Bang. Crash. Your life just changed in the split second it took for two vehicles to crash into each other. If you are fortunate enough to walk away from your car wreck in California, chances are you may have sustained one or more serious injuries. This article explains what you need to do and understand if you want to recover compensation for your injury through a personal injury claim, including:

  • The steps you should take immediately after being injured in a California car accident.
  • The timeline and procedures for filing a personal injury claim for compensation after a wreck.
  • How factors like your driving record or seatbelt status can impact your personal injury claim.

I Was Injured In A Car Accident In California – Now What?

Getting in any sort of car crash is stressful. Even if you were not injured, your day just got ruined. But if you were injured, it becomes all the more important for you to keep your cool.

Soon, you will need to bring forward a strong personal injury claim if you want to cover the substantial medical costs coming your way – and that means being very careful and thorough after the car crash. Fortunately, even before you speak to a local personal injury attorney, you can help secure your case by taking the following steps.

What Steps Do I Need To Take If I Want To File A Personal Injury Claim?

After a collision, even one without an injury, you might want to take most or all of the following steps to protect yourself and secure an honest account of what happened. But doing so becomes vital if you or a loved one were injured in a car accident.

  1. Step 1: Call the authorities and emergency services. Even if injuries do not seem substantial, having medical responders record them can be vital. Similarly, the police report of the accident will be helpful when establishing fault and causality for the personal injury claim.
  2. Step 2: Document the scene. Take pictures of the cars, the environment where the accident occurred, and any injuries.
  3. Step 3: Gather information. From the insurance information of the other driver(s) involved to the contact information of witnesses who were present at the scene, make sure you take down everyone’s information.
  4. Step 4: Get medical attention. If you have any sort of injury, even if it seems mild at first, it is vital to have it assessed and documented by medical professionals. Do not delay going to the doctor; any delay can be used by insurance companies to undermine your claim.
  5. Step 5: Contact a personal injury attorney. If you have not yet contacted a lawyer, it is time to do so. Not only will a lawyer be able to help you through every other step, but the earlier they begin to prepare and strengthen your personal injury claim, the better your chances of a swift and successful claim.

Your attorney will be able to answer your pressing questions, such as where and how to get your car repaired, or what happens if you have to miss work. With sources of stress building up, it is important to have someone on your side to help you reduce the pressure and bear the load.

A personal injury attorney can even help you obtain the medical care you need after a car accident injury, even when you might not otherwise be able to pay for it.

How Can I Get Medical Care After An Accident If I Cannot Afford It?

The personal injury claim system allows injured drivers and passengers like you to collect compensation from those whose negligence or recklessness caused your injury. But that compensation, even in the best of cases, is not going to arrive overnight. How will you access the medical care you need in the meantime?

If you are fortunate enough to have a great and cooperative insurance policy, your medical insurance may cover some of the costs. But for those who do not, already often the most vulnerable, it can feel like a hopeless situation.

Fortunately, while working with you on your personal injury claim for compensation, an attorney can also help you find doctors who will accept to work on lien. This means the doctors and surgeons agree to be paid only later, once your personal injury settlement or claim pays out.

That is just one small part of what a personal injury attorney will do for your claim. They will also help you understand your situation and how strong or limited your claim for compensation after a car accident is.

What Factors Will Influence My California Car Accident Personal Injury Claim?

No two accidents are identical. From the circumstances to the injuries involved, each case is subtly different. As a result, it is nearly impossible to predict precise personal injury claim outcomes (and you should be suspicious of any attorney who tries to do so).

But some factors certainly pull or push the results in distinct directions. For this reason, it is important to understand how specific elements can influence the outcome of your personal injury claim after a car accident in California.

How Will Partial Fault For The Car Accident Impact My California Auto Accident Injury Claim?

In an ideal situation, the blame will be 100% clear and 100% on the other driver(s) involved. For example, if someone ran a red light or a stop sign, or rear-ended you at one, the fault is clear. In the legal world, such cases are called “no liability dispute” claims, which means the other party has accepted responsibility for the crash, and lawyers love them.

Unfortunately, in the real world, cases are not always so obviously cut and dry. Sometimes, you or the other driver may feel you were partially at fault for the accident. Fortunately, Under California law, it is possible for you to have some of the blame for the accident and still recover damages and compensation.

This is called comparative fault, and it means you will still get compensation for your injury, but it will be reduced by the amount of blame you bear for the accident. This assumes, of course, that you are not the one primarily responsible for the crash.

For example, if it is determined that you are 40% responsible for the accident because you were speeding when another car ran a light and hit you, you will only receive 60% of what you would have received had you been blameless.

Will A Bad Driving Record Hurt My California Injury Car Accident Claim?

As long as you have a legal license, it doesn’t matter how bad of a driver you were in the past; only your behavior directly leading up to and during the crash matters.

However, if you have recently been in some other accident, the insurance company you are up against for this accident’s personal injury claim may try to attribute blame on the other crash, which is why you will need a strong personal injury attorney on your side.

Am I Required To Wear A Seat Belt? Will My Claim Be Denied If I Was Not Wearing One?

Seat belt laws exist for a reason. Wearing your seatbelt will substantially reduce your chances of deadly or life-threatening injuries in many car accident scenarios. So yes, you have to wear it.

However, just because you happened not to be, that does not mean you are entirely responsible for your injuries. Failing to do so, or doing anything else risky, like taking out the headrests in your car, would be considered relevant for the comparative fault rules mentioned above.

Thus, not taking appropriate precautions, like wearing your seat belt, won’t invalidate your claim, but it probably would reduce the amount of compensation you are able to obtain.

If I Was Hit By An Uninsured Or Underinsured Driver, Can I Still Get Financial Compensation?

While it is a legal requirement for all drivers in California to have insurance, the sad reality is that all too many do not. And even when they do, they might not have a large enough insurance policy to cover the high costs of certain serious and/or long-term injuries. These cases are respectively called uninsured and underinsured motorists, and they can make recovering a full and fair amount of compensation difficult.

Fortunately, in California, insurance companies offer uninsured motorist coverage, often abbreviated as UIM coverage. If your car insurance policy includes UIM coverage, then you will be able to recover up to the limit of that policy. The larger it is, the more likely it is to cover all of the costs you need personal injury compensation for.

How Long After A Car Wreck Do I Have To File A Personal Injury Claim In California?

California has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims; this means that, in theory, you have up to two years after the accident to make your claim. However, just because you have that long doesn’t mean you should wait.

For one thing, there are exceptions if the accident was caused by a government entity, for example, because of road work issues or a government driver on duty. Thanks to the Government Tort Claims Act, you only have six months to present a claim to the appropriate government entity, and then six months after they issue a determination on that to either file suit or accept whatever they offered.

Even if you do have the full two years, though, the earlier you begin, the stronger your case will often be. Evidence will be fresher and easier to recover, witnesses will still remember the incident, and so forth. There will also be less time for other accidents or injuries to complicate questions of causality, which an insurance company can use against you.

On the other hand, if you are facing an uninsured motorist claim, you have longer. The UIM policy will not vest until you settle the third-party claim.

At that point, you would have the same two-year statute of limitations from whenever the underinsured uninsured motorist claim vested to. Typically, UIM claims in California are resolved through arbitration, so you would have to demand arbitration within that time frame.

One thing is clear, however: the earlier after your accident you reach out to a personal injury attorney to start building your case and claim, the better your chances are of recovering full and fair financial compensation for your injuries. For more information on Car Accident Injury Claims In California, an initial consultation is your next best step.

Attorney David Kaufman has many areas of proficiency, the first and foremost of which is personal injury representation – where he serves injured accident victims in La Jolla and surrounding areas of California. Attorney Kaufman brings an impressive ease with words to the explanation of a complex and emotionally difficult field, helping accident victims understand how to recover their sanity as well as substantial financial compensation

Connect with the Law Offices of David A Kaufman, APC for keen-minded and easy-to-follow insights on how to navigate the field of personal injury law in California.

Call For A Free Consultation - (619) 612-5554.

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