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How Does Accident Compensation Work In California?

Skilled auto accident attorneys break down the intricacies of the compensation process

During your typical day, you usually aren't thinking about your car insurance policy. You probably still aren't thinking about it on your commute home when a loud crash interrupts the melodic sounds of your favorite radio station, or when your seatbelt prevents your head from hitting the steering wheel. Now your mind is riddled with the anxiety and stress that dealing with a car crash brings: the medical bills, the lost income, and dozens of other expenses. What do you do now?

The skills and assets of Ardalan & Associates can help you. Our team of highly experienced attorneys is ready to assist with finding the way to your financial compensation, and your peace of mind. Since the process of understanding California's accident compensation rules can be tricky, here's what you should know.

California observes pure comparative negligence

This means that responsibility for the accident is divided between both parties involved, and the amount of the claim recovered is dependent on the amount of fault each driver is found for. For example, if someone was changing lanes without a blinker and hit you, they are responsible for your damages and may be found at 100% fault. However, if you were speeding, you run the risk of being assigned a percentage of the blame. They may be found 80% at fault for the accident, but argue your speeding aided in causing the crash. You may be 20% responsible. Thus, you will receive a settlement or verdict, but 20% of your compensation will be deducted from the total amount to account for your share of the accident.

What should I do after the accident?

Time is of the essence when it comes to the aftermath of a car accident. To protect your rights and help ensure that you are adequately taken care of, there are a few things you should act on as soon as possible.

  • Seek medical attention. Even if you feel fine after the accident, internal injuries can take days to make themselves apparent, so it's always best to err on the side of caution. Your insurance company will want to know if you have been evaluated by a medical professional. Neglecting to see one, or waiting too long, can work against you.
  • File an insurance claim with your insurance as soon as possible-this is called a first party claim. In addition, you may want to contact the at-fault driver's insurance company. Waiting too long to file increases the chance of your claim being denied.

In addition to any physical injuries sustained, it's hard to put a measure on the emotional suffering that the stress of the accident may have caused you.  Your car is damaged, you may be injured and thus miss work and lose wages, confined to being in pain for an indefinite amount of time. Your daily routine is now interrupted, and you're left with a mountain of paperwork to sift through. Emotional damage is a very real, valid claim to pursue. In addition to interfering with your mental functionality, stress takes a toll on the body as well. Headaches, body aches, loss of sleep, an upset stomach and chest pain are only a few of the physical effects that stress can have on the body, interrupting the period of recovery you are entitled to.

What does filing a claim entitle me to?

Filing a first party claim means that the claim is between you and your insurance company.

  • Collision coverage covers the cost of damage to your vehicle.
  • Medical payments coverage takes care of your medical bills up to the limit of your policy. This includes ER visits, follow-up appointments with your PCP, and any medication you may be given.

What does insurance cover?

Your insurance should be able to alleviate a sum of the emotional stress that the accident has caused. In California, there are several types of insurance you must be offered, but you aren't obligated to purchase all of them. These can relieve the burden of dealing with the aftermath of an accident substantially.

  • Physical Damage Coverage can help pay for the repairs to your car that are sustained by a collision.
  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage is extremely important in a state like California. If the at-fault driver possesses the minimum amount of coverage, and the cost of your damages exceed their coverage, this type of coverage will provide additional compensation. This is an optional type of insurance.

California's laws and financial responsibility requirements

According to California state law, drivers must possess insurance. There are several ways to be in compliance with the law. At minimum, drivers must carry 15k in personal injury insurance for one person, 5k for property, and 30k for injury to more than one person. This can be done through private insurance companies, or California residents who qualify can elect to purchase insurance through a program set up for low-income drivers. Drivers who care to do neither can put down a $35,000 deposit with the Department of Motor Vehicles and receive a certificate of self-insurance.

What happens to me if the other driver is underinsured or uninsured?

Technically, no driver in the state of California should be without motor vehicle insurance. Driving without insurance is against the law, and without insurance the driver at-fault would be responsible for your compensation on a personal level. If you are hit by an uninsured driver, you are completely within your rights to retain an attorney and file a lawsuit to help get financial compensation from the driver's assets - but bear in mind that this will only work if the other driver has significant assets to recover, which most uninsured drivers do not.

Under your insurance policy, things like your medical bills and collision coverage should still come into play and assist you if you have that coverage. Moreover, if you have uninsured and underinsured motorist protection, you can file a claim with your own insurance company. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, there may be other avenues of compensation as well. If you are in an accident, you deserve to recover the entirety of what you are owed, and you need an experienced attorney's help.

A skilled legal team can help you recover

You already have enough to deal with in the often complicated process of filing an accident claim, and insurance companies are rarely on the injured person's side. Your claim may be denied, and you may be treated like just another claim number waiting for the phone to ring as they delay contacting you.

Don't risk having your voice be lost and your case neglected. You need an attorney who will advocate for victims and pay close attention to your unique case. Located in Woodland Hills, the attorneys at Ardalan & Associates can help you achieve peace of mind knowing someone is on your side. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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