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Navigating Insurance Claims in California

Published December 14, 2023 by Harker Injury Law

Navigating California Insurance Claims

Accidents and injuries can happen unexpectedly, leaving you with physical pain, emotional distress, and financial burdens. To ensure you recover compensation for injuries, personal property damage, lost wages, and more, it’s ideal to understand the insurance claim process.

When communicating with the insurance company after an accident, you must be prepared. In this article, we will discuss the California insurance claims process and the keys to communicating with the insurer.

At Harker Injury Law, we have many years of experience helping clients file personal injury claims and receive compensation for their injuries. Our compassionate and experienced lawyers are here to navigate you through this challenging time and protect your legal rights. Complete the contact form here on our website to schedule your free case evaluation.

What Is an Insurance Claim?

An insurance claim is a formal request from a policyholder to the insurance company for coverage of a loss or event covered by his or her policy. One of the most common reasons to file a claim is after a car accident.

If you hold an insurance policy and suffered damages within your coverage limits, you can contact your insurance company to initiate a claim. Typically, you would inform your insurer of the accident by phone or online, but many insurance companies these days offer an app that allows you to complete an accident report right from your smartphone.

The insurance company will either validate the claim, ask for more information, or deny the claim outright. If the claim is approved, the insurer will issue payment to the insured party or approved interested party on behalf of the insured.

While it is important to notify your insurer that you were involved in an accident, it is recommended to consult a personal injury lawyer before contacting your insurance company. A lawyer can handle all communication and negotiation with the insurance company on your behalf.

Filing an Auto Insurance Claim When Another Driver Is At Fault

If you were involved in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, your damages should be covered by the other driver’s insurance company. Typically, you will not need to file a car accident claim with the other driver’s insurance company yourself.

After contacting your car insurance company to notify them of the accident, your insurer will contact the other party’s insurance provider and work with them to determine liability.

Gathering the following information from the at-fault driver at the crash scene can help expedite the car accident claims process:

  • Name, address, and phone number
  • License and registration information
  • Make, model, and color of the vehicle
  • Car insurance information

Remember: Insurance companies generally put profits ahead of people. So don’t let the adjusters take advantage of you.

Instead of handling your insurance claim yourself, let a personal injury lawyer communicate with the insurer on your behalf. Your lawyer can make sure that you are not bulldozed over by ruthless insurers who minimize or deny payouts.

Steps When Filing an Insurance Claim in California After Being Injured by Someone Else’s Negligence

If you were injured in an accident caused by someone else’s actions (or inactions), you have multiple avenues to compensation. Rather than just filing a claim with your personal insurance provider, California law allows you to pursue compensation from the at-fault party.

California personal injury laws exist to compensate people who are injured by another party, even if it was unintentional. We all owe a duty of care to the people around us. When someone acts negligently or recklessly, he or she breaches that duty and may have to compensate others for the harm caused.

The following are some important steps to take when filing an insurance or personal injury claim.

Seek medical attention

You should seek medical care immediately following your accident or upon discovering your injury.

There are two reasons why: First of all, your health and well-being are your top priority. Second, your medical treatment records are essential to your insurance claim.

Your records can be used as evidence, proving that you sought medical attention for your injuries. You will likely need to provide copies of your medical records to the insurance company and the defendant in your personal injury case.

Failure to get immediate medical treatment after an accident can give the other party an opportunity to argue that your injuries are not as severe as you claim.

Gather evidence

Solid evidence is essential to determining liability and is needed to build a strong insurance claim. Try to gather as much evidence as possible before filing your claim.

Evidence commonly examined in insurance claims includes:

  • Photos of your injuries, the accident scene, property damage, weather or property conditions, the surrounding area, and anything else that seems relevant
  • Witness statements and contact information from anyone who was at the scene saw the incident
  • Copies of medical records and any other necessary documentation
  • Video footage from dash cams or surveillance cameras in the area
  • Copies of any medical bills, receipts, and payments related to the accident

Report the accident

If your injury occurred in a car accident or on someone else’s property, be sure to report the incident. Property-related accidents such as slips and falls should be reported to the property owner or manager right away.

In the event of a motor vehicle accident, contact local law enforcement. An officer will be dispatched to the accident scene to complete a police report. Be sure to obtain a copy of the police report, as this may be used as evidence when you go to file your insurance claim.

Document your losses

In order to accurately calculate the cash value of your insurance claim, you must document all your injuries and losses. Keep in mind that, in California, damages can include economic losses like medical expenses and non-economic losses such as pain and suffering.

Keep a record of every medical bill, payment, out-of-pocket expense, payment stub, and repair estimate – perhaps among other relevant documents. You may also want to write down detailed information about how your injuries have impacted your daily life and any emotional distress you have been experiencing since the accident. All such information can be useful in supporting your insurance claim.

File a car accident claim

If the individual or party who caused your accident is insured, you will likely pursue compensation through their insurance company before filing a personal injury lawsuit.

You may be able to recover compensation from the following types of insurance policies:

  • Auto insurance
  • Homeowner’s policy
  • Medical malpractice coverage
  • Corporate insurance
  • Umbrella insurance

Negotiate a settlement

When negotiating a settlement, remember that the other party’s insurance provider is not on your side. The goal of the insurance agent is to get you to settle for as low of an amount as possible. They may use tactics such as blaming you for the accident in an effort to deny or devalue your claim.

Many make the wise choice to hire a personal injury lawyer to file their claims and handle negotiations with the insurance adjuster. Having an experienced attorney representing you strengthens your position during negotiations.

Benefits of Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney to Help File Your Insurance Claim

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 40 million people visit the emergency room to get medical treatment for injuries annually. Are you among this number facing the high ER and ambulance bills?

After being injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, you have the right to pursue compensation for your injuries.

While you can pursue an insurance claim to recover compensation from the at-fault party on your own, there are many benefits to consulting and hiring a personal injury attorney. Consider some of the following.

Negotiation skills

Personal injury lawyers have extensive experience in negotiating with insurance companies. Their negotiation skills can help you secure a higher claim settlement than you might achieve on your own.

Typically, insurance adjusters are more inclined to offer a fair settlement when going up against a lawyer – who understands the true value of his or her client’s claim.

Protection from insurance company’s bad faith tactics

After your claim is filed with your insurance provider, an adjuster will be assigned to investigate your case. You may receive phone calls from the insurance company and feel pressured to accept a low settlement. The claim adjuster may also use bad faith tactics to avoid a high payout.

Bad faith tactics may include:

  • Delaying payment for a valid claim
  • Denying a claim without explanation
  • Undervaluing a claim
  • Requesting additional documents to delay a claim
  • Misrepresenting policy coverage to benefit the insurer
  • Refusing to pay medical expenses your policy covers

However, insurance companies are less inclined to use these bad-faith tactics when you are represented by an attorney. They know that lawyers are familiar with these strategies and won’t tolerate them.

Access to resources and expert witnesses

Personal injury law firms have access to a network of resources that could benefit your claim.

Expert witnesses may include:

  • Medical professionals
  • Accident reconstructionists
  • Engineers
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Economists and more

Expert witnesses can help strengthen your case by contributing valuable testimony and evidence. Without the help of expert witnesses, you may struggle to gather sufficient evidence to support your insurance claim.

Offer objective legal advice and guidance

In the days following your accident, you may be injured and stressed, which is when it can be difficult to make objective decisions about your case. An attorney can provide objective advice and guidance to help you make informed decisions about your personal injury claim.

Attempting to handle your claim on your own could lead to you making impulsive decisions that you regret later on.

Identify all liable parties

In some situations, your lawyer may be able to help you identify multiple liable parties and seek compensation from each of them.

For example, if you were involved in a car accident, multiple parties, such as the following, could be partially responsible:

  • Vehicle and parts manufacturers
  • Road construction companies
  • Government entities
  • Mechanics
  • Bicyclists
  • Pedestrians

Of course, when there are multiple parties involved, this usually means that there may be more than one insurance company trying to devalue your claim in their own way. The situation could quickly complicate itself.

When there are multiple parties involved in your accident, it is essential to have a lawyer on your side representing your best interests.

Expedite the claims recovery process

If you have medical bills piling up and your injuries prevent you from being able to return to work, it is understandable that you want your money as soon as possible.

Experienced personal injury lawyers know how to navigate the legal system effectively and can help expedite your claim.

Some damages your lawyer could help you recover compensation for could include:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage repairs
  • Pain and suffering

Attempting to manage your claim on your own could result in delays and errors, extending the legal process and the time it takes to receive your settlement money. So hiring an experienced attorney can definitely prove to be worth it.

How Long Do You Have to File Insurance Claims in California?

Each state enacts its own deadlines for filing a personal injury claim. In California, you have 2 years from the date of injury to file a claim. Failure to file your insurance claim within the time allowed could result in you missing your right to compensation.

Although you are allowed 2 years to file, it is important to begin the claims process as soon as possible. Evidence can quickly be lost or destroyed over time, so waiting to file your claim could hinder the strength of your case.

How California’s Pure Comparative Negligence Law Can Affect Your Insurance Claim

California uses the pure comparative negligence rule to assign fault in personal injury cases. Under this law, even if you were partially responsible for an accident, you can still file a claim for damages.

Regardless of how much at fault you are for an accident, you are still allowed a portion of compensation. The amount of damages you are awarded will be reduced by your appointment of fault. For example, if you were awarded $100,000 in damages but determined to be 25 percent at fault for an accident, you will receive $75,000 in compensation.

Insurance companies may try to blame you for an accident in an effort to reduce the percentage they have to pay you. A trusted lawyer on your side, though, can work hard to minimize your role in the accident to ensure you receive the maximum financial recovery you deserve.

What If the Insurance Company Refuses to Pay a Fair Settlement?

While most personal injury cases are settled through a successful resolution with the insurance company, sometimes a fair claim settlement cannot be reached. In other situations, the at-fault party may not have an insurance policy to cover your losses.

When this happens to you, what can be done? Your next step to recover financial compensation may be to file a personal injury lawsuit.

Representing yourself in court can be intimidating and overwhelming if you lack prior legal experience. So don’t handle the trial alone.

Rather, you need an experienced personal injury lawyer representing you. He or she will have the skills and knowledge necessary to present your case effectively in court, increasing your chances of a favorable outcome.

Our Attorneys Can Help File Your California Insurance Claim

After being seriously injured in an accident, managing an insurance claim can be a stressful experience. Having a compassionate and dedicated lawyer from Harker Injury Law on your side can make the process more manageable, though. We will handle the details of your claim so that you can focus on what matters most – your recovery.

At Harker Injury Law, our clients are like family to us. We will do everything we can to offer support during this difficult time. Our legal team will work diligently to ensure a successful outcome for your claim.

Our law firm works on contingency. This means you do not owe us anything unless we recover compensation for you. Contact us to schedule a free case consultation. You can also call us at 760-INJURED.

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