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What to Expect During a Car Accident Lawsuit

Published July 8, 2024 by Harker Injury Law

What to Expect During a Car Accident Lawsuit

After a car accident, there may seem no end to the legal twists and turns. You might wonder what your personal responsibilities are, how the process of recovering compensation will go, and what to do if you face problems. Feelings of uncertainty can lead to a persistent sense of anxiety and confusion, making it difficult to make clear decisions or focus on your recovery.

Without professional legal advice, every step can seem like a leap into the unknown. Yet, hesitating and second-guessing your actions can undermine your progress and even damage your car accident case.

The personal injury law team of Harker Injury Law is ready to offer you guidance and support. Our experience and resources can transform your experience, often resulting in better-than-anticipated results. First, we want to help you understand what to expect during a car accident case.

What to Expect From Traffic Authorities

In California, you must report auto accidents to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if they:

  • Occurred on public streets, highways, or private property
  • Resulted in injuries or death
  • Caused $1000 or more of property damage

Failure to make the report within 10 days could result in license suspension. In addition, you should contact law authorities at the scene or as soon as possible after an accident to make an official record of the car crash.

Filing a police report

You can reach California traffic authorities by calling 911 for emergency response or 1-800-835-5247 for minor car accidents. A police officer or member of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) will come to assess and investigate the collision.

A collision report typically includes the following information:

  • Date and time of the collision
  • Specific addresses, intersections, or landmarks
  • Identifying information of involved parties: Names, addresses, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers of drivers, passengers, witnesses, and others
  • The vehicle’s information, including the make, model, year, license plate numbers, and vehicle identification numbers (VINs)
  • Insurance company names and policy numbers
  • Description of crash type (e.g., T-bone car accidents, rear-end collisions) and narrative of how it occurred, including witness statements when available
  • Sketches or diagrams showing vehicle positions and impact points
  • Weather and road conditions at the time of the incident
  • Description of any injuries sustained (e.g., soft tissue injuries, head trauma, neck injuries, broken bones)
  • Photos and descriptions of damage
  • Notes from the responding officer
  • Photos taken at the scene of the accident
  • Written or recorded statements from drivers, passengers, and witnesses
  • Warnings and citations issued
  • The report number, which is a unique identifier assigned to the collision report by law enforcement

Consider another reason to contact traffic authorities. In minor accidents with only property damage or light injuries, you might be able to collect a substantial amount of evidence on your own.

Yet, if you suffer more severe injuries, police can investigate while you seek medical attention. Police reports serve as comprehensive, unbiased evidence for determining fault and seeking compensation in an auto accident settlement.

Determining the at-fault party

In complex cases, police reports may include input from accident reconstruction experts. These specialists analyze the scene and provide professional opinions on factors like speed, braking distances, and the point of impact of the car accident. Later, they might testify in court or make digital or physical models representing the sequence of events leading to the collision.

Testifying in court

Police officers are seen as credible witnesses due to their training, experience, and role as impartial investigators. Their testimony carries weight in court because these public officials are considered experts in assessing and documenting accidents. A police report also provides evidence for insurance claims.

What to Expect From Insurance Companies

The driver who is determined to be at fault is responsible for paying for the damages and injuries of California car accidents. You would file a third-party claim with his or her driver’s insurance company to recover your damages. In a hit-and-run auto accident, you would make a claim with your own insurance company if you have uninsured motorist coverage.

Meeting car accident claim deadlines

California insurers can have different deadlines for pursuing car accident settlements, but you should file a claim as promptly as possible. In the vast majority of cases, health insurance pays for immediate medical care, but auto insurers reimburse the funds.

In car accident settlements involving injuries, you can expect to supply the following documentation:

  • A demand letter: A formal request to the defendant or an insurance company initiating the auto accident settlement process
  • Medical bills: Receipts for emergency transportation, hospitalization fees, prescription medication, and doctor office visits
  • Medical records: Copies of statements from your physicians (e.g., testing, diagnoses, recommended treatment plans)
  • Repair costs: Estimates of mechanical and auto body repair from professional shops
  • Car accident account: What led to the accident and the damages that occurred

Talking with an experienced lawyer is advisable before you speak to an insurance adjuster since what you say can significantly impact your chances of a fair settlement amount. If you speak to a representative alone, only share the requested information. The insurance company should follow up within a few weeks after your demand letter, so let your attorney know if you are still waiting to hear from someone.

Some delays happen when accident survivors make errors or omissions in the paperwork. Providing inaccurate information or leaving out details, even by mistake, can delay car accident cases or even lead to denials and fraud charges. Most vehicle accident cases are settled without unreasonable delays, though, when a competent car accident lawyer resolves time-consuming issues.

Dealing with insurance adjusters

The insurance company should contact you for a detailed account of the loss and may take written or recorded statements. They might even request an examination under oath.

No matter how friendly they are, you should never mistake the motives of an insurance adjuster! California follows a comparative fault system, where each party’s degree of fault affects the amount of compensation due. His or her job is to determine whether you are partially at fault for the accident and the extent of the damages.

Therefore, you must be cautious and prudent with what you say and do so that you don’t unnecessarily reduce your settlement. Rather than handle matters alone, why not enlist the aid of an experienced attorney?

At Harker Injury Law, our capable legal team can handle each step of the car accident settlement process. We can communicate with insurance companies to ensure your accident claim is handled correctly.

What to Expect From a Personal Injury Law Firm

Most car accident claims come with their own measure of trouble. Hiring a personal injury attorney can lift the burden.

A car accident lawyer can help you with some car accident settlement essentials, like obtaining official reports, writing a demand letter, and dealing with insurance companies. This section will reveal how else a personal injury attorney can assist you with your car accident claim.

Building a solid car accident settlement case

A car accident settlement cannot undue physical and emotional pain. Still, a settlement can provide relief for economic damages like those discussed below:

  • Reimbursement of medical bills: Getting the medical attention you need can be expensive. Car accident lawsuits recover past and ongoing medical expenses, ensuring that your future medical bills are taken into account.
  • Replacement of lost wages: Besides missed income, civil plaintiffs can file personal injury lawsuits seeking damages for used sick days and vacation pay.
  • Repair or replacement of damaged property: The settlement amount can include rental fees, repair costs of buildings, cars, or other property, or the actual cash value of totaled vehicles.
  • Out-of-pocket expenses: You might need help around the house or childcare services while recovering from serious injuries. The average settlement factors these costs into the equation.

If all your losses were tangible, perhaps courts could use a car accident settlement calculator to sum up damages. However, mental and emotional trauma are also components of many serious injuries. A reasonable settlement estimates the value of non-economic damages like psychological distress, loss of life enjoyment, and loss of companionship.

Many driver negligence cases are resolved without a court trial. If your lawsuit process involves court, our law firm can represent you and defend your rights.

Preparing for a trial

A successful personal injury lawsuit is often the result of months of work. Lawyers find and organize relevant evidence, consult with experts, and anticipate the defense from the other driver. Their professional advocacy increases the likelihood of a favorable outcome, allowing personal injury victims to focus their time and energy on medical care and emotional healing.

A car accident lawsuit must also meet the statute of limitations. In California, this deadline is 2 years from the date of the personal injury. If the injury is discovered after the car accident, the time ends 1 year from the time of discovery.

A lawsuit filed after the deadline expires is invalid. However, there are a few exceptions, so you should contact a lawyer in your state to determine whether you still have time to file a lawsuit.

Navigating post-trial motions and appeals

After a car accident trial, you (the plaintiff) or the defendant might be able to appeal the decision. Your car accident lawyer may need to intensify the discovery process to find new evidence to present to a higher court. He or she can help protect your rights and pursue an appropriate settlement for your personal injury claim.

Negotiating maximum compensation

Auto accident lawsuits offer opportunities to recoup economic damages like medical bills and lost wages. You can also seek compensation for non-economic damages like pain and suffering. However, filing a car accident lawsuit does not guarantee a fair settlement offer.

A typical car accident settlement relies on many factors. Each one can affect the outcome of the case. If you file a lawsuit, receiving less than you need for medical treatment and property damage could ruin you financially.

A trustworthy law firm can help you avoid common mistakes in the settlement process and build a strong auto accident case.

Expect High-Quality Representation From Us

Many accident survivors are surprised and disappointed with how confusing and difficult it is to recover much-needed compensation for medical expenses and other basic accident damages. At Harker Injury Law, we understand the car accident lawsuit process is a new world for most people.

We make it easy to get the help you need from an experienced personal injury lawyer. There are no upfront fees to file a lawsuit because we work on a contingency basis. You pay us only when we win money for you.

Our legal team can manage communication with the insurance company and handle the paperwork involved with your car accident lawsuit. We hope our compassionate approach and strategic efforts will exceed your expectations. To get started, contact our law firm to schedule your free consultation at a convenient time and location.

Associations & Awards

  • Million Dollar Advocates Forum
  • State Bar of California
  • University of California San Diego
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  • J Reuben Clark Law Society
  • Earl Warren College
  • State Bar of Nevada
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