If you have just been involve din a car accident, you may be understandably confused about how the insurance claims process works.
Do you file your own claims and simply hope they will be honored? Do you need an attorney to help you file claims for personal injury or vehicle damages?
The truth is, most drivers will be involved in three or perhaps at the most four auto accidents during their entire driving life. You won’t ever get to be an expert on California auto law or the insurance claims process at that rate.
On the other hand, an experienced car accident personal injury lawyer is waking up and going to bat for their clients every work day of the year. This is the stuff of which expertise is fashioned, which is why it can be a smart choice to hire a personal injury attorney to represent you after a car accident.
In this post, learn about whether or not car accident lawyers can help you file insurance claims after a car accident.
What California Traffic Law Says About Filing Car Accident Insurance Claims
In the state of California, it is not necessary to hire a Los Angeles accident attorney to help in you claiming insurance benefits after you have been involved in an auto accident.
But this does not mean there are not times when retaining your own Los Angeles personal injury attorney is a wise idea.
In general, if you are involved in a minor accident between yourself and one other driver in a public place, a police report has been filed, the other party has not suddenly filed any major claims and all is proceeding smoothly, you probably do not need an attorney’s help.
However, if your circumstances are different than what was just described, or if you are running into confusing delays in trying to get the claims process resolved, then it may be time to seek expert legal guidance to expedite the process and get on with your life.
How the Typical Car Insurance Claims Process Works
This is a general overview of how the typical car insurance claims process is supposed to work.
Let’s say you have been involved in a car accident between yourself and another driver. You have called the police and they are busy writing up the official accident report. You have exchanged insurance and contact information with the other driver. Now the claims process begins.
You contact your insurance provider and request to open a claim. An insurance agent who is a representative of your insurance company comes on the line to take down your information and open your claim.
You tell them what happened and they assign an insurance adjuster to your case. In the meantime, they give you the green light to begin using your insurance benefits, including access to a temporary rental vehicle, medical care and anything else your policy provides for.
In the state of California, the insurance adjuster assigned to your claim must make contact with you within 15 days of your initial phone call to open the claim. After examining all of the evidence, gathering your statement, getting estimates for repair bills from approved repair shops, et al, the insurance adjuster must make a determination within 40 days from the date that all the required information has been collected and your claim has been proved.
What Does it Take to “Prove” Your Insurance Claim?
Here is where things often start to get dicey. What does “proved” mean?
For your insurer, it means that the information the adjuster has collected proves you are entitled to the benefits you have been paying for by sending in your monthly insurance premium payments.
California is a fault state when it comes to processing auto insurance claims requests. What this means is that a payout may or may not be approved depending on which driver was at fault (the one who caused the accident).
There are three possible declarations that can be made after an auto accident.
The first is that you are fully not at fault – the other driver caused the whole thing.
The second is that you share blame with the other driver. Here, you may be declared equally at fault, lesser at fault or greater at fault.
Finally, you can be declared fully at fault – you caused the accident.
As any experienced car accident personal injury lawyer will readily tell you, you do not want to be declared at fault in a car accident! The worst case scenario, being declared fully at fault in a car accident, can come with unbelievably stiff penalties depending on how severe the accident itself was.
You may lose your license or be reduced to restricted driving privileges. You may rack up points on your license. You may pay fees into the hundreds and thousands of dollars. You may be reclassified as a “high risk driver” and your insurer may drop you from your policy.
Being declared partially at fault is not quite so severe and will entail some fees and penalties, and certainly points on your license. But most insurers will not drop you simply for being declared partially at fault. However, some will.
In nearly every case, your insurer will readily pay out your claim only when you are declared fully not at fault for causing the accident. You did nothing wrong and so there is no reason to deny your claim.
Dealing With Another Driver’s Insurance Policy
Since no insurance company wants their customers to be declared at fault in a car accident, sometimes the delay in receiving your claims benefits stems from a battle at the insurer level.
When this occurs, it can often feel like you are going nowhere fast. You can’t do anything to speed up the process because it is taking place at a level above you.
In this all-too-common scenario, this is the point when many California drivers decide to hire their own personal injury attorney. Getting an experienced auto accident attorney involved can get the claims payout process moving again.
By sending a demand letter, countering the initial claims settlement offer, negotiating for a fairer payout based on details in the police report and testimony from witnesses, passengers and your own physician team, it is often possible to not just get your payout expedited but to increase what you receive.
Insurance companies have their own profit-motivated reasons for wanting to compensate you at a level that is far less than what you have been paying premiums for. To protect yourself and your interests, a car accident personal injury lawyer can be a powerful ally.
Have You Been in an Accident? Contact a Los Angeles Accident Attorney
If you have been involved in a car accident, you may only just now be starting to realize how complicated insurance matters can be in the state of California. As a fault state, California has some of the strictest traffic laws in the nation.
Retaining expert legal guidance from an experienced Los Angeles accident attorney can expedite the claims process and help you put the accident behind you and get on with your life.