If you were hurt in a California car accident caused by another person or business's negligence, you may be entitled to take legal action to seek compensation for your injuries and other losses. However, the personal injury insurance claims and litigation processes can be complex and confusing. The negotiations on the side of the insurance company will be handled by experienced adjusters whose purpose and intent is to pay you as little as possible. An experienced attorney on your side allows you to balance out the negotiating skills for a better outcome. Here's what you should know before filing a car crash personal injury claim in the Golden State.
Protecting Your Rights at the Accident Scene
Protecting your right to a full financial recovery begins at the scene of the accident. Check yourself and your passengers for injuries—as well as the occupants of the other vehicles—and report the accident to law enforcement. Stay at the scene until the officers have finished their accident report, and make sure to request a copy for your records. Most importantly, keep your cool, and avoid accepting or placing blame for the crash. Even a casual apology made out of habit could be taken as an admission of liability.
Gathering Important Evidence
The more evidence you have to support your injury claims, the better. Start by taking photos of the accident scene, paying special attention to the placement of the vehicles after the crash, as well as any road or weather conditions that may have been a contributing factor. You should also take photos of any visible injuries you—or your passengers—sustained.
If there are witnesses to the collision, make sure you get the names, phone numbers and addresses of those witnesses. If you can record a statement from a witness on a cell phone, that would be extremely helpful. Remember, the investingating officer may not get the all the information right and may not record any information about the witnesses.
Medical documentation is also extremely important in car accident personal injury cases. Your medical records should carefully document your injuries and related losses, while wage information from your employer can be used to show wage loss. A personal injury attorney can help you compile the evidence you need to build a strong case.
After a car accident, victims can seek compensation for two main types of losses: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are direct financial losses incurred as a result of the crash, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and loss of earning capacity. Non-economic damages attempt to compensate victims for intangible, subjective losses like pain and suffering, mental anguish, scarring or disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life.
In cases where the defendant's behavior is considered particularly egregious, a judge or jury may award punitive damages. This third and much-more-rare type of damages serves as a punishment for the defendant and a deterrent for similar conduct.
Proving Your Claim for Damages
All California car accident personal injury claims have four elements that must be proven in order for a victim to recover compensation:
- Duty of care. The at-fault party had a duty to operate their vehicle safely to minimize the risk to others on the road.
- Breach of duty. The at-fault driver violated their duty of care by engaging in unsafe driving behaviors that resulted in a crash.
- Causation. That the negligence of the other driver the cause of the injuries.
- Damages. The amount or value of the damages suffered.
How an Attorney Can Help
The legal procedure for seeking compensation for car accident injuries can be complex, unfamiliar, and challenging—and you can't count on profit-driven insurance companies to look out for your best interests. Fortunately, an accomplished California car accident attorney can help.
After a crash, your attorney can conduct a thorough investigation to determine liability, which ultimately impacts the size of your settlement or financial award. They can also gather evidence to build a strong case for damages and find experts—such as accident reconstructionists or medical professionals—to testify on your behalf. Additionally, an attorney can handle communications and negotiations with the insurance company and, if a reasonable agreement can't be reached, they can take your case all the way to trial. Don't go it alone; an attorney is your best chance for maximizing the value of your personal injury claim.
Schedule a Free Initial Consultation
Contact the Inland Empire Law Group today at (888) 694-3529 or (909) 481-0100 to schedule an appointment for a free, no-obligation, initial consultation with a member of our skilled legal team. Don't wait—California statute of limitation laws give you just two years to file a personal injury lawsuit.