Do You Need a California Auto Accident Attorney to Help with Your Insurance Claim?
Are you entitled to an insurance settlement for your car accident in California? Learn about your legal rights, and learn why you should hire an experienced auto accident attorney to help with your insurance claim.
When you are involved in a car accident, one of the most-important questions you need to have answered is, “Do I have a claim?” In most cases, the answer will be, “Yes,” and you will need to act promptly in order to protect your legal rights. While you can file an insurance claim on your own, there are several reasons why it is a far better option to hire an experienced auto accident attorney to help with your car accident claim.
This page is intended as a comprehensive resource for individuals who have questions about filing an auto insurance claim after a car accident. Here you will find the answers to:
- Do you have a car accident claim?
- Do you need help with your car accident claim?
- How can an attorney help with your car accident claim?
If you have a car accident insurance claim, then there are several steps you will need to take in order to make sure that you are able to secure a favorable insurance settlement. Before you spend time learning about how to file a car insurance claim after an accident, you first need to know if you have a claim to file.
There are several factors that will determine your legal rights after a car accident. While it is a good idea to learn about your legal rights, the best way to ensure that you receive maximum compensation is to hire an experienced auto accident attorney.
Do you have a car accident claim? Discuss your legal rights with a local attorney for free:
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If your answer is, “Yes,” to each of the following questions, then you should consult with an attorney for help with your car accident claim:
1. Were You Injured in the Accident?
If you were injured in the accident, it will be especially important for you to hire an auto accident attorney to help with your insurance claim. The costs of suffering traumatic injuries in a car accident can be substantial, and you will need to be prepared to fight for just compensation by all means available. All types of auto insurance coverage (except for property damage coverage) provide coverage for injury-related costs, and the amount of compensation you can recover will depend on (i) the extent of your injuries, (ii) what insurance coverage is available, and (iii) what other types of claims (if any) you can pursue.
2. Was Your Car Accident Fairly Recent?
All states have statutes of limitations for car accident claims. If you wait too long to file a claim, you will lose your right to receive just compensation. Additionally, insurance policies generally require policyholders to promptly file their claims as well; and, if you delay longer than necessary, the insurance companies may try to use this against you.
3. Are You and/or the Other Driver Insured?
In order to file an insurance claim, there needs to be insurance coverage available. While almost every state requires drivers to carry insurance, many people unfortunately choose to drive uninsured. If you have auto insurance (or if a member of your household has coverage), then you should minimally be able to file a claim under your (or your family member’s) policy. However, if the other driver has insurance, then you may be able to file a claim under his or her policy as well. The types of auto insurance policies that provide coverage for accident-related injuries include:
- Personal injury protection (PIP)
- Medical payments (MedPay)
- Bodily injury liability (BIL)
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM)
4. Have You Sought Medical Treatment for Your Injuries?
In order for an attorney to be able to help with your car accident claim, you will need to have medical records that link your injuries to the accident. The best way to make sure these records are available is to see a doctor as soon after your accident as possible.
5. Do You Still Have the Ability to File an Insurance Claim?
When it comes to filing an auto insurance claim, you only get one chance to negotiate a settlement. If you have accepted money for your accident-related injuries in the past, then you may be barred from seeking additional compensation. This is why it is critically important not to settle until you have discussed your claim with one of the many local auto accident attorneys near you.
What if your answer is, “I don’t know”? That’s completely fine. An attorney can assess your legal rights and determine if he or she can help you file a car accident insurance claim.
What about Proving Fault?
You may have noticed that our list of questions for determining if you have a claim does not include a question regarding who was at fault in the accident. This is because proof of fault isn’t always necessary to file an insurance claim. Many auto insurance policies include “no fault” coverage (i.e. personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments (MedPay)), and you could have an insurance claim even if you were at fault in the accident.
Let’s assume you have a car accident claim. Do you need help with your claim? While you may be thinking about filing your claim on your own, this is not your best option. There are simply too many issues and risks involved for you to take this chance.
5 Reasons to Get Help With Your Car Accident Claim
Here are five reasons why you should hire an attorney to help with your car accident claim:
- If you are not careful, you can lose your ability to file a claim. From not seeing the right doctor to waiting too long to file your claim, if you are not careful there are several ways that you can jeopardize your financial recovery.
- If you are not careful, you will only receive a fraction of what you are owed. In addition to losing the ability to secure a settlement, if you do not hire an auto accident attorney there is also a very real risk that you will settle for only a fraction of what you are owed.
- Securing a fair settlement for your car accident claim is hard—really hard. There are numerous complex legal steps involved in securing a favorable insurance settlement. Auto accident attorneys can help with your claim by handling these steps on your behalf.
- Failing to secure a fair settlement could impact your life for years to come. If you settle for too little (or fail to secure any settlement at all), you could suffer the consequences for years to come. This is not a mistake most people can afford.
- It costs you nothing out of pocket to hire an auto accident attorney to help with your claim. Auto accident attorneys represent their clients on a “contingency fee” basis. This means that you only pay if your attorney helps you recover just compensation.
If you have been injured in a collision, there are several ways that an attorney for car accidents can help you. From helping you find a good doctor to helping you decide when (and if) to settle, here are 10 ways an experienced attorney can help with your car accident claim:
1. Helping You Find a Good Doctor
While many emergency room (ER) doctors and general practitioners are very good at what they do, many lack specific experience treating patients who sustained their injuries in car accidents. When seeking compensation for your injuries, it is important to work with a doctor who can help build your claim alongside your auto accident attorney. An attorney who routinely represents auto accident victims will be able to refer you to a specialist near you.
2. Collecting Your Medical and Employment Records
Proving your claim requires proof of your losses. This includes your medical bills and loss of income. Your attorney will be able to collect these records for you, and he or she will be able to address any issues before submitting these records to the insurance companies. As your treatment progresses, and as you miss more time from work, your attorney can continue to collect the documentation needed to seek full compensation on your behalf.
3. Investigating the Cause (or Causes) of the Accident
In order to file a liability-based insurance claim, you will need proof that the other driver was at fault in your accident. This means conducting an investigation—and the investigation needs to be conducted as soon as possible. When you contact an attorney about your insurance claim, he or she will take the necessary steps to initiate an appropriate investigation right away.
4. Making Sure You Do Not Miss Critical Deadlines
When you have a car accident claim, you need to make sure you file your claim on time. If you wait too long, your claim will be barred by the statute of limitations. Any interim delays could make it more difficult to swiftly obtain a fair insurance settlement as well, and you will want to be able to rely on one of the many local auto accident attorneys to do what is necessary to quickly collect the compensation you deserve.
5. Helping You File Your Car Accident Claim (or Claims)
While you have the option of dealing with the insurance companies on your own, this is a risk that you should not take. The insurance companies are not on your side, and they train their insurance adjusters to ensure that they pay as little as possible. Additionally, it is quite possible that you could have multiple insurance claims, and auto accident attorneys can do everything necessary in order to fully assert your legal rights.
6. Communicating with the Insurance Adjusters for You
While your car accident claim is pending, you (or your attorney) will need to be in regular contact with the insurance adjuster(s) handling your claim(s). As a car accident victim, this can be dangerous, as anything you say can potentially be used against you. By hiring an attorney to communicate with the adjuster(s) on your behalf, you can avoid the risk of unknowingly and unintentionally jeopardizing your claim.
7. Calculating “Just Compensation” for Your Accident-Related Losses
When you are injured in a car accident, you are entitled to “just compensation.” This means that you are entitled to receive payment for all of your current and future financial and non-financial losses. Without an attorney to help with your car accident claim, you have no way of knowing what constitutes “just compensation” in your case.
8. Negotiating a Car Accident Settlement on Your Behalf
In addition to communicating with your adjuster and calculating your losses, auto accident attorneys can also negotiate for a fair settlement on your behalf. This is a difficult process that requires legal knowledge and negotiating expertise; and, as a result, it is a process that is best handled by an experienced auto accident attorney.
9. Helping You Decide When (and If) to Settle
If you receive a settlement offer, should you accept it? In addition to helping you evaluate settlement offers, auto accident attorneys can also advise you as to whether it is in your best interests to take your car accident claim to trial. If a fair offer is not on the table, you should not settle for less than you deserve.
10. Helping You Avoid Costly Mistakes During Your Car Accident Claim
When you are dealing with the auto insurance companies, there are many mistakes that can jeopardize your claim for just compensation. In addition to dealing with your insurance claim(s) for you, auto accident attorneys can also help you make informed decisions and avoid mistakes that could threaten your financial recovery.
Learn more in our FAQs: How Can A Car Accident Lawyer Help You?