Frequently Asked Questions
How long does a car accident lawsuit normally take?
It’s difficult to determine how long a car accident case is going to take, since there are different factors involved. There’s a general timeline of steps that a car accident lawsuit will take, but the length of each step can vary considerably. While most car accident cases settle and don’t result in litigation, some issues cause cases to drag on for months. The extent of an injured person’s damages or any questions about who was at fault can make the process take longer. However, most settlements occur after discovery is complete, and usually don’t go to trial.
What Should I Do After Being in a Car Accident?
After an accident, the first thing to do is contact emergency services. Not only is this essential for your health and safety, but it can play a significant role should you choose to file for compensation. If you are obstructing traffic and are able to do so safely, it’s beneficial to move to the side to avoid any further damage.
Once you have ensured your safety and the safety of others, you can begin documenting the accident scene by taking notes, pictures, and videos. It’s vital to obtain the contact and insurance information of everyone involved in the accident. Additionally, it can be a great help to jot down their license plate number and a description of their car. Having as much detailed information about the accident scene, location, date, time, the damage to the cars, and your injuries can be a significant help when pursuing a personal injury claim.
What is the Statute of Limitations for personal injury claims in California?
According to the California Code of Civil Procedure, if you’ve been in an accident caused by another party’s negligence, you have two years from the date of the accident to file an insurance claim or civil lawsuit. Two years may seem like plenty of time to file a claim, but it’s important to be aware of the purpose of a statute of limitations. Statutes of limitations are there to help preserve evidence, and in cases like accidents, much of the evidence relies on memory which can be forgotten or become clouded over time.
It’s also important to note that if you miss the two-year deadline, you risk losing your right to compensation. Exceptions to a statute of limitations are rare, usually only under special circumstances. The best thing to do is to file a claim as soon as possible and contact an attorney to ensure your memory of the accident is fresh and your right to compensation is preserved.
Is it likely that I will have to go to trial?
Most personal injury cases settle out of court. Usually when an insurance company is involved, the case will almost always reach a settlement, since it’s expensive for the company to go to trial. Trials can also extend for months, and lead to appeals. Settlements are also private, while going to trial will not be. So all sides may have a strong motive to settle. Why would a case not settle? Sometimes a defendant won’t make a settlement offer because they’re convinced they weren’t responsible, or because neither side can agree to the final amount.
I was injured in a car accident but may be partially at fault for the crash. Could I still have a case?
If you were involved in a car accident, it can be more challenging to receive full compensation for your injuries and damages if you were partially at fault. But it’s not impossible, either. California is a comparative negligence state, meaning that drivers who are even partially at fault for an accident can still collect compensation, although it is likely to be limited. That’s because under comparative negligence, your settlement can be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you. That’s why an experienced car accident attorney can gather evidence to prove the other party was partially or mostly at fault.
What compensation might I be able to get after I've been injured in an auto accident?
Following a car accident, the injured person’s pain and suffering is considered when valuing a claim for settlement purposes. The main categories of car accident damages are economic damages — such as medical bills, lost income, and repairs to your vehicle — and non-economic ones, which are harder to put a dollar figure on, including pain and suffering. That includes the physical pain from the injury and the emotional trauma suffered during and after the accident. How much you can receive in compensation for pain and suffering will depend on numerous factors, including the severity of your injuries and the impact on your quality of life.
Why do I need to hire a lawyer to file a personal injury claim?
Filing a personal injury lawsuit requires specialized skills and training that the average person likely won’t have. A personal injury lawyer has experience to help you get the compensation you deserve for your injury and losses. This is particularly true if you’ve suffered long-term, permanently disabling or severe injuries; if there are multiple parties involved and liability isn’t clear; and if your insurance company engages in bad faith tactics. Your personal injury lawyer is there to represent your interests in all settlement negotiations.
Do I have to file a claim within a certain amount of time?
The clock usually starts ticking on the day of the accident, although each state has its own statute of limitations. Your personal injury claim may also have a different date than your property damage claim. That’s a key reason why it’s important to hire a personal injury lawyer who understands all the deadlines and can develop a sound legal strategy for your claim. And keep in mind that while most states give you 2-3 years to settle your insurance claim, the courts will reject claims filed even a few days past the deadline.
What type of compensation am I entitled to receive?
Under most insurance policies, Collision Coverage will cover the cost of damage to your vehicle, while Medical Payment coverage will address your medical bills up to the limit of your policy. California is an At Fault system for insurance claims, so a driver must show fault on the part of the other driver for a claim to be successful. If your case goes beyond the insurance claim to legal proceedings and a trial, California as a comparative negligence state will calculate percentages of fault for each driver. So if the other driver was 100% at fault, you can collect the full amount of your claim. If a jury determines you were 10% at fault, you can collect 90%.
Who pays my medical expenses while my case is pending?
If you sustained injuries in a car accident, your health insurance provider should cover your medical bills, at least in part. If you don’t have health insurance, you still have options. Your attorney can provide your physician or health care provider with a ‘Letter Of Protection’ (LOP), stating that the cost of treatment will be covered by personal injury proceeds from your claim. Most medical providers will only accept an LOP sent by an attorney.