One moment you are casually driving down the highway in your vehicle; the next moment, your life is suddenly altered.
Car accidents can happen to any of us, at any time. All it takes is one instant: one moment glancing at an incoming text message; another driver suddenly veering into your lane; one negligent decision of an intoxicated driver to get behind the wheel.
According to California Highway Patrol’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System SWITRS-2017-Report, 3,904 people were killed and another 277,160 people were injured in motor vehicle accidents in 2017. In the stress-inducing wake of a car accident, one thing many people find daunting to navigate is the vehicle repair process.
Would you know what steps to take to get your car fixed if you were involved in an automobile accident in California?
Filing an Insurance Claim For Property Damage in California
A car accident settlement in California can include claims for both property damage and personal injury. There are several specific steps to getting your car fixed after an automobile collision in California. The process includes filing a claim for property damage through the insurance company, obtaining independent estimates, and selecting a collision repair shop to perform the work.
The process can be daunting. In order to get fully compensated, it’s important to know your rights. When you hire an experienced car accident lawyer, your attorney can handle the property damage claim on your behalf. Generally, these lawyers do not take any portion of the property damage settlement.
Whose Insurance Do I File A Claim With?
If the other driver is at fault for the collision, and they have adequate insurance to cover the damage to your vehicle, you can file a claim through their insurance, which is known as a third-party insurance claim. However, if you were at fault for the collision and you carry collision insurance, you would file a claim through your own insurance company.
You would also file through your own insurance if the other driver was at fault for the car accident and had no insurance or did not have adequate coverage. If you are filing a claim through your insurance carrier, you will be responsible for paying the deductible on your policy, so be sure you know how much your deductible is.
Obtaining Auto Repair Estimates
Once you have contacted the insurance company to file a claim, they will assign an adjuster or appraiser to evaluate the damage to your vehicle. Alternatively, the insurance company may suggest that you take your vehicle to one of their preferred auto repair shops for an estimate. Separately, you should contact a car repair facility and obtain an independent estimate to repair your vehicle. Be sure you do not authorize any repair work to begin until the insurance company has performed their own evaluation of the damage to your vehicle.
Know Your Rights in California
At this point, it is important that you understand your legal rights for collision repair in California. You are not obligated to choose the auto repair facility that the insurance company recommends in order to receive a settlement. You can select your own car repair facility to perform the work, and still receive compensation through the insurance. However, be certain that your selected repair facility stops work and contacts the insurance company if they discover more extensive damage to your vehicle during the repair process.
You also have the right to insist that original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts are used in the repair of your vehicle, as opposed to aftermarket parts. Be aware that you may need to pay the difference in cost if the insurance policy does not cover OEM parts.
Gap Insurance and Your Totaled Vehicle
In the event that the cost to repair your vehicle is greater than the fair market value of the vehicle itself, the insurance company will pay the lesser amount — the actual cash value (ACV). In this case, the vehicle is deemed to be a “total loss.” If you still owe money to a lender for your vehicle, over and above the ACV that the insurance will pay out, you would still be responsible to pay the lender the difference. In this case, it is very helpful to have gap insurance to cover that difference, or the actual cost of replacing the vehicle.
If you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident in California and the at-fault driver can be identified, your insurance company would be able to file a claim for property damages with the other party’s insurance company. If the other driver cannot be identified and you carry collision coverage, your insurance may cover the damages to your vehicle, but you would still be responsible for paying out the deductible. The good news in this case is that, in California, your insurance rates cannot be raised if you were the victim of a hit-and-run accident.
Obtaining Car Accident Compensation For Your Injuries
In the unfortunate, but all-too-common event that you sustained injuries during a car accident, you may be entitled to receive a financial settlement, either through filing an insurance claim for personal injury or through filing a civil lawsuit. The amount of your car accident compensation will ultimately depend on the severity of your injuries, the resulting losses you have suffered, and how much each party is determined to be at fault for the collision.
If you are in a car accident involving injuries, you should immediately call 911. If your injuries do not seem severe enough to require an ambulance ride to the hospital, you should still be evaluated by a medical professional as soon as possible, whether that is by paramedics at the scene of the accident or at a hospital or urgent care center.
This is an important step in documenting your injuries for an insurance claim or potential car accident lawsuit. The last thing you want is for the insurance company to use your lack of immediate care as a way to argue that you were not actually injured or not injured as severely as you say you are.
You should be aware that even if your accident is caused by another driver who is uninsured or underinsured, you can still recover compensation for your medical expenses if you carry uninsured motorist coverage (UMC) or underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) on your auto insurance policy.
Talk to an Attorney FIRST
You will need to report your accident and injuries to the insurance carrier, but remember… It is vital that you DO NOT agree to accept a financial settlement for your injuries before you know the full extent of those injuries, as well as the final cost of your medical expenses, property damage, and other losses. Insurance companies are notorious for trying to get accident victims to accept lowball settlement offers when they know the victim’s claim is worth much more.
The best thing to do is to arrange a consultation with a personal injury attorney who has extensive experience obtaining settlements for car accident victims BEFORE you speak with any insurance company. Your car accident lawyer can handle all the negotiations with the insurance company on your behalf and make sure you’re getting fair car accident compensation.
Our Car Accident Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help!
Car accidents inflict injury, claim lives, and cost billions of dollars annually in property damage in the United States. Not to mention, the experience of being involved in a car accident is traumatic and stressful in and of itself.
Let our team of experienced car accident personal injury attorneys at Carpenter & Zuckerman guide you through the process of securing a settlement after your car accident in California. With expert representation from Carpenter & Zuckerman, you won’t be left at the mercy of powerful insurance companies. We will work diligently to ensure you receive maximum compensation for your losses, including both the injuries you suffered and any damage that occurred to your vehicle.
Contact us today for a FREE consultation using the phone number or online form below. We’re available 24/7 to take your call!