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Do I Need A Car Accident Lawyer In My Area?

By April 16, 2019May 26th, 2022No Comments

Car accident attorneys are people you don’t think about until you need one. But when might you need one? If you have been in an auto accident, it’s time to call a car accident lawyer near you.

People certainly don’t plan to be in car crashes. However, insurance industry calculations say that the average person will be in an auto collision every 18 years. That’s about 4 crashes per lifetime. In California, the odds of a car accident may be higher, given that we have more than 26.8 million drivers and about 12% of the U.S. population.

Thankfully, the likelihood of dying is a car accident is lower in California than most states. In state car crash fatality rankings, California ranks #40. Regardless of the severity of an auto collision, though, an experienced car accident attorney helps accident victims successfully navigate the insurance and legal processes. The safety attorneys at Reiner, Slaughter & Frankel encourage all drivers to know the following:

  • Steps to take after a crash
  • A driver’s responsibilities after a collision
  • Who pays for damages
  • Critical deadlines

For car crash victims trying to find a car accident lawyer nearby, Reiner, Slaughter & Frankel’s seasoned car crash attorneys offer a free, no-obligation consultation. Contact them today to schedule yours.

Steps to Take After A California Car Crash

All drivers should know California driving laws, including those about crashes. The DMV 2019 California Driving Handbook covers auto collisions, and most auto insurance companies offer an accident checklist that you can keep in your glovebox.

Important things to know:

  • Every driver must stop after a collision, even a minor one.
  • Everyone involved must exchange contact and insurance information.
  • If no one is hurt and damage is less than $1,000, you don’t have to notify police or report to the DMV.
  • If anyone is hurt at all, even slightly, or if anyone dies, file a report with DMV within 10 days.
  • If vehicle or property damage is over $1,000, file a report with DMV within 10 days.

Insurance companies and auto accident attorneys recommend that drivers always call the police after a collision. That provides an extra layer of protection in case the damage or injuries are more severe than anyone realizes, or if there are problems with the other driver or with an insurance company.

Always see a medical provider as soon as possible after an accident, even if you don’t think the crash caused injuries. You may not be aware of injuries, or they may show up days or weeks after the wreck.

In California, Fault Determines Who Pays For Damages

California is considered a fault state. This means that for car accidents, fault must be determined before insurance companies will pay claims. The driver who is at fault must pay for damages and injuries. Since California requires drivers to be insured, most accident claims are paid by insurance companies rather than individual drivers. However, if damages exceed the at-fault driver’s policy limits, the driver is responsible for costs not covered by insurance.  

When a claim is filed, insurance adjusters determine who caused the accident. Because California is a pure comparative negligence jurisdiction, all parties involved in an auto, motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian accident can be assigned blame or fault. For example, if two drivers run stop signs at a four-way stop and then crash, both drivers are at fault. If the insurance companies or a judge finds both drivers equally responsible, each driver bears 50% of the responsibility. As a result, each driver can recover 50% of their damages from the other driver’s insurance. If the first driver sustains $50,000 in damage, she can recover $25,000 from the second driver. If the second driver’s losses total $40,000, he can recover $20,000 from the first driver.

Filing Claims After A California Auto Accident

Drivers must understand their rights after an accident, as well as any limits on those rights. California places deadlines, called statutes of limitations, on requests for payment for accident injuries. If an accident victim misses a deadline, in most circumstances the process ends, and the victim gets nothing. An experienced car accident attorney ensures victims don’t get this unhappy result.

Consulting with a car accident lawyer near you is especially important because different deadlines apply to different circumstances. For example, if a state agency vehicle hits you, you may only have 6 months to file a claim. If a regular person in a private car hits you, you have two years to file a personal injury claim and three years to file a property damage claim. California laws also place limits on the damages that can be paid in certain circumstances.

When it comes to insurance companies, most policies require the insured to promptly report accidents so the claims process can begin. When a claim is filed, insurance companies must do the following:   

  • Acknowledge receipt of all claims within 15 days.
  • Accept or deny claims within 40 days of receiving proof of claim.
  • Payment for accepted claims must be made within 30 days from the date a settlement is reached.

When To Call A Car Accident Lawyer Near You

A car accident, no matter how minor it may appear, can lead to significant and unexpected health, financial, or legal issues. Just as you would call a doctor to make sure an illness isn’t more serious that might seem, an accident victim should call an auto accident lawyer. It makes sense to check with a professional, and most personal injury attorneys offer a free initial consultation.

Don’t leave the determination of fault to a police report and another driver’s insurance company. Get a skilled professional on your side. Call the law offices of Reiner, Slaughter & Frankel today. Our attorneys are with you every step of the way.