How Long Do You Have to File an Insurance Claim After an Accident in California?
If you have been in a car accident, insurance can play a large part in paying your expenses and in making a claim against the other negligent driver. Insurance can also help you fix your car and get the medical help you need. Even with these possible benefits, insurance can seem like a confusing maze, but it’s easier than you may think. The important thing is to act quickly because many insurance claims have strict deadlines to report accidents. If you don’t meet those deadlines, you could lose your right to any insurance benefits after an accident. Fortunately, a car accident insurance lawyer can help you through the process.
How Common Are Car Accidents in California?
According to the California Highway Patrol, in 2017, there were over 277,000 people injured in car accidents statewide. Over 3,500 of those accidents involved a fatality. A study by the University of California, Berkeley showed 147,118 injury accidents statewide in the year 2019.
Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego and San Bernardino counties had the highest number of injury accidents.
If you were in a car accident and have questions, the California Department of Insurance has information available to help. A car accident insurance lawyer in California can answer questions that are more specific to your situation and can help explain your insurance benefits to you.
Handling Insurance Claims After an Accident
Right after an accident is the most important time when it comes to insurance. Understanding how to handle claims can help ease the stress that you may feel right after a car accident.
After a crash, your first steps should involve getting medical care, contacting the police and documenting the scene. After you’ve had a chance to deal with the immediate problem, you should notify your own insurance company, no matter who’s at fault. The phone number should be on your insurance card, and most insurance companies have 24-hour hotlines, so you can report your accident almost any time.
Important takeaway: Most insurance policies have strict time limits to inform them of an insurance claim — sometimes only a few days. If you delay, you could lose important insurance benefits. A car accident insurance lawyer can help you notify your insurance company in a timely manner.
In an accident, there will usually be two insurance companies involved, yours and the other driver’s. (There can be more people involved if there are more than two drivers in the accident.)
Your own insurance policy will have different coverages within it. Some of your insurance benefits may be yours, regardless of who’s at fault for the accident. For example, some medical payment benefits can help you pay your medical expenses immediately, regardless of who’s at fault, and without you having to sue or make a claim against anyone.
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible after your accident so that you can pursue these benefits if you’re injured. Your accident attorney can also help you understand your benefits package and talk with the insurance company on your behalf to ensure you have access to all of the proper benefits.
The Other Driver’s Insurance
California law requires that all drivers carry between $15,000-30,000 in liability coverage. This is the kind of insurance that the other driver carries in order to pay you for your injuries, in the case that the other driver is at fault for the accident.
The driver will also likely have property or physical damage insurance. This is the insurance that is intended to cover damages to your vehicle.
There are a few ways you can get the other driver’s insurance information. If you’re able to, you can exchange details at the scene of the accident. If the police filled out a police report, that document will have the insurance information for both sides as well.
You can get the police report and use the information there to inform the other side’s insurance that you’re making a claim against the negligent driver.
Although there are no strict time periods to inform the other side’s insurance, you should still notify the negligent driver’s insurance company as quickly as possible in order to pursue your benefits.
The Advantages of Notifying Insurance Quickly
Notifying both your and the other side’s insurance as soon as possible can help you in a number of ways:
- It may allow you to access insurance benefits sooner.
- It helps ensure that you comply with the terms of your own insurance policy.
- Early reporting allows you to tell your version of what happened in the accident before the other side can.
Get Help From a Car Accident Insurance Lawyer
If all of this sounds confusing, you shouldn’t worry. An attorney can help you figure out what your insurance includes, what the other driver’s policy covers and how to pursue the benefits that you need after an accident.
Just don’t delay. Remember, there are tight deadlines to file insurance claims.
by Jack Chemtob