How long do you have to get a lawyer after a car accident in California?

car accident

California is the most populated state in the nation, and its vast freeway system and roadways are heavily traveled by passenger and commercial vehicles. Hundreds of thousands of car accidents occur each year in California. In 2019, there were 33,244 fatal car crash accidents in California. The leading cause of car accidents in California are caused by reckless driver behavior such as:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving

According to San Francisco Car Accident Lawyer Dawn Hassell of the personal injury law firm The Hassell Law Group, the question of “how long do I have to get a lawyer after a car accident in California” commonly arises after an individual has been involved in a car accident.

According to Attorney Hassell the answer to the question of how long you have to get a lawyer after a car accident in California requires further elaboration, consideration and an understanding as to why you need a lawyer after a car accident.

Firstly, important steps accident victims should take at the accident scene

After an accident, the first step to be taken at the scene is to call 911 and summon the police to the scene. It is important to obtain a Traffic Collision Report. Additionally, it is important to exchange contact and insurance information with the other party or parties involved in the accident. Taking extensive photos and even video of the accident scene including damage to the vehicles, the position of the damaged vehicles in the roadway, and any visible injuries which you may have sustained is useful as evidence to be presented to the insurance company. Seeking emergency medical treatment for your injuries at the scene of the accident, or immediately thereafter, is extremely important.

The short answer is you should seek counsel from a car accident lawyer immediately after a car accident has occurred. Read on to understand exactly why.

The main reason you should hire a car accident lawyer

If you have been injured in the accident, it is always advisable to seek advice and representation from an experienced car accident lawyer immediately after the car accident. An experienced car accident lawyer will take steps to investigate the accident and position your case for the best outcome. Hiring a reputable car accident lawyer from the start is the wisest choice to protect your legal rights. Your car accident lawyer has deep knowledge of car accident law and your car accident claim’s true value. If the insurance companies refuse to acknowledge fault, or if they refuse to pay fair and just compensation to settle your claim, your car accident lawyer can file a lawsuit on your behalf. It is never a good idea to attempt to represent yourself in such a legally complex matter as a personal injury claim. Experienced car accident lawyers will forcefully advocate on your behalf to obtain the best outcome for your case.

Hiring a car accident lawyer is a wise decision, and usually costs you nothing upfront

Hiring a car accident lawyer usually costs you nothing upfront. Most car accident lawyers are willing to work on a contingency fee basis, which means that if there is no recovery, there is no fee. Car accident lawyers will usually receive a percentage of your settlement or court verdict, and only after it has been paid. A car accident lawyer can often negotiate a settlement that is far greater than what a self-represented individual could negotiate on their own.

What is the statute of limitations for car accident injury claims in California?

In California, the California Code of Civil Procedure generally imposes a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims. If your claim involves a public entity for example being involved in a collision with a City bus, you have only six months under California law to prepare and file a formal notice of your claim. If the public entity rejects your claim, you have only six months from the rejection to file a lawsuit. The sooner you make a car accident claim the better the likely outcome of your case.

Can I recover compensation if I was partially to blame for a car accident in California?

Yes, California’s comparative negligence system says if you are partially to blame for a car accident in California, you may recover financial damages from any other party who is also at fault. Parties that are liable for the majority of the fault can still recover, however any compensation for their damages will be reduced by their percent of the fault for the accident. For example, if you are 70% at fault for the accident, you can only recover 30% of your California car accident damages.

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