If you have been hurt in a car accident, a personal injury claim might be the most effective method to recover compensation. If a negligent person caused your injuries, you are entitled to compensation for medical expenses, property damage, and lost income. At Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, we can help you understand your rights and how car insurance coverage works in car accidents. We are dedicated to assisting you in bouncing back physically and financially.
California Car Accident Insurance Coverage Laws
California has numerous laws that apply should a car accident occur. The laws determine how insurance claims are dealt with, the available damages, and what happens if the victim is partially accountable. It is essential for you as a victim to understand the laws and how they can affect your claim.
California is a Fault State
The state of California uses fault systems as far as car accident liability is concerned. That means motorists are financially accountable for the consequences of collisions they cause.
After the accident, if you sustained injuries, you have the right to take either of the actions below in search of compensation for the losses incurred:
- Bring a claim under the insurance policy
- File a third-party claim through the responsible motorist's liability insurance coverage
- Bring a personal injury claim against the liable motorist
Minimum Liability Car Insurance Requirement
To adhere to financial responsibility law, many car owners prefer to buy liability insurance coverage, and the state states the least amount which car owners should carry.
The required least amounts of liability coverage include:
- Fifteen thousand dollars for death or injury to one victim in a collision they cause
- Thirty thousand dollars for death or injury to at least one person in a car crash they cause
- Five thousand dollars for property damage in the car accident
Recall, these are just the least requirements for liability car insurance coverage. A car owner can have more coverage to cover themselves if an accident leads to significant property damage and injuries. After the policy limits are depleted, the vehicle owner is on the financial hook. Therefore, high insurance limits help them protect their assets after a severe car accident.
Moreover, the insurance covers:
- You while operating another car like a rental motor vehicle
- Another person apart from you who operated the insured motor vehicle with your permission
Ensure you check with the insurance provider to understand under what terms and conditions and when the liability policy applies.
What Does Bodily Injury Liability Insurance Insure?
Bodily injury liability insurance pays somebody's else medical expenses when they are hurt in a car crash caused by the policyholder. Losses covered include the following:
- MRIs and X-rays
- Chiropractor bills
- Hospital bills
- Doctor's bills
- Ambulance costs
- Emergency room costs
- Occupational or physical therapy
- Long- or short-term care
- Funeral expenses
- Dental bills originating from broken teeth
Moreover, the insurance covers your lost earning capacity and lost income if your injuries are preventing you from returning to work.
What Bodily Injury Insurance Does Not Cover
Discussed below are items not covered by bodily injury coverage:
Damages that Exceed Policy Limits
The coverage will cover losses up to the policy's limits. That means the defendant is personally responsible for all amounts above the limit.
For instance, Jeff was texting while driving and accidentally hit your motorcycle. You sustain head injuries. Jeff has 15/30/5 liability coverage, but your total medical expenses are fifty thousand dollars. Jeff is accountable for the extra thirty-five thousand dollars in your medical costs.
Vehicle Repair Costs and Property Damage
Also, the coverage doesn't cover vehicle repair bills among damage to other assets like gates and fences. Motorists in California must have property damage liability insurance on top of bodily liability insurance to cater to the losses. Property damage liability coverage and bodily injury liability insurance are collectively called 15/30/5.
In reference to the above example, Jeff's property damage policy cannot foot your medical expenses that surpassed his 15/30 policy limits. The five thousand dollars in property damage insurance will cover the cost of replacing or repairing your motorcycle.
Injury to the Policyholder and Their Passenger
Liability insurance is a third-party coverage that insures damages suffered by occupants of the motor vehicle that the policyholder hits or pedestrians. The insurance applies if the policyholder is accountable for the car accident. That means the insurance doesn't cover the policyholder's property damage or injuries.
Penalties for Driving Without Car Insurance
As previously mentioned, every driver in California should have the minimum car insurance coverage, and driving without liability coverage is a crime. The motorists should keep proof of insurance with them every time they are driving. Luckily, it is easier today because the law allows the use of electronic documents on a smartphone for proof of coverage. To establish you have insurance, the documentation should show the following:
- Car insurance insurer name
- Insurance firm address
- Coverage duration
- Your insurance policy number
A motorist who cannot prove evidence of insurance won't be in a position to register their car with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV might even suspend their driver's license.
Additionally, the driver risks paying hefty fines. If caught for the first time, the motorist will pay a fine that ranges between one hundred dollars and two hundred dollars. A second-time offense within three years attracts fines that are between two hundred dollars and five hundred dollars.
Their car could also be impounded.
What Happens If You Are Only Partly Accountable for the Accident
Per California comparative fault or comparative negligence rule, you can still receive compensation for the injuries, among other damages suffered even if you are partially at-fault.
A good insurance company will ensure you are assigned the least portion of the liability. The defendant will be accountable for the proportion assigned to them.
If the defendant has liability coverage, their portion of compensation will be footed out of the policy, up to the policy's limit.
What is the Way Forward If You Were Injured in a Car Collision That Was Your Fault?
The most effective method to be covered is having health insurance.
If your copays and deductibles are high or don't have health insurance, you can buy Med Pay coverage or California uninsured / under-insured motorist coverage.
Med Pay Insurance
Medical payment coverage is a non-compulsory no-fault coverage that could be included in your auto policy.
It covers medical expenses and funeral costs up to the policy limit for both the insured and their passengers. The insurance covers the damages irrespective of who caused the accident.
You or your loved one can claim compensation under this policy if:
- Injured in public transportation
- A motor vehicle hits you while you're a pedestrian
- Hurt as a passenger in another person's vehicle
Medical payment insurance doesn't compensate for vehicle or property damage.
Usually, Med Pay in California is available with the following limits:
- One thousand dollars
- Five thousand dollars
- Ten thousand dollars
- Twenty-five thousand dollars
Its premiums are low. Moreover, it covers medical treatment not insured by every health insurance like chiropractic and acupuncture.
Uninsured / Under-Insured Motorist Coverage
UMC/UIM covers injury to policyholders and their passengers due to car collisions caused by another motorist.
The coverage applies when the responsible driver does not have liability coverage or has insurance with limits very low to cover the total injured person's bills. The coverage foots funeral bills, medical costs, and similar insurance for injury to the person. It doesn't cover property damages.
Car insurance providers in California should offer people UMC/UIM insurance with 30/60 bodily injury liability or similar limits as their liability insurance, whichever is lower.
That means if you have the minimum 15/30/5 coverage, you should be offered 15/30/5 UMC/UIM.
If you have 50/100/25 insurance, you should be offered uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage with 30/60 insurance for UMC/UIM but could include more.
Drivers don't need to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance in Los Angeles. You can decline the coverage by signing a waiver indicating you were offered the policy but did not purchase it. Should you choose the insurance, you will pay an extra premium.
What Else Should You Have?
A good car insurance policy begins with liability insurance that is higher than California's requirement. California minimums are low and could leave you open to lawsuits when you do not have adequate coverage. If you possess property to protect from a lawsuit like savings, you should consider a higher degree of insurance. Other auto insurance types you might want to consider include:
Personal Umbrella Policy
The policy covers coverage of policies of insurance you hold with the same insurance provider.
For example, you might have more than one car and could also have a rental coverage policy. If these policies are at the maximum limit, the umbrella provides coverage. Should a claim under a maxed-out policy surpass the policy limits, the umbrella policy pays the extra damages, up to policy limits.
Miscellaneous Car Insurance
Most car insurance providers in California offer extra optional insurance for additional services or valuable equipment. The coverage is add-on insurance called endorsement or rider.
Car endorsements can be:
- Towing and road service
- Insurance for damage or theft to high-end equipment like a navigation system, custom wheels, or stereo
- Compensation of rental vehicles if your motor vehicle is in the repair shop following a car accident
- GAP (Guaranteed Auto Protection) insurance to foot the bill of clearing a car lease or loan if the vehicle is written-off and its value is lower the balance owed
- GAP coverage for Lyft and Uber drivers
Collision and Comprehensive Coverage
Usually, collision and comprehensive coverage are offered together in Los Angeles.
Comprehensive insurance covers damage to your car caused by another thing apart from a collision that is not in your control. It can cover:
- Falling objects like rocks
Collision insurance, on the other hand, covers for damage to your car caused by the car hitting something else like another car, a person, fence, or parking divider.
The limits and cost of comprehensive and collision insurance are based on the vehicle's value.
It might be wise to purchase the insurance if your car is high-value or new.
How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help in Your Car Accident Case
A personal injury attorney can be very instrumental in your case. They can handle the insurance company, the judicial system, and keep you updated on your case's developments.
Most victims do not think they require an attorney following a collision. However, it is essential to know what is at stake before signing away your entitlement to fair compensation or taking the insurer's offer. The insurer is in business and doesn't have your interest at heart.
Discussed below are ways your experienced attorney can help you in the car accident case:
If law enforcement officers came to the accident scene, they would investigate the accident. Generally, it involves getting witness statements, taking skid measurements, and collecting statements from all involved parties.
If the law enforcers did not respond, the insurers involved might speak with their policyholders to understand what occurred.
More often than not, the brief investigations do not give an image of what occurred during the car accident. They might also have false statements and errors.
Any competent attorney will conduct their accident investigation by:
- Analyzing police reports
- Analyzing the insurer report
- Interviewing witnesses
- Collecting surveillance videos of the accident scene
- Reviewing your medical records
- Studying records of previous problems at the accident scene
With the investigation, the attorney can offer a clearer image of what took place during the accident, who was liable, and why the defendant's insurance company should compensate you for your damages.
Manage Your Treatment
You might consider downplaying your injury. Car accident injuries could be severe and develop with time. Even when you feel okay following the collision, headache, spinal cord injuries, neck pain, and other complications could develop days or weeks later. The lawyer will ensure you seek medical attention immediately to be sure the injuries do not worsen.
Also, other victims don't want to seek medical attention since they are concerned about the treatment costs. If a negligent motorist caused your accident, the driver must be held accountable for your damage. The attorney should ensure you obtain proper treatment following the crash and work to obtain compensation.
Proof in an accident goes beyond capturing images of the damaged car and obtaining medical records copies. The defendant might attempt and conceal proof of the crash's cause. The attorney could ensure the proof is not interfered with and retained. The evidence could be analyzed by witness experts to assist in building your personal injury case.
Issue Your Demand Letter
A demand letter offers your claim's outline and the defendant's accountability of the defendant. Typically, it includes:
- All involved parties
- The circumstances and facts of what took place
- Demand for compensation from the insurance provider
- Medical injury and property damage involved
It initiates the negotiation process with the insurance company.
Negotiating with the Insurer
Negotiation is a critical element of receiving compensation. It is also the most complicated part of a personal injury claim if the victim doesn't have legal representation.
Insurance companies have adjusters and lawyers who handled injury and liability claims daily. If a plaintiff deals with the at-fault party's insurer on their own, the insurer might attempt and get them to say things to build the insurance company's case so that the insurer can pay less compensation or even deny the claim.
Generally, it is up to you to determine whether to take the insurer's settlement offer. The attorney should tell you of the available options. Should the insurance firm offer a small percentage of the damages or deny the claim, the attorney could take your claim to court.
File a Lawsuit
In case negotiation with the insurer fails, your attorney should bring a lawsuit in a civil court. It will comprise the liability basis and a compensation claim. A lawsuit could take time to get to trial. Nevertheless, most lawsuits are settled before trial. The closer your case gets to court, the increased chances of the insurance company offering a fair offer.
Understanding the Process of Defending a Car Collision Liability Claim
Per Vehicle Code Section 16000, drivers should report a collision on a Department of Motor Vehicles Form SR1 within ten days from the accident's date if:
- Any person sustained an injury (irrespective of whether the injury was minor) or died
- The value of the property damaged was above one thousand dollars
Also, most insurance policies require policyholders to notify them immediately if they have been involved in a collision. After the insurance provider receives the notice, it will assign an adjuster. The adjuster will investigate the car crash to determine the at-fault party. During their investigation, the insurance adjuster will:
- Take statements
- Review police report
- Talk to witnesses
- Review medical report of victims
- Inspect car damage and the accident scene
Find a Car Accident Attorney Near Me
A car accident can occur at any time. Unfortunately, irrespective of the injuries suffered, insurance providers will attempt to settle the minimum compensation amount possible. Engaging an attorney who is well acquainted with California car insurance coverage can be instrumental. At the Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, our legal team can guide and stand by you throughout the legal process. For more information on how we can help you, contact us today at 424-231-2013.