After a car accident, one of the first things you should do is file an insurance claim. But what is the insurance claim process after a car accident in California? Below, our experienced attorneys explain everything you should know.

What to Do at the Accident Scene

Before you start the claims process, here’s what to do during the immediate aftermath.

  • Contact 911 if there are serious injuries. Make sure everyone is safe before taking any further action.
  • Call the police. In California, you must report any crash involving personal injury to the police within 24 hours of a crash. The police will issue an accident report you can use as part of your claim.
  • Exchange information. You’re duty bound to exchange insurance information with the other driver(s) involved in the crash.
  • Take pictures or video evidence. Document the scene, including any road hazards and property damage.
  • Get witness details. If there are witnesses, get their contact information. They may be asked to help prove your case later.
  • Seek medical attention. It doesn’t matter if you feel fine! The stress of the situation could mask injury. Always get medical advice – don’t self-diagnose after a car crash.
  • Contact the DMV. You must report a crash to the DMV if there’s a personal injury or property damage over $1,000.
Loss adjuster inspecting car insurance document with keys on table

Filing an Insurance Claim After a Car Accident

The exact process varies from claim to claim. However, there are a few key steps to claiming car insurance after an accident.

  • Contact your insurer. The details of how to do this can be found in your policy. Do this within 24 hours of the crash.
  • Stick to the facts. Provide no more than basic details. Liability and other matters can be determined later. If you don’t know the answer to something, it’s okay to say this, too.
  • Call an attorney. You can contact a personal injury attorney if you’re hurt in the crash. You could be entitled to compensation. They can also help you handle your insurance claim.
  • Negotiate settlement. Your attorney will explain what your case is worth. They’ll ensure you know whether an offer is fair before you accept it. If the case won’t settle, they’ll explain your options.

How Long After an Accident Can You Claim Car Insurance?

This is a common question. Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer!

It all depends on your insurance policy. Some insurers require you to claim within, say, 30 days. Others give you more or less time.

You must check your insurance policy to make sure you’re clear on the filing deadline. However, deadlines aside, it’s usually a good idea to call the insurer promptly. This means within 24 to 48 hours of the accident. The sooner you file a claim, the easier it is to gather evidence and settle quickly.

What about personal injury claims? We can find the answer in California’s statutes of limitations. Normally, you have two years from the accident date to make a personal injury claim in CA. Miss this deadline and you could lose the right to claim.

Mistakes to Avoid When Filing a Car Insurance Claim

Aside from missing a filing deadline, what other mistakes should you avoid in car accident insurance claims? Let’s take a look.

  • Accepting the first offer. The first offer is rarely the best. But if you accept the first offer, you’ll lose your right to seek more compensation later.
  • Signing anything without legal advice. Always get legal advice before signing any settlement agreement. Insurance negotiations are complex. Don’t risk losing out on compensation you’re entitled to.
  • Admitting blame. Insurers will try to limit what they pay out on claims. If you say anything which implies fault, they could use your words against you. Stick to the facts – nothing more.
  • Having no evidence. Without evidence, your insurer might question the validity of your claim. For example, they might say you damaged your own vehicle, or got injured another way. Gather as much evidence as you can from the scene of the accident.
  • Underreporting your losses. Accidentally undervaluing your claim could mean you settle for less than you deserve. This is a key reason why you should get legal advice before confirming your losses!
  • Having no accident report. It’s not only mandatory to report certain crashes in CA. The police report can help insurers settle your claim, too. The more evidence they have, the easier – and quicker – it is to agree a settlement.

Best Practices for Making an Auto Insurance Claim

What are the right ways for claiming car insurance after an accident? While the exact answer varies depending on the claim, here are a few tips to help you get started.

  • Get medical attention. Even if you don’t feel injured, some injuries – such as concussion – can take days or weeks to manifest. Plus, your medical records can be used to support an insurance or personal injury claim.
  • Gather as much evidence as you can. Whether it’s proof of lost income, medical bills, or car repair estimates, keep everything. The more evidence you have, the easier it is to value and settle your claim.
  • Start the insurance claims process quickly. There’s no reason to delay calling your insurance company. Your insurer might question your claim if you wait a few weeks to contact them. Even if you don’t have all the evidence you need, start the process.
  • Stick to the facts. Don’t admit fault or elaborate anything. Let the evidence speak for itself. Leave the negotiations to your lawyer and the insurance adjusters.
  • Contact a car wreck lawyer. A lawyer can help you navigate the claims process after an auto accident. They’ll help you decide if a settlement offer is fair and right for you.

Do I Need an Attorney to File an Auto Insurance Claim?

You might not need an attorney to file a claim with your auto insurer. However, there are many reasons why it’s helpful to have a lawyer on your side.

  • Insurance companies may try to settle quickly by making a lowball first offer. An attorney can often negotiate a better offer based on a claim’s true value.
  • You may also wish to make a personal injury claim alongside your insurance claim. A personal injury lawyer can manage both claims on your behalf.
  • Settlement negotiations are time-consuming and complex. Focus on moving forward while your lawyer handles the legal issues for you.
  • You deserve to spend this time healing and recovering. You don’t need the additional stress of handling an auto insurance claim. Relax, recover well, and let your lawyer fight for your legal rights.

Free Consultation with Experienced Car Crash Attorneys in CA

The insurance claims process after a car accident is complex. If you’re making a claim, don’t feel like you need to handle the situation alone. Instead, turn to the May Firm. Not only can we settle your insurance claim, but we can help you get personal injury damages, too.

You’re not just a client to us – you’re part of our family. And we’ll do everything we can to champion your rights and get you the settlement you deserve.

We offer every client a free first meeting and you don’t pay anything at all unless we win your case! So, there’s nothing to lose but everything to gain by calling us. Tell us what happened to you – call now or reach out online to schedule a free case evaluation.