If you’re in a car crash, chances are you want to move on from the incident quickly. You want to get the justice you deserve – and get your life back on track. But should you represent yourself in a car accident case, or should you hire an attorney? While it’s tempting to represent yourself, we explain below why this is a risky strategy.

Car Accidents in California

Car accidents range from minor bumps and scrapes to fatal collisions. Every accident scene is entirely unique – and there’s no limit to the types of injuries you might sustain. 

  • Driver fatigue, distracted driving, and speeding are common causes of CA car crashes. 
  • Auto accident deaths are a significant problem in the US. In 2022 alone, there were over 4,000 fatalities in auto crashes in California
  • Even non-fatal accidents may have long-term consequences. Serious accidents can cause devastating injuries including paralysis and limb loss.

Does Fault Matter in CA Car Crash Claims?

California is what we call a “fault” state. This means that whoever caused the crash should pay for the damage. Usually, this means that the at-fault driver’s insurance company covers the claim. However, it all depends on factors such as the level of coverage and the type of claim.

How to Make a Car Accident Claim in CA

Car accident claims are civil claims. This means that there are certain procedures to follow for filing a claim correctly. The exact process varies depending on the type of claim you’re making and how many parties are involved.

Police car and rescue truck in background at night emergency services responding to crash

The outcome of any claim, though, is securing compensation for your losses and any harm sustained. To get compensation, you must prove a few things. 

  • Duty of care: Drivers must show reasonable care and regard for the safety of others while driving. So, this part of the claim is fairly easy to establish.
  • Breach of duty: Failing to drive with reasonable care and skill means the driver behaved negligently. This is a breach of their duty of care towards other road users. Put simply, this means they did something wrong.  
  • Causation: You must prove that the driver’s negligent or reckless actions caused the crash. For example, this could mean showing that someone ran a stop sign and collided with your vehicle.
  • Losses: You must show that you lost something, or suffered in some way, due to the crash. These losses can be financial but they can also be physical e.g. time off work due to injury.

But do you really need an attorney to prove these things? Let’s take a look.

Do I Need a California Accident Attorney?

It’s not uncommon for car crash victims to try to manage claims themselves. This could mean contacting their insurer and accepting the first offer. But before you attempt to negotiate any accident settlement, here’s why it’s best to get legal advice first.

Legal Knowledge

You might not know how the law works or how it applies in your case. This could mean that:

  • You don’t sue the right parties
  • You don’t gather the right evidence 
  • Evidence gets lost, destroyed, or compromised

In short, you risk losing out on the full value of your claim. In the worst case scenarios, your claim could be unsuccessful if you don’t sue the right parties. A car accident lawyer will ensure you have all the evidence you need in place to move your claim forward. They can identify the strengths and weaknesses of your case and devise a strategy for negotiating damages.

Case Management

Recovering from a crash, even a minor one, can be emotionally draining. And managing a claim can be demanding. From gathering evidence to handling negotiations, it’s a time-consuming process.

But it’s an attorney’s job to do this for you. You can focus on recovery and pursuing what else matters in your life. In the meantime, your lawyer handles the case on your behalf.

Negotiating Strategies

Insurance company negotiations are critical to settling claims. Whether you’re claiming for lost wages or medical treatment, negotiations require careful management. 

  • Insurers have their own attorneys. They’re experienced in handling claims. You’re already at a disadvantage if you don’t have your own legal help. 
  • Insurers may try to settle quickly to make the case go away. They may offer you less than you deserve for your accident. An attorney can advise you whether an offer is fair or if it may be rejected. 
  • If you’re dealing with an uninsured driver, there are other complexities. An attorney will ensure you’re not at a disadvantage.

Car crash attorneys in CA know what strategies and tactics insurers use in crash claims. They won’t let insurance companies take advantage of you or drag out negotiations on for longer than necessary.

Recoverable Damages

There are various losses you can claim for, from medical bills to transport costs. California auto accident attorneys know exactly what you can claim for – and how much your claim is worth. They can accurately value your claim and ensure you pursue a fair settlement.

If you represent yourself, you risk missing out on damages you’re entitled to. This means you could end up with less money – and less justice – than you deserve.

Procedural Complexities

There are time limits involved in filing car crash claims.

For example, your insurer might have filing deadlines and time limits set out in your policy. They’ll also have timelines they must adhere to e.g. response times to claims. An attorney will keep pressure on your insurer to bring about an efficient resolution.

What’s more, accident claims have time limits. In CA, you normally have two years from the accident date to file a personal injury claim. And you have three years to claim for property damage.

This seems like a long time, but it’s easy to forget to claim. An attorney will ensure that you don’t miss any key filing deadlines.

Litigation Experience

It’s true that most car accident claims settle out of court. However, it may be necessary to go to trial if:

  • The insurance company fails to settle
  • The settlement amount is unfair 
  • Parties can’t agree on fault 
  • Injuries are especially complex 
  • There are multiple defendants

Yes, you could hire an attorney at this late stage in the case. However, it’s beneficial to have an attorney on your side from the outset. The attorney is familiar with your case and has the commitment and passion to secure a favorable resolution.

How Much Do Car Accident Lawyers in CA Cost?

Most California car accident attorneys work on a “contingency fee” basis. Meaning, you don’t pay anything unless the attorney wins your case. For clients, this means that you have nothing to lose by hiring a lawyer for your accident claim.

If you’re successful, you’ll pay a pre-agreed contingency fee. This fee covers the work involved in managing your case. The exact fee varies depending on the law firm and the type of case you have. Our accident lawyers in California are happy to discuss fee arrangements with you.

How to Choose a California Auto Accident Attorney

Even if you know you need a law firm on your side, there’s still a question remaining. How do you pick the right attorney for you? There are a few factors to consider.

Look for Experience

Although any personal injury lawyer can help you file a claim, look for an experienced car crash attorney. An experienced lawyer knows how to interpret accident reports and make the most of the available evidence. They understand what strategies to use and what pitfalls to avoid. Check that an attorney has experience handling car accident claims before you hire them.

Consider Past Case Results

It’s not just about experience – a successful track record matters, too. You deserve an attorney who knows how to win car crash claims and get the most damages possible.

Police car in foreground Las Vegas at night in background car accident silver orange vehicles

How do you determine a lawyer’s track record? You can ask them about past successes. Or, look through their website and read about past case results.

Ask Questions

Your lawyer works for you. They should be happy to answer questions, offer guidance, and clear up anything you’re confused about. If you feel nervous about asking questions, they might not be the right lawyer for you.

Our car accident lawyers in CA treat every client like family. No question is too much – we want you to feel reassured at every stage of the process. We’re here to help you feel comfortable and confident in your car accident case.

Schedule a Free Consultation

The best way to figure out if a lawyer’s right for you is to book a free consultation. You can meet the lawyers who may work on your case, and learn more about how they might run your claim. This is a great opportunity to ask questions and learn about the strengths and weaknesses of your case.

At the May Firm, we offer all prospective clients a free, no obligation meeting. We will discuss your case, and if you have a claim, you may consider retaining us.

Hire Experienced Car Accident Lawyers in California

Although it’s tempting to file a lawsuit on your own, it may not be in your best interest. California car accident lawyers can walk you through the process, from start to finish. You can focus on recovering and moving forward rather than negotiating with insurance companies.

At the May Firm, our clients are our top priority. No matter how big or small your claim, we’re here for you. To chat to a personal injury attorney about your case, contact us now.

Call a California Car Accident Lawyer Today.


The content in this article is provided for general informational purposes only and may not represent the current law in the recipient’s jurisdiction. The content and information should not be construed as professional legal advice from The May Firm or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. Any and all information included in, or accessible through, this article should not be used to act or refrain from acting without the appropriate legal or other professional advice from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s appropriate jurisdiction. Any reliance you place on such information is strictly at your own risk.