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What is the Process for Settling a Car Accident Injury Claim in California?

The National Safety Council (NSC) reports there were 5.4 million “medically consulted injuries” in motor vehicle collisions reported in the United States in 2021 alone. These injuries resulted in nearly $500 billion in total damages. Even if you are a safe, attentive driver, there is still a risk that you could be involved in a major collision. :

How Do I Get a Settlement After a Car Accident?

Here, our Stockton auto accident lawyer provides a comprehensive overview of the process for settling a car crash injury claim in California. 

Step #1: The Crash Scene and Immediate Aftermath

The process for settling a motor vehicle accident injury claim in Stockton or elsewhere in California starts well before you get into the actual negotiations. You need to take action right away—at the crash scene itself—to protect your health, your well-being, and your ability to get a full and fair financial settlement. Here are three key sub-steps to take at the scene and during the aftermath: 

  • Report the Accident: All injury crashes in California should be reported to the police. It is a requirement of state law. For example, if you were hurt in a crash in Stockton, be sure to report it to the Stockton Police Department or the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office. 
  • Get Immediate Medical Care: All physical injuries require prompt medical attention from a qualified doctor. Of course, medical care is primarily about your health. At the same time, seeing a doctor is a necessary step to get a personal injury settlement after a crash. 
  • Document the Crash: Car accident liability in California is based on fault. You should be sure to document the scene of the crash. Exchange information with the other driver, take photographs, and secure contact details for any eyewitnesses. 

Step #2: Notify All Implicated Insurance Companies

After addressing any immediate medical concerns and documenting the scheme of the accident, the next step is to notify all implicated insurance companies. You should be sure to notify your own insurance provider that an accident happened. You will want to make sure that other insurers are aware of the crash as well. After getting notice, the insurance companies will then begin their investigation into the claim. You do not have to—and should not—give a full statement at this time. 

Step #3: Consult With a Top-Tier Stockton Car Accident Attorney

Before proceeding any further in the car accident injury claims process, be sure to consult with an experienced Stockton car accident attorney. You do not have to take on insurance companies alone. A skilled lawyer can offer invaluable guidance through the complexities of California’s legal system and help protect your rights. Along with other things, a Stockton auto accident attorney can assess the merits of your claim, advise on the best course of action, and handle communications with insurance companies and all other parties involved.

Step #4: Work With Insurance Adjusters (Through Your Lawyer)

Your Stockton car accident attorney will act as the intermediary between you and the insurance adjusters. Adjusters are tasked with evaluating the claim and determining the insurance company’s payout. While they have a duty to use good faith settlement practices under California state law, the reality is that insurance companies are businesses. Their primary objective is to protect their bottom line (profits). For this reason, it is essential to let your Stockton car accident lawyer handle all correspondence with insurance adjusters.  Your attorney will ensure that you avoid any statements that could undermine your claim. 

Step #5: Receive the Initial Settlement and Develop a Negotiation Strategy

Insurance companies typically respond to claims with an initial settlement offer. It is crucial to review this offer with your Stockton auto accident attorney. The unfortunate reality is that an initial settlement offer from the insurance company may not fully cover all your damages and expenses. Indeed, it is quite common for insurance companies to lead with a lower offer in effort to resolve the car accident claim for the absolute lowest amount of compensation possible. Do not agree to settle your case for less than you deserve under the law. Your Stockton, CA car crash attorney will help you understand the value of your case, assess whether or not the offer is fair, and develop a personalized negotiation strategy to help you seek the absolute maximum financial settlement, including for your property damage (vehicle repairs), lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages. 

Step #6: (If Necessary) Prepare a Demand Letter

If negotiations with the insurance company do not result in a full and fair settlement offer, your Stockton car accident attorney will likely recommend preparing a demand letter. It is a common next step in personal injury claims. Even if settlement negotiations stall out, that does not mean that your case is bound for trial. A demand letter is a formal request for a specific amount of financial compensation. It is generally backed by a detailed explanation and evidence of your damages and the impact of the accident on your life. The demand letter serves as a strong statement of your intent to pursue fair compensation. It should always be drafted by an experienced attorney. 

Note: If a demand letter and continued negotiations are not sufficient to get you the right settlement, you can file a complaint and take your case to court. While litigation only happens in a limited number of car accident injury claims, it is a possibility. 

Contact Our Stockton Auto Accident Attorney for a Free Case Review

At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton, CA car accident lawyers have the professional expertise that you can trust. We are local attorneys that get big results for our clients. If you have any questions about setting a car accident injury claim, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation. From our Stockton office, we handle personal injury claims throughout the area, including in Sacramento, Lodi, Sutter Creek, Manteca, and Galt.