California Car Accident Settlement Process and Timeline
From Hollywood to Humboldt, Lake Tahoe to Light House State Beach, California has a little bit of something to offer everyone. But getting from one point of interest to another in the Golden State pretty much requires driving. Rather than leaving your fate to a jury, if you were injured in a car accident in California you may wish to learn about the California car accident settlement process and timeline.
Do I Need to Report a Car Accident in California?
In most cases, yes. Per California Vehicle Code § 16000, if property damage exceeds $750 or if anyone is killed or injured, you, your attorney, or your insurance agent must report the car accident using the Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California (Form SR-1). If you fail to report such an accident, you may be liable for a misdemeanor hit-and-run under California Vehicle Code § 20002 (for property damage only) or a felony hit-and-run under California Vehicle Code § 20001 (for injury to a person).
California Car Insurance Laws
Insurance policies limited to comprehensive or collision coverage do not meet California's minimum requirements. Drivers in California are required under California Insurance Code § 11580.1(b) and under California Vehicle Code § 16056 to carry liability insurance which meets the following minimum requirements:
- $15,000 for injury or death to one person
- $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person
- $5,000 for property damage
The California legal system uses the "pure comparative negligence" and "at fault" systems. This means that even if the court found you 70 percent at fault for your car accident, the court would still award you 30 percent of any jury damage award.
How Do Car Accident Settlements Work in California?
A settlement is a legal agreement to drop a pending lawsuit and award damages. The vast majority of car accident cases end in settlement rather than with a jury verdict. A settlement allows both parties control over the outcome. In California, California Rules of the Court Rule 3.1380 requires you and the opposing party (or parties) to participate in one or more settlement conferences before your case proceeds to trial.
What is the Average Car Accident Settlement in California?
Car accident settlements typically do not exceed the at fault driver's car insurance maximums. However, if you were seriously injured, you or your attorney should be certain that your car accident settlement awards you enough money to compensate you for:
- Medical bills (past and future)
- Car repairs
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages from time away from work
- At home care
- Loss of consortium
How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit in California?
Per California Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1, you have two years to file a personal injury claim. For property damage, California Code of Civil Procedure § 338 dictates that you have up to three years to file a claim. This means that if you suffered whiplash due to a car slamming into your rear bumper, you have two years to file a claim for any medical bills or other out-of-pocket expenses you incurred due to the injury. But if the only damages you incurred were a broken taillight or a smashed bumper, you have three years in which to file a claim for compensation.
Talk to a California Attorney About Your Car Accident Settlement
Car accident settlements are legally binding documents. While they allow both parties to regain the power otherwise given to the jury, there is a risk of settling for an insufficient amount of money damages. Juries are given instructions to guide them in awarding damages. If you suffered damages in a car accident, you should speak with an experienced California injury law attorney today.
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