While most car accident cases are settled out of court, proceeding to court is sometimes necessary to obtain just compensation, and a seasoned California car accident attorney can help you with either scenario.
If another driver’s negligence leaves you or someone you love injured in a car accident, you need the compensation to which you are entitled to pursue your most complete recovery. Car accident claims typically settle with the insurance companies with which they’re filed. When the insurance company refuses to address a claim fairly, proceeding to court is generally necessary, meaning that while your car accident case will likely be resolved with a settlement that covers your complete physical, financial, and emotional damages, there is a chance it will go to court. Regardless of how your car accident case is resolved, your experienced California car accident attorney will work tirelessly to help ensure that you’re compensated fairly.
Car Accident Cases and Driver Negligence
Car accidents are often caused by the negligence of other drivers, which is likely on what your car accident case will be predicated. Driver negligence can come in a wide range of dangerous forms that include all the following:
- failing to drive in accordance with the rules of the road
- driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- distracted driving
- drowsy driving
- aggressive driving
If the insurance company handling your case decides to fight you on the matter of fault – attempting to shift blame from their policyholder and toward you – it may mean that proceeding to court will be necessary.
A Note About Fault in California
California implements what is known as comparative fault in relation to car accident cases, meaning that, even if you share fault for the accident that causes you to be injured, you can seek compensation for the percentage of your losses for which the other driver bears responsibility. Consider the following example:
- You suffered an injury in a rear-end accident in which a speeding driver barreled into the back of your vehicle at a stop sign.
- One of your vehicle’s brake lights was out at the time.
- As a result, the court handling your case assigns 90 percent of fault to the rear driver and 10 percent of the fault to you.
- You are awarded compensation at a rate of 90 percent of your total losses, which is the percentage for which the other driver is responsible.
If the insurance company disagrees with you and your dedicated car accident attorney regarding the percentage of fault the other driver is responsible for, taking your case to trial will likely be in order.
The Losses You Experience
A primary reason for proceeding to court is when the insurance company refuses to address the full range of losses the claimant experiences. If you have suffered an injury from another driver’s carelessness, your legal damages – or losses – can be immense, and each category of loss should receive the careful attention it deserves.
Property Damage to Your Vehicle
The medical expenses you experience in the aftermath of a car accident are likely to be very high right out of the gate. If your injuries, however, are serious, lead to complications, or are closely associated with secondary healthcare concerns, you can expect ongoing medical costs that can prove financially devastating. Medical expenses that are commonly associated with car accidents include:
- emergency transportation and care
- surgery and follow-up care
- treatment and care from doctors, hospital staff, specialists, and other medical professionals
- physical and occupational therapy
- medical tests, treatments, and procedures
- prescription medications
- pain management
- home healthcare
- adaptive physical devices and adaptations to home and vehicle
Lost Income on the Job
Even a somewhat minor injury can keep you off the job for a decent amount of time, and a serious injury can translate to a lengthy break from work – and the loss of income that goes with it. If any of the following apply, the related financial losses can be that much more consequential:
- Your ability to do your job is affected.
- Your ability to continue advancing your career is affected.
- You’re unable to return to work at all.
Many of us invest in our careers emotionally, which can make this category of loss psychological as well as financial.
Pain and Suffering
In addition to the losses that relate directly to your finances, there is also your physical and emotional pain and suffering for which to account. The terrifying violence of a car accident that’s caused by someone else’s negligence can lead to PTSD-like symptoms, such as the following:
- serious mood swings
- difficulty concentrating
- terrifying flashbacks of the accident
- panic attacks and other forms of increased anxiety
- sleep disturbances that can include night terrors
- difficulty connecting with loved ones, family members, and friends
- a tendency to self-isolate
- fear of getting back into the driver’s seat
One of the most challenging aspects of these symptoms is that they can put the brakes on support from the outside – just when that support will be most beneficial. It is also easy to pooh-pooh these emotional losses due to the fact that they can’t be seen and clearly identified, but they can be one of the most difficult accident-related losses to overcome and should not be shortchanged in your car accident claim.
While it is not unusual for claimants and the insurance companies handling their claims to go back and forth in negotiations regarding the amount of loss involved, you shouldn’t settle for an amount that fails to adequately cover the losses you suffered as a result of their policyholder’s dangerous driving practices. Your practiced car accident attorney will know when to put an end to negotiations and proceed to court if doing so is the best path forward in your case.
Understanding the Insurance Company’s Approach
One important point to keep in mind as you push forward with your case is that the insurance company is in the business of churning out immense profits, and toward this end, it’s willing to do what it takes to keep your settlement as low as possible. Some of the tactics that insurance companies tend to turn to time and time again include the following:
- The insurance company’s representatives are well-versed in obtaining carefully crafted statements from claimants that go on to damage their own claims.
- The insurance company may offer an early settlement that appeals to your financial desperation but may be woefully inadequate in relation to the losses you’ve suffered. Accepting a settlement prior to discussing the matter with your car accident attorney is not advised.
- The insurance company may deny your claim from the get-go in the hope that you will simply give up.
- The insurance company may throw up roadblocks in the form of artificial complications that make the already lengthy and complicated claims process that much more so.
- As mentioned, the insurance company may also shift blame in your direction, may deny the extent of your losses, or may attempt to do both.
Protecting Your Case
While there is little you can do to push the insurance company handling your case into negotiating a fair settlement in good faith if it chooses not to, there are steps that you can take to help protect your claim from the outset, including:
- Accept medical attention at the scene of the car accident.
- If medical attention isn’t offered, get checked out by a medical professional as soon after the accident as possible.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions and advice carefully.
- Reach out to an experienced car accident attorney as soon after the crash as it is possible to do so.
- Refrain from making a statement to the insurance company. You are not required to do so, and it is in your best interest to leave this task in the capable hands of your car accident attorney.
- Turn your back on social media while your case is pending. It’s very easy to say more than you realize or inadvertently provide the insurance company with information that it can twist into ammunition that damages your case.
A Note About Your Medical Care
Even if you don’t believe you were seriously injured by the car accident in question, it’s important to seek medical care early on. To begin, the immense impact of a car accident can cause injuries that may not present with symptoms immediately but are, nevertheless, very dangerous, including:
- internal injuries
- soft tissue injuries (such as whiplash) that can lead to chronic pain
- traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
The most important point to keep in mind is that when an injury is diagnosed early, your chances of recovering fully are significantly increased. It is also important to note, however, that by demonstrating your concern regarding the injuries you’ve sustained, you put the insurance company on notice to follow suit – and you provide it with less evidence in relation to any doubts it may have regarding your associated losses.
How Having Professional Legal Guidance Can Help
You have suffered an injury from another driver’s negligence and are going through that driver’s insurance provider to obtain fair compensation. The insurance company, however, is good at what it does, including keeping settlements like yours low, and it has ample resources at its disposal. Reaching a just settlement without the backing of a savvy car accident attorney will be exceptionally difficult. In fact, your attorney will take on all the following critical tasks in support of your case’s best possible resolution:
- Your attorney will gather all the available evidence in your case, including eyewitness testimony, photos and videos taken at the scene of the accident, and physical evidence from the scene.
- Your attorney will employ expert witnesses and have accident models created to back up your claim succinctly.
- Your attorney will compile this evidence into your strongest case.
- Your attorney will provide the insurance company with the information it needs to know while skillfully negotiating a fair settlement.
- Your attorney will zealously advocate for your rights throughout the claims process.
- Your attorney will ensure that you understand the legal process and will help you make the best decisions for you and your case.
- Your attorney will be well prepared to take your case to trial in the event that the insurance company is not interested in making a fair settlement offer.