How to File a Car Accident Claim in California

Attorneys serving the South Bay Area and San Francisco including Redondo Beach, Torrance, Manhattan Beach and Nearby Cities

When you are involved in a car accident in the state of California, it is important that you notify your insurance agent or company right away – even while still on the scene when possible. Insurance adjusters may want to come to the scene and gather information for use in processing your claim. In some cases, pictures that you snap on your phone or through an insurance company app may serve in place of an adjuster visiting the scene. When you call your insurance company, they will advise you on how to proceed.

Help Filing Car Accident Insurance Claim in California | Kirtland & Packard CTA

Gathering your own information can be helpful for your claim. Before you leave the scene of the accident be sure to:

  • Write down vehicle, driver’s license, and insurance information from all involved drivers
  • Collect contact information from any witnesses
  • Contact and cooperate with emergency services
  • Take pictures from multiple angles with a phone or camera

Do not, under any circumstances, suggest that you are at fault for your accident. This is not something that can be established without a fair and full investigation.

Filing an Insurance Claim for a Car Accident

The first step in filing your claim is contacting your insurance company. If you did not do this on the scene, you will want to do it as soon as possible after your accident. Your insurer will assign your claim to an adjuster who will conduct an investigation into your accident to determine fault. Under California state law, your adjuster must contact you within 15 days of you filing your claim.

When speaking to your insurance adjuster:

  • Provide an honest recounting of your accident
  • Give copies of everything related to your accident, including medical bills, repair statements, photos taken on the scene, witness statements, and any statements you made to police or adjusters on the scene of the accident
  • Fully answer questions without embellishment

When working with an adjuster, remember that he or she will determine liability and the extent of damage. Avoid downplaying your injuries or making it seem like you’re in a rush to settle. These things may end up reducing your final settlement offer.

Understanding Your Rights While Working with an Insurance Adjuster

Your insurance adjuster may ask to record your statement. You do not have to consent. You are legally entitled to deny the recording. The same is true of an IME or independent medical exam. You are not required to see a doctor selected by your insurance company. In the state of California, you cannot be compelled to undergo an IME. Refusal to see your insurance company’s doctor will not impact the viability of your claim. If your insurer insists that you see a specific doctor for an IME, contact an attorney immediately to discuss your options.

How Long do Car Accident Claims Take?

If fault is not an issue and your accident is minor, you may receive payment within days or weeks of making your claim. More complex issues and those requiring investigations can take much longer.

In California, insurers must pay or deny a claim within 40 days of it being proved. This occurs when all information has been gathered, the investigation has been conducted, fault has been established, and all factors have been considered. If the claim is viable, this is when the initial settlement offer will be made.

Minor accidents may be fully covered through insurance. More serious accidents, particularly those involving serious and lifelong injury, may benefit from legal action. Because it is free of both cost and obligation to have your claim reviewed by an attorney, it is always a good idea to speak with a lawyer before accepting an insurance offer – just to make sure you are not cheating yourself out of the compensation you will need to make the best recovery possible.

Contact Kirtland & Packard for a Complimentary Case Review

If you live in the South Bay area, including Manhattan Beach and Torrance, please call Kirtland & Packard at 310-536-1000 to schedule your complimentary case review at our Redondo Beach office. We help victims of serious injury throughout the state of California get real compensation through swift and effective legal action.