California's 10 Most Frequent Car Accident Questions

James Michael Bergener
PRO

Written by

Car / Auto Accident Lawyer - Newport Beach, CA

Posted July 05, 2012

What if the other party doesn't have insurance?

In California, at least twenty percent of drivers do not have auto insurance. If you have "uninsured motorist coverage" on your car insurance policy, you can file your claim through your own insurance company. If you do not have this coverage, your only option is to recover compensation directly from the party at fault. Due to the growing number of uninsured drivers in California, uninsured motorist coverage is an essential part of an auto policy. If you're not sure if you have this coverage, contact your insurance company today.

What if I don't have auto insurance?

If you did not have auto insurance at the time of your motor vehicle accident, you are entitled to compensation for your property damage and medical treatment. However, under California Proposition 213, you are barred from recovering non-economic losses for compensation for pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, and other non-pecuniary (non out of pocket) damages. Even though this does complicate your claim, your priority should be to seek the medical treatment you need to get back to full health. In these cases, it is often helpful to consult with an attorney about your rights.

Will my insurance rates go up?

Many people are worried about reporting an accident to their insurance company even if it wasn't their fault. Your rates will not go up if you are not liable for the accident. If you have property damage, uninsured/underinsured motorist, or med pay coverage, your insurance company can be a great asset to your claim. For that reason, it is a good idea to inform your auto insurance about any accident promptly. However, do not rely solely on your insurance to settle your claim. It is always a good idea to consult with an experience personal injury attorney.

Should I give a statement to the insurance company?

No. Anything you say can go on record and can be used against you when it comes time to settle your case. It's always better to talk to an attorney prior to making a statement, even to your own insurance company. All insurance adjusters are skilled at asking questions that unnerve accident victims. Once you secure legal representation, you should refer any insurance companies that contact you to speak to your attorney. At our firm we rarely allow our clients to give a statement. When we do, it is always in the presence of a member of our legal team.

Should I go through my insurance to fix my car?

People are often uncertain of how to get their vehicle repaired or replaced after an accident. If you have a full coverage auto insurance policy, can afford the deductible, or have a deductible waiver, use your own insurance to repair your vehicle. In most cases, this is faster than waiting for the other party's insurance to determine liability. If you prefer to wait, make sure you move your car to your home or an auto repair shop. Tow yards charge daily fees that you may end up responsible for.

What is the difference between my property damage claim and my injury claim?

When you're involved in an accident, you have two separate claims: property damage and bodily injury. This means that you will have two separate settlements and will sign two separate releases. Accepting the property damage settlement offer and signing the corresponding release will not affect your bodily injury claim in any way. If the insurance company is already negotiating with you for your property damage, make sure that the release you sign does not include any language about your general damages. If you have any concerns, call us immediately.

What if the driver of a vehicle where I am a passenger is at fault for the accident?

If you are the passenger injured in an accident caused by your driver, you should be able to seek compensation through that driver's insurance. Although people hesitate because the driver is usually someone they know, it's important to recognize that insurance policies exist for this very purpose. Your priority should be to get your health back to where it was prior to the accident. There is not reason to incur costs when you can have treatment, lost wages, and pain and suffering covered by the insurance policy. Some restrictions may apply to your case, so it is important to consult with an attorney.

Why is the insurance company offering me so little?

As a rule, insurance companies want to pay out as little money as possible. Companies will especially take advantage of victims with no legal representation because they tend to be less informed of their rights. Unfortunately, a majority of accident victims will accept the insurance companies' low-ball offers because they want to avoid a hassle. Insurance companies' own research shows that accident victims who retain an attorney are awarded an average of 40% more money than those who choose to represent themselves. Speak to an attorney to avoid settling for less than you deserve.

What can I do if the other party's insurance is denying liability?

It's common for insurance companies to deny liability, even in cases where a police report places their insured at fault. This can be due to an insurance adjuster strategy or because their insured is lying about the circumstances of the accident. Depending on the incident, it is possible to get the insurance company to alter their decision and accept full or partial liability. In these claims, it is particularly important to consult with an attorney who will exhaust every option to build a strong claim against the party at fault.

What if my accident happened out of state?

Even if you live in California, if your accident took place out of state with an out-of-state defendant, you must have an attorney licensed to practice in that state. At Bergener & Associates we are licensed to practice only in the state of California. When we can, we are happy to recommend attorneys who practice out of state. Also, Avvo is a terrific resource for finding attorneys throughout the United States. Don't forget to check the peer endorsements, client reviews, and the attorney's Avvo rating.

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About this lawyer

James Michael Bergener
PRO
James Bergener has been practicing law for 11 years and has been on Avvo since 2011.

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