How Much to Expect From a Car Accident Settlement in California?

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Car accidents happen daily in California, some of which result in severe injuries and substantial economic losses for those involved. California enforces a fault-based system for resolving car accidents. This means when one driver is responsible for injuring another by causing an accident, the at-fault driver is liable for the injured driver’s damages. However, this system is not as easy to navigate as many drivers expect, and many of these claimants have grounds for legal action beyond insurance claims.

Every driver in California must carry auto insurance that comes into effect when an accident happens, and every auto insurance policy must meet the state’s minimum coverage requirements. In California, a driver’s auto insurance policy must provide at least $5,000 in property damage liability coverage, at least $15,000 in bodily injury liability coverage for a single person, and at least $30,000 in total accident liability coverage.

While these coverage limits may seem generous enough to cover the damages in most accidents, some car crashes can result in catastrophic injuries and expensive economic damages that quickly eclipse available insurance coverage. Therefore, if you intend to pursue compensation for a car accident in California that someone else caused, it’s vital to understand what to expect in terms of compensation from insurance claims and personal injury actions.

Filing an Insurance Claim for a Car Accident

If another driver caused your recent accident, you must obtain their contact information and insurance policy details. It’s typically required to notify an insurer of your intent to file a claim as soon as possible, usually within a day or two. Failure to report a claim to an insurer before the applicable deadline could delay the insurance company’s processing of the claim or incur penalties per the terms of the policy.

Drivers who must file auto insurance claims should contact relevant insurers as soon as possible to report their intent to file claims. However, they should wait to file those claims until they have legal counsel advising them. Having an experienced lawyer draft your demand letter to an insurance company significantly increases the chances of the insurance company handling the claim as efficiently as possible.

A good lawyer will ensure the insurance company handles their client’s claim in good faith and offers a reasonable settlement. For example, when an insurance company lowballs a car accident claim or attempts to deny a claim on a technicality, the claimant’s attorney can play a crucial role in negotiating a better result.

Personal Injury Claims for Car Accidents

When an at-fault driver’s insurance can’t fully cover an injured driver’s damages, the injured driver can proceed with a personal injury claim to enhance their final recovery. Success with a personal injury case requires identifying the defendant, proving they directly caused the plaintiff’s claimed damages through negligence or intentional misconduct and proving the full scope of their claimable damages.

While a successful auto insurance claim can yield compensation for the injured driver’s medical expenses and vehicle repair costs, a successful personal injury claim can provide a more expansive recovery. California law allows personal injury plaintiffs to seek full compensation for medical expenses, lost income, property damage, and all other economic damages resulting from defendants’ actions. Additionally, plaintiffs can seek compensation for their physical pain and emotional distress.

The final recovery from a car accident claim can be substantially higher than the plaintiff initially expected if they have the right attorney handling their case. After exhausting available recovery options through insurance, an attorney can help their client file a personal injury claim and secure the full compensation they need to recover as wholly as possible from their car accident.


Q: What Is the Average Car Settlement in California? A: Available accident and insurance data indicate that most car accident claims in California settle for roughly $20,000. However, many factors determine the overall value of a car accident claim. Therefore, seeking legal counsel from an experienced attorney who can help you accurately calculate your claimable damages is vital. Serious accidents can generate claims worth tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. Q: How Is Pain and Suffering Calculated in California? A: When a plaintiff is likely to make a full recovery from their injury, their attorney may seek a per diem pain and suffering compensation agreement that awards a set amount of compensation for each day until the plaintiff reaches maximum medical recovery. Alternatively, if the plaintiff faces long-term or permanent complications, their attorney may seek a large lump sum instead, calculated by multiplying the plaintiff’s economic damages by a factor of up to five or more to reflect the severity of their client’s condition. Q: How Long Does It Take to Resolve a Car Accident Claim? A: The time required to complete a car accident case typically depends on whether liability is clear, and the plaintiff can accurately prove the full extent of their damages. Many personal injury claims end in settlement negotiations within weeks, while others can take many months to resolve. The agreeableness of any insurance carriers involved in the claim also influences the timetable. Your attorney can estimate the most likely timeline for your specific case. Q: Is It Worth Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney? A: Any personal injury case can involve highly technical or complex details the average person may not know how to address on their own. Even if a victim was able to win their civil claim without an attorney, they risk settling for much less than a lawyer could have obtained for them. Ultimately, hiring an attorney is the best way to improve your chances of success with any personal injury case. It’s natural to have many questions after suffering any personal injury. The right Sacramento car accident lawyer can provide the answers and ongoing support you will require as your personal injury case unfolds. If you believe you have grounds for a personal injury case in California, discuss your options with an experienced personal injury attorney. Contact the Kreeger Law Firm today to schedule a consultation with our team.