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California Auto Insurance Claims Basics

January 31, 2017

California Auto Insurance Claims BasicsFiling and pursuing California auto insurance claims requires some basic knowledge of the types of coverage, the laws and the claims process. Motorists in California are required to have automobile insurance. The state has established minimum liability requirements, and there are a variety of different types of coverage and levels of insurance. People who are involved in accidents may file claims with the at-fault driver’s insurance or with their own, depending on the types of coverage that they have selected. People may want to determine the level of coverage and types that might best protect them in the event that they are involved in accidents. An attorney may help to determine the available recovery sources if his or her client is injured in an accident.

Types of car insurance coverage in CA

At the most basic form, Californians are required to carry bodily injury liability and property liability insurance. People who choose liability only coverage must carry minimum limits of $15,000 per person for bodily injury and $30,000 per accident (so called “15/30 coverage”). From there, many insurers offer and I highly recommend higher policy limits that can range usually up to $250,000 per person injured and $500,000 per claim. The minimum property liability coverage in the state has a limit of $5,000. Other types of coverage that are not required but that may be smart for people to choose include uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, medical expenses coverage, comprehensive coverage and collision coverage. These additional types of coverage provide added protection when people are involved in collisions. Usually, good drivers may also obtain “umbrella” coverage which can add additional coverage of usually up to one million dollars. Surprisingly, this additional coverage can only add a few hundred dollars or slightly more to your annual premium.

Presenting claims under different coverage types

When a person is injured in an accident with a motorist who has only the state-required bodily injury and property liability coverages, the person’s recovery will be limited to the minimums that the driver’s policy has established. For example, if the motorist carries only the minimum amount, the injured plaintiff will be limited to recovering $15,000 for his or her personal injury and $5,000 for his or her property losses. Californians may elect to carry basic liability coverage with higher amounts than the minimums, however, with many electing to carry bodily injury liability coverage of $100,000 or $300,000 per accident and property liability coverage of $100,000. People who are injured may want to investigate the coverage levels of the at-fault driver’s policy.

People who elect to carry uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages may submit accident claims to their own insurance companies to obtain compensation for their losses. Uninsured motorist coverage in California generally provides limits of $100,000 per person for bodily injury and $300,000 per accident. Property loss limits for uninsured motorist coverage are generally set at $5,000. Underinsured motorist coverage is often grouped in with uninsured motorist coverage and provides added compensation to injured victims when the at-fault motorists had insurance that was insufficient to pay for their losses. Medical expenses coverage is another option. It pays for injured people’s medical expenses or funeral costs with an average limit of $5,000.

Collision coverage is designed to pay for the costs to repair or replace policyholders’ vehicles if they have been damaged in accidents. Finally, comprehensive coverage pays for the repair or replacement costs of policyholders’ vehicles that have been damaged by storms or thefts.
Third-party claims with the at-fault party’s insurance company.

Claims Against the Party Legally At Fault

While people may choose to open up claims on their own when they have been involved in car accidents, third parties who have suffered bodily injuries in accidents that were caused by at-fault drivers might benefit by getting help from personal injury attorneys with opening their claims. Attorneys may investigate to uncover all of the potential recovery sources. They may negotiate with the at-fault drivers’ insurance companies in order to recover the maximum possible amount so that their clients may be fairly compensated.

Attorneys may be better able to evaluate claims and to determine the value of the claims that people who have been insured should be entitled to. Insurance companies often engage in strategies that are designed to minimize the amounts that they pay out, and attorneys may understand the ways in which insurance companies work to minimize claims so that the attorneys can combat them for their clients. In many cases, injured people are able to recover more in their claims when they have legal help than if they try to proceed on their own.

Underinsured or uninsured motorist claims

Despite the state’s requirement that all motorists carry at least liability coverage, some drivers let their policies lapse and do not have any coverage at all. When uninsured drivers cause accidents, people who are injured may be left with little or no remedies to cover their losses. Uninsured motorist coverage is available to pay people who have been injured in accidents or suffered property losses in accidents that were caused by uninsured motorists. Underinsured motorist coverage is also available and is often sold as a companion coverage with uninsured motorist coverage. This type of coverage kicks in to help compensate people for their losses that exceed what the at-fault drivers’ policy limits are.

Medical payments claims

Drivers who elect to carry medical payments coverage may have their medical expenses covered up to the chosen coverage limits. This may help people who have been injured to pay for their ongoing medical costs while they wait for their claims against the at-fault drivers to be settled. Dealing with auto insurance companies with accident claims can be very frustrating. Injured people should concentrate on recovering after their accidents rather than worrying about negotiating fair settlements with the auto insurance companies. An experienced personal injury attorney may advocate for his or her client so that the client can be made whole again through a reasonable and fair settlement.

Hiring an Experienced Auto Accident Lawyer

As discussed above, it is possible to present certain types of claims on your own without a lot of difficulty. However, if you have any type of significant bodily injury caused by a heavy-impact collision, you very well may run into resistance on payment of full value. This holds true even if you are presenting a claim to your own insurance company under the medical payments provision or uninsured or underinsured motorist provisions. If you are attempting to get full and complete compensation for all current and future medical costs, lost wages or income, property damage and especially compensation for both physical pain and emotional distress with the at fault party’s insurance carrier, the task can be truly daunting. Having a lawyer with experience and a track record of results to deal with the insurance companies on your behalf can make all the difference.

Additional Resources:

For additional information on how car accident insurance claims work in California, visit some of our related web pages here:

California Car Insurance Accident Disputes

California Auto Insurance Rate Increases for Accident Claims

Client Reviews
I have known Steven for some time now and when his services were required he jumped in and took control of my cases. I had two and they were handled with the utmost professionalism and courtesy. He went the extra mile regardless of the bumps in the road. I can not see me using any other attorney and I would recommend him to any of my family and friends. Josie A.
Steven was vital during our most trying time. He was referred by a friend after an accident that involved a family member. While he was critical and lying in the hospital, Steven was kind, patient and knowledgeable about what we were going through. Following our loss, Steven became a tough and aggressive negotiator and made sure that we receive a huge compensation. I would refer Steven in fact, this happened 2 years ago and I still speak highly of his service. Cheryl S.
Mr. Sweat is a pitbull in the courtroom as well as settlement negotiations - You can't have a better equipped attorney in your corner! It is a pleasure working as colleagues together on numerous cases. He can get the job done. Jonathan K.
Because of Steven Sweat, my medical support was taken care of. Plus, I had more money to spare for my other bills. Steven is not only an excellent personal injury lawyer, providing the best legal advice, but also a professional lawyer who goes beyond his call of duty just to help his clients! He stood up for me and helped me get through the process. I would definitely recommend. I couldn't think of any better lawyer than him. MiraJane C.
I must tell anyone, if you need a great attorney, Steve sweat is the guy! I had an awful car accident and had no idea where to turn. He had so much to deal with because my accident was a 4 car pile up. Not to mention all the other cars were behind me and they were not wanting to settle in any way! He never stopped working for me and had my best interest at heart! Audra W.
I believe I made the best choice with Steven M Sweat, Personal Injury. I was very reluctant to go forward with my personal injury claim. I had a valid claim and I needed a professional attorney to handle it. I felt so much better when I let Steven take my case. His team did everything right and I am very satisfied. Stia P.
I have to say that Steve has been exemplary! I met Steve at a point with my case that I was ready to give up. He took the time and dealt with all of my concerns. Most importantly, he was present and listened to what I was going through. He was able to turn things around, put me and my case on the right track! The results were better that expected! Highly recommend!! Cody A.