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How Car Accident Injury Claims Work


There are thousands of car accidents in California every day, many of which lead to severe injuries or even death. According to the California Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), there are approximately 178,000 crashes that cause injuries or fatalities yearly. That averages out to about 488 reported injuries or deaths on California roads per day.

Those aren’t good odds. If you regularly drive in California, it’s all too likely that you will be involved in one crashes sooner or later. Should that happen, you could face significant medical bills, loss of income, and a permanently reduced quality of life. That’s why it’s essential to understand how car insurance policies work. 

How Car Insurance Works

Automotive insurance works like most other insurance policies. When you purchase a policy, you agree to pay the insurer a set monthly premium for the length of the contract. In exchange, the insurer agrees to pay up to a set amount in compensation for covered events. 

For car insurance, the policy typically covers the car, the authorized drivers, and any passengers, pedestrians, or other motorists involved in an incident. However, every policy is different, so the coverage will vary depending on the purchaser’s requests.

Types of Car Insurance Coverage in California

California requires every registered vehicle to have a minimum amount of insurance coverage before it can be driven. This includes at least $15,000 in Bodily Injury Liability coverage per person and $30,000 per accident, as well as $5000 in Property Damage Liability coverage. This is known as a 15/30/5 policy. However, there are multiple other coverages you may purchase. Here’s how different policies work:

  • Bodily Injury Liability: This covers medical expenses if you are liable for an accident that hurt another person. 
  • Property Damage Liability: This covers repairing other people’s property if you are liable for the accident that damaged it.
  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury: These policies protect you if another driver causes an accident that hurts you but does not have enough Bodily Injury Liability coverage to cover your bills.
  • Comprehensive: This covers repairing your vehicle if it is damaged by something other than a car accident, such as hail or fire. The specific covered events vary according to the policy.
  • Collision: This is the reverse of Property Damage Liability coverage in that it covers repairing your vehicle if it’s hit by another driver. This coverage kicks in after the other driver’s liability coverage is exhausted.
  • Medical Payments: These policies cover the medical bills of anyone involved in a car accident, even if no one is found liable for it. 
  • Umbrella: These policies cover “leftover” costs after other policies have been exhausted, including medical and repair costs. 

If you own a car, it is best to go beyond the mandatory minimum liability coverages. If you are liable for an accident, you could be required to pay any damages that exceed your coverage out-of-pocket. The same goes for other drivers. For example, suppose you are injured by a driver with a 15/30/5 policy in an accident and accrue $50,000 in medical bills. In that case, their insurer will only cover $15,000 of those costs, and the other driver may be liable for the remaining $35,000. 

That’s why it’s a good idea to get something like a 250/500/100 policy, which will cover the bills after almost any accident. In addition, it’s worthwhile to get collision, comprehensive, and uninsured/underinsured coverage at minimum to protect yourself from drivers whose policies are too low to cover serious accidents.

How to File a Car Insurance Claim in California

If you have already been injured in a car accident, it’s time to file a claim with insurance. Filing your claim correctly can impact whether you receive the compensation you need in a timely fashion or need to take legal action. Here’s how to file a California car insurance claim:

  • Get the other driver’s insurance information at the scene of the accident. If the other person caused the accident, their insurance would be used to cover medical bills first. If you cannot gather the information yourself due to your injuries, you can find this information after the fact using the police report. 
  • Call both the other driver’s insurer and your own. No matter who is liable, you must notify both insurers that you will file a claim. Ideally, do this within 24 hours of the crash. While you’re talking with these companies, make sure you confirm what coverage they offer and any deadlines you need to meet.
  • Gather necessary documentation. Each insurer will require you to submit paperwork with your claim. This may include medical records, hospital bills, and other documents showing that you are injured and eligible for coverage.
  • Submit your claim. Once you have all the paperwork, submit your claim, then wait for a response. Depending on the accident’s severity, it may take weeks to hear back. 

Ideally, the insurer will accept your claim without dispute. However, many insurers attempt to avoid paying large claims because it is bad for the bottom line. 

The insurer may dispute or deny liability if you require substantial medical care or otherwise are eligible for a significant insurance payout. In that case, you need the assistance of an experienced Temecula car accident attorney

Expert Legal Representation for Car Accident Injuries

Suppose an insurer tries to argue that your injuries are not covered or that their customer is not liable for an accident. In that case, you may struggle to get the compensation you need for your medical expenses. That’s where Ellis Helm, APC, can help. We offer comprehensive personal injury legal representation in Temecula and the San Diego metro area. We have years of experience negotiating with insurers and litigating disputed or denied claims, so we can help you pursue the compensation you need for your car accident injuries. Learn more about whether you have a case by scheduling your consultation today.