Personal Injury Attorneys in Bakersfield, California
Devastating accidents happen every day in California—and most of the time, you’re in no control over them. In the state, there are roughly 277,000 car accidents each year that result in an injury. After these accidents, it can be difficult to know how to proceed to address not only your physical health but your emotional health as well. Insurance claims and settlements can start to cover the many costs associated with an accident, but all too often they fall short, leading many people to pursue a personal injury claim. If you’re interested in learning more about filing a personal injury claim and what the process will look like, contact the Underwood Law Firm to set up an appointment. Our attorneys are proud to serve individuals and their loved ones in Bakersfield, California, Lamont, and throughout Kern County.
Personal Injury Claims in California
Each state handles personal injury lawsuits slightly differently and this will affect how you pursue a claim. The first thing to understand is that California is a fault state (also called an at-fault state). This means that the individual who is found to be at fault for an accident occurring is financially responsible for paying all damages related to the accident, and this often falls to their insurance provider. In a no-fault state, you would first have to seek compensation through your own insurance before pursuing it with the at-fault driver, since providers are required to pay out damages regardless of who caused the accident.
California, however, also acknowledges that many accidents aren’t solely the responsibility of one person and has a law that fault can be shared. Per California’s pure comparative negligence rule, after an accident is investigated, each party will be assigned a percentage of liability. When a final settlement is determined, your total compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if you were found to be 30% at fault for an accident occurring and the settlement was $20,000, you would only get $14,000.
The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim in California is two years from the date of the accident. If you’re filing a claim against a government entity, you only have six months. It’s essential you pay attention to these deadlines. Any claims filed after these dates are likely to be dismissed.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
You have a few options when filing a personal injury claim in California. Your main choice will be whether to file a claim against your own insurance provider or against the at-fault driver’s insurance, and an experienced personal injury attorney can help you determine your best option. You may need to file with your own provider if the other driver was uninsured or underinsured. In many cases, the at-fault driver will have insurance, and filing directly with them is more common, especially since California is an at-fault state. With either scenario, you’ll need to include supporting documentation or evidence that the claims adjuster will use to determine your damages. This could include pictures of the accident site, police reports, medical reports, repair bills, medical bills, or proof of lost income. Be prepared to negotiate, since many adjusters will try to get you to accept a low offer to keep their costs down.
Sometimes, people will recover adequate compensation by going through the standard claims process, even if it does take extra effort to go back and forth with negotiations. In other cases, you may wish to pursue litigation. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll go to trial since the vast majority of cases are settled out of court, but filing a lawsuit can often be enough to elicit a more favorable settlement.
Because each accident is unique, the damages you’re able to pursue will depend on your specific situation and who has been found liable. In general, you’ll be able to pursue fewer non-economic damages like pain and suffering or emotional distress if you’re uninsured and seeking compensation through the at-fault driver. A possible exception to this would be if the at-fault driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time.
That said, most injured parties can seek compensation for anything directly related to the injury. This could include medical expenses including estimates on what you’ll have to pay in the future for continued care, lost wages due to time off recovering from injuries, property loss, emotional distress, and more.
Personal Injury Attorney Serving Bakersfield, California
At the Underwood Law Firm, we understand that each client is unique, that their story deserves to be heard, and that their rights need to be protected. No one should have to go through the trauma of recovering from an accident and pursuing a personal injury claim alone. Let us help you. If you’ve recently been injured in an accident and are looking for a personal injury attorney in Bakersfield or anywhere else in California, reach out to us.