How Do I Maximize My Personal Injury Claim?

While money can never replace the safety and security you've lost in a car accident it can ease the stress of putting your life back together.

If you've been injured in a car accident, one of the big questions you're likely asking yourself right now is "how do I maximize my personal injury claim? Regardless of whether you're filing that claim with another driver's insurance company or your own, you want—and need—to make your personal recovery process as easy as possible.

Unfortunately, what many accident victims don't know is that they're often leaving a lot of money "on the table" when they accept insurance payouts. That's because insurance companies will often bend over backward to save themselves money. After all, they're in business to make a profit, not to help you after you've been injured. 

In the article below we'll dive deep into the complicated calculations that happen every time an insurance payout is created and help you understand just what you can do to maximize that personal injury traffic accident claim.

The Car Accident Compensation You're Entitled to After a Crash Is Difficult to Calculate

Your car accident was a very personal trauma. Nobody can understand exactly what you went through or what you're still going through today. The pain, the frustration, the confusion—it can all be too much to handle. It seems cruel or insensitive to put a dollar amount on all of it. But that's exactly what needs to be done in every single California car accident compensation claim. Without that dollar figure, there's no way for you to be reimbursed for your losses or compensated for your suffering.

Most people don't understand the complexities of car accident compensation in California. You might even be assuming that all you need to do is submit your hospital bills and a car repair estimate from a garage. Nothing could be further from the truth. (And if you've been injured in an Uber or Lyft accident, there are even more layers to unraveling the puzzle.)

In many cases, you can seek reimbursement for:

But that's not all. Indeed, in California there are no hard and fast rules for calculating compensation for pain and suffering after a car accident. That's why accident claims can get so messy so quickly. Many times it's necessary to hire an attorney in order to maximize your California car accident compensation.

So let's take a look at the mechanics of a personal injury claim here in California.

Important Information About Your California Car Accident Compensation Claim

When it comes to getting the money you deserve after being injured in a car crash, you don't have to struggle alone. At Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers we're here to help, every step of the way. We've created this online resource to help you understand your rights and obligations after a car accident in California. 

Here are a few important things you must keep in mind.

Let's dig into California car accident compensation a little deeper so you have all the information you need to decide what your next step should be.

What Damages Are You Entitled To?

What sort of damages can you include in a California car accident compensation claim? We already mentioned the "Big Three" types of damages mentioned above (medical expenses, lost earnings and pain and suffering damages). Additional financial damages you may be able to collect from insurers (yours and the other driver's), at-fault parties, or even government entities (such as the DOT, or the City of California) may include:

  • The cost of repairing or replacing your car
  • The cost of repairing or replacing any other personal property damaged in the crash (cellphones, sunglasses, clothing, even pets)
  • Car rental fees (if not covered by your own insurance policy)
  • Out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the accident (such as Uber or Lyft rides to the police station or towing charges)

Keep in mind; claims seeking these sorts of damages are generally processed quickly, without the need for legal assistance. Insurance companies will typically investigate the crash and cut a check within days.

You can likely handle your own small fender bender, injury-free accident without a lawyer and still get decent car accident compensation claim. However, complex crashes require complex solutions. If you've been seriously injured or if the amount offered to you isn't enough, you may need to take things to the next level.

(The amount you may actually be entitled to may shock you. Sally Morin and her team of experts recently secured a car accident compensation settlement in excess of $57 thousand for an individual who suffered soft tissue injuries and a dislocated joint.)

Understanding Your Car Accident Compensation

The total financial award offered to accident victims is often divided into two parts:  Compensatory Damages and General Damages. Let's look at each of these components of your California car accident compensation package.

Compensatory Damages: In short, these damages reimburse you for the direct monetary costs associated with your accident. These costs could be those incurred at the moment (such as the bill for repairing your car) or they could be long-term financial effects (like ongoing physical therapy).  You may collect compensatory damages for:

  • Past, present and future hospital bills
  • Any other medical expense incurred because of the crash
  • Property losses

You could also be entitled to compensation for lost wages after a car accident. But that amount isn't limited to just the actual dollar figure you're shorted due to missed days. In fact, California law allows victims to seek reimbursement for financial impact on all future earnings as well. (For example, if a musician injures their hand in a car crash, they risk decreased future earnings because of their inability to play.)

General Damages: "General Damages" is a blanket term that encompasses what most people know as "pain and suffering." These actual costs are much harder to assess and are necessarily calculated on a case-by-case basis. Under California law victims can seek compensation for:

  • Physical pain (now and in the future)
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • The mental impact of bodily disfigurement
  • Physical impairment (not necessarily directly caused by injuries)
  • The inconvenience imposed upon them
  • Strain on spousal relationships
  • Emotional distress  (grief, anxiety, humiliation)

(Please note:  in order to maximize "intangible" expenses integrated into your total car accident compensation, it may be necessary to call in expert witnesses (like medical and mental health professionals) to examine you and verify the long-term effects of your physical and emotional trauma.)

Sometimes Insurance Settlements Aren't Enough

Sometimes the limit caps of car insurance policies aren't high enough to adequately compensate accident victims for all of the hardship (physical, emotional, and financial) that they've suffered. In these cases, victims can seek compensation in other forms from other parties.

For example, you may be entitled to seek financial compensation from:

  • Negligent drivers (in addition to their insurance companies)
  • The owner of the vehicle involved in the crash (if not the driver)
  • At-fault drivers' employers (who may be liable for employee’s actions)
  • Mechanics (usually only if the accident was caused at least in part by faulty workmanship)
  • Government entities (such as The State of California) responsible for negligently repairing, failing to fix or creating road hazards
  • Auto manufacturers (in cases of defective parts or recalls)
  • Your insurance policy's uninsured or underinsured insurance coverage

So, as you can see, calculating a personal injury claim in California after a car accident isn't necessarily an easy thing to do. But, as the victim, you never want to be undercompensated. Let's look at several things you can do to maximize your potential payout and safeguard the financial future of you and your loved ones. 

7 Tips to Help You Maximize Your Personal Injury Claim in California

1)  Collect, Preserve, and Present Evidence to Support Your Claim

The best way to be successful in pursuing a claim for damages after a car accident is to have a mountain of evidence in your favor. You can collect evidence at the scene of the crash and in the days and weeks afterward yourself. Alternatively, your California car accident attorney employs a team of investigators who know exactly what you need and how to get it to maximize your California car accident compensation. 

What types of evidence do you need? To be safe, document everything! Doing so is one of the easiest (and most effective) ways to maximize your personal injury claim after being hurt in a car accident.

The evidence you should collect after a crash includes:

Gather Evidence After a Personal Injury Accident
  • Police accident report(s)
  • Emergency room or doctors' documentation (x-rays, ultrasounds, etc.)
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Photos taken of the accident scene
  • Photos taken of your injuries immediately after the accident and as your injuries heal.
  • Contact info for any and all other parties involved (name, phone number, insurance company)
  • Employment records documenting your absences and the wages you would have earned had you been at work

Keep in mind, your first priority should always be your health. Never put off medical treatment because you think you can't afford it. You can collect all the evidence you need after you're on the road to recovery. Or, you can hire an experienced car accident lawyer who can do it for you while you recover. 

Which leads us to tip number 2 . . .

2)  Get Medical Treatment

Even if you think you don't need medical treatment, go to the hospital anyway. The examinations and treatment you'll receive at the ER not only help you heal faster but they are the only way you can accurately document the damage that your car accident caused. Indeed, an accurate medical record of your injuries is likely the single most powerful piece of evidence in your arsenal when formulating and arguing the merits of your personal injury claim in California. You can record all the personal testimony and snap all the selfies you like but without actual doctor's reports, it will be hard to put a real dollar figure on your injuries. 

Seek Medical Attention After a Personal Injury Accident

And if you're worried about paying for these medical services, don't be. In the majority of car crashes here in California your medical expenses with either be paid or reimbursed by your insurance company or that of the at-fault driver. 

3)  Don’t Take the First Offer

It may seem impossible to bide your time and wait for an adequate insurance payout when you're recovering from an accident. You may be in serious pain, racking up monumental medical expenses, and prevented from working because of your injuries. It's tempting to take the first amount of money offered to you and call the whole thing done. But if you do that, you're likely not getting all the compensation you deserve—let alone all the compensation you need!

In my years as a personal injury attorney here in California, I've learned that victims really don't have any concept of just how much their recovery might cost them. A single emergency room visit here in California can cost, on average, $3,000 while a single day of inpatient care can cost just as much, if not more. But that doesn't take into account any long term care. 

Don’t Take the First Offer in a Personal Injury Case

It may seem terrible but insurance companies are counting on your eagerness. They want you to accept that first offer because it means they get to close your case and save hundreds, perhaps even thousands of dollars for themselves. 

If you don't want to be shortchanged, you should always at least consult with an experienced car accident attorney in California in order to maximize your potential insurance claim. 

4)  Don't Forget the Long Term Impacts of a Car Accident

After a car accident that's left you seriously injured you're looking at follow up visits, physical therapy, decreased productivity at work, emotional trauma, and so much more. Under California law, you can be compensated for those expenses as well. Indeed, in cases of serious injury, permanent disability or decreased ability, future damages may make up the majority of your insurance claim. 

Don't Forget the Long Term Impacts of a Car Accident

Consider this:  your injuries leave you with chronic joint pain. That means you can't work as hard as you could before. Even if you keep your old job, you're likely looking at decreased earning potential over the years based on your decreased ability level. 

It's absolutely essential that you consult with medical, legal, and employment specialists in an attempt to estimate the total financial expenses associated with your injuries—not just your immediate medical bills. 

5)  Build an Ironclad Case

In a judicial system in which a case can be won or lost based on whether or not you filed the right paperwork in a timely fashion, you need to build your personal injury case methodically. Even if your case never goes to trial—and the vast majority of personal injury cases don't—you always need to prepare as if it will. 

To do so, you'll need to:

  • Serve discovery demands
  • Collect depositions from involved parties and witnesses
  • Request records from multiple parties (including your medical providers and insurance company)
  • Collect expert opinions from multiple medical specialists (including mental health professionals)
  • File all the correct paperwork with all the correct offices
Build an Ironclad Personal Injury Case

As you can see, building a case for compensation is not as simple as filling out some insurance forms. For that reason alone, many victims of car accidents here in California choose to work with personal injury attorneys. They can get the professional help and advice they need without having to do much of the heavy lifting themselves. 

6)  Act As Soon As Possible

When it comes to building your case and seeking compensation, the sooner you get started, the sooner the process will reach an endpoint. While simple insurance payouts for minor injuries and small amounts of property damage can be processed in days or weeks, major cases involving extensive injuries can take months or years. The last thing you want to do is prolong the recovery process any longer than necessary.

But there are other reasons to act now rather than later as well.

6)  Act As Soon As Possible After a Personal Injury Accident
  • Under California law you only have 2 years from the date of the accident to file a compensation claim in court. Waiting longer will negate your right to seek monetary damages.
  • As time passes, evidence becomes harder to find. Eyewitnesses forget things, pictures, video, and documentation go missing, and the details of your case get lost in the forest of paperwork you'll need to keep track of. In short, building a solid case for compensation becomes much harder.
  • If you wait too long to seek compensation, the at-fault party, the insurance company, or their legal representation may argue you don't actually need the money. After all, you've been coping just fine so far. . .

7)  Keep Your Case to Yourself

Wanting to discuss the details of your car accident with family and friends is a very human thing indeed. But when you're fighting to maximize your personal injury claim after a car accident in California, the last thing you need is for your own words to undermine your efforts. That's why we always recommend that clients stay away from social media after an accident.

The representatives of the at-fault party will have access to anything you post on social media. That includes pictures, video, and any facts or opinions you post. Even something as innocent as posting a picture of yourself smiling at a family birthday party after your accident can (and likely will) be used against you in order to minimize the financial payout you may be entitled to. 

Keep Your Personal Injury Case to Yourself

It's difficult to stay quiet but refraining from discussing your accident with anyone (online or off) until after a settlement has been reached is a concrete way to maximize your personal injury claim.

Now that you know what sorts of things you can do to maximize your personal injury claim, it's a good idea to understand some of the factors that can negatively affect your payout. 

Things that Can Negatively Affect Your Compensation Claim

There are a many things that can reduce the total accident compensation you may be entitled to. These include:

  • Pre-existing injuries/conditions (if you're claiming they worsened as a result of the crash, you are only entitled to the amount they were worsened, and will need medical experts to help prove this)
  • DUI/DWI charges or other citations issued to you
  • Statements you made to other involved parties (including insurance adjusters)
  • Insurance policy limits (check out this short discussion of what you need to do if the insurance limits aren't enough to cover your damages)

How Much Will Your California Car Accident Compensation Package Be?

California Car accident compensation payouts range from a few hundred dollars to multi-million dollar settlements.  The sad part is that the vast majority of victims settle for a lot less than they could potentially have been awarded simply because they don't hire the right California personal injury attorney to fight for their rights.

The total amount you're likely to be awarded depends greatly on the particulars of your car accident but the skill of your car accident attorney comes into play here as well. As a California personal injury attorney, Sally Morin has been looking out for the best interests of her clients for over twenty years. That experience allows her to assess the "true cost" associated with your car accident and maximize your California car accident compensation.

Contact Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers and get your FREE online case evaluation now.

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