Personal Injury Law Blog

Auto Accident Settlement Timeline in California at a Glance

After a car accident, in addition to suffering injuries, you may feel confused and overwhelmed by what to do next. If the other driver was responsible for your injuries and property damage, you might be curious about an auto accident settlement timeline in California. 

Although the facts making up each case vary, many follow the same general timeline.

As you struggle with mounting medical expenses, an inability to work, and recovery, understanding the process and timeline for handling a car accident case may make life easier by letting you know what to expect. 

1. Seek Medical Treatment 

An essential first step in a car accident lawsuit timeline is to seek medical treatment. Even if you don’t think you’re injured, it’s still wise to seek a medical evaluation following a car accident. A prompt diagnosis by a physician creates a medical record that your attorney will use to support your claim for recovery. 

Additionally, many injuries, such as whiplash, are not immediately apparent. So it’s important to make a record of your injuries by seeking medical treatment as soon as possible.

2. Find a Lawyer

Another critical step in a car accident settlement timeline in California is retaining an attorney. Promptly consulting with a qualified personal injury attorney after an accident can make a massive difference in obtaining just compensation.

A skilled personal injury attorney understands the car accident settlement timeline process and negotiates with insurance adjusters and attorneys so you don’t have to. 

Additionally, California follows a strict two-year statute of limitations on all personal injury claims. This means that you must file a lawsuit within two years from the date of the accident. A failure to file a lawsuit within the specified period likely bars you from filing at a later date.  

3. Gathering Evidence 

Gathering evidence to support your compensation claim is important for the car accident lawsuit timeline.

Evidence used to support your claim include the following: 

  • Car accident police reports, 
  • Witness statements, 
  • Photographs, 
  • Medical reports. 

Medical reports are used to support your demand for compensation based on the injuries suffered in the accident. Your attorney uses police reports, witness statements, and photographs to establish the other driver’s fault. 

California is a comparative negligence state. This means that even if you are deemed partially responsible for causing the accident, you are not barred from seeking compensation. Rather, your damages award is decreased by your percentage of fault.

For this reason, your attorney understands that a clear establishment of guilt on the part of the other driver helps prevent a reduction in your compensatory damages. 

4. Demand Letter and Negotiations

The following steps in the car accident settlement timeline in California occur when your attorney drafts a demand letter to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Generally, sending a demand letter prompts the negotiation process with the other driver’s insurance company.

A demand letter includes the following information:

  • Details of the accident; 
  • How the other driver caused the accident; 
  • The seriousness of your injuries, medical treatments needed, and prognosis; 
  • The type of compensation requested; and 
  • Settlement amount.

Using the evidence gathered and analyzed in your case, your attorney determines a value for your case and includes this in the demand letter. Upon receipt, the at-fault driver’s insurance company then generally counters with their own offer.

Many personal injury cases settle during this stage, thus avoiding a lawsuit. However, this potential for a quick resolution changes if an insurance company fails to negotiate or refuses to pay anything.

5. Lawsuit 

Your attorney may file a lawsuit against the at-fault party if negotiations fail. A personal injury attorney knows that the statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit in California is two years from the date of the accident.

An experienced attorney also understands the tactics utilized by insurance companies. For example, some insurance companies may delay negotiations to run the statute of limitations and bar you from filing a lawsuit.  

6. Discovery 

Discovery occurs after the filing of a lawsuit. In this stage, both parties attempt to seek information from the other in an effort to undermine the other’s position or strengthen their position.

Discovery takes many forms, including:

  • Interrogatories: written questions that the other side must answer;
  • Request for admissions: statements that the other side must admit or deny;
  • Depositions: oral questioning that takes place under oath; and
  • Medical examinations: the insurance company may request you to undergo a medical evaluation.

The discovery process is a lengthy but crucial tool for uncovering useful information. In some situations, information discovered in this stage prompts settlement discussions as it exposes the weakness of one party’s position.  

7. Mediation

Mediation refers to the stage in the car accident lawsuit timeline when both parties agree to negotiate a settlement with a neutral third party. With an agreement to split the cost of mediation, a retired judge or experienced lawyer reviews the case and hears from both sides. Through discussions, the mediator attempts to assist the parties in reaching an agreement. 

8. Trial 

The auto accident settlement timeline in California proceeds to a trial when the parties cannot reach an agreement. During trial, each party’s attorney presents their position to either a jury or the judge by introducing evidence, witnesses, and experts.  

Contact Us 

The process for handling a car accident case is complex and time-consuming. Missing essential deadlines or failing to uncover necessary evidence may have serious consequences for your case. That’s why you need a qualified personal injury attorney on your side.

The attorneys at Glotzer & Leib, LLP, do everything within their power to secure the compensation you need so you can focus on your recovery.

With over fifty years of experience in personal injury law, we know every step of the car accident settlement timeline process. You can rely on our firm whenever an accident involves you or your family.

We treat our clients like family and work tirelessly on their behalf to ensure they obtain the maximum value of an injury settlement or jury award.

Contact the attorneys at Glotzer and Leib today for a free, no-obligation consultation.  

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