Car accident compensation in California

The process that follows to get compensation for a car accident in California can be complex and frustrating. As well as obtaining the desired compensation. This will depend on several factors related to the accident and the lawyer who you decide to hire.

Such factors are: the severity of the accident, the circumstances in which it occurred, the parties involved and the insurance company. Last but not least, if the victim hires a good expert lawyer for this type of accident.


Our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers have more than 50 years of combined experience helping car accident victims. Call now without obligation for a free consultation and we will try to resolve your case promptly.

How much compensation do you get for a car accident in California?

Although there is no exact formula for calculating compensation for a car accident in California, there are certain indicators. When consulted by our clients, Lluis Law’s car accident lawyers calculate the approximate value of the case.

The estimated compensation is obtained by adding the costs of medical treatment, lost wages and pain and suffering. To this is added the material damages caused by the car repair or its total loss. Usually, the result of that figure is multiplied by three.

However, some injuries remain hidden and do not become apparent until much later. Consequently, it is necessary to conduct a complete medical examination of the victim and contemplate this point in the settlement.

Example of car accident compensation in California

To exemplify a case of a person who was injured in the head in the car accident. Medical bills total is $ 7,000 and he was out of work 10 days, which lost $ 2,500 in wages.

An average settlement for this traffic accident could be around $ 28,500. So the final arrangement could be between $ 19,000 and $ 35,000.

The personal injury claim for the other driver’s insurance company will be limited to the amount of the policy. Eg If the damages are for $ 25,000 but the responsible driver’s policy is $ 15,000, that will be the amount of the agreement.

Although there is the option to sue the other party for the other $ 10,000 to finish covering the damages of the car accident. You can even add a claim to his insurance company. This also works in cases of driving without insurance and having an accident for policyholders with broad coverage.

amount claimed to the accident insurer

What kind of compensation can I receive in a car accident in California?

As for the damages that can be recovered or reimbursed to the person we may find:

  • Medical expenses in general.
  • Lost wages and other present and future income.
  • Temporary and permanent physical disability, pain and suffering.
  • Loss of consortium. The family and social company is called that.
  • Loss of quality of life and other recreational or other limitations that are reasonable and demonstrable.
compensation for death in car accident

Surviving relatives of victims in any accident can also claim compensation for death in a car accident.

The compensation range calculation is generally done by the insurance company claims adjuster. This follows a standard damage formula used by the insurer. Although the accident lawyer can present his own compensation proposal based on his own calculations.

Can I get compensation from the responsible party and my own insurance company?

The short answer is yes, you can use both insurance companies: yours and that of the other party. The way you paid the expenses generated by the accident is not the business of the other company. Moreover, the insurance adjuster should not even ask this.

So the medical expenses and other costs associated with the accident and injuries can be covered as you wish. However, after the recovery of damages, your insurance provider may require reimbursement. Either partial or total amount paid during the treatment of injuries.

Some insurance claims are very simple to make for compensation. Although there are cases in which due to the nature of the accident and the severity of the injuries, disputes may arise. In these situations, the help of an expert car accident lawyer in personal injury cases is basic.

Insurance companies are not always willing to pay or resort to dilatory tactics. The purpose is to tire the victim and force her to accept any offer. However, when hiring an accident lawyer specialized in compensation, the situation is different.

Who pays for medical bills in a car accident in California?

Responsible driver’s insurance must compensate all out-of-pocket expenses or paid by your insurance company. If at the time of the accident, you did not receive medical care provided by the other party’s insurance company.

Can you claim anxiety after a car accident?

Yes. Anxiety and, in general, posttraumatic stress disorder, are part of common car accident injuries. Anxiety and fear qualify as part of the emotional damage that can be claimed.

The most visible symptoms of an emotional trauma can manifest itself through the following situations:

  • Loss of sleep.
  • Nightmares.
  • Chronic fatigue and / or exhaustion.
  • Feelings of anguish, loneliness or shame.
  • Frequent mood changes / irritability.
  • Sudden and progressive weight changes.
  • Obsessive-compulsive syndrome.
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Denial or disbelief.
  • Confusion and difficulty in general to concentrate.
  • Muscle tension.

Where, when and why do car accidents occur in California?

In California, deaths from windings and vehicle crashes are the first cause of unintentional death. In this state, 12% of all deaths in car accidents in the United States are recorded. This alarming number of accidents is due to various causes and constitutes a public health problem.

According to the California Office of Traffic Center, during 2016 there were a total of 44,207 accidents in the state. All these accidents had fatalities and injured people.

In 2018, the figure tended to decrease slightly to 48 people killed per 100,000 inhabitants. Below the national average (65 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants).

California counties with more car accidents

Los Angeles County has the highest number of deceased or injured people with 82,437 cases registered in 2016. The counties with the highest incidence of car accidents with deceased persons are: Los Angeles (630 deaths), Orange (185), Riverside (225 ), San Bernardino (264) and San Diego (201).

In Los Angeles during 2015, the number of car accidents reported was 52,000 and amounted to 55,350 in 2016.

Uber accident lawyers

Nowadays the accidents of private companies such as Uber or Lyft also have a growing relevance. Check our “Uber accident lawyers” section to learn more.

What is pain and suffering in an injury claim?

Pain and suffering is one of the most controversial elements in the Personal Injury Law. Insurance companies often ignore this concept in claims for auto accident injuries. Victims do not know that they are entitled to compensation for pain and suffering or do not know what it means.

An accident lawyer should know how compensation is properly calculated and defended for this concept. The pain and suffering in an accident claim, a harm completely different to everything else.

The legal term “pain and suffering” refers to the physical and emotional damage suffered by a person after an accident. It includes various effects such as chronic physical pain caused by the injury, but also emotional depression.

It is an immaterial damage also referred to the loss of happiness, enjoyment, comfort and even the opportunity of a person. Seeing decreased life expectancy and not being able to perform certain activities at home, severely affect people.

How is pain and suffering calculated in California?

In claims for personal injury, pain and suffering caused by such injuries is included within the damages. The expenses and losses caused by the person responsible for the accident are called “compensatory damages”. Among these damages is the “pain and suffering” which, like material damages, can be compensated.

The calculation of damage due to pain and suffering is done through two methods. One is the multiplier method that consists in multiplying by 2, 3 or more times the economic damages of the plaintiff. For example, medical expenses and lost wages, depending on the severity of the injury.

If the plaintiff’s expenses for medical bills and lost wages are $ 5000, then that figure is multiplied by 2. The result is $ 10,000 and that would represent the value of the person’s pain and suffering. But if the injury is very serious (spinal fracture, say), the pain and suffering multiplier will increase considerably.

Another way to calculate this damage is by assigning a daily allowance ($ 100 for example) to the victim. Thus, each day after the accident, the plaintiff charges this amount until he can recover.

What do I do if I have an accident in California?

In addition to trying to recover your health at all costs, the following will be to obtain the best possible compensation for a car accident in California. For this, you will need the help of a competent car accident lawyer to help you prepare the claim.

To claim the payment of compensation for personal injury or public transport accident claims, we recommend the following steps:

car accident in California

1. Investigate and document the accident

After you begin receiving medical care through a reliable medical provider, you should investigate the details of the accident. Mainly when the police do not show up at the scene of the accident, it is necessary to develop their own investigation.

The insurance adjuster of the other party will seek the smallest detail to reduce the validity of your claim. Each evidence or proof of yours is reviewed and evaluated thoroughly to verify its validity. If any element is required in the claim submitted by you, the insurance adjuster will know.

Documents that must be presented as evidence in a claim

Often the insurance company demands these documents:

  • Police report of the accident.
  • Photos of the accident scene, including your vehicle and that of the other driver.
  • Witness statements to the accident.
  • Your medical records, including reports of injuries and bills.
  • Testimony of each of the drivers.
  • Date and place of the accident.

2. Consult with a car accident lawyer

To ensure reasonable compensation it is necessary to seek an expert auto accident lawyer. He will handle the claim process and seek the best expert opinions if he considers it prudent.

Depending on the nature and difficulty observed by the lawyer, it will be necessary to incorporate experts into the investigation of the case. For example, in a train accident, a truck accident or a bus accident where technical failure is suspected.

Experts can provide critical insight into the accident and forecast subsequent damage. Among them, financial, property, physical, emotional damages, etc. Expert opinion is generally used to support personal injury claim arguments.

Expert opinions can also be promoted to discredit or downplay the claim presented.

These are some of the experts whose opinions can be considered during the process of a claim:

  • Doctor. To talk about the severity of the injuries, the medical treatment to follow and their prognosis.
  • Accident reconstruction specialist. The opinion of this expert helps to recreate the accident digitally to visualize how it happened and try to demonstrate the responsibility of the drivers.
  • Mechanical or civil engineer. When it is presumed that the accident was caused by a mechanical damage to the vehicle or by road damage, the opinions of these experts can be sought.

3. Review drivers insurance policies

Only then can the aggrieved person know if the other party’s insurance policy is valid to pay for the damages caused. If this is not the case, you should look for other options to cover the rest of the physical and material damages.

There is an option to submit another claim to your own company or to sue the responsible driver separately. When it is determined that there is responsibility of the victim in the accident, the amount of compensation decreases.

Insurance companies conduct their own accident investigation to try to share the blame. So that compensation is paid according to the percentage of fault of each of the parties. This is provided for in the California Pure Comparative Negligence Rule.

4. Seek out of car accident settlement

During the process, the insurance company is likely to try to reach an out-of-court settlement, before going to trial. However, if a reasonable agreement is not reached, your accident lawyer will advise to start the lawsuit process.

5. Negotiate a compensation agreement

Even after filing a personal injury claim, the other party may try to reach an agreement. The out-of-court agreement is negotiated by your lawyer with the responsible driver’s insurance company.

Remember that the solution of the case satisfactorily for you will depend on the quality of the lawyer you decide to hire. It must be a capable, experienced, honest and dedicated lawyer. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing the benefits of car accident compensation.

The negotiation skill of the accident lawyer plays a major role in the agreement. Whether it is compensation for a pedestrian hit by a car or any other type of accident. Claims for serious injuries are the ones that usually pay the most compensation.

If the driver responsible for the accident is discovered driving under the influence (DUI), the amount of compensation will increase. If you want to learn more about DUI, please check our article “DUI lawyers in Los Angeles“.

6. File a claim in Court

When the parties do not reach a satisfactory settlement agreement, they may consider filing a lawsuit before a competent court. In any case, your lawyer will tell you what to expect at the trial and the chances of success objectively.

The court where the case is filed is generally located in the county where the parties reside. In court, both parties present their allegations of the claim before a jury and start the trial for the car accident. Then, witnesses and experts give their opinion of the accident and the jury issues a verdict.

Then the judge reads the verdict. If there is disagreement with any of the parties, you have the right to file an appeal of judgment on the case. It is still possible at this time to reach an extrajudicial agreement between the parties. Among lawyers it is said that sometimes a bad arrangement is better than a good lawsuit.

Why is it important to hire a car accident lawyer in Los Angeles?

There is nothing already written during a claim facing the insurance company or the court, everything can get complicated. It is best not to wait for that time to come and hire an expert auto accident lawyer. His experience and knowledge of the law will increase the chances of winning your case.

Hiring the best accident lawyer will not cost you more, because they work without out-of-pocket costs for you. If they do not win the case they do not charge fees. In other words, no win no fee. They are the first interested in winning the case for you.

You may be interested in reading this article about the topic mentioned: How much do car accident lawyers charge.

At Lluis Law, we have more than 50 years of experience representing accident victims. Our experience and cases won, endorse us as one of the most recognized and respected law firms in Los Angeles.

Frequently asked questions after a car accident

These are some of the questions that our clients ask us most when they visit our offices seeking for legal support:

What is the process for making an insurance claim?

California is a state with failure or tort in traffic accident cases. Therefore, the offender must file a claim with the insurance company of the guilty party. Only in that way can you get compensation for a car accident in California, unless the claim directs you to your own insurance company.

In other states called “no fault”, because they are governed by another insurance system, the way to get compensation is different. Each driver involved in the accident can claim compensation from their respective insurance company. Regardless of who was the culprit of the accident.

This is very important to keep in mind so as not to make mistakes during the claim process in California. Therefore, drivers are required to identify the responsible parties in order to recover damages. Those responsible for the car accident, in turn, have a legal obligation to pay for the damages caused.

traffic accident insurance claim

Immediately after the accident, the person must:

  • Call the police and report the accident to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • Document the accident with photos and videos of the accident scene and injuries.
  • Obtain contact information of the drivers involved and their respective vehicles.
  • Seek legal help to increase the chances of a successful negotiation.

After performing these simple steps, you are ready to file a claim for damages.

How to file a claim for compensation in a car accident with injuries?

To claim compensation after a car accident, you must identify the person responsible for the accident. That is why it is also important to know which is the insurance company of the other party to take the claim or legal action.

As we said, California is a state with failure, so you must prove the negligence of the responsible party. This is why we insist on documenting the claim by gathering all possible evidence of the accident.

Typically, both the responsible driver and his insurance company are previously informed about the legal action. In this way, the legal procedure is complied with and perhaps it could help to reach a faster agreement.

Once all the necessary information has been collected, you must send a claim letter to the insurance provider. The letter is a very important document in the claim process. It must be very well written and supported with sufficient evidence to support the arguments presented and the demands for compensation.

What does the claim letter of a car accident include?

In the letter of demand that you or your car accident lawyer write, the case must be carefully presented. The fundamental elements include:

  • Type of injuries caused by the guilty driver and its severity.
  • On what bases its assessment on the legal responsibility of the guilty driver.
  • Type of medical treatment you have followed and its cost.
  • Amount of present and future loss of income.
  • Property damage (including repair or total loss of the vehicle and other property).

Apart from the motivation and detailed statement of the claim, the letter must clearly indicate the compensation requested. That is, the lump sum of compensation that is being requested from the insurance company to resolve the claim.

How do insurance companies determine the compensation to be paid in an accident?

The final settlement amount in a negotiation process to resolve a claim is agreed by both parties. On the one hand, the claimant and on the other, the responsible driver or his insurance company.

Insurance providers already have more or less standardized formulas for calculating damages. This does not mean that the sum that the insurance wants to pay unilaterally must be accepted.

When do car accidents occur?

Statistics show that most car accidents occur during nighttime hours and on weekends. Nationally available data indicate that in 2016 6.3% of deaths occurred during the night. While 5.3% of accidents with deaths occurred during the week.

On weekends, 5.9% night accidents with deceased persons were registered, against 4.8% of tragic accidents during the day. This indicates that driving during the day and during the week is safer than on weekends and overnight.

Another curious fact is that collisions than in rural areas are usually more tragic than in the city. The explanation is that the travel speed of vehicles is higher on these roads than on urban roads. In addition, crashes are generally frontal against other vehicles, stationary objects or animals.

Why do car accidents happen?

The causes of car accidents in California are similar to those in the rest of the country. However, the most common are due to driver negligence.

  • Driving distracted. It is the leading cause of car accidents with injuries in the United States. About 3,000 people die a year because of negligent drivers.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. At least one third of drivers who crash in the United States do so while drunk or drugged.
  • Travel at speeding. Because it prevents the driver from maneuvering and braking in time if he finds an obstacle on the road.
  • Driving tired or sleepy. Drivers who work or travel at night fall asleep and inevitably collide.
questions about car accidents

If you want to know more about car accidents, you can also visit our car accident questions section.


In this article we have answered many questions about car accident compensation in California. You may have more questions or wish to receive personalized attention. In that case, do not hesitate to contact us.

Whether as a car driver, cyclist, motorcyclist or pedestrian, Lluis Law attorneys can help solve your case. We have been dealing with these issues for more than 40 years and solving cases that others consider impossible.