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Understanding California’s Car Accident Laws and Regulations

If you or somebody you love has been injured in a vehicle accident caused by the negligence of another party, there are various laws and regulations you need to be aware of. Here, we want to review these laws and regulations and encourage you to reach out to a skilled car accident lawyer who can help you through this process.

Do You Have to Report Your Accident?

Almost every vehicle accident that occurs in California must be reported to the state DMV. When a collision occurs, the SR-1 report must be completed and returned to the DMV. The crash victim, their insurance carrier, or legal representative must complete the report and return it to the DMV within 10 days if there is an injury caused by the incident if someone loses their life in the crash, or if there’s property damage valued over $1,000.

If law enforcement officials report to the accident scene, they will almost certainly be the ones to provide this report to the DMV. However, if, for some reason, the police do not come to the scene to fill out an accident report, the SR-1 form must be completed by those involved in the crash. Failing to do so could result in a person receiving a license suspension.

Time Limit for Filing Your Claim

Insurance carriers involved in the car accident case will have their own reporting deadlines, and we strongly encourage individuals to report the incident to their insurance carrier as soon as possible in order to avoid a claim delay or denial.

If a crash victim needs to file a civil lawsuit against an at-fault driver or other party, they must do so within two years from the date the incident occurs, per the California personal injury statute of limitations. If a car accident victim fails to file a lawsuit within this two-year time frame, they will likely lose the ability to recover any compensation at all.

Do You Have to Go Through Insurance First?

It is not a requirement to file an insurance claim before filing a personal injury lawsuit against another driver, but the reality is that the vast majority of vehicle accident claims in California are resolved through insurance settlements.

In California, every driver must carry insurance, and state law requires the following:

  • Bodily injury liability coverage of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident
  • Property damage liability coverage of $5,000

You will notice that the state does not require drivers to carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, though we strongly encourage drivers to purchase this type of coverage to increase their protection should an accident with an underinsured or uninsured driver occur.

Crash victims may have to file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court in the event the insurance carrier refuses to offer a fair settlement. Taking a case to court can be complicated, and the process is often time-consuming. We encourage you to speak to a car accident lawyer as soon as possible after your incident occurs to determine the best steps moving forward.

Is There a Set Amount of Compensation Available?

There is no set amount of compensation paid to car accident victims if their claim against another party is successful. There are several factors that can influence insurance settlement or jury verdict amounts. Some of these factors include the severity of the injury, whether or not there was any shared fault for the incident, insurance policy limitations, and other factors.