After a traffic accident in California, it’s imperative to understand how best to communicate with your insurance company. Keep reading, because if you drive in California, you need to know.

If you are injured in traffic by a negligent driver, inform your auto insurance company that an accident has happened, and then get legal help – as quickly as possible.

In southern California, let an experienced San Bernardino personal injury attorney handle your injury claim and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.

AFTER AN ACCIDENT, WHEN DO YOU NEED AN ATTORNEY’S HELP?

Your health – and your future – are that important. If a negligent driver injures you, get an attorney’s help at once.

If you haven’t been injured, but your vehicle sustained damage, you may opt to keep it simple and negotiate directly with the insurance company for the vehicle repairs you need.

Either way, keep the following do’s and don’ts in mind throughout the claims process. You may even want to print this page and keep a copy in your vehicle – in case an accident happens.

Being well-prepared and knowing exactly what to do when an accident happens – and after an accident happens – is one of the keys to obtaining fair and sufficient reimbursement.

WHAT ARE THE “DO’S” AFTER A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT?

1. Notify your auto insurance company at once that an accident has happened – from the scene of the accident, on your way to obtain medical treatment, or once you arrive home.

2. Review your policy before talking about the crash with an auto insurance agent or adjuster. Be especially familiar with your policy’s “coverage” and “exclusion” sections.

3. Make notes of any discussion you have with any insurance company representative; note the names, dates, times, job titles, phone numbers, and the reason for each discussion.

4. Determine if you may have coverage under another policy: a homeowner’s policy, an umbrella policy, or coverage that your bank or a credit card company may provide.

5. Take photos, or have someone take them, of the accident scene, the damage to the vehicles, and your own visible injuries.

6. Summon the police to the scene, and be sure that you’ll be able to get a copy of the accident report when it’s made available.

7. If there are eyewitnesses at the scene of an accident, try to get their names and a way to contact them. Later, you may need their statements or testimony.

8. Even if you feel healthy, have a medical exam within 24 hours of the accident to make sure that you suffered no latent or difficult-to-detect injuries.

9. Be honest. If you’re not, your auto insurance company may void your policy, and you’ll lose compensation and coverage. If you file an injury claim, refer the company to your lawyer.

10. Know how replacement coverage for a vehicle differs from a vehicle’s actual cash value. If your policy offers replacement coverage, don’t settle a property damage claim for actual cash value.

11. Keep and make copies of every receipt connected with the accident and its aftermath. Even if you buy gas to drive to a meeting with an insurance adjuster, get a receipt.

WHAT ARE THE “DON’TS” AFTER A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT?

1. Don’t give an insurance company a written or recorded statement unless you are sure you understand your policy. Again, if you’ve been injured, have the insurance company speak to your lawyer.

2. Don’t automatically agree to your insurance company’s repair estimate. The first estimate is usually going to be too low.

3. Especially if you’ve been injured – and this is vital – don’t sign any insurance document before you have reliable legal counsel. You could be signing away some important rights.

4. Don’t overlook deadlines established by your auto insurance policy. But don’t accept excuses, unnecessary delays, or unethical treatment.

5. Don’t take any check that has “final payment” printed on it – unless you are absolutely certain that you are satisfied with your settlement.

6. Don’t forget. Your policy is a legal contract. Your insurance company is legally obligated to provide the coverage spelled out in that policy. With an insurance company, be polite, but firm.

WHAT IF THE INSURANCE COMPANY OPERATES IN BAD FAITH?

What if a reasonable settlement isn’t offered in a reasonable amount of time? Or what if you get nothing from the insurance company but excuses, delays, and a lack of concern or respect?

In such a case, you may have a claim for insurance bad faith. Don’t hesitate to seek a personal injury lawyer’s advice if an insurance company appears to be dodging its obligation to you.

Injuries sustained in traffic collisions are the leading reason for personal injury claims in the United States.

WHAT IS A CLAIMS ADJUSTER’S ROLE?

Most drivers will have little trouble dealing with minor accidents and vehicle damage, and in fact, you’ll find that many insurance professionals are happy to help and to put customers first.

Whether you are dealing with your own insurance company or the other driver’s, you’ll probably work with a claims adjuster who represents the company and negotiates with claimants.

Negotiations for vehicle damage claims typically require three or four telephone discussions and one or two meetings with the adjuster.

WHAT WILL YOU NEED WHEN YOU NEGOTIATE YOUR CLAIM?

How can you prove the value of your claim?

You might use before and after photos of the vehicle, receipts for improvements and repairs, and estimates for repairs or total loss estimates from certified mechanics or other qualified appraisers.

When you’re prepared with the facts – and you have the documents to back you up – the adjuster will appreciate your diligence, and you’ll have a better chance of getting the settlement you need.

Do not be intimidated. You have the right to negotiate with the insurance company, and you do not have to accept a reimbursement amount that isn’t fair or sufficient.

HOW CAN AN INJURY ATTORNEY HELP?

But if you’ve been injured in southern California, and your health and future may be at stake, it is best to have your claim handled by an experienced San Bernardino personal injury attorney.

How can you know if you qualify to file a personal injury claim? Or need a personal injury lawyer? Schedule a meeting with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Most injury lawyers offer accident victims a free first legal consultation, so it costs nothing to learn more. You’ll receive sound legal advice and an explanation of your legal options.

If a negligent driver has injured you and/or damaged your vehicle, you are entitled by law to compensation. That is your absolute legal right.