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The Basics of Opening an Auto Accident Insurance Claim in California

The basic steps involved in opening up and presenting an initial claim for bodily injury or property damage following a traffic collision in California.
Let's face it, no one ever wants to be involved in an auto accident. However, statistics show that every one of us will be involved in a car crash probably 3-4 times in our lifespan and this percentage goes higher for those living in urban areas like Los Angeles, CA. In order to prepare for the eventual auto collision scenario, people should have a general checklist ready to go so that they can minimize the impact this has on their life and attempt to expedite the process of presenting a claim to one or more auto insurance carriers, getting compensated for medical expenses, lost time from work and property damages, and moving on with their lives. The basics of presenting a car accident claim
can be summarized as follows:

STEP ONE: Assessing Damages and Injuries and Obtaining Basic Information at The Accident Scene

The first priority should always be the health and welfare of any persons involved in the traffic collision. Stop and assess whether anyone has sustained serious or even life threatening injuries and call 911 if this is the case. California law mandates that all drivers exchange their driver's license and insurance information. You should take a picture of the license and the proof of auto insurance card with your cell phone camera if possible. If not, you should write down the name, address, telephone number, driver's license number, license plate number, insurance company name, policy number, phone number for claims and the name and phone number of witnesses. A physical description (e.g. white male, approximately 6 feet tall, etc.) should also be noted for both drivers, passengers and witnesses to the accident scene. In California, any traffic collision involving personal injury and/or property damage in excess of $750 must also be reported to the Cal. Department of Motor Vehicles on an "SR-1" report.

STEP TWO: Opening Claims With Insurance Carriers

The collision should be reported immediately to your own auto insurance company as failing to promptly report the claim may be a basis for denial of coverage. Thereafter a claim should be opened up with the insurance provider for any other driver or vehicle owner involved in the incident. This is the stage at which any person who sustained bodily injury in the accident should retain the services of a personal injury lawyer familiar with the claims process. Making statements to insurance representatives without the assistance of legal counsel can jeopardize both the validity and the value of any later claims for personal injury.