Car accidents happen every day throughout California, sometimes resulting in devastating injuries and substantial economic losses for those involved. It’s natural to feel uncertain and frustrated after an accident, especially one that someone else caused. Depending on the details of the situation, you could face a long and arduous road to recovery when it comes to securing compensation for your damages.

If you anticipate a car accident claim in the near future after another driver has caused an accident with your vehicle, it’s essential to know how insurance works after a car accident in California and when you may need to file a civil claim against another driver. As you calculate your losses and struggle with recovery from painful injuries and your inability to work, it’s understandable to worry about the potential timetable you face when it comes to securing compensation for your losses.

How long does it take to settle a car accident claim in California?

Determining Fault for a Car Accident in California

The first step toward resolving a car accident claim is determining fault for the accident. If another driver is responsible for a recent crash, you need to gather evidence and witness testimony that helps you establish their liability for your damages. The police report from the accident will also be crucial in determining liability as it will include the responding officers’ initial findings from the accident scene.

If another driver is responsible for causing your accident, you can file a claim against their auto insurance policy to recover your damages. Every driver in California must carry auto insurance that meets the state’s minimum coverage requirements, and the state uses a fault-based system to assign liability for accidents. An experienced car accident attorney can not only help you gather the evidence you need to establish fault for your recent accident but also help you file your insurance claim.

Dealing With Insurance

It can take several weeks to a few months to secure a settlement check from the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company. Insurance companies typically require drivers to report accidents as soon as possible, typically within a few days. Therefore, you should not only inform your insurance carrier about your recent accident but also contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company to inform them that you intend to file a claim soon. Before you do, it’s a good idea to consult an experienced Orange County car accident lawyer who can help you maximize your settlement from insurance.

California’s auto insurance coverage requirements include bodily injury liability coverage of at least $15,000 for a single person and at least $30,000 for a total accident. In addition, the policy must also provide at least $5,000 in property damage liability coverage. These coverage limits come into play when the policyholder is responsible for an accident, and the other driver files a claim to recover their damages. A civil claim is likely to ensue if the at-fault driver’s insurance can’t cover all of the victim’s damages.

Having an attorney assist with your demand letter to the other driver’s insurance carrier can be incredibly helpful. The insurer will be less likely to use deceptive tactics to limit the settlement amount when they see that a claimant has legal representation. You are also more likely to secure your settlement check much faster when you have a lawyer help you with your demand letter.

The Civil Claim Process Timeline

If you must take legal action beyond an auto insurance claim, this process can potentially take several weeks to several months to resolve. The time required to settle a civil claim depends on the clarity of available evidence and whether the defendant accepts their liability for the plaintiff’s damages. If you have already secured an insurance settlement from the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy, you can seek compensation for the remaining damages through a civil claim.

If the defendant’s fault for your damages is clear beyond any doubt, your attorney can potentially help you settle a subsequent civil claim relatively quickly. You must calculate the damages that insurance won’t cover and prove the defendant is responsible for those damages. Ideally, this process should only take a few weeks as swift settlement is best for both a plaintiff and a defendant in a car accident claim. However, if the defendant denies liability or contests the scope of damages the plaintiff includes in their claim, the process can take much longer. Some civil claims can take several months to conclude when litigation is unavoidable.


Q: What Is the Average Settlement for a Car Accident in California?
Data from various sources indicates that California’s average car settlement amount is around $21,000. However, every car accident case is unique. Depending on the exact scope of your damages, you may only be entitled to a fraction of the average, or you could have grounds to seek substantially more compensation. Therefore, it’s essential to accurately calculate the full range of your claimable damages with the help of an attorney to recover as fully as possible.

Q: How Long Does an Insurance Company Have to Settle a Claim in California?
California state law requires insurance carriers to settle claims within 85 days after the date of filing. Other deadlines come into play when contacting claimants and completing other steps in the auto insurance claim process. Hiring an attorney to help you with your insurance claim will significantly reduce the time required to secure your settlement.

Q: How Long Does It Take to Settle a Car Accident Civil Suit?
If you must take legal action beyond an insurance claim to recover all your losses from an accident, this process can take much longer than your insurance claim. Personal injury proceedings can last for many weeks or months, depending on the complexity of the details involved and the defendant’s willingness to accept liability for the plaintiff’s damages. Your attorney can provide you with a reasonable estimate of the time you can expect your personal injury claim to require.

Q: How Long Does It Take for Insurance to Pay Out After an Accident?
Insurance companies must reach settlements with claimants within 85 days of a claim’s filing. However, once a settlement is reached, it may still take several weeks for the insurer to issue a check to the claimant. In addition, it can take several months to obtain a settlement check depending on the complexity of the claim.

If you have recently experienced a car accident in Southern California, you need legal counsel you can trust to guide you through the insurance claim proceedings and civil proceedings you may need to complete to secure compensation for your losses. Contact Easton & Easton today to schedule your consultation with our team and find out how we can assist with your recovery.