California Car Accident Settlement and Lawsuits

This article looks at a few key California laws related to car accident claims and settlements, including time limits for filing a lawsuit, and how your claim might be affected if you’re found to be partially at fault for causing the car accident.

If you’ve been involved in a car accident in California, you’re probably wondering what to expect if you decide to make a claim for injuries or seek compensation for vehicle damage -- from how to deal with car insurance adjusters to navigating the legal landscape if a personal injury lawsuit is filed over the accident.

This page provides a guide to the California-specific resources on, so you can understand the California laws that could affect your car accident claim, and learn when and how to contact a California car accident lawyer.

California Laws on Car Accident Claims and Settlements

After a car accident, if you decide to file an injury claim against the at-fault driver in California, there are a few state laws that you need to be aware of, starting with the filing deadline for personal injury cases in civil court.

In California, you have two years from the date of the car accident to get your case started -- that means filing the initial complaint with the proper branch of California’s civil court system -- according to California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1.

Learn more about California’s lawsuit filing deadline -- and other state laws that could impact your case -- in our article Car Accident Laws in California.      

California Car Insurance Rules and Regulations

Car insurance will come into play in almost any kind of claim after a car accident, whether you’re making a claim under your own policy or with the other driver’s carrier (that’s called a third party car insurance claim). Here is a quick snapshot of California’s car insurance laws:

  • California is a “fault” car insurance state, meaning you’re free to file a liability insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit against the other driver after a car accident.
  • The minimum amounts of liability car insurance required in California are:   $15,000 for injury or death to one person, $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person, and $5,000 for damage to property.
  • California does not require drivers to carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

For more in-depth information, check out our article California Auto Insurance Laws and Regulations.

Contact a California Car Accident Lawyer

You may not need to hire a California car accident lawyer if your case is pretty straightforward and you didn’t incur much in the way of losses. Let’s say you were rear-ended at a stoplight, your vehicle suffered minor damage, and you went to your doctor to get checked out, but just had a few bumps and bruises. The at-fault driver’s insurance company accepts liability; they offer to pay out your vehicle damage claim, reimburse you for your medical bills, and give you a little more on top of that to compensate you for inconvenience. You can probably handle that kind of claim yourself, as long as you’re comfortable doing so.

But if the other driver’s insurance company is saying you were at fault for the car accident, or if you suffered significant injuries as a result of the crash, a lot more might be at stake, and it’s a good idea to discuss your situation with a car accident lawyer.  

A good car accident attorney knows how to handle the back-and-forth of settlement negotiation, how to anticipate and avoid obstacles in the process, and the best way to protect your rights at every stage in the case, including filing a car accident lawsuit in California's court system if it comes to that.

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