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Where Can I Find the Best Car Insurance Attorney in California?
Car insurance can run to several thousand dollars per year in California. Policyholders who pay steep premiums are entitled to fair compensation when they have a valid claim. However, in some cases, an insurer acts in bad faith, unreasonably denying a claim or minimizing a settlement.
You shouldn’t have to fight to get your due. However, in some cases, hiring one of the best car insurance attorneys in California and suing the insurance company can be vital in the fight for fair compensation. If you were recently involved in a car accident and had a claim refused, you could recover damages. Get started now and fill in our online form for free advice.
Steps for Finding the Best Car Insurance Attorney in California
If your claim was denied or an insurance company offered you an inadequate settlement amount, a lawyer can help. There are some steps you can take to find the best attorney for you.
Get Referrals From Friends and Family Members
Asking friends and family can help you find a great car insurance attorney. Perhaps you have worked with an attorney in a different field previously. You could ask them if they know of any colleagues who have experience with litigating car insurance cases.
Search the Internet for Car Insurance Attorneys
Internet research can be an excellent way to gather names of car insurance attorneys and law firms for your preliminary list. Make sure to check reviews from past clients, which can give you a good indication of the overall client satisfaction levels with a particular firm or attorney.
What to Look for in a Car Insurance Attorney
A great car insurance attorney will be happy to talk to you, answer your questions openly and honestly, and address any concerns you might have. Importantly, they should be eager to talk about their experience with car accident insurance litigation.
At the first meeting, they should be able to determine whether you have a case and what your next best steps could look like. Ask them about their track record and whether they have won cases such as yours. If the attorney has a successful track record, they will be happy to share the information with you. If they evade the question, it may be time to cross them off your list of potential attorneys’ names.
Meeting Your Car Insurance Lawyer Personally
Emailing and talking on the phone can be convenient, especially if you are still recovering from injuries. However, try to meet your attorney personally at least once before hiring them. The best car insurance lawyers in California offer free case reviews where you can discuss your case, voice your concerns, and ask questions.
Lawsuits can last a year or longer. Therefore, make sure that you feel comfortable with your choice of lawyer. You might be spending quite some time together. While experience, success, and accolades can count for a lot, personality is important too.
At the first consultation, ask your car insurance attorney how they will be contacting you during your case and how you can contact them. Communication is the key when it comes to a successful attorney and client relationship. Never being able to get hold of your attorney can cause frustration.
The first consultation is your opportunity to find out as much as possible about the law firm and attorney. It is also an excellent opportunity to educate yourself about the legal process, learn about your rights, and find out if you have a good case. Questions you could ask can include:
- Do I have a case against the car insurer?
- How does filing a lawsuit work?
- How long have you handled car insurance cases in California?
- What results have you achieved in insurance claims like mine?
- Who will handle my case?
- Do you work on a “no-win-no-fee” basis?
Car Insurance Claims in California
California is an at-fault state. Therefore, the car insurance company of the motorist causing the accident is generally responsible for the damages of the victim. However, in practice, victims can struggle to get their due as claims can and do get denied.
The At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Denies or Minimizes Your Claim
The responsible party’s insurance company should pay for your damages. However, if your damages are greater than the settlement offered or the insurer refuses your claim completely, you could file a lawsuit and seek compensation. A car insurance attorney from our firm can help you fight for a fair settlement.
Your Own Car Insurer Refuses or Minimizes a Valid Claim
When your car insurance is responsible for compensating you, what could possibly go wrong? After all, you pay for insurance coverage. Unfortunately, it can come as a shock for drivers when their valid claims are denied or minimized by their own car insurer. Types of claims refused by insurers can include:
Many drivers purchase additional property damage coverage for their vehicles, in addition to standard car insurance. They then rightfully expect money to repair or replace their car.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Claims
Getting into an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver can leave victims high and dry when it comes to recovering an adequate insurance settlement. However, those who purchased underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage should be covered by their own insurance company.
Theft and Vandalism
If you have comprehensive car insurance coverage, you are generally entitled to adequate compensation to have your car replaced or repaired if it was vandalized or stolen.
Defending Personal Injury or Property Damage Claims
If another sustained property damage or suffered a significant personal injury in your car accident, your insurer should defend you against their personal injury or damage claims.
Unfortunately, some insurance companies do not work in their clients’ best interests but are mostly focused on their profits. This can result in an individual having their valid claim denied or reduced in “bad faith”. However, you do not have to stand for this. Working with the best car insurance attorneys in California can be essential for helping you recover an adequate settlement.
Car Insurance Bad Faith Claims
According to California law, individuals can sue their own insurance company or the at-fault party’s insurance company with a bad faith claim. Bad faith generally means that the insurer acted unreasonably in depriving claimants of a fair settlement.
Examples of Bad Faith
Examples of an insurance company acting in bad faith can include:
- Unreasonably denying a claim within policy limits
- Delaying the claims process
- Unreasonably underpaying a claim
- Failing to investigate a claim adequately
- Failing to provide an explanation for a claim denial
- Using deceptive or fraudulent practices to avoid paying a claim
Insurance companies are obligated to act in “good faith” and should treat clients with fairness and honesty when assessing a claim. If your insurance company, or the insurer of the at-fault party, refuses to pay your due, you could have legal recourse as they might be acting in bad faith.
Suing a Car Insurance Company
There are two types of potential claims when it comes to suing a car insurance company:
First-Party Insurance Claims
In a first-party insurance claim, the policyholder sues their own insurance company. First-party claims are typically breach of contract cases and concern the language contained in the insurance policy.
Third-Party Insurance Claims
Third-party insurance claims are brought by someone who is not the policyholder or insured. For example, if you suffered harm in an accident that happened due to someone else’s fault, you could potentially file suit against their insurance company.
Establishing an Insurer’s Bad Faith
Proving an insurer’s bad faith can be somewhat challenging. The insured individual, or the person entitled to a settlement, must establish that the car insurer:
- Deliberately withheld benefits that were due under the policy
- The withholding of benefits was unreasonable
Withholding of benefits can include either a complete denial of the claim, offering less than the plaintiff was due, or delaying payments unreasonably.
Damages Available in Car Insurance Lawsuits
If you win your case against a car insurance company, you could receive the original amount of the denied or reduced claim. However, if you can prove that the insurer acted in bad faith, you could also be entitled to additional damages, including:
- Emotional distress incurred due to the initial claim denial
- Economic losses resulting from the initial denial
- Attorney’s fees
- Punitive damages (when an insurer showed particularly egregious or malicious conduct)
Do I Have a Case Against a Car Insurance Company?
In some cases, litigation can be the only way to get justice with an auto insurance claim. If your car insurance or the insurance company of the at-fault driver is dragging its heels and tries to deny or minimize a claim, you could have a case. Since car insurance lawsuits can be challenging to prove, consider seeking legal advice from a car insurance attorney who can investigate your case, gather evidence, and help you build a comprehensive case.
When Should I File My Case?
Knowing how much time you have available for suing an insurance company can be tricky in California, as it depends on the type of claim you are bringing.
According to the California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1, you generally have two years to file suit if you are filing a case to recover damages for a personal injury. The time starts ticking down on the date your claim was denied in bad faith.
Breach of Contract Claims
If your case is a breach of contract claim, you can generally file suit within four years of the bad faith denial of your claim, as per California Code of Civil Procedure section 337.
Are Some Insurance Claims Legitimately Denied in California?
Not all claims are denied or minimized due to the bad faith of an insurance company. There can be some reasons why an insurer might legitimately deny a policyholder’s claim.
Your Damages Are Not Covered in the Policy
Car insurance policies are individual. Some coverage, such as the uninsured motorist clause, is optional. If your insurance policy has certain exclusions or you only have limited coverage, you may not be entitled to the same benefits as others. A claim denial could be legitimate. However, to ensure that your claim was legitimately denied, consider consulting with an attorney who can review your policy.
You Were Breaking the Law
In many cases, an insurance company is within their rights to deny a claim if you violated federal or state law in an accident. Violations can include driving without a license or driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as well as others.
Other Reasons Why Your Claim Might Be Denied
An insurance company might allege that the accident was avoidable or that your claim is fraudulent. Issues that insurance companies could flag up:
- You failed to report an accident to the police or your insurance immediately
- You failed to seek prompt medical attention and later claimed damages relating to injuries
Some insurance companies will try to pay as little as possible and try to dig up whatever they can find to minimize your claim, even if you have a legitimate claim. An experienced car attorney can be in your corner and defend your best interests against an unethical insurance company.
Our Car Insurance Attorneys Can Fight for You
It is not unusual for insurers to try and deny claims or make unacceptable lowball offers to protect their profits. However, our experienced attorneys can protect YOU. You don’t have to try and stand up against a powerful insurance company and its lawyers by yourself. Let some of the best car insurance attorneys in California work in your best interests.
Being in a car accident is stressful enough. Having to then haggle over every dollar with an insurance company can be hugely frustrating. It does not have to be this way. Morgan & Morgan’s tenacious attorneys have protected individuals from getting short-changed by insurance companies for decades. We could help you too. Contact us now for a free consultation to find out if you have a case.