Costs of a Car Accident in California

If you’re a driver in California who has never been in a car accident, consider yourself very lucky. Sadly, if you drive our beautiful California roads frequently, you’re likely to be involved in an accident at some point. It is estimated that a driver will file an accident claim approximately every 18 years on average, which could add up to three or four accidents within a lifetime.

Each year, nationwide, there are over 10 million car accidents resulting in over 35,000 fatalities. In California, there were over 3,000 traffic fatalities in 2015 alone. All of these accidents come with injuries ranging from minor to severe, along with the associated financial costs such as property damage and medical bills.

The attorneys at Sevey, Donahue & Talcott want you to know that if you’ve been injured in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, you are entitled to compensation for the damages you’ve suffered. The costs that come with a car accident can be financially devastating, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We encourage you to contact our office for a consultation to assess your case and find out how we can help you.

There are five basic categories of costs that are associated with car accidents. Below is a breakdown of these costs, and tips to make them a little less costly for you.

  1. Medical Costs and Missed Work – In 2013, the average auto liability claim for bodily injury in the United States was $15,443. In California, there was over $38 billion paid out on auto insurance claims for the payment of medical costs associated with a traffic accident. Emergency room visits, follow-up doctor visits, ongoing therapy, and of course, time off of work to recover all add up to thousands of dollars. Who pays for that? Hopefully, the at-fault driver had insurance that will cover your costs, but if they were uninsured or underinsured, you could use your own auto insurance to cover these costs, provided you’ve invested in Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage. And if your insurance offers medical payments, you’ll be able to get reimbursed for all of your out-of-pocket costs such as co-pays or deductibles. Even a small accident can have a big impact when it comes to the medical costs and time off work, so make sure you keep track of bills and make payments on time while you’re awaiting settlement or reimbursement. This will help protect your creditworthiness, which will ensure a healthy financial future.
  2. Auto Repairs – Your insurance company, or that of the person who was at fault for the accident that caused the damage, will be responsible for paying whatever costs are necessary to get your car back into drivable condition. If you don’t have the necessary coverage, it’s possible that you’ll have to pay for repairs out-of-pocket, and no matter what, you’ll be responsible for the deductible. What you may not know is that you do not have to use the repair facility that the insurance company recommends. You can save money by having your car repaired by a trusted mechanic that you already know, who may cut you a break.
  3. Increase in Insurance Premiums – The average annual cost of auto insurance in California was over $800 in 2014. When you’re in an accident, you can expect your insurance premium to increase by around 41%. There are other insurance costs to consider as well, such as the loss of any good driver discounts. If you have more than one claim over a short period of time, your insurance may cancel your policy altogether. Your best bet, if your accident was very minor, would be to not even claim it to your insurance. This is especially true if there were no other vehicles or people involved in the accident (such as an accident involving you backing into a light pole.) Not reporting a minor accident is the best way to avoid having your insurance premiums hiked, or your policy canceled.
  4. Car Rental Fees – While your vehicle is being fixed or replaced, you’ll need a way to get to work and run errands, etc. If you have rental reimbursement coverage on your insurance, your insurance company will cover this cost. If you weren’t at fault in the accident that caused your car to need repairs, the at-fault party’s insurance company would cover this cost. There may be limits to the daily rental car cost, and be aware of any upsells or additional fees involved in the rental. Shop around first to get the best deal. And if you can, to avoid any costs on your part, take available public transportation or consider carpooling.
  5. Car Loan Payoff – If your car has been deemed a complete total by the insurance company, it means that it will cost more to fix your car than the car is worth. You’ll receive the amount your car is worth from the insurance company, but if you have a newer car, or didn’t pay much of a down payment, your car loan may be more than you get back from insurance. In that case, you will be responsible for paying the lender any balance left on the loan after the insurance pays for your vehicle. This can make it difficult to get back into another car, as you will not have any down payment. Gap insurance is the key to preventing this scenario. Gap insurance is additional coverage that you purchase that will pay the “gap” between what your car is worth and what you owe on it in the event it is totaled.

If you’re in a situation where you were the victim of an auto accident that wasn’t your fault, and you’re stressed about finances, we at Sevey, Donahue & Talcott would like to invite you to contact us by phone at (916) 788-7100 or through our online contact page. We can assess your case and show you the best way to approach your claim so that you get the full amount of compensation that you deserve for the damages you’ve suffered.