car accident lawyer in Fresno CA

Navigating Car Accident Claims in Fresno CA

Tarun Sridharan Legal Editor & Attorney Contributor Read Time: 11 minutes

Navigating Car Accident Claims in Fresno CA

If you’ve been injured in a California car accident or auto accidents, whether in Fresno or elsewhere, then you could be entitled to compensation under the law.  For first-time plaintiffs, navigating the legal process can be overwhelming and confusing.  Don’t worry!  The process doesn’t have to be complicated — just consult a Fresno car accident attorney/lawyer to help guide you through, emphasizing the importance of a Fresno car accident lawyer in navigating health coverage options, handling negotiations, and pursuing maximum compensation for injuries sustained.

For now, let’s explore some basics to help you better understand the various issues involved in California car accident claims.  Read on to learn more!

Do I need a lawyer for a car accident in California?

Technically speaking, the law doesn’t require that you use an attorney when litigating in California.  That being said, it’s rarely a good idea to move forward with the legal process with car accident attorneys by your side.  Courts will warn you against going at it alone, and it’s highly discouraged due to the amount of specialized knowledge and experience that car accident attorneys bring to the table.

Further, the judge is likely to take a negatively biased position towards you if you move forward without car accident attorneys — they’ll very likely feel that you’re wasting the court’s time and resources by attempting to move forward without car accident attorneys.

Here’s some food for thought: even attorneys don’t typically litigate their legal battles.  They hire other car accident attorneys to handle the process for them.  That should speak volumes as to the value of having car accident attorneys who are fighting for your rights. Navigating the complexities of dealing with insurance companies after a car accident can be challenging, but a Fresno car accident attorney can expertly guide you through this process, ensuring you understand your rights and options for seeking fair compensation.

How much do Fresno car accident lawyers charge in California?

In California, and elsewhere in the United States, most plaintiffs’-side car accident lawyers offer their services on a contingency basis.  This means that they’ll represent you without you having to pay anything upfront or out-of-pocket.

Instead, they’ll take a percentage cut of whatever compensation they’re able to secure on your behalf.  If they aren’t able to obtain compensation for you, then you don’t pay anything.  You only pay if you “win.”

This is not only a very helpful dynamic for injury victims who don’t have significant financial resources (it makes litigation accessible to everyone), but it also creates an incentive structure that benefits the injury victim.  Personal injury lawyers are incentivized to advocate efficiently and effectively to maximize your compensation amount — that’s because they get paid more when you get paid more.

Percentage fees can vary but generally range from 25 to 40 percent of the total compensation amount.  Your attorney may be willing to negotiate, so be sure to discuss the contingency percentage with them during your consultation.

Who can be sued in a car accident in California?

Car accidents may seem straightforward from a liability perspective, but many cases — when further investigated — reveal surprising complexity and opportunity.  Potential defendants may include:

  • The driver who hit you
  • Any other driver who contributed to the accident
  • Employers of any drivers who were working at the time of the accident
  • Auto manufacturers if any defect contributed to the accident
  • Auto repair shops if their failure to properly inspect or repair contributed to the accident
  • The City
  • Private property owners
  • And more

For example, if a tree fell on the road and caused a multicar pileup, then you might be able to sue some of the other drivers, as well as the City (for failing to adequately inspect their property and correct for tree dangers).

Understanding the complexity of a car accident claim is crucial, as it can involve multiple parties including drivers, employers, manufacturers, and even government entities, highlighting the importance of professional legal assistance.

What compensation can your car accident injuries lead to?

Car accident victims are entitled to file a personal injury claim to seek compensation that reflects the losses they sustained as a result of the accident. These losses can be quite varied. Claimable losses include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Wage loss
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Medical expenses (i.e., medical bills)
  • Property loss
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of companionship
  • And more

Importantly, your damages will not necessarily be the same as someone else who was in the same type of accident. That’s because your injuries (and subsequent losses) are unique to your circumstances.

For example, if your injuries prevent you from working for a year, and you earn a $60,000 annual salary, then just your wage loss claim alone would be $60,000. By contrast, an unemployed injury victim would have a $0 wage loss claim, even if they got into the same type of accident.

What are punitive damages, and can I get access to them for my automobile accident?

Punitive damages are a special category of damages that don’t quite fit the mold — they’re not meant to compensate you for your losses. Instead, they’re imposed on the liable party (i.e., the at fault driver or whoever else is responsible for your motor vehicle accident) in order to punish them and discourage others from engaging in similar behavior.

Punitive damages are best conceived of as “bonus damages,” and courts have discretion on whether to award them. As such, they’re only infrequently awarded, and that too, you’ll have to show that the defendant engaged in malicious, particularly reckless, or particularly egregious behavior. For example, if the at-fault driver was driving drunk and got into a car wreck (and there were other extenuating factors as they planned on driving drunk that night), then the court could potentially award bonus punitive damages.

Punitive damages act as a multiplier on your damages, up to a limit of seven times the normal compensation amount. So if you’d normally be entitled to $100,000 in damages as compensation, you could secure up to $700,000 in punitive damages — that’s $800,000 in total, at maximum. Given how substantial the possible damages are, it’s important that you work with an experienced personal injury lawyer so you understand how to position yourself favorably for a punitive damages assertion.

What happens to your personal injury case if the other driver doesn’t have insurance?

If the other driver’s insurance company policy is limited, or if they don’t have insurance at all, then you may have a bit of a challenge securing full compensation from suing them. Instead, one strategic option is to identify other potentially liable defendants who you can sue. Businesses, especially, tend to have substantial insurance coverage — enough to cover your losses in full. So talk to some experienced Fresno personal injury attorneys about your claim and whether there are other defendants you can pursue to cover your losses.

How do car accident settlements work in California?

Car accident settlements are extremely common.  Most car accident lawsuits are resolved through a settlement — not through court litigation.  Industry observers estimate that as much as 95 percent of personal injury claims are resolved through a negotiated settlement between the parties.


Court litigation is exhausting, uncertain, (potentially) costly, and public.  Most parties rightfully want to avoid a lengthy litigation process — especially defendants, who are likely paying by the hour for their defense attorneys, and who may be running businesses with a public reputation to protect.

For example, it can be quite damaging to the reputation of a delivery company if the public gets word that one of their trained drivers caused a serious injury on the road (while actively working on company time). That sort of reputational damage could lead to millions of dollars in losses. Given the high-stakes nature of the negative publicity they could face, businesses are often willing to negotiate an early settlement with the victim in a car accident case.

Settlement solves a lot of litigation issues.  It allows the parties to privately negotiate what they consider to be a “fair” amount, given the risks of litigation.  To that end, settlements account for the strength of the evidence, the damage potential of the claim, and the likelihood that you (the plaintiff) will succeed if you were to pursue the claim through to trial litigation.

Can you still be compensated under California law if you’re partially at fault?

The simple answer: is yes, you can.

The complicated answer: is yes, but your damages will be reduced by your partial fault contribution.  Here’s how it works.

California implements a doctrine known as “pure comparative fault.”  What it does is allow you to sue and recover damages even if you’re partially at fault for the accident.  You can be 99 percent at fault and still be compensated!

However, your compensation will not be the maximum amount it could have been had you not been partially at fault.  Instead, you will be entitled to recover the full compensation amount minus the percentage fault you contributed.  So, if a court finds that you were 40 percent at fault for your own injuries because you weren’t wearing your seatbelt, then your $100,000 damage claim would lead to a $60,000 potential recovery.

Not bad — at least you can still be compensated!

How much time do I have to sue?

Personal injury law sets the framework for the statute of limitations for car accident claims in California. In California, the deadline (i.e., the “statute of limitations period”) for negligence-based car accident claims is two years from the date of injury.  There are even stricter deadlines for special cases — for example if you’re suing the government for damages, then you’ll have to begin certain claim procedures within six months of the injury.

You must move forward quickly and adhere to the statute of limitations.  Failing to proceed promptly can have serious implications for your lawsuit — if you wait too long, California courts will consider your claim to have been relinquished, and you will be rendered unable to pursue compensation through the courts.

That being said, if you’ve waited too long, all is not necessarily lost!  On occasion, an exception to the statute of limitations may apply, giving you more time to file.  Don’t assume that you have no active claim.  Consult an experienced personal injury attorney for guidance.

Fresno car accident attorneys are not only skilled in handling car accident cases but are also experienced in dealing with traffic accidents, encompassing a wide range of issues from personal injury law to legal assistance for accident victims.

If you’ve been injured in a Fresno car accident, or in an accident elsewhere in the state, then you could be entitled to compensation under California law. Fresno car accident lawyers are adept at navigating the complexities of dealing with insurance companies and ensuring your rights are protected throughout the process. Just as with other types of personal injury lawsuits, including Fresno personal injury cases, car accident disputes can lead to unexpected challenges and opportunities as litigation proceeds. It’s important that you have professional assistance as you move forward.

Contact 1-800-THE-LAW2 for a free consultation with experienced Fresno car accident attorneys in our network. During this initial legal consultation, you’ll be able to discuss your case in more detail, and the attorney will be able to provide you with information on your strategic options. There’s no downside to calling in to learn more about your case, as it’s not only a free consultation, but it also comes with no obligation to work with the consulting attorney if you decide against it!

We look forward to assisting you.

Our offices are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so we can assist you no matter when your accident occurs.

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