Guide to State Farm Auto Insurance Bodily Injury Claims
In California, if you were injured in a car accident and wish to be compensated, you’ll need to make a Bodily Injury (BI) claim against the at-fault party’s auto insurance. There’s a good chance you’ll be dealing with State Farm insurance, as it’s one of the largest auto insurance providers in the state and the nation. According to the company’s latest Annual Report, State Farm auto insurance had $193 billion in assets in 2020 alone.
Here’s a guide on making a bodily injury claim against State Farm, plus answers to some common questions about State Farm claims.
Important Things To Do After Your Car Crash
Immediately after your collision, you can take steps that can help you succeed in your injury claim later on. Do these things as soon as you can after the accident:
- Seek medical help. Call 911 and get checked by a medical professional, even if you think your injury is minor. Many people who have been in accidents don’t feel the extent of their injuries right away because adrenaline masks the pain. A medical evaluation helps discover your injuries and support your claim.
- Report the crash. California law requires motorists to report to city police or the state highway patrol if the accident resulted in injuries or death. Not only is accident reporting a legal requirement, but it can also provide supporting evidence in your claim. After reporting, ask for a copy of your written crash report.
- Document the scene. While waiting for responders, take photos of the crash site, including your visible injuries, damage to your car, license plates, any skid marks and surrounding damage, and other relevant details.
- Get the other driver’s information. If another motorist is involved, exchange insurance information and contact details with them.
- Talk to witnesses. Politely request the contact details of persons who may have witnessed the accident.
- Call a lawyer. It is paramount that you protect your rights and avoid mistakes in the aftermath of the accident. Call a trusted accident law firm to guide you on your next steps. Avoid speaking with insurance representatives about the accident until you have consulted your lawyer, as any statements you give could be used to undermine your claim. In Southern California call Hamparyan Personal Lawyers at (619) 550-1355 for a case evaluation.
- Contact your insurer. Regardless of who was at fault in the crash, most personal auto insurance policies require that you notify them of any accident you’re involved in. Report only facts, leave out opinions, speculations, and statements about how you’re feeling. Ideally, you will have already consulted a lawyer by the time you speak with the insurance agent.
Claims Process: How to File a Bodily Injury Claim with State Farm
If State Farm insures the person responsible for your injuries, you’ll need to contact that insurance company to initiate a personal injury settlement claim. You may file the claim using the company’s online portal, mobile app, or 24/7 hotline.
State Farm will assign an insurance adjuster to your case, who will soon call you to ask about the accident. The agent will likely record the conversation, so you must exercise caution with what you say. Remember that you’re not legally obliged to give recorded statements, so you can politely refuse to answer or refer them to your attorney.
Avoid assigning blame to anyone, and especially avoid apologizing for the crash, even if you think you were partly at fault. You’ll also want to decline to say anything about your health. Even innocent-sounding statements like “I’m fine” could be taken to mean that your injuries are not as serious as you claim.
Meanwhile, work with your lawyer to craft a formal demand letter stating all your losses and why the insured person is liable to pay for them. Your attorney may also include a suggested settlement amount. A formal letter is not required in the claims process, but once you send one to State Farm, it will signal to the company that you’re earnest in negotiating for the settlement you deserve.
State Farm will investigate your claim and respond with their initial settlement offer. Early offers like this are very often “lowball”’ amounts. Your attorney should have strategic ways to negotiate for a fair and reasonable settlement amount on your behalf.
If negotiation is successful and you arrive at an agreeable amount, State Farm will give you a settlement agreement to sign. Before signing, review this document carefully with your lawyer, as it will state that your settlement is final, and you can no longer claim for more compensation even if you discover more injuries down the road.
On the other hand, if the insurance negotiation goes nowhere, you may have to consider filing a personal injury lawsuit to pursue your compensation. Most injury lawsuits don’t proceed to courtroom litigation. Insurance companies are often compelled to settle with the claimant before a stressful and costly trial begins.
What is covered under bodily injury in State Farm Insurance?
“Liability coverage” is the part of auto insurance that pays for another person’s losses caused by the insured person. This coverage is mandatory in California, and this is the coverage that you would claim from in the event you are the one injured in an accident.
State Farm’s bodily injury (BI) liability coverage may pay for the following:
- Your medical expenses (such as ambulance fees, emergency room costs, hospitalization, diagnostic fees, doctor fees, surgeries and other procedures, treatment costs, medication, rehabilitation or therapy costs, and more)
- Your lost income
- Your pain and suffering
A separate liability coverage for property damage (PD) will pay for damage to your car and other property.
How much does State Farm pay for bodily injury?
Many injured individuals ask us: How much is the average State Farm settlement in accident liability claims? There isn’t a true average in terms of bodily injury settlements because cases vary in many ways. Each claim is a unique combination of factors such as the policy limits, the severity of injuries, any long-term care needed, circumstances around the accident, shares of fault, and more.
To give you an idea of the wide range of State Farm settlements, here are some examples:
- A acetabulum hip facture in a car accident in California. State Farm paid the $25,000 policy limits.
- An intersection crash in Florida resulted in shoulder pain and scars for the claimant. State Farm paid the $10,000 policy limits.
- An Arizona woman who was seven months pregnant was injured in a collision. Though her injuries were moderate, she ultimately had to give premature birth, and her infant had to undergo neonatal intensive care. The State Farm settlement was $200,000.
- A motorcyclist in Virginia was hit by another driver who was making an illegal left turn. The motorcyclist sustained open fractures to his leg, requiring multiple surgeries and resulting in long-term motion issues. Before the case could go to trial, State Farm settled at $1.22 million.
Bear in mind that your injury claim is unique. You may be able to maximize your settlement when you work with a personal injury lawyer experienced in going up against State Farm.
State Farm Bodily Injury Limits
The minimum auto insurance coverage required in California is as follows:
- Bodily injury liability: $15,000 per person or $30,000 total per accident
- Property damage liability: $5,000.
Though State Farm offers policies that cover more than these basics, many drivers simply opt to purchase the minimum coverage. Numerous times, the $15,000 bodily injury limit has proven inadequate to pay for serious injuries and the ensuing bills.
What do you do if your accident expenses exceed the at-fault person’s policy limits?
There are a few legal options you may explore with your attorney:
- Optional insurance coverages – Optional coverages in California include Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) and Personal Injury Protection (PIP). If you purchased any of these in your auto insurance policy, you might be able to collect from your own insurance provider.
- “Opening up” the policy limits – In a few cases, it may be possible to get a court judgment to have the insurance company pay you more than the policy limits. This could happen if the insurer rejects your reasonable settlement demand and a jury decides that the insurer should pay you more. “Opening up” a policy is considered a difficult maneuver that requires an experienced attorney.
- Personal injury lawsuit directly against the person – You may opt to sue the at-fault person directly instead of trying to collect more from their insurance provider. This option will only pay off if the defendant has enough assets to pay you.
- Personal injury lawsuit against multiple defendants – Some accidents involve multiple people at fault. By suing them, you could hold them jointly liable, which means their individual auto insurance policies could all contribute to your compensation.
- Claiming from an umbrella policy – An umbrella policy is an additional layer of liability insurance over and above all other coverages that a person has. If the at-fault party in your accident has exhausted their auto insurance limits, an umbrella policy may then kick in to pay the excess amount they owe you. Most motorists don’t have an umbrella policy, but this may be worth checking, especially if the defendant in your case is a corporate or business entity.
Does State Farm pay pain and suffering?
You’ll notice above that State Farm may cover pain and suffering damages in an accident. However, this is a difficult claim for individuals who don’t have a competent attorney. “Pain and suffering” has no exact dollar value and is challenging to prove, especially when the insurance company is experienced in downplaying injury claims.
There are several methods to calculate your pain and suffering compensation, but in our decades of experience in personal injury, insurers can easily find ways to minimize the resulting amount.
For instance, one common computation for pain and suffering involves picking a “multiplier” number to indicate the seriousness of the injury. If you only have soft tissue injuries, like a sprain or tendonitis, the multiplier number may be low, resulting in a small amount for pain and suffering.
This is why having an experienced lawyer is essential if you want to maximize your State Farm claim. Your attorney should be able to build a strong case and skillfully assert all the damages you are entitled to.
How long does it take State Farm to settle a personal injury claim?
In general, smaller claims may be wrapped up quickly, while larger claims take more time.
If your claim is for a minor fender-bender, you can expect to get an offer from the insurer within a month, and they’ll be eager to settle with you. However, if you have costly injuries, we know that you shouldn’t settle for an early offer that’s much less than you need and deserve. You should be able to negotiate for your fair compensation with your attorney.
The claims process in California typically takes several months to reach an agreeable settlement. The length of the process depends on the complexity of the case and how well your lawyer handles the negotiation.
For example, if your camp cannot clearly establish that the other person caused the accident, State Farm will likely take the chance to dispute their insured’s liability. Or, if they find evidence that you might have been partially at fault in the crash, they’ll argue that your compensation should be reduced.
They could also downplay your injuries in various ways, such as by saying you have a pre-existing condition or that your symptoms are not related to the accident at all.
One example we see quite often is whiplash, which is a head and neck injury that has vague symptoms like a dull neck pain and shoulder stiffness. Insurance providers commonly dispute injuries like this, and your lawyer will need to be assertive in presenting it.
Stalling is also a common tactic that insurance companies use. The longer the delay, the more unpaid bills pile up on the claimant’s side. This forces some claimants to accept whatever amount they could get from the insurer, even if it’s much lower than they’re entitled to.
Your attorney should be skilled, strategic, and efficient in asserting your claim during negotiation. Gathering evidence is crucial, and so is timing. You want to wait until you’ve reached your maximum health recovery before beginning to negotiate. This way, you have a clear idea of all your past, current, and future expenses that should be compensated.
I’ve been in an accident and have State Farm Insurance. What do I do?
California’s insurance system is “fault-based,” which means the person who caused your accident is responsible for paying for your losses. In other words, you would typically claim your compensation from their auto insurance coverage.
If you yourself have State Farm auto insurance, there are some situations where you would be able to collect payment from your own insurance provider:
If you purchased PIP coverage
In California, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) is an optional coverage you can purchase with your auto insurance policy. This coverage pays for your medical expenses and lost wages, regardless of who was at fault in the accident. Claiming your PIP benefits is faster than claiming from the other person’s insurer because you don’t have to prove who caused the crash.
If you purchased Med Pay coverage
Like PIP, Medical Payments (Med Pay) is a first-party coverage, meaning it covers you, the policyholder. Med Pay is also optional in California, but some insurance companies offer it, like State Farm. One difference is that PIP may cover your lost wages, but Med Pay is limited only to medical and rehabilitation costs.
If you purchased UM/UIM coverage
Another optional insurance coverage is Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM). This kicks in if the at-fault party in your accident has inadequate or no insurance at all. UM/UIM pays the difference between what you receive from the at-fault party and what you’re actually entitled to.
How to Read State Farm Auto Insurance Policy
It’s important to understand your auto insurance policy before purchasing it and before getting involved in an accident. In particular, you should thoroughly review the following parts of the policy:
This is the first page (or pages) of the policy. It states what coverages you have and what coverages you’ve declined. You’ll also find essential details such as coverage levels, deductions, the price you pay for each coverage, and the names of other drivers and vehicles insured under the policy.
Here are common coverage levels and what they mean:
- Liability – This pays for losses you caused on another person. Liability coverage is broken down into three parts: bodily injury per person limit, bodily injury per accident limit, and property damage limit.
- Collision – This pays for damage to your car after a crash, regardless of who was at fault.
- Comprehensive – This covers damage to your car due to perils other than a crash. Examples are theft, fire, flood, earthquake, hail, vandalism, and contact with animals. Read this provision carefully to see the incidents it covers.
- Personal injury protection and/or Med Pay – As previously discussed, these are optional coverages that would pay for your own accident injuries regardless of who caused the crash.
- UM/UIM – This coverage kicks in to cover your losses if the person who caused your collision was uninsured or underinsured.
Each coverage type has its own insuring agreement, which is a binding contract detailing what’s covered and what’s not. Read each agreement carefully, paying particular attention to its exclusions and authorizations. For example, the agreement might require you to authorize State Farm to access your medical records in the event of injury.
Renewals and changes
When you renew your policy or make a change to it, there may be several changes throughout the document that you should be aware of. Re-read the latest declaration page as well as the insuring agreements to see if there are any differences to note.
Call us to handle for your California State Farm Injury Claim
In the San Diego area and beyond, the Hamparyan Personal Injury Lawyers are some of the most trusted attorneys for bodily injury claims. Our firm has recovered over $100 million on behalf of our clients, with 40 individual settlements exceeding $1 million.
We are highly experienced and tenacious when facing powerful insurers but compassionate when dealing with our clients. This is why clients trust us, and Super Lawyers ranked us #1 in the area.
Talk to us about your State Farm bodily injury claim. Your consultation with us is free and confidential. Call the Hamparyan Personal Injury Lawyers at (619) 550-1355 today or use our online form.
Robert Hamparyan is one of California’s most accomplished personal injury lawyers. Hamparyan Personal Injury Lawyers San Diego was founded so that Robert could bring more of his skill and knowledge to personal injury victims in all types of cases. Robert and his team have dealt with semi truck accidents, wrongful death cases, brain & spine injuries, and many other types of personal injury cases with soaring success.
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