California’s auto insurance laws could impact your opportunities for financial recovery as a car accident victim. The rules for filing an insurance claim after a harmful collision may determine your eligibility for compensation.

States in the U.S. abide by either fault (tort) or no-fault laws. As a driver in California, it is important to understand the state laws. Otherwise, you may not be able to protect your rights after a car accident.

California’s fault-based insurance system

California, like most of the U.S., is a fault state. Only 12 states in the country abide by no-fault rules. Under California’s insurance requirements, all drivers must carry at least the minimum amount of insurance. Failure to carry enough insurance can lead to fines and other penalties. Carrying this insurance provides the not-at-fault party with an outlet for recovery after an accident.

If you get into an accident, you seek benefits from the at-fault driver’s insurance provider. Stay at the scene and exchange contact information with the other driver. When you are able, call the other driver’s insurance company to report the wreck. The insurer then conducts an investigation to determine fault. At that point, the insurer may accept or deny your claim.

How to fight for fair compensation after an accident

California’s fault-based laws make it necessary to identify and prove the at-fault party before recovering financial compensation. This may be difficult without assistance from an attorney. Proof of fault may exist in photographs of the scene of the accident, eyewitness accounts of what happened or video footage of the crash.

If the other driver’s insurance company denies your claim, you may have to take your case to court for compensation. In California, you have two years from the day the car accident happened to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. A personal injury trial may be the only way to fight for the compensation you need to move forward.