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In a personal injury claim in California, the at-fault party, the at-fault party’s insurer, or a liable company will pay settlements. The party that pays the settlement will depend on the nature of the case and the degree of fault.

So, who pays personal injury claims and when? Here, you’ll learn more about personal injury liability in California and how this and other factors can affect a case.

If you need to file a personal injury claim in San Rafael, contact the attorneys at Kuvara Law Firm by calling 1-800-4-INJURY for a free consultation.

Liability for Personal Injury Claims in California

If someone is responsible for an accident that results in injuries in California, the liable party or the liable party’s insurer will need to cover medical costs and other economic and non-economic damages.

The reason for this structure is that California is a fault-based state. However, the parties involved in the accident may share fault, which can factor into the total settlement amount.

Determining liability can be difficult in some cases, which is why it’s often best to work with experienced personal injury attorneys who know how the process works.

Generally, there are three possible parties who may pay medical expenses and other damages, including:

  • At-fault parties
  • The at-fault parties’ insurance companies
  • A company that’s liable for damages

If another party’s negligence caused an accident and injuries to you or a loved one, you would file a third-party claim against the liable party’s insurer. This process will vary depending on the accident, liability, and the severity of damages sustained from the accident.

Do You Have to Pay Your Medical Bills From a Personal Injury Settlement?

A portion of your personal injury settlement will go toward covering medical expenses, but you may be responsible for paying for these bills until you’re able to reach a settlement.

If you have medical insurance coverage, you should be able to receive the care you need without paying out of pocket, but the insurer may take part of your settlement as reimbursement for coverage.

Types of Compensation Recoverable in Personal Injury Cases

Once you know when you should sue for personal injury, along with the four things to do after an accident, you can determine how much compensation you’re eligible to recover in a personal injury claim.

There are several types of compensation you may recover in these cases, such as:

Economic Damages

There are multiple types of economic damages that victims can recover through settlements with liable parties and their insurers. For example, you may be able to recover compensation for:

  • Medical bills, including hospitalization, ambulance rides, diagnostics, and treatment
  • Lost income resulting from your injuries and time taken off from work to recover
  • Lost earning capacity due to disability
  • Modifications made to your home or vehicle to accommodate a disability
  • Damage to your property resulting from the accident

Non-Economic Damages

In addition to economic damages, you may be able to recover certain non-economic damages in your settlement. These can include pain and suffering experienced because of your injuries, psychological distress, anxiety and depression, and other personal losses that can factor into the claim.

While these damages aren’t as easy to calculate as economic damages, attorneys and courts have systems to help incorporate non-economic damages into settlement amounts.

Factors That Impact Who Pays Personal Injury Claims

Several key factors will determine who pays for claims and how much. These factors include:


To succeed with any personal injury claim, you must be able to prove that a liable party exhibited negligence that led to an accident and resulting injuries.

Specifically, you will need to prove that the party owed a duty of care, that the party breached that duty of care, that this breach led to an accident and harm, and that this harm resulted in calculable damages.

The Nature of Your Injuries

Another critical factor that will affect who pays and how much is the nature of your injuries, including whether you had any pre-existing injuries or suffered a disability because of the accident.

Pre-existing injuries are those suffered before an accident occurred. In some cases, an accident may worsen these injuries, leading liable parties and their insurers to claim that the accident didn’t actually cause injuries to the claimant.

However, even if you have a pre-existing condition prior to an accident, other injuries may result and warrant compensation.

Additionally, you may suffer temporary or permanent partial or total disability following an accident. Generally, the more severe and long-term your injuries are, the more compensation you may be able to recover in a personal injury claim. Severe injuries will require more extensive and costly treatment, and they can also lead to serious non-economic damages from physical pain and psychological distress to loss of a relationship.


The availability of evidence and how it proves liability could also impact your case. You will need sufficient evidence to prove liability, particularly when an accident is complex and determining liability is a difficult task.

There are many pieces of evidence you could collect in an accident case, such as:

  • Photos or video footage of the injuries, accident scene, and property damage
  • Police reports
  • Medical receipts and bills
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Physical evidence from the accident scene

An attorney can help you collect and organize evidence for use in a successful personal injury claim.

How the Settlement Process Works in California

So, how do personal injury claims work in California once settled, exactly? The following are the basic steps your case could involve.

1. Preparing and Signing a Release Form

When negotiating a settlement with a liable party’s insurer, an attorney may develop and have all parties involved sign a release form that prevents the victim from claiming additional damages beyond the agreed-upon settlement. Claimants and defendants will need to sign this form for the case to proceed in most instances.

2. The Insurer Pays

After you and the defendant sign the release form, the defendant’s insurance company will likely draft a check for the agreed-upon sum of money.

The amount could be a lump sum or a structured payment, depending on the nature of the settlement. A lump sum payment would pay you the entire amount of compensation at once with a single check, while structured payments would pay intermittently over the course of one or more years. An attorney can help determine which payment structure would work best for you based on your needs.

Regardless of whether your check includes a lump sum or a structured payment installment, the insurance company has 30 days to write and provide you or your attorney with the check following the date of the settlement.

3. You Deposit the Money, Which Covers Expenses

When the settlement goes through, a portion of this check will go to covering the various medical expenses resulting from the accident, including all medical bills requiring reimbursement. Additionally, contingency fees and other costs pertaining to your case would come out of your settlement amount.

Your attorney should detail exactly how the settlement will cover various costs.

4. Further Negotiations

When using the settlement check to cover medical expenses, an attorney may be able to negotiate with healthcare providers to help ensure you get the treatment you require to reach maximum medical improvement (MMI), or the point at which you have recovered as much as possible.

Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer for Help

Some personal injury cases may be relatively straightforward, but they often involve complications that can make them difficult to navigate, especially if you have no prior experience with these cases.

If you want to prove liability and maximize your chances of succeeding with a personal injury claim or lawsuit, hire a personal injury lawyer to help handle your case.

The right California personal injury attorney will determine whether you have a viable case and, if he or she takes your case on, help gather evidence and negotiate a settlement with liable parties and insurers.

If you need legal representation in a personal injury case, contact us at Kuvara Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation.

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