California is known to be the most populous state in the country. The vast population is one of the reasons the state is leading in car accident deaths annually. Coupled with the fact that vehicles are a necessity in daily activities in today’s world makes the number of fatal crashes even more evident.

At The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm, we are here to help you recover compensation for financial losses incurred after you have lost a loved one in a car accident caused by someone’s negligence.  

Statistics on Car Accident Fatalities in California

Based on a recent report by Statista, in 2014, California recorded 3,084 vehicle accident deaths. The following year, which was 2015, the state witnessed an increase in the number of car accident fatalities to 3,249, while 2016 recorded the highest fatalities at 3,680. The year 2017 saw a drop in the number of deaths compared to the previous year to 3,564. In 2018, car collision deaths rose to 3,651, while 2019 recorded 3,540 deaths.

Nationwide numbers indicate that 54% of these accidents occur in rural areas. However, in California, 61% of the crashes happen in urban areas, while 39 percent occur in rural areas.

Going by 2017 data by NHTSA, ten counties reported the highest number of vehicle accident deaths. Los Angeles County was leading with 658 deaths, followed by Riverside, which recorded 294 fatalities. San Bernardino recorded 271 car accident-related deaths, San Diego 231, Kern 182, Orange County 178, Sacramento 172, and Fresno 156. The counties that recorded the least car accident fatalities were San Joaquin and Santa Clara, which had 116 and 105 deaths, respectively.

The ratio of car accidents to per capita also matters a lot. In 2018, per every hundred thousand Californians, 48 of them lost their lives in car collisions. Compared to the national wide ratio of 65 lives lost per 100,000 populations, the number is slightly lower. It is an indication that vehicle crashes account for the highest number of unintentional deaths in California.

On the issue of where and when accidents causing fatalities occur, car accident statistics show that most crashes happen at night or during weekends. Based on 2016 statistics, 6.3% of vehicle collisions happened at night, while 4.8% occurred during the day. 5.3 percent of the car crashes happened on weekdays, while during weekends, the number rose to 5.9 percent. 

Based on these statistics, driving during the day or on weekdays is much safer than being behind the wheel during weekends or at night.

Also, a report by the California Office of Traffic Safety shows that in 2015, the number of deaths for every one hundred million miles traveled was 1.01 percent, which was a significant rise compared to 2013 where the number fatalities for every 100 million miles traveled was 0.091 percent.

Motorcyclists who sustained fatal injuries resulting from car accidents in 2018 were 488. This was a 15.57% decrease from the previous year 2017, which experienced 578 motorcyclist deaths stemming from car accidents.

Variance in Fatalities by Sex

Statistics also show that more males died in car accidents than females in the year 1999. For every 100,000 people, there were 15.4 male deaths, while the number of female deaths rests at 6.9. These records show that men are at a higher risk of dying in car crashes than females.

Variance in Fatalities by Race        

In 1999, 8.4 fatalities from car accidents per a population of 100,000 were Asian or pacific islanders. Seven fatalities for every 100,000 population were Alaskan Natives or American Indians, 11.8 Blacks or African Americans, while 11.5 were whites.

Thousands of lives are lost annually in California car crashes regardless of age, race, and sex. If drivers and other road users observed road safety measures, these deaths are preventable. State and local authorities in charge of maintaining various roads should also ensure roads are not in a hazardous condition because such roads contribute to several car collisions that leave many victims dead.

Common Causes of Car Accident Fatalities

Authorities have been doing a lot to try and reduce car accidents, but unfortunately, these collisions keep happening. Some of the typical car collision causes include:

  1. Drunk or Drugged Driving

In California, DUI of alcoholic beverages or drugs is the leading cause of vehicle accident deaths. Alcohol or substances impairs the brain and vision, triggers tiredness, delays judgment, and slows down reaction time, which increases the risk of intoxicated drivers finding themselves in fatal car accidents.

California's zero-tolerance law disallows folks below 21 from driving a vehicle with a BAC of .01 percent. Adults above 21 years, on the other hand, are discouraged from operating a vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of .08%. A conviction for DUI in California attracts harsh penalties, but despite this, people continue to take alcohol or drugs and drive.

Despite these punitive measures, since 2013, the number of fatalities caused by drunk or drugged driving has been on the rise. In 2013, 880 people died from car accidents caused by DUI. The year 2014 saw the numbers dip to 876, but in 2015, the number of fatalities rose to 902. In 2016, 1,l122 fatalities occurred, and in all these cases, the BAC tests conducted on the drivers involved in the crashes showed that they were driving with a BAC exceeding the legal limit of .08 percent. In 2017, the number of fatalities caused by drunk drivers on the road dropped slightly to 1,120.

2018 recorded 1,069 fatalities stemming from intoxicated drivers, which were a 6.8 percent decrease compared to 2017. And 42 percent of the drivers who died in the year due to road accidents tested positive for drugs. Statistics further show that in 2013, 78 percent of the drivers who died in car accidents with a known BAC had a blood alcohol level beyond the legal limit.

  1. Driving Above the Legal Speed Limit

Unsafe speed increases the chances of a driver losing control over the car and hitting another vehicle, bystanders, a traffic sign, or railing. Although people are discouraged from speeding, the law also prohibits drivers from driving too slowly, mainly in interstate roads or where highways require a motorist to drive at a higher speed to prevent hazards.

Data from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety shows that 27% of vehicle accident deaths in 2016 occurred due to speed-related accidents. The more you speed, the higher the impact of the collision, which means occupants of the vehicle are at a higher risk of death or sustaining fatal injuries. Besides, speed makes it challenging to slow down or stop when there is an emergency on the road. It means when speeding, the chances of hitting other vehicles or pedestrians are high, which increases the risk of the victims of the crash dying.

Some drivers believe that speeding is wrong, but what they practice is different. Several reasons can explain why drivers speed. Some do it when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, while statistics show that more male drivers are likely to drive at an unsafe speed than females. Also, teenagers aged between sixteen and twenty years are likely to speed when driving.

In the event, a driver operating a vehicle at an unsafe speed hits you or your vehicle causing death, if your loved one dies in such an accident, you should hire a personal injury attorney to help you recover compensation and learn to enjoy life with your new normal. But before these damages are awarded, the attorney will need to prove the death of a loved one occurred because of speeding, and there is evidence to show the defendant has a record of speeding or contravening traffic rules.

  1. Distracted Driving

Based on NHTSA findings, 80percent of auto accidents occur due to any form of distracted driving. Between the years 2013 and 2017, there were 3,030 cases of distracted driving, which comprised 9 percent of vehicle accident deaths. In 2010, a study by NHTSA also found that distracted driving caused both economic and family harm to victims of car accident fatalities. The harm caused to the society stood at $871 billion, while economic losses amounted to $277 billion.

The reason why distracted driving has become a significant cause of car accident fatalities is because of the rapid advancements in technology. Today you can’t find a driver in California without a smartphone. When driving, boredom might tempt a car driver to pick up the phone and begin texting or calling friends. Although texting, calling, or browsing while driving is illegal, drivers still find themselves in these dangerous situations.

Stats show that 450 people die in phone-related car accidents and that teenagers and young adults are at higher chances of using the phone while driving. What increases accidents while using the phone is the fact that drivers might be carried away by the conversation or what they see on the web, taking their minds off the road.

Distracted driving not only occurs while using the phone. Being lost in your thoughts could also cause vehicle crashes that result in fatalities. If you are planning your grocery list while driving or having pressure at work and your mind is occupied by the thoughts of how you are going to handle the pressure, you might lose view and end up crashing.

Vehicle occupants might also cause a driver to lose focus on the road, thus causing an accident. Some of the things that cause distraction at such a time include a kid crying in the back seat, having a conversation with a friend, or checking on kids fighting in the back seat.

Things like applying makeup, eating, paying too much attention to the radio or GPS could also result in car accidents leaving many dead.

  1. Failure to Yield

Laws of the road are apparent, and anyone operating a car should understand who has the right of way. When turning in front or out to approaching traffic, you need to make sure that the road is clear or safe to do so. If drivers make a turn, especially a left turn without checking to make sure the road is free of hazards, it might result in a fatal accident.

  1. Driver Drowsiness

Drivers, mainly those operating big rigs for long distances, may not always get enough sleep as required by the law. The reason being they are trying to make more money or arrive at the destination on time. In the process, these drivers deprive themselves of sleep, which results in fatigue while on the road. With the long road stretches, drowsiness takes over, making them fall asleep.

Sleeping drivers contribute to a considerable number of fatalities when they drift off the road, miss exits or hit rumble strips on the sides of the road.

Also, if drowsiness takes over and you don’t fall asleep, you could still cause an accident because of poor decision making, inability to focus, and low reaction time. Without enough rest, you will be unaware of your surroundings, which threatens your life, that of your passengers and other road users.

  1. Running a Red Light

Many car accident deaths occur at intersections when drivers are in a hurry to the extent they can’t stop at a red light to allow other vehicles moving in the other direction to enter an intersection. Pedestrians also rely on the light at intersections when crossing the road. Therefore, when a driver fails to stop at a red light during a left turn, they might not only end up hitting pedestrians but also other vehicles.

Remember that the law only allows drivers to enter an intersection when the traffic lights are flashing yellow and not red. Therefore, if you or a loved one dies in a road accident caused by a driver who directly disregarded the law, your injury attorney could claim compensation under the negligence per se rule, where negligence is presumed.

  1. Improper Turning

Improper turning happens in multiple situations. Some of these situations include:

  • Turning where there is no sign indicating turn on red
  • Failing to entirely stop when making a turn at a stop sign or red light
  • Not using a turn signal
  • Making a left turn at a red light when it is illegal to do so

Car accidents leading to death could also occur because of dangerous road conditions, bad weather, faulty parts, and violation of traffic rules. Whatever the cause of the accident that resulted in the death of a loved one, it is critical to retain the services of a personal injury attorney. These legal practitioners will provide you with resources like investigators who will conduct an independent investigation and find the person responsible for the death of a loved one.

Recovering Compensation When a Loved One is Part of These Car Accident Fatality Statistics

Unfortunately, many Californians lose their loved ones in car accidents, despite there being laws that can prevent people from becoming statistics. Violation of traffic rules is the leading cause of vehicle collision deaths. The pain of losing a loved one because of someone’s negligence can be life-changing, which is why the California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 allows surviving family members of the people who die from car accidents to seek compensation.

Wrongful Death Claim in Car Accident Fatalities

If you have lost a family member to a car crash and have reasons to believe that another person is responsible for the death, Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 makes it clear the people who can seek compensation on behalf of the deceased. Spouses, children, grandchildren, domestic partners, other minors who depend on the deceased for at least 50% financial support, or anyone eligible under intestate succession laws can register this claim.

The descendants of the car accident victim can pursue both criminal and civil procedures, but separately. You could register a wrongful death suit against the following parties:

  • A negligent driver
  • The employer of the driver if his or her actions or inactions were the cause of the fatal accident
  • A car owner who allowed another person to operate a car when it caused an accident
  • A person who provided alcohol to a minor who causes a car accident when drunk
  • The vehicle manufacturer if a car default caused the accident
  • Car repair outlet if shoddy repairs or maintenance led to the accident
  • Local or state government agency in charge of road maintenance

Keep in mind that when going after these negligent parties, you will be dealing with their insurers. And because most insurance companies are not willing to provide compensation without a fight, you should expect them to try and shift the blame to another person. For this reason, you might find your case having more than one defendant.  In such incidences, you will have to determine the percentage of fault by each defendant so that each party can compensate you for the percentage of fault that is attached to them for the death they caused.

The Time Limit for Wrongful Death Lawsuits

The statutory limitation for this lawsuit in California is two years, and the clock begins ticking at the date of death. So, if a victim sustains catastrophic injuries after an accident and stays in the ICU for one year, you will have twenty-four months from the time of death to register a claim.

Take note that many families fail to take legal action on time because of grief. Although it is okay to grieve, you should retain legal counsel, so that as you focus on grieving the personal injury attorney can focus on getting you compensation for the damages caused by the death of a loved one. The timeline for registering this claim is even shorter if a government agency is involved. So, the earlier you take legal action, the better.

The estate of the deceased could also file the claim, but two years after the date of the injury or a half a year after the death of the victim.

Keep in mind that if this period elapses without registering a claim, you lose your constitutional right to seek compensation.

Recoverable Damages in Wrongful Death Claims

The compensation provided in a wrongful death claim will not bring back your loved one. But this shouldn’t be the reason why you avoid filing an injury claim. Wrongful death claim is intended to help heirs get financial support for the value they could have reasonably expected, were it not for the demise of the car accident victim.

The amount of recoverable damages depends on the life expectancy of the deceased at the time of the car crash or life expectancy of the claimant at the time of the accident. The question of life expectancy is left to the discretion of the jury. They will depend on the health, occupation, and lifestyle of the deceased to decide.

The damages you can recover from this claim include:

Economic Damages

Economic damages seek to compensate you for:

  • Monetary support the deceased could have provided to the family if he or she was alive
  • Loss of gifts and other benefits the heirs could have enjoyed from the deceased
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Reasonable cost estimation of the household services the deceased would have provided was it not for the death.

Non-Economic Damages

General damages are awarded to compensate for the decedent:

  • Training and guidance
  • Companionship
  • Sexual relations
  • Protection
  • Affection
  • Moral support

Note that there is no standard procedure for attaching a dollar value to general damages. For this reason, the jury relies on the evidence presented, previous cases, and common sense to arrive at a figure to award the heirs of a deceased. Also, this claim will not compensate you for the grief, pain, and sorrow of losing a loved one. As an heir, you can also not pursue punitive damages under a wrongful death case. You will have to file survival actions on behalf of the decedent’s estate.

Find a Car Accident Attorney Near Me

Looking at the car accident fatality statistics explained above, you will realize that many lives are lost on California roads every year because of recklessness or negligence. If you are a family that has lost someone in a vehicle crash, The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm can help you seek compensation for all the losses you incur because of the death. Our attorneys are available for a free and confidential consultation. Call us today at 619-625-8707 to schedule a meeting.