Statistics show that the state of California accounts for over 11% of all auto accidents that occur in the United States. Most of these accidents are those that have been caused by negligent and careless behavior such as speeding and impaired driving. There are laws in place that allow those injured in such accidents to file a suit for compensation in court against the negligent parties.
If you have been involved in an auto accident in California, and you believe that someone else was to blame for the accident, get in touch with us at The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm. We have a strong team of experienced attorneys who will work hard on your case. We will ensure that your rights are protected and that you are getting the compensation you deserve.
California Personal Injury Laws
As mentioned above, California has laws in place which allow people who have suffered injuries as a result of other’s negligence to file a suit against the negligent parties so they can recover their damages. However, the injured must identify the at-fault party and be able to demonstrate how the defendant was negligent and how their negligence caused the injuries. The problem is that proving the fault is not an easy thing to do in California. Some people who get injured in auto accidents are not able to recover their damages because they are unable to prove fault. That is why the help of a competent personal injury attorney is necessary. An attorney could help the injured build a strong case against the negligent party to ensure they are getting compensated.
In a California auto accident, a fault is mainly grounded on negligence. If a motorist acts with negligence, which causes an accident in which people get injured, the negligent motorists will be responsible for all the damages incurred. There are many ways in which a driver could be negligent. Failing to pay attention to the road or other motorists on the way is, for instance, is one way in which a motorist can negligently cause an auto accident. Negligence is also shown when a driver fails to adhere to all traffic laws. Some of the most common behaviors that result in California auto accidents include:
- Driving at a higher speed than normal
- Running a red light
- Distractions while driving, for instance eating or talking on the phone
- Texting on the phone while driving
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Failing to give other drivers the right of way
Under the state’s negligence laws, if a careless driver causes an accident that affects other people, he/she is held responsible for all the damages the others have incurred. For the plaintiff to be compensated in a lawsuit, he/she has to demonstrate to the court that the at-fault party was negligent and how that negligence resulted in the accident. The legal standards of negligence in an auto accident lawsuit in California are:
- That the defendant had a duty of care to the plaintiff
- That the defendant violated their responsibility of care by their negligence
- That the defendant’s negligent behavior was the main factor in triggering the plaintiff’s damages
A competent personal injury attorney will be in a position to help you prepare strong evidence to prove to the court that it was indeed the defendant's actions that caused the injuries you sustained.
Common Types of Auto Accidents in California
There are many types of auto accidents in the state of California. The kind of accident a person has been involved in determines the types of injuries they have suffered, the seriousness of their injuries, and also the at-fault party. The most common of these accidents include:
- Rear-end collision: these are often believed to be the fault of the rear driver, but liability is not always automatic.
- Head-on collision: these are mainly caused by distracted or drink driving and failing to yield.
- T-bone smashups: these are sometimes caused by poor road conditions, faulty parts or unclear traffic signals among other things
- Bus collisions: these types of accidents mainly involve city buses and transit companies
- Motorcycle accidents: These can be very serious considering the little protection motorcycle riders enjoy
- Truck wrecks: A negligent driver or trucking company could cause these
- Vehicle collisions with bikes
- Hitting pedestrians
- Rollovers: they are the leading cause of severe injuries and death in California auto accidents
Common Injuries in a California Auto Accident
Damages in an auto accident vary greatly, depending on the type of accident a person has been involved in and the severity of that accident. Most injuries occur on impact, as the bodies collide with objects inside the vehicles involved. Some can be minor and others severe. If a person is, for instance, thrown from the car and lands on other cars or objects outside their vehicle, they could suffer very severe injuries. In the case of rollover accidents, on the other hand, which occur mainly because of defective equipment, the inside part of the car could crash and cause severe injuries on the occupants of the vehicle.
Most passengers in such serious accidents will lose their lives. Other than physical injuries, California personal injury laws allow the family or estate of a deceased person, whose death has been caused by another person's negligence, to file a lawsuit against the negligent party for compensation. The process of seeking compensation for wrongful death is straightforward as long as the family can prove that it was the at-fault party's negligence that resulted in the death of their loved one.
However, most personal injury lawsuits for auto accidents in California involve physical injuries and other damages that result from a crash. Some of the most common physical injuries that a person is likely to suffer in a car accident include:
Head and brain injuries: Head injuries include all damages to a person's skull, scalp, or brain. An injury to the head could be a minor bruise or bump or a more severe injury such as a traumatic brain injury. The most common types of head injuries that are caused by car accidents include skull fractures, concussions, and severe wounds on the scalp. Treatment and consequences of such injuries vary as well, depending on the exact cause of the injury and how serious it is. Sometimes a person may suffer severe brain damage with no physical sign of the damage. That is why it is advisable to seek medical help immediately after an accident, however minor it may seem.
Neck injuries: neck injuries are also quite common in car accidents. Therefore, if you start experiencing pain in your neck and shoulders, it could be an indication of such an injury as whiplash. A person can still suffer damage to the muscles even if they were not hit by anything during the accident. Whiplash happens when the car stops at once because of a crash. This causes the head to move one way then the other, and because of the speed of the vehicle and the force of that movement, the surrounding tissues could be severely damaged. Some people suffer tears in their nerves, muscles, and connective tissues.
Injuries to the spinal cord: Spinal cord injuries that result from car accidents can be very severe, and unfortunately, they are widespread. Statistics show that since 2010. Auto accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in the United States. Therefore, if you have been in an accident and your back is in pain, or you have numbness or tingling feeling on your back, you may have sustained an injury to your spine. Such injuries take time to heal and are expensive and painful to treat. Common spine injuries a person could suffer in an auto accident are, for instance, sprain, disc injury, injuries to the lumbar spine, strain, or fracture.
Facial injuries: These types of damages occur when the person hits an object in the car after an accident, such as the dashboard, steering wheel, car seat, airbag, side window glass, and any other interior equipment. Just like other injuries mentioned, facial injuries can be minor or severe, depending on the severity of the accident. Some of these injuries could be cuts, bruises, scrapes, or damages to the jaw or teeth.
Psychological injuries: Other than the physical injuries, California auto accidents result in psychological injuries as well. These include both traumatic and mental injuries that affect a person's life. Again, such damages could be minor and others severe and long-lasting. Some of these injuries include anxiety, emotional distress, depression, as well as posttraumatic stress disorders.
Compensable Damages in a California Auto Accident
The losses and injuries determine compensable damages in a California auto accident that the plaintiff has suffered. When presenting your claim in a civil court, you will be required to state the losses you have incurred, which you would want the defendant to compensate you.
Compensable damages in a personal injury suit can, therefore, be both monetary and non-monetary. Monetary damages are those that the plaintiff can put a dollar value on. They are, for instance, vehicle repairs and medical bills. Non-Monetary losses, on the other hand, are those with no financial value. They could be a little hard to value and may include the pain and suffering that the injured party went through after the accident.
The most common compensatory damages in an auto accident lawsuit include:
- Medical expenses: You should be able to recover all the money you have spent on medical care, starting from the time you were rushed to an emergency room. Medical costs will also include all the costs you will incur in the future, especially if you have sustained a long-lasting injury
- Costs for vehicle repair and replacement
- Lost income if you have not been able to go back to work after the accident. This will include the money you might have earned if you had not got into the accident, that is from the day of your accident to the day of your recovery
- Loss of future earning capacity if your injuries will not allow you to work and make as much as you could have worked or earned if you had not been into the accident
- Physical and occupational therapy if they have been included in your medical care to improve your quality of life
- cost of all medicines and medical supplies you will need until your recovery
- The pain and suffering
- Compensation for any limb you could have lost
- Compensation for the scars and any disfigurement
- Loss of consortium, which is given to your partner or spouse as compensation for loss of association or companionship for the length of time you will be recovering from your injury
- Punitive damages: there are instances when the judge awards punitive damages as a way to punish the defendant for his/her recklessness. It is also a way to caution the defendant not to act in the same manner again in the future.
The Role of a Personal Injury Attorney in a California Auto Accident
Personal injury claims are not easy to handle, especially if you have been seriously injured in an auto accident. You need legal help in gathering evidence and filing the required documents in court, among other things. The primary role of an attorney in a personal injury lawsuit is to support the plaintiff. He/she will handle all court affairs, deal with the insurance provider, keep you informed about any development in your case and also do everything necessary to get you fair compensation.
Working with a lawyer is not mandatory, but the plaintiff stands to lose a lot if they agree to negotiate with the insurance provider. The insurer will not bear your best interest at heart when negotiating for a settlement. It means that chances of getting less than you deserve as compensation are always high when working alone. Here are some reasons why you need a competent personal injury attorney by your side:
To Conduct Investigations Into the Accident
As mentioned earlier, the cause of the crash is an essential piece of information in establishing fault in an auto accident. Until you can understand how the accident occurred, you may not be able to determine who was at fault for the accident. To do this, you need someone you can trust at the scene of the crash, working with the police and other experts in establishing the actual cause of the accident or in determining how the accident occurred.
Sometimes the police are usually the first to arrive at the accident scene. At the scene, they sketch the area, get statements from everyone that was involved in the accident, as well as get statements from witnesses who could have been at the scene of the accident. Your attorney could use the statement from the police as well as gather his/her information to get concrete evidence on who was at fault.
To conduct a proper inquiry into the matter, he/she will need the police statement, the insurance provider's report, statements from eyewitnesses, past records of accidents that have occurred at that site, medical records as well as the opinion of an expert. Note that your lawyer will conduct an in-depth analysis of the matter because findings of that investigation will enable him/her determine the at-fault party and anyone else that could have been at fault.
To Ensure that you are Getting the Best Medical Treatment
Getting proper treatment is more important than anything else after an auto accident. Some people downplay the injuries they sustain in such accidents, and then the injuries get worse with time. Other people do not get immediate medical treatment or lack of finances. Your attorney’s role is to ensure that you are getting the best treatment for every injury you have sustained. Even if you are feeling fine after an auto accident, your lawyer will ensure that you get a medical checkup. It is because most issues such as loss of movement, neck injuries, headaches, and other serious injuries can manifest after a few days and even weeks.
Again, failing to get immediate medical care could mean that you have not been injured at the accident. The insurer may take advantage of this fact to deny you any compensation you may be seeking.
Once the cause of the accident has been established, your lawyer will get busy finding enough evidence that will compel the court to have him/her pay full compensation for all your losses. Note that witness statements and a theory of how the accident happened are not enough evidence to prove that a person was at fault for the accident. Taking photos of the scene of the accident, the damaged car, and the injuries you have incurred is just one way to gather evidence. Your lawyer will also need all your medical records, and a statement from your medical care provider stating that your injuries were a direct result of the accident.
Note that the at-fault party may try to hide the evidence to make it hard for your attorney to determine the actual cause of the crash. An experienced attorney will know how to handle such an issue. He/she could take action to ensure that evidence is not interfered with or retained.
Issuance of a Demand Letter
Once the at-fault party has been determined and the damages incurred listed down, it will be time for the plaintiff, with the help of his/her attorney, to issue out a demand letter for compensation. It is usually the first step in recovering damages in a personal injury case. The demand letter will contain a summary of your claim and the proof of the at-fault party's liability. It will include:
- All the people involved in the accident
- The circumstances and facts of the accident
- Medical injuries and other damages incurred in the crash
- All the costs and losses that resulted from the accident
- A demand for reimbursement from the insurance provider
Demand letters are the beginning of any negotiations the plaintiff will have with the insurance provider.
Negotiating for Settlement with Insurance Provider
It is one of the essential steps in trying to recover damages after a California auto accident. The case doesn’t have to be determined by the court when you can come into an agreement with the insurance provider. However, this is the riskiest thing to do, especially if the plaintiff is not working with an attorney. The insurance provider will do its best to cheat the plaintiff out of their compensation.
An attorney by your side can make a significant difference in the amount of money you can recover for your damages. If the insurance provider is not willing to give you the full compensation you are asking for, your attorney can advise you to take the matter to court.
Filing an Injury Claim in Court
Not all personal injury cases are settled out of court. Although the settlement is usually the easiest and fastest way to receive your damages, the insurance provider may not be willing to give you the full compensation you deserve. It leaves you with no other option but to pursue the matter in court. When this is decided, your attorney can file all the paperwork needed to kick start the court process. Note that the lawsuit can take a long time before it is concluded, but the advantage is that you may be able to recover all your losses
Your lawyer will also be there to represent you in court and ensure that your needs are met in the end.
Find a Catastrophic Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Have you been involved in an auto accident, and you believe that it was as a result of another person's negligence? California law allows you to pursue compensation for all the losses you have incurred. At The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm, we help people who have suffered injuries in California to recover their damages from those responsible for the accident. Call us at 619-625-8707 and let us ensure that your rights are respected all through the process.