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Your Legal Options After A Car Crash

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

Tips On Filing Car Accident Claims In California

Driving in California is dangerous. Extreme weather, natural disasters, and even the poor state of road surfaces that might have gone neglected for decades may all threaten your trip while you're driving in California. You can also encounter drivers who are distracted by their phones or who speed and change lanes recklessly. Furthermore, you can encounter motorists who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol far too often.

That said, here's a quick guide to California car accident laws and claims, as they would be handled by top car accident attorneys in Los Angeles.

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These dangers can be seen on California's freeways and streets at any time. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), California had the highest number of fatal incidents in the country in 2019. In total, 3,316 fatal incidents occurred in our state, resulting in the catastrophic loss of 3,606 lives. With 3,294 fatal crashes, Texas came in second on the list. With 2,950 fatal collisions in 2019, Florida came in seventh.

California is known for its congested highways and reckless drivers, so it doesn't matter if you're on a congested freeway, a narrow city street, or a long stretch of farmland highway when you get into a car accident. Your physical rehabilitation from the accident will be your primary concern. If you've taken care of that, you'll be able to focus on rebuilding your life financially. Unfortunately, insurance firms can take a long time to make up for their policyholder's errors.

Difficulties with Insurance Claims After A Car Accident

If you collided with are were struck by another car, you will have to negotiate with the driver's insurance policy, assuming they have any insurance at all. If they don't have benefits, you will be forced to negotiate with your own insurance provider in order to obtain assistance from your uninsured/underinsured motorist policy.

Insurance companies can undermine a victim's allegation and resolve it in a variety of ways. Listed below are a few of their strategies:

  • Insurance firms may use stall tactics. This may include claiming that they are having a high number of incidents and asking you to wait patiently for a response to your claim for damages or a settlement offer. This dragging of the feet is often a ruse to postpone paying the hospital bills and monthly bills, such as car payments and rent. The longer you have to deal with those bills and debtor calls, the more hopeless you will feel. Insurance firms want you to be in a desperate situation.

  • Offers low settlement bid. They stall until you're desperate enough to accept whatever settlement offer they make. When you're facing thousands of dollars in monthly bills and are unable to function, any "lowball" bid can seem appealing. An expert prosecutor will recognize these delay strategies and lowball deals and will contest the insurance company's bad faith practices. When a California car accident attorney threatens to take things to court, insurance firms will begin to act far more quickly.

  • Shifting the blame/responsibility. They do this to either scare you into dismissing your argument or accepting any responsibility in a car accident. Don't be taken in by it. They might look at your driving record and make you appear to be a reckless driver. They might be able to get their hands on medical reports that prove you've had a similar car accident before. All of these are poor claims that a legal professional on your side can easily refute.

  • Using your statements against you. Another technique is to contact you immediately after an accident to see how you're doing. A representative from the insurance company actually wants you to make a written statement. Don't make a comment to someone. Refuse politely. Insurance brokers are searching for something you'll suggest that they can use later to misrepresent your version of events. Enable your California Personal Injury Attorney to handle all correspondence on your behalf. It relieves your tension and safeguards your situation.

Top car accident attorneys would advise that you avoid negotiation so soon after the accident, at least without a representative. You might be in shock, or you might not know the law that well.

California's Most Common Car Accidents

Although car accidents can occur at any time and in any situation, some types of accidents are more common than most. If you've been hurt in one of these common incidents, click on the name for more information on how to get answers to your questions.

  • Intersection Collisions. According to the Federal Highway Administration in the United States, about half of all motor vehicle collisions involving injuries and fatalities happen at or near intersections. A driver's failure to note a stop sign or traffic signal accounts for around 46% of such incidents. These estimates are backed by data from California intersection collisions. Distracted driving, failure to yield the right-of-way while making left turns, driving under the influence (such as alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two), unfamiliarity with an environment, and poor basic judgment of speed and distance are all common causes of intersection accidents.

  • Accidents that occur at night. When the sun sets, so does our ability to see clearly. Our vision deteriorates, our depth perception suffers, and we also have trouble perceiving colors. These are some of the reasons why California Car Accident Laws allow drivers to use their headlights from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise. Even in the middle of the day, there are several risky stretches of road that necessitate the use of headlights.

  • Failure to yield or come to a halt. In 2019, 3,606 people died as a result of injuries sustained in California traffic collisions, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. About 200,000 people were injured. Los Angeles led California with 685 traffic deaths, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. There were 169 deaths in Sacramento County and 134 in Fresno County. Motorists who refused to yield, halt, or otherwise reduce their speed to prevent a car accident were responsible for more than 99 percent of these fatalities.

  • Head-on collisions. Between 2017 and 2018, the California Highway Patrol reported 13,543 head-on collisions in Los Angeles County alone. There were 183 deaths as a result of the accidents, with 4,615 people suffering visible injuries. About 57 percent of all victims of head-on collisions claimed personal injury.

  • Accidents involving a hit-and-run driver. In 2016, there were 337 hit-and-run deaths in California, according to the most recent data available from AAA. This figure was the highest in the country. Bicyclists and pedestrians were the victims of the majority of these hit-and-runs. The 337 deaths were 60 percent more than ten years ago. The number of hit-and-runs in the state ranked seventh in the nation.

  • Accidents with a rear-end collision. The higher the trailing vehicle's speed is at the moment of impact, the more severe the injuries in the lead vehicle are likely to be. The leading vehicle is usually stopped, and the following driver is distracted. At other times, the lead vehicle is moving, but the following driver is not keeping a reasonable distance between them. Rear-end accidents account for approximately 30% of all motor vehicle collisions that result in severe injury, according to the National Highway Transportation Administration. They account for 7% of all traffic accident fatalities and 20% of all traffic accident fatalities in two-vehicle accidents.

  • Ride-sharing services (Uber/Lyft) Accidents. Uber alone claims to have 200,000 drivers in California, according to the Wall Street Journal. Another 200,000 people could be Lyft and other ride-sharing drivers. Many of these drivers offer transportation services to customers using their own cars. It is their ride-share insurance policy that is on the issue. A critically injured car accident survivor can be advised that ride-share coverage does not extend to the accident and that he or she must pursue compensation from the ride-share driver's personal insurance.

  • T-bone Accidents. It's a great feat that planners are able to safely monitor traffic flows on California highways, given the size of some intersections. There is a lot of reliance on drivers doing the right thing at the right time, and T-Bone impacts can happen when they don't follow the rules of the road at intersections. Every year, about 8,000 people die as a result of T-Bone crash injuries, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. In these types of injuries, children are particularly vulnerable. Thousands of other people are wounded as a result of the crash. A driver failing or refusing to yield the right-of-way at a red light or stop sign is the most common cause of a T-Bone collision. Other potential triggers include power outages, traffic signal timing issues, or even a burned-out light bulb.

  • Distracted driving. Distracted driving causes injuries, and texting while driving is a form of distracted driving. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, it is illegal to use a mobile phone or other similar devices when driving on any highway in the state. It's just a question of public safety. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, texting while driving is the most dangerous method of distracted driving because it needs three types of diversion at the same time.

Common Injuries in Car Accidents

You'll have to battle insurance providers for a just settlement for your crash. It's a crucial step in your rehabilitation because it has ramifications beyond your immediate wellbeing and financial security.

You could sustain permanent injuries that necessitate surgery and further physical therapy. You could be forced to change occupations due to a disability. Job training and medical supplies for travel and at home can be expensive. Many of these expenses should be accounted for in every insurance settlement. If you have an advocate on your side, they will be taken into consideration.

Because the injuries of auto accidents can be so serious and affect everyone's life down the road, these settlements are critical for victims and their families. The following are some of the most common injuries that emergency room doctors see each year:

  • Brain and head injuries. Severe concussions, skull fractures, brain bleeding, and scalp wounds may all occur as a result of a head injury. In a collision with the inside of the skull, traumatic brain injury (TBI) will cause the brain to bruise. Memory loss, light sensitivity, seizures, and other complications are also potential symptoms.

  • Whiplash (a sudden back and forth tossing of the head) will render patients unable to turn their heads. The impact of an airbag or the pull of a seatbelt may fracture spinal vertebrae. Injuries to the back and spine may result in permanent disability.

  • Fractures can occur in virtually every part of the body. One of the most frequently fractured bones in an impact is the clavicle. It extends around the top of the ribcage and is the most delicate bone in the body. When a car is partially crushed, the fibula (lower leg) and femur (upper leg) are often broken.

  • Muscles, tendons, and ligaments may all be broken or bruised in soft tissue injuries. This tissue binds and keeps the various organs and body parts together.

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What to Do If You've Been Injured in a Car Accident

The acts you take after a car accident can either support or damage your case. Some drivers make simple mistakes that cost them time and money. We've outlined the steps to take after a car accident to help you from making the same mistakes.

  • Make everyone's well-being a priority, including your own. Some people are able to walk away from a car crash, while others are critically injured and unable to leave their cars. If you're in a lot of pain or need emergency medical attention, have someone call an ambulance for you. If you are able to exit the vehicle, ask those involved in the accident if they need an ambulance and if so, call one.

  • You should contact the authorities if someone was hurt (even if just marginally) or if there was $1,000 or more in property damage; California Car Accident Laws require you to report the accident. A police report may be written by the responding officer and may contain useful information.

  • Never admit fault or say something that could be construed as an admission of fault. A victim's compensation will be reduced by their percentage of liability under California Car Accident Laws if they are partly to blame for their injuries. So, if you're 25 percent to blame, you'll only get three-quarters of what you'd get otherwise. "I'm sorry," "I couldn't even see you," and "I'm fine" can seem to be innocent words, but they can be used against you by an insurance adjuster.

  • All involved in the accident should share insurance details. Get the driver's name and address, as well as the details on his or her driver's license and license plate number.

  • Given your injury, document the accident as best you can. You may, for example, make a list of all witnesses to the accident and their contact details. Take photographs of the cars involved in the collision and where they ended up right after the accident if you are able to drive about. These images may be useful in identifying a problem later in the process. If you are unable to do so, have someone you trust do it for you.

  • If you were not evacuated by ambulance, make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible. Any signs you're experiencing can be detected by a doctor, and your injuries can be meticulously reported. Follow your doctor's instructions and take all prescription medications as directed. If you don't think you're getting better, get a second opinion, but stop self-diagnosing your injuries.

California Statute of Limitations on Car Accident Personal Injury Lawsuits

In California, there is a statute of limitations that determines the maximum period of time you have to file a case. If you miss this deadline, you will lose your legal right to sue the at-fault driver for damages. As a result, you can consult with a car accident lawyer in California as soon as possible to resolve your case.

For traffic accidents in California, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the accident. Only a few very unique exceptions cause this period to be extended. To secure your interests, it is best to consult with a Los Angeles car accident lawyer as soon as possible.

Negligence as Proof of Liability

Drivers in the state of California are expected to follow safe driving guidelines. It is negligence if you do not do so. In order to receive compensation after a car accident, injured parties must prove the other driver's negligence.

According to California statute, negligence occurs when:

  1. The driver disobeys traffic laws and safety regulations.

  2. The driver does not follow the rules when driving their car.

  3. The accident happens as a direct result of the actions of the other driver.

  4. Injuries, medical costs, missed income, and other financial problems have arisen from the crash.

Comparative negligence is used in California law. Each person involved in the car accident is responsible for a portion of the damages due to comparative negligence.

If all parties are at fault in an accident, the court will allocate a percentage of fault to each driver to assess the final award for monetary damages. And if you think you are at fault or liable, you should wait to make a comment until you have spoken with your car accident attorney in Los Angeles, California.

After a car accident, avoid these blunders

Automobile collisions are inconvenient, disturbing, painful, and sometimes fatal. In the aftermath of an accident, you can make rash or ill-informed decisions.

As a result, it is advisable to contact the best car accident attorney in Los Angeles as soon as possible. Your car accident lawyer will help you reduce the risk of making a mistake or making a wrong decision.

If they do not find a lawyer after a car accident, several victims make the following mistakes:

  • You are choosing not to contact the authorities. Even if you don't think your accident was serious enough to record, an official police report will help you prove your case in court. The police will gather this information, write a report, and issue any required citations for infractions.

  • Accepting responsibility for the mistakes. You may feel obligated to apologize or admit fault immediately after an accident. It's best to resist the temptation to do so since it might jeopardize your case.

  • Leaving the scene. If you flee the scene, you may be charged with a hit-and-run or other offenses. As a result, you should remain on the scene before the cops arrive.

  • You are refusing medical attention or downplaying injuries in some other way. Although their adrenaline is still strong, some accident victims will refuse medical attention. Since certain accidents can manifest hours, weeks, or even years after an accident, it's important to maintain accurate medical records in case you need to file a personal injury lawsuit.

  • You are not adhering to the doctor's instructions. If your doctor prescribes a course of treatment, stick to it. In car accident cases, you must demonstrate that you have used all available tools to recover. Failure to do so will have an adverse impact on the severity of the injuries.

  • You are ignoring the importance of gathering facts and documentation. Take pictures, share phone numbers, and search for witnesses. This knowledge supports any potential prosecutions and provides evidence for your Car Accident Attorney in Los Angeles to build your case on.

  • You are providing so much information to insurance providers. Insurance firms tend to keep their payouts as low as possible. Victims are often duped into divulging information that can later be used against them. Your Los Angeles car accident attorney will advise you on the best way to submit your statement to your insurance provider.

  • You are accepting a settlement too soon. Litigation is draining, and you want to put the event behind you as soon as possible. A good car accident lawyer, on the other hand, would do anything possible to get you the best payout possible, even if it is not the first one offered.

  • You are using social media to spread accounts and stories about the crash. Avoid sharing images or details about the accident on the internet. It cannot be held against you if you do not post anything about the accident.

What Would A Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyers Help You With?

You're probably shaken up and uncertain about what to do after a crash. Your car may be totaled, and you may not have enough money to hire a car to get to school or work. You could be going to doctor appointments and counseling sessions multiple days a week if you've had bodily injuries.

Injured car accident victims in California can use some help with organizing the details and important dates of your case. If you hired prescreened personal injury attorneys in California, they can help you with the following:

  1. Keeping detailed records of their accidents

  2. Identifying faults (who is to blame for the car accident)

  3. Consult experts on topics like the cause of the accident and the magnitude of your damages.

  4. Putting together facts to support your reimbursement claim

  5. Calculating all of the losses, both financial and non-financial

  6. Making touch with insurance adjusters in order to file a compensation claim

  7. Representing you in talks with the insurance company of the at-fault driver

What Are The Damages You Can Collect?

The purpose of filing a lawsuit is to recover as much money as possible for your damages. You may be compensated for such economic damages in a settlement or verdict, such as:

  • Rehabilitation, prescription medications, surgery, and doctor appointments are all examples of medical treatment.

  • If you are permanently injured, you will need medical treatment in the future.

  • If you were unable to function as a result of your car accident, so you lost money (or wages/salary).

  • If your condition prohibits you from returning to your former work or some other job in the future, you will lose future income.

  • Damage to your property, such as your car

Noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, may also be compensated. This is an umbrella word used in California to describe the following:

  • Physical pain

  • Suffering

  • Loss of the enjoyment of life

  • Disfigurement

  • Disability

  • Emotional anguish

  • Mental anguish

You'll need the support of an experienced auto accident lawyer to determine the amount of money you may be entitled to. Economic losses are the simplest to quantify because what you need is a medical bill, a pay stub, or a repair estimate.

However, in order to measure injury and distress costs, the council would need to draw on his or her understanding of how juries value those injuries.

When An Accident Leads to a Wrongful Death Claim

An individual can have a cause of action for a wrongful death lawsuit if the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act or negligence of another, according to California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60.

This is a civil suit, not a criminal one, and it is meant to compensate the deceased's estate and beneficiaries for damages that they have suffered and would not have sustained if the deceased had not died.

There are no criminal repercussions for the result of a wrongful death lawsuit. It is a completely different matter from any criminal proceedings, and the burden of evidence is lower. Even if the wrongdoer is never charged criminally or convicted, a successful civil wrongful death suit could still be possible.

It's worth noting that if an accident caused by someone else's wrongful conduct or negligence does not result in death but still leaves the victim with injuries, the victim will be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party.

Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim in California?

Although losing a close friend, boyfriend or girlfriend can be painful and devastating, only those who are closely related to the deceased or have a proven, legal relationship with them have the right to file a wrongful death claim in California.

Only the deceased's surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children can file a wrongful death lawsuit under California law. If none of the above apply, the parties who would be entitled to the deceased's estate under intestate succession law, such as surviving parents or siblings, may file a wrongful death lawsuit.

In addition to the aforementioned parties, the wrongful death lawsuit will be made by the deceased's personal representative, who is typically named in a person's will. If you think you have a cause of action for wrongful death but are uncertain if you have the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California, your car accident lawyer will determine your case and provide valuable advice.

What Can You Do to Prove in a Wrongful Death Case?

It is not enough to simply argue that someone's negligence caused your loved one's death while filing a wrongful death claim. By a preponderance of the proof, you must prove it.

The preponderance of the facts basically suggests that the argument is more probable than not true and that the death would not have happened if it weren't for the defendant's actions or inaction. There is a lower burden of evidence than the statutory requirement of "beyond a reasonable doubt."

To be successful in your lawsuit for damages, you must create four primary elements of a wrongful death case:

The defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased. The defendant (the person who is being sued for wrongful death) may have owed the deceased person a certain amount of treatment. In cases of negligent defense, trespassing, or circumstances where the correct course of action or the defendant's duties are uncertain, proving duty can be a little more challenging. As a consequence of a wrongful or incompetent act, the defendant violated the duty of care.

The defendant's violation of the duty of care owed to the decedent is the second aspect that a plaintiff in a wrongful death suit must prove. If a driver owes a duty to all other road users to operate their vehicle safely and responsibly, they can violate that duty by breaking traffic laws, texting while driving, or drinking and driving, for example. Establishing this aspect in a wrongful death claim meets the plaintiff's duty of proving the defendant's "wrongful act or negligence."

The death was caused directly by a violation of the duty of care. A party cannot necessarily establish that a defendant behaved negligently and wrongfully. They must show that the decedent's death would not have happened if the defendant had not acted in the way he did. As a result, there have been losses.

The plaintiff must show that damages were sustained due to the accident that resulted in the deceased person's death. Obviously, death is a major form of damage in and of itself. A plaintiff will also need to determine the financial burden inflicted on surviving family members due to the death, the importance of survivors' grief and distress, and other factors in addition to death.

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Compensation in a Case of Wrongful Death

Families file wrongful death claims to obtain monetary compensation for the injuries they have suffered as a result of the death of a loved one. There will be no criminal charges for the defendant in this case, and no amount of money will bring a person back from the dead.

When a wrongful death lawsuit is settled, many victims feel a sense of fairness and closure in addition to financial compensation.

Your personal injury attorneys in California should be able to fight for the right to full reimbursement. This begins with assisting you in comprehending the various forms of damages that might be available in a wrongful death lawsuit, including:

  • Medical bills incurred prior to death. A serious accident does not often result in the victim's death immediately. They are instead rushed to a hospital in critical condition. If this is the case, the estate will face high medical costs due to the accident. These costs should be reimbursed in full to the deceased person's estate.

  • Expenses for the funeral and burial. Funerals may be costly, and a family can face a slew of expenditures related to the funeral or other death-related services and rituals. These losses may also be billed to the assets.

  • Income loss and future income loss. Many people who die in unexpected events are working people. They use their earnings to support themselves and their loved ones. When an individual dies, their assets and heirs, such as a spouse and children, are often left with substantial financial losses and economic uncertainty. The estate and beneficiaries of the estate will claim compensation for the full value of the deceased's lost income, future income, and benefits (such as retirement benefits, healthcare benefits, and so on) that would have been received if the deceased had not died.

  • Loss of services. Many people contribute to the lives of their loved ones in addition to or instead of making a living by performing various household services, such as homeschooling children, shopping and cooking, taking the kids to activities, performing yard and house maintenance, and more. Although this is a form of noneconomic injury that is more difficult to measure, claimants are entitled to reimbursement for the value of lost services.

  • Care, attention, and guidance. Finally, when a parent, spouse, or child dies, family members lose not only that person's parent, spouse, or child but also that person's encouragement, support, companionship, parental support, and affection. Surviving family members can be paid for as a result.

California's Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations regulates all civil cases and is a time limit for how long a defendant needs to file a case to recover damages. Wrongful death lawsuits in California must be made within two years of the date of death, with the clock beginning on the date of death.

This statute of limitations could be expanded under certain restricted circumstances. The discovery rule, for example, states that the statute of limitations does not begin until the complainant knows or should have known that they have a cause of action.

However, to defend your right to make a lawsuit, you should consult with a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible after your loved one passes away, despite how complicated and emotional this might be. Many families find peace by entrusting their case to a lawyer who will seek justice for their loved one who has passed away.

What details would I need to submit a claim?

If you've been in a car accident in California, you first should exchange insurance details, especially if you weren't at fault. Even if you're partially to blame, California's comparative negligence law can allow you to recover damages. Contact your insurance company and the California DMV when you're at the scene or immediately afterward. That way, they'll be able to tell you exactly what they'll need to process your argument and what to expect during it. It's important to remember that notifying your insurer or the DMV about your accident is not the same as making a compensation claim. If the liable party or their insurance provider refuses to pay for the loss, you must file a complaint.

Is it advantageous for me to employ a lawyer to file a car accident claim?

Most people have no first-hand experience of what to do in a car accident, so finding the best car accident lawyer in Los Angeles after an accident is often a good idea. If someone else's negligence caused the accident, you might have a civil right to compensation, which a car accident lawyer may assist you with. You may wonder who is to blame, who is responsible for vehicle injury, and how much compensation you can get for pain and suffering. Fortunately, an experienced personal injury lawyer will assist you in navigating the sometimes chaotic and perplexing world of insurance claims and settlements.

When Should I Settle for an Insurance Pay-out?

It's difficult to know whether to accept a car accident settlement deal. Accident victims must consider multiple important pieces of information before putting pen to paper and accepting a bid. To begin, remember that victims can turn down a settlement offer and still be compensated. It's not a "now or never" deal, as some insurance firms would have you believe. It's also worth noting that accidents can be more severe than they seem. Similarly, arbitration deals are definitive and irrevocable. In general, don't consider an offer unless you have a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer on your side. Unrepresented injury victims are at a disadvantage when negotiating with shady insurance providers.

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