With all the traffic on California’s highways, roads, and freeways every day, it’s no wonder that car accidents are a common occurrence. While some incidents are minor, many crashes lead to serious injuries and even death. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), there were 3,316 fatal crashes in California in 2019.
Car crashes can be caused by many different things: negligence, distractions, and impairment from drugs and alcohol. Many California residents are injured or even killed in accidents caused by another driver’s negligent or reckless behavior. Victims and their families often have a hard time covering medical bills and other expenses because the liable parties do not offer fair compensation.
If you or a loved one is involved in a car accident in the San Francisco Bay Area, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit to get adequate compensation for your injuries. When you call the Scott Carr Law Firm, we can listen to your story and help you understand your legal options. Contact our San Francisco office at 415-799-2229.
Who Is Liable in a California Car Accident?
Car accidents are complicated, especially if they involve multiple vehicles and/or pedestrians. For example, if one driver was speeding and another failed to signal, they may both be assigned some liability in a crash.
Under California law, you can only pursue compensation from a party that is at fault in an accident. This is even true for insurance claims; you must show the other driver is at fault if you want their insurance to pay your claim.
Additionally, California is a state with “pure comparative negligence” laws. This means that every party involved in the crash is assigned some percentage of fault. Your percentage of liability affects how much compensation you can receive. For example, if you sue for $20,000 in damages but were 20 percent at fault for the accident, you can only receive 80 percent of the damages: $16,000.
Common Car Accident Injuries
California car accident victims can experience a wide range of injuries:
- Broken bones
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Scrapes, bruises, and abrasions
- Spinal cord injuries
Even if you don’t see any immediate signs of injury after a car accident, it’s important to get checked by a medical professional as soon as possible.
What Kind of Damages Can You Sue For in California?
If you are involved in a car accident in California for which another party is at fault, you can file an insurance claim. However, many insurance providers do not offer adequate compensation initially; the first settlement offer may not be enough to cover all the financial expenses you’ve incurred because of the accident. In that case, you may decide to file a personal injury lawsuit against the liable party.
Under California law, you can sue for economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are related to the real financial costs of the accident:
- Repair/replacement costs for your vehicle
- Lost income
- Medical expenses
You can also sue for non-economic damages:
- Emotional distress
- Loss of affection or companionship
The amount of economic damages is based on your actual costs, but there isn’t a set “cost” of non-economic damages; a judge determines how much to award.
Although many other states set a cap on damages that can be awarded in a personal injury case, California does not. However, there are a few things laws that can affect your personal injury suit:
- Statute of limitations: A personal injury lawsuit must be filed within two years. The statute of limitations is three years for a property claim. However, if the accident involves a government party (e.g. a police vehicle), the statute of limitation is shortened to six months.
- Uninsured drivers: An uninsured driver cannot recover non-economic damages regardless of who is liable for the accident.
As you can see, there are several things that can affect the amount of your compensation claim. An experienced California personal injury lawyer can help you understand how much you can realistically expect to receive in a lawsuit.
Do You Need to Hire a Lawyer?
In California, you do not need to hire a lawyer for a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident. However, there are many potential benefits to doing so. An attorney can handle all communications with the liable parties and their insurance providers. They can also help you gather all the evidence you need to prove fault and navigate the state’s complicated legal system.
What Are Common Causes of Car Accidents?
Car accidents can be caused by many things:
- Drunk driving
- Distracted driving (e.g. texting)
- Drug-impaired driving
In California, drug and alcohol impairment is a factor in many crashes. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, there were 1,066 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in 2019. Additionally, half of all drivers who were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2019, and who were tested for drugs, tested positive.
What Should You Do After a Car Accident?
If you are involved in a car accident, it’s important to follow these steps:
- Move people and vehicles out of the way of traffic (if possible)
- Contact emergency services
- Gather insurance information from all involved drivers
- Get contact information from all witnesses
- Take pictures of injuries and damage to your vehicle
- Contact your insurance provider
- Seek medical care
You may also want to contact an attorney. Having legal representation from the beginning can make your insurance claim easier. An attorney can also help you decide whether you are able to file a personal injury lawsuit.
The Scott Carr Law Firm Helps Car Accident Victims Pursue Fair Compensation
Motor vehicle accidents can have serious consequences for the people involved: property damage, serious injuries, and even death. Unfortunately, it can be hard to get a fair initial settlement from the liable party or their insurance provider. Trying to negotiate compensation is difficult when you’re recovering from your injuries or grieving the loss of a loved one.
At the Scott Carr Law Firm, we help California car accident victims and their families pursue fair compensation for lost wages, medical bills, or wrongful death. By contacting our office after a car accident, you can get legal advice and support from a compassionate expert. We’ll explain your legal options and help you build your case. To schedule a free consultation, call our San Francisco office at 415-799-2229.