Every year an average of 223,000 people are injured while another 3,104 lose their lives due to vehicle crashes in California. The continued increase in traffic is one of the factors that has led to a rise in the risk of car wrecks. Regardless of the level of your cautiousness, it is not easy to avoid the chances of being involved in a vehicle accident. At Orange County Personal Injury Attorney, we understand that car crashes are traumatic when they occur, and the injuries stemming from them can be life-changing. Our goal is, therefore, to ensure car crash victims are compensated for vehicle repair costs, medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. To help you understand car accidents, we will articulate fault, legal standards of a car collision, how fault is determined, damages available, and the various types of car accidents.

Steps to Take After a Car Crash

Vehicle crashes occur in a split second, and the outcome is always chaotic. Although it’s difficult to process what happens at the scene, the steps you take after the crash will determine the healing process. Therefore, to ensure the safety of all parties, if you are involved in a car crash first:

Failure to do this will make it difficult to get compensated even if you hire the best personal injury attorney in Orange County, CA. After the accident, report to your insurance company. However, keep in mind that insurance companies will not be quick to compensate you. They must find out who was at fault first because that is the person responsible for the damages.

Proving Fault in Car Accident

A fault is based on negligence. Negligence is failing to use reasonable or logical care to prevent yourself or others from harm. If you as a driver was at fault when the vehicle crash occurred, then you are responsible for all the damages that occur. Drivers who are at fault are often those that violate traffic laws or drive carelessly. The common causes of car crashes in California are:

  • Don’t flee the scene. Stay at the stage and ensure you pick a safe location for your car where you don’t interfere with traffic.
  • Check on all the parties involved in the crash and if there are any who need reasonable assistance like medical attention or first aid provide the required help.
  • In the event of fatalities, injuries, or property damage, call the local law enforcement agencies.
  • Give information to all those involved in the crash. The information should include your name, address, car registration, driver’s license, phone number, and license plate numbers.
  • Capture images of the damage caused in the car for future comparison.
  • Reach out to your car insurance policy carrier and remember to share the truth.
  • If applicable, track your medical treatment if you sustained injuries so that if you file a claim, you might be able to get damages for medical expenses and pain and suffering.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol,
  • Speeding,
  • Using the phone while driving,
  • Running a red light, and
  • Failing to yield the right of way.

Legal Standard in a California Car Accident Claim

When seeking compensation for injuries or damages sustained in a vehicle crash, the plaintiff should prove that the driver was at fault or the defendant made a mistake or was negligent. The legal standards for negligence in such a claim are:

  1. The driver at fault owed the victim or plaintiff the duty ofcare. In this case, drivers must obey the traffic rules to prevent car crashes. Other duties of care by the motorists involve:
    • Using logical care when operating a car.
    • Look out for pedestrians and other cars while driving.
    • Control the speed and movement of the vehicle.
  1. The offender transgressed the duty of care through negligence, and
  1. The neglect by the defendant was significant in causing harm to the plaintiff.

Proving negligence for policy carriers is no piece of cake. Although the witnesses at the scene might know who was at fault, you and your attorney must present your discovery to build a stronger argument.

Ways of Determining Fault

The two primary methods of determining fault are using the conventional law theory of negligence and the California Vehicle Code. Here is an overview of ways one can prove negligence.

  1. Police reports

Over time, courts have established theories of proving who is at fault in a car crash. Common law has therefore evolved a lot and relies a lot on police reports and witnesses to determine who was at fault. In this case, the plaintiff must justify that the driver didn’t exercise reasonable care while driving.

Police are not always at the scene of an accident unless there are severe injuries or fatalities. If you are lucky to have police in your scene, make inquiries on how you can access a copy of their report. If no law enforcement agency happens to be at the scene of your accident, you can go to the nearest police station and record a statement. The law enforcers will investigate your report further to come up with their findings. The final report after the accident has been investigated often contains much evidence about the driver responsible for the crash, including the professional opinion of the investigator.  The police report, therefore, can act as strong evidence that can be presented to your insurer or court to show the person liable for the damages.

If the report contains errors like the wrong license plate number or insurance information, it can be amended to fix the mistakes. However, if the error was on the determination of fault, then it will be challenging to modify the error though it is not wholly impossible. Your attorney can, however, conduct a separate investigation by:

  • Reviewing the police statement,
  • Reviewing the insurance policy carrier’s report,
  • Interviewing eyewitnesses,
  • Getting the surveillance video from the scene if there was any,
  • Investigating other parties involved in the accident,
  • Analyzing medical reports, and
  • Getting an expert opinion about the releases.
  1. California Vehicle Code

Police reports are not always correct. 20% of the time they are usually wrong. The reason why the reports are erroneous at times is that the victim of the accidents are dead or injured to the extent that they cannot give their side of the story. In such a situation, the law enforcers only get the bottom of the story of one person who was at the scene, which might be inadequate to give all the facts of what unfolded at the scene.

Another way that you can prove the fault is by showing a driver violated California traffic laws or Vehicle Code. If the defendant violated any of the Vehicle Codes, he or she is deemed negligent per se, which means he or she failed to exercise reasonable caution when operating a motor vehicle.

You or your attorney should research the Vehicle Code that applies to your case and cites it correctly to the insurance company.

No-Fault Car Accident Liability

Even if the plaintiff provides enough evidence to prove the defendant was at fault, at times, the defendant can provide evidence to show that you were at fault too. Although this might seem not to affect your case, it will reduce the amount of compensation you receive if they can prove a certain degree of negligence from the plaintiff.

In certain situations, however, only one driver is at fault no matter what the other party did. Insurance companies and the court do not argue about the person liable in these situations, and they try to compensate you immediately. The circumstances include:

  1. Left-turn collisions

In left turn car crashes, the driver who is turning left is always at fault. The vehicle coming straight to an intersection still has the right of way, and in case of an accident, the driver who was turning left is always at fault.

  1. Rear-end accidents

When a driver hits from behind, it is not your fault no matter what you did. It is their fault because traffic laws require that the driver driving from behind to leave enough space in front of their car such that even if the driver in the front applies emergency brakes, the vehicle at the back will have enough room to stop without hitting the one that stopped suddenly. As such, if you are hit from behind, the driver who hit you is at fault because of not leaving enough room in front of their car. Comparative negligence might, however, reduce the amount of compensation you get in no-fault car crashes.

Comparative Negligence and Fault in California Car Crashes

At times, both drivers might be partially at fault for causing the accident. The injured driver is, however, the one who gets compensated although the amount received might be reduced based on the amount of fault shared. Negligence and fault are very confusing because a driver will blame the other one for the accident. In California, however, the pure comparative negligence theory of liability is what applies, to mean that even if the fault was yours ninety percent, you are still allowed to take the money if you suffered injuries. However, the damages received are reduced by a certain percentage.

In proving fault, find a reasonable personal injury attorney. They will provide their professionals to conduct investigations and go through the police report to ensure you get a fat compensation from your insurer.

Common Compensatory Damages in Car Accident Claims or Lawsuits

In a personal injury claim, the plaintiff requests damages or compensation for the injuries suffered from the party that was at fault. The compensation falls into two classifications, economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are those that involve money value, such as medical bills, lost wages, or vehicle repair bills. Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are challenging to value because they have no dollar value. They include pain and suffering.

The general damages available in car crashes include:

  • Car repair and replacement bills,
  • Medical bills,
  • Lost wages for not being able to work,
  • Lost earning capacity,
  • Occupational and physical therapy,
  • Emergency medical treatment,
  • Pain and suffering,
  • Medication and medical supplies,
  • Future medical care and treatment,
  • Loss of consortium for a spouse,
  • Damages for disfigurement, and
  • Punitive damages.

Loss of consortium is non-economic damage too and is compensation for loss of intimacy or companionship after a wrongful injury to a spouse or partner.

Car Accidents and Uninsured Drivers

At times, you might be involved in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have insurance cover. If an uninsured driver was the one at fault, you might begin to wonder how you will be compensated. Insurance laws in California offer protection to drivers by providing coverage for uninsured or underinsured drivers. With this type of coverage, in case you are involved in a car crash with an uninsured motorist, your insurer will cover the damages. However, the policy carrier will only pay up to a particular limit.

Also, your insurer will have to cover the damages that are higher than the insurance limit of the driver who was at fault. Underinsured drivers are not in a position to cover all the damages if they are involved in a car crash that leaves people dead and huge losses on the property. The insurer of the plaintiff in such cases must step in to cover the damages that the motorist at fault is unable to cover.

If you don’t have the uninsured or underinsured coverage, you can still get compensation for the medical costs and lost wages. However, keep in mind many uninsured drivers will claim they have no income or assets to compensate for the damages, so it’s up to your attorney to conduct some background checks on the defendant to establish if they have assets or not. If there are no assets at all, the attorney can still try to get you compensated through family members. You will receive damages from family members of the uninsured driver if your attorney can prove negligent entrustment of a motor vehicle.

For instance, David and Betty are involved in a left-turn collision. It happens that Betty was the one making a left turn which means she is at fault. David requests to get the insurance information of Betty, but she has none because she is unemployed and cannot afford insurance coverage.

David, on the other hand, has no uninsured or underinsured coverage meaning that he cannot get compensation for damages caused by an uninsured driver. Confused on what to do, he calls his attorney to investigate Betty further to find out how she can cover the medical bills and vehicle repair.

In the process, the lawyer finds out that the car Betty was driving belonged to her parents. The parents violated California’s negligent entrustment law because of permitting Betty to drive the vehicle whereas she didn’t have insurance coverage because her policy had been canceled after a DUI conviction.

David has the opportunity to file for a personal injury claim against the parents of Betty for negligent entrustment of a motor vehicle and still recover damages from the parent’s insurer because the car was still covered at the time of the accident.

Negligent Entrustment of a Motor Vehicle

The law imposes responsibility on family members who own cars and allow incompetent persons to get behind the wheel of their vehicle. Your attorney can get compensation from these family members or car owners by proving the following:

  • The motorist was negligent in operating the car.
  • The driver at fault is the owner of the car or driving it with the consent of the legal owner.
  • The offender knew or ought to have known that the driver was not safe or legal to drive.
  • The defendant permitted the driver to drive the car.
  • The driver’s incompetent was the reason the plaintiff sustained injuries.

Giving a minor who is not lawfully allowed to drive is a crime and can be charged under PC 193.8 (a).

Wrongful Death Claim and Car Accidents

Three thousand one hundred and four lives are lost every year due to car wrecks or crashes in California. The deceased cannot file claims against the negligent driver. However, the family members of the deceased persons can file lawsuits to hold the motorists at fault liable for their negligence and recover the damages.

When filing a claim on behalf of a deceased person, you must be:

  • A spouse,
  • Child or children,
  • Domestic partner, or
  • Any other person entitled to the property of the dead.

Otherwise, if you are not a grandchild of the deceased or belong to the above list, you cannot file a claim against the driver at fault. Some of the damages you will be seeking for losing a loved one in a car wreck include:

  • Burial costs,
  • Loss of consortium,
  • Funeral expenses, and
  • Lost income the deceased could have earned if he or she was alive.

Losing a loved one in a car accident due to the negligence of a driver is a traumatic experience. Filing a lawsuit is the last thing everyone wants, but a wrongful death claim can help with the economic and non-economic damages of losing a loved one. Even if not for financial gains, a wrongful death claim can help hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

Types of Car Accident

Vehicle crashes stem from a variety of factors. When they occur, all the parties involved, including the driver, passenger, and the driver at fault might suffer serious injuries or even death. Some of the common types of car accidents that can cause injuries or even death include:

  1. Rear-end collision

These accidents are highly associated with neck and back injuries to the driver in the lead car. Although this accident is a one fault driver type, the rear driver is not always at fault. Even the lead driver can be responsible for negligence in some cases.

  1. Hitting a pedestrian

These types of accidents can cause all kinds of injuries, including broken bones and back injuries. The reason being the pedestrians have nothing to shield them from external forces. Even if a car is not speeding, knocking down pedestrians results in severe injuries.

  1. Crashes with drunk drivers

In these crashes, you can file a claim even before the DUI case is heard and determined to get compensated and hold the drunk or intoxicated driver liable for negligence.

  1. Head-on collision

Drunk driving, failure to yield, and driving while distracted is the leading cause of the head-on collision. The crashes occur when someone crosses over their lane or median accidentally or intentionally, making his or her car to collide head-on with the one going in the opposite direction. These accidents are either fatal or leave victims with serious injuries.

  1. Motorcycle injuries

Motorcyclists are not very different from a pedestrian when accidents occur because they have nothing to protect them from the road. Due to that, even a low-speed crash can leave the cyclist with severe injuries. Anyone can be responsible or can be held liable for these accidents, including a pedestrian, other motorcyclists, or drivers.

  1. Driverless vehicle crashes

The main reason why driverless motor vehicles were introduced is to make roads safer. However, despite this, these autonomous cars can still be involved in accidents. Most people wonder how they can file a claim against a driverless car. What you should do in case the self-driven vehicle was at fault during the collision is to file a claim against the company that owns the automobile under the product liability laws.

  1. Police vehicle casualties

It’s not a cakewalk to hold liable a police car for a crash. However, if the law enforcement officers were not responding to an emergency, and the siren and lights were not on during the collision, you can prove the element of negligent by the driver.

  1. Crashes stemming from dangerous road conditions

Hazardous road conditions increase the risks of accidents or collisions. Drivers might crash when trying to avoid potholes on the road or due to dangerous road debris.

Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

Many accidents are caused by negligent, intoxicated, or reckless driving. In case you are involved in an automobile crash that was due to another driver’s fault and suffered injuries, you need to contact the Orange County Personal Injury Attorney. Our team of personal injury attorneys are available to answer all the questions you have regarding the car accident. Call us at 714-876-1959 for a zero-obligation consultation.