Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer
Navigating Car Accidents in California: Causes, Injuries, Claims and Legal Help
Car accidents are an unfortunate and common occurrence in California. With millions of licensed drivers on the road, accidents and injuries are bound to happen. While some accidents may be minor, others result in severe injuries, vehicle damage, lost income, and tremendous stress for victims. This article provides an overview of car accidents in California including common causes, types of injuries, insurance claims, and how an experienced attorney can help injured victims get the compensation they deserve.
Table of Contents
- Causes of Car Accidents in California
- Common Car Accident Injuries
- The Insurance Claims Process After a Car Accident
- Why Hire a Lawyer For Your Car Accident Case
- Additional Considerations and Resources
- How much does it cost to hire a lawyer for my case?
- Do I have a case?
- How much is my case worth?
- What happens at the initial consultation with your lawyer?
- Can I still recover damages if I was partially at fault?
- How is fault determined in a car accident?
- How long do I have to file an accident claim?
- How long does it take to settle a car accident claim?
- Do I still have a case if I was involved in a low-impact car accident?
- How much is the average car accident settlement?
- What should I do immediately after I get into a car accident?
- Do I need to notify the DMV after a car accident?
- Do I need to file a police report after a car accident?
- What are the most common causes of car accidents?
- What are some common car accident injuries?
- What are the steps involved in investigating a car crash?
- What happens if I’m involved in a car accident but don’t have car insurance?
- What if the driver that hit me doesn’t have car insurance?
- What is underinsured motorist and how can it help me in an accident?
- What if I’m in a car accident and the other driver is uncooperative?
- Can I still file a claim if I’m an undocumented immigrant in California?
Causes of Car Accidents in California
There are many factors that contribute to car accidents on California roads and highways. Some of the most common causes include:
- Distracted driving – Distractions like cell phones, onboard navigation systems, food, and rowdy passengers often cause drivers to take their eyes off the road. This lack of attention is a major contributor to accidents.
- Speeding – Driving over the posted speed limit or driving too fast for conditions like rain or fog often leads to loss of vehicle control and collisions. Speed is a factor in many serious injury and fatal crashes.
- Drunk driving – Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs greatly impairs driver capability and decision making. DUI is a factor in over 29% of all fatal crashes in California according to CHP data.
- Reckless driving – Weaving through traffic, ignoring traffic signals, tailgating, street racing, and other reckless behaviors make accidents much more likely to occur.
- Drowsy driving – Driver fatigue causes delayed reaction times, diminished control, and impaired judgment similar to drunk driving. Drowsy drivers cause thousands of accidents annually.
- Weather conditions – Rain, fog, snow, and sun glare all reduce visibility and traction creating hazardous driving conditions. Adjusting driving to account for weather can help prevent accidents.
- Poor road conditions – Potholes, debris, and other road hazards can contribute to loss of vehicle control. Construction zones also create additional risk.
- Vehicle defects – Defective auto parts like faulty brakes, bald tires, broken headlights and more can cause accidents or exacerbate any accident.
Staying focused on the road, driving sober, obeying traffic laws, and operating vehicles properly maintained helps reduce the likelihood of accidents, but does not guarantee safety among so many other drivers. When a crash does occur, California laws protect the rights of injured victims.
Common Car Accident Injuries
The immense forces involved in auto collisions frequently cause serious injuries to drivers and passengers. Some common car accident injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries – Impact and violent movement can damage the brain leading to cognitive impairments, memory loss, and personality changes.
- Spinal cord injuries – Vertebrae fractures or displaced discs can pinch nerves causing paralysis and loss of sensation.
- Internal bleeding – Blunt force trauma can rupture or damage internal organs like the liver, kidneys, or spleen. Significant blood loss occurs internally.
- Broken bones – Fractures to arms, legs, ribs, hips, and other bones are very frequent in crashes. Compound fractures that puncture skin carry infection risks.
- Whiplash – Sudden acceleration and deceleration sprains the neck muscles, tendons, and ligaments causing pain and reduced mobility.
- Facial injuries – Airbag deployment, flying glass, steering wheel impact, and more can fracture noses, jaws, cheeks and damage eyes.
- Road rash – Dragging across asphalt strips off skin requiring extensive wound care, skin grafts, and plastic surgery.
- Emotional trauma – Major crashes can leave accident victims with prolonged anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other psychological impairments.
- Other injuries – Seat belt bruising, back and neck disc injuries, herniated discs, and many other trauma injuries are also common.
The type and extent of injuries depends on factors like the speed of impact, point of impact, use of seat belts and airbags, and more. Some injuries like internal bleeding may not manifest symptoms immediately making quick diagnosis difficult. Thorough medical examination and immediate treatment helps accident victims maximize the chances of making a full recovery.
The Insurance Claims Process After a Car Accident
Following an accident, insurance processes swing into motion. Covering vehicle repairs, medical bills, lost income, and other damages requires navigating insurance claim processes that few drivers have experience with. Some basics on what to expect include:
- Call law enforcement – An officer will document the accident scene and collect statements from involved parties. Getting a police report provides critical evidence for later insurance and legal processes.
- Seek medical care – Even if you don’t feel hurt, some injuries like concussions or internal damage have delayed onset. See a doctor to get checked out and start medical documentation.
- Notify your insurer – Call your agent and insurance company to start your claim for covering vehicle repairs, medical bills, and other costs. Give a statement about the accident and your injuries.
- Send demand letter – The at-fault driver’s liability insurer should cover your damages. Send a letter demanding payment for all documented medical costs, lost wages, and other incurred expenses.
- Dispute offer – Insurers will often make a lowball offer to settle. Be prepared to negotiate and provide evidence justifying a higher settlement. Hiring a lawyer helps get optimal compensation.
- File suit – Sometimes negotiations reach an impasse and the only way to get fair compensation is filing a personal injury lawsuit. An attorney can help you pursue legal action.
Dealing with insurance adjusters can be an intimidating, confusing process. Having legal representation ensures insurers follow regulations and that victims recover all available damages related to an accident.
Why Hire a Lawyer For Your Car Accident Case
In the aftermath of a collision, seriously injured victims and their families have a long road of healing, logistics, and bureaucracy ahead. While not required, hiring an experienced personal injury attorney benefits car accident victims in the following ways:
- Proves liability – An attorney investigates accident causes, gathers witness statements, obtains police reports, and finds other evidence to build a case proving fault.
- Assesses damages – Lawyers work with doctors to understand a client’s injuries and prognosis in order to calculate current and projected future costs.
- Manages paperwork – Attorneys handle myriad documents like insurance filings, medical reports, employment verifications that would overwhelm an individual.
- Negotiates settlement – Insurance companies often underestimate claim value. Lawyers have negotiation experience to win optimal compensation for clients.
- Litigates wisely – If a reasonable settlement is not reached, lawyers can file a lawsuit utilizing litigation experience most citizens lack.
- Enforces deadlines – Strict statutes of limitation apply to injury claims. Lawyers manage deadlines to avoid forfeiting rights to compensation.
- Reduces stress – With an attorney managing legalities, clients can focus energy on healing and putting their lives back together.
- Provides objectivity – Emotions often run high after accidents. Attorneys make level-headed decisions in client interests.
Car accident cases resolve faster and victims recover more with legal representation. Contingency fee structures mean no payment until compensation is won. Consultations are free. Injured victims deserve justice – skilled attorneys help achieve it.
Additional Considerations and Resources
- Document evidence – Take photos of vehicle damage, skid marks, and accident scene. Get contact info for witnesses. Evidence helps prove fault later.
- Follow medical advice – Keep all appointments for treatment, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. Noncompliance can reduce injury claim value.
- Avoid discussing fault – What you say can be used against you later. Do not admit guilt but be cooperative with police and insurers.
- Seek treatment ASAP – Delaying medical care raises doubts about injury severity. Speedy diagnosis and treatment lead to optimal outcomes.
- Keep records – Save all accident related documents, bills, insurance communications. Organized records help attorneys value and argue your injury claim.
- Beware fraud – Dishonest body shops, clinics, or attorneys may try to exploit accident victims. Research reputations thoroughly before choosing providers.
This overview covered key aspects of dealing with car accidents in California. For more information on accidents, injuries and insurance claims explore the following resources:
- California Vehicle Code – Article 3 – Accidents – State laws on accident reporting and providing assistance.
- DMV Guide to Collision Reporting – DMV guidance on documenting and reporting collisions.
- California Highway Patrol Reports – Obtaining official accident reports from the CHP.
- California Bar Association Lawyer Referral – Helps find reputable attorneys to assist accident injury victims.
Car accidents have the potential to cause tremendous hardship for victims. Understanding the claims process, knowing your rights, and seeking qualified legal counsel levels the playing field and helps injury victims get back on their feet. Shervin Behnam has over 25 years of experience helping car accident victims maximize insurance recoveries. For a free case review and consultation call us.
How much does it cost to hire a lawyer for my case?
Most personal injury attorneys do not charge fees or costs for taking a case. These cases are typically handled on a contingency fee basis, which means that the attorney will take a percentage of recovery. Contingency fee rates vary, but generally they are about 33% of the total recovery before filing a lawsuit, or 40% of the total recovery after filing a lawsuit. If the attorney is unable to recover anything, then the client will not be charged anything – hence the phrase No Fee if No Win.
Do I have a case?
A determination as to whether you have a viable case against the other driver requires an analysis of the facts and circumstances leading up to the accident. An attorney will typically conduct an initial case evaluation to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a particular case and to provide recommendations regarding filing a claim.
Some of the information reviewed includes the events leading up to the accident, the injuries sustained, damage to real or personal property, applicable traffic laws, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. An attorney will also try to determine if you were responsible for causing the accident, since this may reduce your compensation or completely bar you from any recovery. Overall, the process of determining if a client has a case involves a thorough investigation, legal analysis, and development of a legal strategy. Keep in mind that it is impossible for any attorney to predict or guarantee a particular outcome or result for your case. You should be wary of anyone who professes to be able to do so – such statements are usually a gimmick to try to sign you up fast and may even be unethical. Every claim is different, and so will the outcome.
How much is my case worth?
When valuing a personal injury case, courts typically consider several factors, including:
- The cost of medical treatments, including past and future bills;
- The amount of past and future lost income due to the injuries from the accident;
- Pain and suffering, such as physical pain, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life;
- Whether there are any permanent injuries, such as a loss of limb or impaired mobility;
- Property damage to a vehicle or other personal property.
The facts of every case are different, and the amount of recovery will also be different. For a full case review and analysis, please contact us for a complimentary consultation.
What happens at the initial consultation with your lawyer?
During the initial consultation, the attorney will ask questions about the following:
- Details of the accident, where and when it occurred, and the circumstances surrounding the accident.
- Injuries and medical treatment, the type and severity of the injuries, any medical treatment you received, and the current status of your recovery.
- Insurance information for the driver that struck you, insurance coverage about your vehicle, and any health insurance that you have.
- Evidence related to the accident, such as witness statements, photographs, or police reports.
The initial meeting will end with a discussion of your legal options and a road map for pursuing compensation for your damages and injuries. The attorney will also answer any questions you may have about the claim process.
Can I still recover damages if I was partially at fault?
Under the principle of pure comparative fault, you may still recover some damages if you were partially at fault for the car accident. However, the amount of the damages award will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if you are found to be 20% at fault, your recovery would be reduced by 20%.
How is fault determined in a car accident?
Fault is usually determined according to the circumstances of the accident; for example, who ran a red light, who was speeding, or failed to follow the traffic laws. It is possible that both parties could be at fault in an accident, in which case each party may be assigned a fault percentage.
How long do I have to file an accident claim?
The period in which you have to file a claim from the date of the accident, also known as the statute of limitations, is typically two years. However, there are circumstances under which the statute of limitations may be extended, so speak with a qualified car accident attorney if you have any questions.
How long does it take to settle a car accident claim?
It can take anywhere from a few months to several years to resolve a case, depending on the facts and complexity of the case.
Do I still have a case if I was involved in a low-impact car accident?
The myth is that only catastrophic injuries are entitled to compensation. Every case is different and the outcome of a particular case will depend on many factors; many low-impact car accident victims may be eligible for compensation. The most common low-impact injuries include whiplash or a strain/sprain of muscles and ligaments. But there may even be some serious invisible injuries which won’t manifest themselves for weeks or months, such as spinal cord compressions, disc herniations, or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or CRSP – to name a few.
The misconception is that only severe injuries qualify for compensation. Many victims of low-impact car accidents may be entitled for compensation; nevertheless, each case is unique, and the outcome of any one case may rely on a variety of circumstances. Whiplash and strains and sprains of the muscles and ligaments are among the most frequent low-impact injuries. Yet, some catastrophic invisible injuries, including spinal cord compressions, disc herniations, or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, to mention a few, may not even become apparent for weeks or months.
How much is the average car accident settlement?
Damages settlements can range anywhere from a few thousand dollars to several hundred thousand dollars, or even millions of dollars, depending on the severity of the accident. Some cases end up with no recovery at all and the parties just walk away. It’s important to remember that no two cases are ever the same. No attorney can promise or guarantee a particular outcome, and past results do not guarantee a similar outcome in your case.
What should I do immediately after I get into a car accident?
First, make sure that everyone is okay; if there are any injuries call 9-1-1. Second, exchange insurance and personal information with the other driver. Third, gather evidence by taking photos of the scene. Fourth, contact your insurance company. Fifth, call a qualified personal injury attorney.
Do I need to notify the DMV after a car accident?
Yes, any accident which results in injury, death, or at least $1,000 or more in property damages must be reported to the DMV within 10 days of the incident by filing an SR-1.
Do I need to file a police report after a car accident?
If the accident results in any injuries or death, a police report should be filed with the Los Angeles Police Department or the California Highway Patrol.
How long do I have to file a police report in Los Angeles?
After an accident, you have 24 hours to file a police report.
What are the most common causes of car accidents?
There are a lot of different factors which contribute to an accident. However, the majority of accidents in Los Angeles are due to distracted driving, speeding, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
What are some common car accident injuries?
Neck and back pain, broken bones, cuts, bruises, and head injuries. Some more serious injuries include spine, back and brain injuries.
What are the steps involved in investigating a car crash?
Car accident investigations include collecting evidence from all parties involved, interviewing witnesses, obtaining the police report, examining the vehicles involved in the accident, and analyzing the site of the accident.
What happens if I’m involved in a car accident but don’t have car insurance?
If the accident was your fault, you could be liable to the driver for any damages or injuries you caused. If the accident was not your fault, you will not be able to recover damages for your pain and suffering; you can only recover economic damages. You can read more about this topic by visiting our blog post. There are some important exceptions to this rule, so speak with a qualified attorney if you don’t have liability insurance.
What if the driver that hit me doesn’t have car insurance?
You can still file a lawsuit against the other driver, but your chances of recovery may be very limited since drivers without insurance rarely have assets which you can recover against. This is why it’s important to carry uninsured motorist coverage on your existing liability insurance policy. With uninsured motorist, you can make a claim on your own policy in case the other driver does not carry liability insurance.
What is underinsured motorist and how can it help me in an accident?
Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage is a type of coverage you can add to your existing car insurance policy. If you get into an accident and the other driver’s insurance is not sufficient to pay for all of your damages, your underinsured motorist coverage will pay the difference. UIM is relatively cheap to get and will help cases where the other driver has the minimum policy limit.
What if I’m in a car accident and the other driver is uncooperative?
You should gather the license plate, make, and model of the vehicle if possible. The police will use that information to locate the owner of the vehicle and obtain additional information.
Can I still file a claim if I’m an undocumented immigrant in California?
Yes. Every individual, regardless of his or her immigration status, has the right to seek compensation for physical injuries and property damages sustained in a car accident.