Californians are highly mobile, with approximately 394,608 total lane miles to travel on and exciting big cities to visit, like Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland and others. The state’s busiest highways include US 101, I-5, I-580, I-9, I-210 and I-80, each bearing around 300,000 vehicles daily.
With this amount of traffic, it is no surprise that California also is one of the leaders in the nation for auto accidents and fatalities. In 2013, there were 3,000 auto accident fatalities in California, about a tenth of the national total of 32,719. Similarly high were DWI accidents where drivers tested for blood alcohol numbered at 867 out of 10,076 nationwide. In addition to thousands of fatal accidents, people are injured annually in millions of non-fatal auto accidents each year.
California Auto Accident Attorney
Visitors and residents are best served by an experienced California Auto Accidents Attorney if they, or a loved one, suffer injuries or death in one of these auto accidents. Even with modern safety equipment like air bags, seat belts and other safety equipment on board, drivers and passengers are exposed to dangers by the sheer numbers of vehicles on state highways and byways. There are many factors that contribute to auto accidents, including speeding, distracted driving and DUI/alcohol or drugs.
A California Auto Accident Attorney is familiar with local court systems and the state regulations that apply to auto accidents and liability issues. They can dig into all the evidence available for your case, interview accident witnesses and work with their own expert witnesses to interpret accident reports as they prepare to present your case. Claims vary, but in general will include all accident-related expenses for personal injury care and sometimes property damage claims. Depending on your individual case, you may have other legal options that apply to your auto accident experience.
California Auto Accidents
In brief, California auto accidents are regulated by the state laws. This includes a two year statute of limitations for Personal Injury accident claims for most cases. If your claim is against a government agency at a state, county or city level, this time limit is far less, just six months from the date of the accident. If you delay filing until after either of these time limits, you will be unable to pursue compensation claims for that auto accident.
Auto accidents happen daily across the state, causing physical, mental and emotional injuries to victims and damage to property. The causes vary greatly, but top reasons auto accidents happen include speeding, distracted driving, use of controlled substances, drunk driving and inexperience. Youthful drivers have many of these accidents, as do older drivers. Being unfamiliar with the roads affects new drivers, visitors to the state and others who are driving through new territory. A combination of factors can easily snowball into a few seconds of inattention that results in a crash. This is amplified when drivers deliberately disobey driving laws, run stop signs, pass illegally or make sudden moves or turns.
Auto Accidents – What to Do
If you are involved in auto accidents, you must know what to do. The first obligation is, of course, to see if anyone is injured or needs immediate medical attention. There are other steps to take right away, for your own protection and that of others.
- Stop – never leave the scene of an accident; failure to stop could result in criminal charges
- If damage is only to property and no others are around, leave a secure note for owner of property you damaged and contact them later. If you hit a domestic animal, you have responsibilities to report to authorities, CHP or Humane Society, or try to locate owner.
- Assess the Situation – determine who needs medical care, what damage is, are you still in danger from other traffic? Do you need immediate medical care?
- Make phone calls to 911 and/or report to Police or CHP
- Stay away from passing traffic – get off the road, have your vehicle removed from the highway or street/accident scene
- Document the scene with photographs if possible; get witness information
- Get documents ready to show: your driver’s license, proof of insurance, registration card
- Exchange insurance information – do not make statements to insurance agents or anyone but your attorney about the accident and your injuries (except to your doctor)
- Call your California Auto Accident Attorney – discuss details with this Personal Injury Attorney
- Within 10 days, you must report the accident to the DMV if there were injuries, someone was killed or property damage exceeds $750. Failure to do this could result in suspension of your driver’s license. This report can be completed by your insurance agent or your California Auto Accident Attorney. This report needs to be filed with the DMV: Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California (Form SR 1).
- The DMV SR1 needs to show details of your accident, including time and place, names, addresses, birth dates, driver license and license plate information, insurance information, owner name and address and details of injuries or property damage.
Personal Injury Compensation – Auto Accidents
Your California Auto Accidents Attorney can inform you about to what extent you may be allowed to pursue Personal Injury Compensation for Auto Accidents. Depending on the circumstances of the accident and who is liable for damages, you may make specific claims for accident-related expenses. Typical expenses include work/income loss, medical care expenses, recovery costs, damage repair and future expected costs. If the victim dies, their survivors may seek compensation for funeral and burial costs.
- Basic Information – Liability, Reasonable Care and Fault are three topics your attorney will investigate on your behalf. Since California is an “at Fault” state with regard to accidents, it matters who gets the blame for causing an auto accident. If both parties share fault, they also will bear a reduction in the amount of monetary compensation they might be able to collect.
- Negligence – A person has a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent or avoid accidents. If they neglect this duty, they are liable for damages that result from their action or lack of action. If you are driving, you are expected to follow road rules, stay within speed limits, pay attention to the road ahead (not be distracted), stop at red lights, look before making a lane change or turn, yield appropriately and keep your vehicle in good running order.
- Fault – In California, fault is a consideration. Unlike “no fault” states, in California, comparative negligence is also a factor in determining responsibility. If both parties are at fault, any damage compensation for a plaintiff is reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to that plaintiff.
Rules for auto accident compensation are complex, which is yet another reason why it is smartest to work closely with an experienced California Auto Accidents Personal Injury Attorney. Don’t delay in getting the legal advice and representation you need when you are involved in an auto accident. If a loved one died in an auto accident, the attorney will work with survivors.