After a California Car Accident: Justice and the Compensation You Deserve
California traffic is infamous. Although according to federal data published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, California drivers generally engage in safe driving behaviors far more often than the national average, the sheer volume of traffic on California freeways, highways, and surface streets makes driving in The Golden State a particularly dangerous affair. Even when all motorists are on their best behavior, human errors, auto defects, poorly maintained roads, low visibility, challenging weather conditions, and a host of other negative influences conspire to ensure that accidents … happen.
At Eldessouky Law, our auto accident attorneys understand how quickly your life can change when you traffic collision occurs. Our clients who are injured in a car crash are left with mounting medical bills, loss of income, and a damaged or totaled vehicle because someone else decided to negligently operate their vehicle. In short, in the aftermath of an automobile accident, the victim of someone else’s roadway negligence can see his or her live upended, perhaps even changed permanently.
How Common Are Auto Accidents in California?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year in the United States approximately two million people are injured in traffic crashes, and 32,000 killed, equaling nearly 90 fatalities per day. The CDC reports that in 2017 alone, medical bills and lost productivity stemming from motor vehicle crashes cost Americans more than $75 billion. It is worth repeating that these costs arose as a result of motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. over the course of a single year
The California Office of Traffic Safety lists that in our state alone last year:
Traffic fatalities increased 7% from 3,387 to 3,623 Of those tested, 15% of all drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes tested positive for legal and/or illegal drugs Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities increased from 911 to 1,059 While not all traffic accidents are fatal, serious injuries are increasingly common, as the California Highway Patrol reported last year in California there were:
178,669 injury collisions
254,561 persons injured
If I’ve Been Injured in a Crash, What Steps Should I Take Now?
Seek Prompt Medical Attention
If you haven’t yet received medical attention for your injuries, do so now. Too often, accident victims hesitate to seek medical attention following a crash because they are concerned about the costs of medical care or they are under the impression that their serious injuries are “not that bad.” Nothing matters more than your health. Chances are high that your medical costs will be covered by insurance settlements and/or personal injury compensation – but even if they’re not – you need to get checked out right away. Your legal options won’t mean much if your health is suffering and has been unattended to.
You also must keep in mind that you may have suffered a serious injury or injuries as the result of an automobile wreck that do not have immediate symptoms. For example, there are instances in which serious traumatic brain injuries do not exhibit symptoms directly after an accident.
With this in mind, even if you believe that you have not suffered an injury as a result of a car accident, you must seek medical attention. You can go to a nearby hospital and get checked out in the emergency department. If you have a primary care physician, you can schedule an immediate appointment with that doctor. Explain when making an appointment that you have been in a car accident and you want an examination to ensure that you did not suffer any injuries. Keep in mind that you very well may need to have a follow up appointment if there are no immediate signs of being injured.
Document the Accident Scene
An important step you need to take in the immediate aftermath of a car accident – if at all possible – is documenting the scene as much as humanly possible. While documenting the accident scene is am important undertaking, it takes a proverbial back seat to such matters as:
• Ensuring you do not need immediate medical attention
• Ensuring no one else at the scene is in need of emergency medical care
• Making certain that you and everyone else is at a safe location
• Calling the police and other necessary emergency to the scene of the accident
The first step in documenting the crash site is taking photos or making a video of the scene. If at all possible, you will want to take photos and make a video from different vantage points.
The photos or video should include close shots of the damage done to the vehicles involved in the auto accident. If possible, you also will want to take photos or video of the specific injuries you sustained, if there is any evidence of that type of harm directly after the collision.
As part of documenting the accident, collect the names and contact information of witnesses at the crash site. If they are willing, obtain a statement from any witnesses to the accident. This includes individuals that appear to support the proposition that you are not at fault for causing the wreck. You will also want to obtain statements from individuals who may tend to believe that the accident is your fault.
You also need to obtain contact information from anyone involved the accident. This includes their driver’s license and insurance information.
Do Not Admit Fault or Apologize
Even if you think you may have contributed to the automobile accident, do not express that you feel you might be at fault to anyone at the scene. Do not even make a statement like “I’m sorry” while at the collision scene. You must bear in mind that anything you say at the car accident scene might be used against you when it comes to seeking justice, accountability, and appropriate compensation for your injuries and losses.
Contact the Police and File a Police Report
If you are involved in a California car accident, you need to contact the police. You also need to be certain that you file a police report regarding the accident.
If you pursue a claim for compensation for injuries and damages arising out of an automobile accident, an insurance policy may require that a police report be filed in regard to a collision. The absence of a police report being filed can have the negative effect of preventing you from pursuing a claim for your injuries and losses.
File an Insurance Claim in a Timely Manner
Insurance claims must be filed at the time and in the manner set forth by an insurer and in a policy. The failure to file a claim in a timely and proper manner can result in your being precluded from seeking coverage or compensation from an insurer for injuries from a car accident.
There can be other deadlines you need to adhere to when pursuing a car accident claim. You need to be certain that you know what these deadlines are and that you always meet them.
DEALING WITH A CALIFORNIA AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY
Powerful insurance companies typically play outsized roles in regard to California personal injury claims arising out of car accidents. You must fully appreciate the fact that insurance companies truly are not in business to ensure injured people receive full and fair compensation for their losses.
California automobile insurance companies are in one business for one primary purpose, including when it comes to Los Angeles wrecks. They exist to make money for their stockholders and other stakeholders. Car insurance companies improve their bottom lines, insurance companies make more money, if they are able to limit what they pay out each year on claims submitted to them by people injured in automobile accidents.
In the immediate aftermath of a car collision you are highly likely to hear from a representative of an insurance company. An insurer will have an objective of getting you to answer questions about the accident and your injuries.
When an insurer calls to ask you questions about an accident and your injuries, there is no legal requirement for you to provide them with answers. You may think that cooperating with an insurance company by answering their questions early on after a claim has been filed will benefit you. Cooperating with an insurer in this manner will only work to benefit an insurer in the short and long term.
Playing nice with an insurance company will no prove at all helpful to you. When an insurer reaches out to you following a California car collision, including in Los Angeles, the wisest course of action is for you to politely thank them for calling, state plainly that you will not answer their questions, and conclude by telling the representative that your personal injury lawyer will be in touch.
In many instances such as this, an insurer will attempt to pressure you into answering their questions. In response to such pressure, clearly repeat your attorney will be in contact and that the conversation is at an end.
It is important to work with an attorney in the wake of an injurious car accident even if you initially are uninterested in filing a lawsuit. Because you’ve been injured as a result of your crash, you’ll need to communicate with at least one insurance company representative.
Anything that you say to an insurance representative, however seemingly innocuous, may be used as a reason to devalue your claim, delay your payment, or reject your claim outright. Our experienced legal team understands how to communicate effectively with insurance representatives and how to spot all of the tricks of the trade they use to pay accident victims as little as possible under the circumstances.
Examples of the types of strategies insurance companies use in attempting to prevent an injured person from receiving the compensation they deserve include:
• Forcing a quick settlement of a car accident injury claim. By pushing an injured person to settle quickly, an automobile insurance company is nearly always able to get a car accident victim on receive compensation significantly below what that individual is entitled.
• Prolonging the claim settlement process. With this strategy, an insurance company attempts to prolong the insurance claims settlement process. Through this strategy, an insurer pins its hopes on a claimant wearing out because of the process. An insurer’s hope is that a car accident victim will throw his or her hands up, literally will surrender, and accept what could prove to be a relatively meager settlement below what is warranted by the nature of the accident itself and the extent of injuries.
• Continually asking for more information. Yet another strategy used by California car insurance companies in an attempt to avoid settling a clam properly is for an insurer to continually request additional information from the injured individual. As is the case with prolonging the claim settlement process more generally, continually asking for more information from an automobile accident victim is designed in part to cause an injured person to grow weary of the process and accept a low dollar settlement to bring it all to an end.
• An insurance company may also attempt to drag on the insurance claims settlement process by repeatedly asking for extensions of deadlines. For example, a California car insurer has a specific amount of time to investigate a claim when submitted. California law permits an insurer to seek certain time extensions when investigating a car accident claim. The thing is that insurance companies are somewhat notorious for taking full advantage of these extensions. They are also becoming well-known for seeking extensions beyond what legally is permissible.
UNFAIR CLAIM SETTLEMENT PRACTICES
California law prohibits the use of unfair claims settlement practices. The stark reality is that even though such practices are legally impermissible, insurance companies still use them.
Insurers bank on three things:
• First, they assume that the typical car accident victim isn’t going to know about California insurance laws, particularly those that deal with unfair claim settlement practices.
• Second, even if an automobile insurance company gets dinged for engaging in an unfair claims settlement practice, any penalty imposed upon them will never come close to countering the amount of money they’ve been able to bank by rushing or delaying (depending on what is most favorable to them) the settlement of victims’ claims.
• Third, insurance companies also have come to feel quite confident that many car accident injury victims will wait to hire an attorney. As a consequence, a claimant simply will not have a personal injury lawyer at his or her side who can advise him or her about what is and is not an acceptable practice by an insurer when it comes to processing a car accident claim.
The ubiquitous nature of illicit, bad faith, and unfair conduct by insurance companies only underscores the very real need to retain a California car accident attorney (like a member of our firm) sooner rather than later. This is a reality across the state, including in major cities like Los Angeles. Do not fall into the misperception that the claims settlement process is designed to be easy and something an injured person can navigate effectively on his or her own.
Who Is at Fault When a Car Accident Occurs?
In the grand scheme of things, holding a driver or other individual or entity at fault for causing a car accident can prove to be a complex, challenging endeavor. Successfully establishing negligence conduct in a car accident can prove to be a significant task in many instances. In point of fact, it is the type of task that typically is best coordinated or undertaken by an experienced, dedicated, and tenacious California car accident lawyer or Los Angeles automobile collision attorney.
In clarifying who may or may not be at fault in a particular automobile accident, a couple of key matters need to be considered:
• Concepts of causation and fault
• Elements of actionable negligence
Overview of Causation and Fault
Before legal professionals can accurately assess whether an injury victim has a cause of action, they must objectively identify two primary crash-related influences: causation and fault. The causes of a car accident may or may not be legally actionable.
For example, if you are driving at a safe speed along a well-maintained road and a wild animal darts into the road, you may need to swerve to avoid hitting the animal. If you crash as a result of this interaction, there will be no one to sue if you get hurt, as the accident wasn’t the result of human or corporate negligence, recklessness, or intentionally dangerous conduct. Accidents caused by another’s intentionally dangerous, reckless, or negligent conduct may be legally actionable, provided that the conduct in question served as a substantial factor in the causation of your injuries.
That is the primary difference between causation and fault. Every accident occurs due to at least one cause. However, the only crashes that are legally actionable are those that occur due to another’s negligent, reckless, or intentionally dangerous fault. Note that the fault for an accident may be placed on businesses and government agencies as well as on to individuals. If a legal entity of any kind engaged in conduct that served as a substantial factor in the causation of your injuries, you may be able to hold them accountable in civil court.
Sometimes, the causes and fault assignments tied to a specific accident aren’t immediately obvious. As a result, it is important to refrain from assuming that you don’t have grounds to file a strong case until our team has been granted the opportunity to investigate the matter at hand.
The entire issue of who is at fault for an automobile accident can better be understood by examining the four elements that must be present in order to be in a position to pursue a successful car accident injury claim.
Elements of Negligence
According to California personal injury law, there are four primary elements of a negligence claim or a negligence lawsuit. In order to succeed in a personal injury claim or personal injury lawsuit, you must satisfy the four primary elements or components of negligence. The elements must be satisfied in order for a particular person of business to be considered responsible for causing an accident as well as for the injuries that arose out of the incident.
These key elements are:
• Legal duty
• Breach of legal duty
• Breach of legal duty was the reasonably anticipated cause of accident and associated injuries
• Actual injuries were sustained
Each of these elements are discussed in turn. This is an important discission. In pursuing a car accident claim for injuries arising out of an accident, including an automobile collision, it is important to understand the basic requirements of California accident law.
In order to pursue a negligence or personal injury claim, you must demonstrate that the person you allege caused an accident had a legal duty to you. Legal duty is sometimes referred to as a duty of care.
Cornell University School of Law defines a legal duty as
Requirement to perform some conduct required by law. This requirement often created a right in (another person) that the duty be performed, and a breach of such duty gives rise to a cause of action for violation of the right.
An example of legal duty in the context of an automobile accident claim is helpful. If you elect to drive on a public roadway, you have a legal duty to abide by laws and ordinances governing the operation of a vehicle. An illustration of such a legal duty is obeying traffic signals. You have a legal duty to stop at a red light.
Breach of Legal Duty
Pursuing a personal injury lawsuit or claim to a successful conclusion necessitates a demonstration that a legal duty has been breached or broken. The traffic light scenario discussed a moment ago can illustrate this element of a personal injury or negligence claim. In the case of a traffic light, a motorist who runs a red light has breached a duty or care or legal duty owed to other motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and so forth.
Breach of Legal Duty Caused Accident and Injuries
A car accident claim also requires you to be able to demonstrate that the breach of a legal duty owed to you by another motorist resulted in a reasonably foreseeable accident and reasonably foreseeable injuries.
Again, the matter of the traffic light provides a useful illustration. A motorist has a legal duty to stop at a red light. If a motorist fails to stop at a red light, the duty of care as been broken or breached. If the motorist than slams into your vehicle, the breach of a legal duty – running a red light – resulted in a reasonably foreseeable accident (and associated injuries). A driver can reasonably foresee that if a red light is run, the driver who does this may run into another motorist who has the right-of-way, resulting in injuries.
Instances in which unforeseeable injuries stemming from a motorist’s breach of a legal duty also exist, although they are not commonplace. Furthering the red light scenario, assume a man is on the 10th floor of an office building sipping coffee and watching things carry on below.
The man at the window sees the cars collide and has a heart attack. A strong legal argument can be made that the heart attack sustained by the man 10 floors above the accident scene is not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of running a red light.
Actual Injuries Sustained
The final element in a California car accident claim or California personal injury lawsuit is demonstrating that actual injuries were sustained by the individual pursuing the matter. These cannot be speculative injuries that you imagine might appear at some juncture in time.
What If Your Actions Contributed to the Cause of the Crash?
Oftentimes, car accident victims assume that if they were partially (or even mostly )to blame for the cause of their collisions that they have no reason to explore their legal options. Thankfully, California is classified as what legal is known as a “pure comparative negligence” state.
This means that even if an injury victim is primarily at fault for the harm they’ve suffered, they remain entitled to seek damages from others that may be held legally liable for their negligent contribution to the cause of the crash in question. The California approach differs from most other states.
The majority of states either prohibit injury victims from seeking damages if they are partially at fault for their circumstances or they only allow victims to seek compensation if the victim’s share of the blame is less than 50 percent.
As a result of California’s model, you can seek damages from others according to the percentage of fault you’ve each been assigned. Say that you were involved in a two-car collision and you were assigned 30 percent of the blame, while the other motorist was assigned 70 percent of the blame. If your harm was valued at $100,000, you’d be entitled to seek $70,000 from the other driver. As this example illustrates, it is worth your time to explore your legal options, even if your conduct contributed to the cause of your crash.
A car accident attorney from our firm understands how to pursue a claim or mount a lawsuit even if the facts suggest that you legally may have contributed to the cause of the collision in some manner.
IF YOUR CAR COLLISION OCCURRED AT WORK
Any time employees eligible for workers’ compensation benefits are involved in traffic accidents while they are engaged in job-related activities, they are entitled to benefits. The only exceptions to this rule involve workers who are drunk or otherwise impaired by substances at the time of their crash, workers who instigate road rage incidents, and workers who crash on purpose with the aim of committing workers’ compensation fraud.
Note that if you’re eligible to file for workers’ comp benefits as a result of your crash, you’ll need to act fast. If you don’t formally report your injuries to your employer within 30 days and begin exploring your legal options within that timeframe, you may be barred from receiving a benefits award. Note also that if you’re eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, you can still sue others whose conduct contributed to the cause of your crash via a personal injury lawsuit.
The only party that you cannot sue in this manner is your employer. Workers eligible for workers’ comp benefits can’t sue their employers directly when they suffer work-related injuries and/or occupational illnesses.
ACCOUNTABILITY, JUSTICE, AND COMPENSATION IN A CALIFORNIA PERSONAL INJURY CASE
The specific facts and circumstances of a personal injury case, including a car accident claim or lawsuit, dictates what might be available to an injured person in the way of compensation. With that said, the types of compensation for which our firm typically seeks on behalf of a victim in a car accident claim includes, but is not necessarily limited to the following:
• Medical bills and expenses
• Pain and suffering
• Lost wages
• Temporary or permanent disability
• Mental anguish and emotional distress
• Damage to property
A dedicated, tenacious automobile accident injury attorney from our firm not only seeks compensation for your existing injuries, damages, and losses, but also for those that you reasonably can be expected to face into the future.
For example, if you sustained physical injuries in a car accident, you very well may need ongoing medical care and treatment into the future. You may endure pain indefinitely as well – perhaps even for the rest of your life. These represent some examples of the types of injuries, damages, and losses that will continue and not come to an end anytime soon. And these represent consequences of a car wreck for which you deserve fair compensation.
In some lawsuits, auto accident lawyers from our firm may also be able to seek what are known as punitive damages or exemplary damages. Punitive damages represent additional compensation in specific types of car accident cases.
Punitive damages may be available in a personal injury case when the conduct of a party causing or contributing to an accident is deemed particularly reckless of egregious. For example, if a person ran the red light referenced previously, and if that person was highly intoxicated, his or her conduct very well may considered especially reckless.
Punitive damages are designed to do more than just to provide you extra money in a California personal injury lawsuit, including a Los Angeles auto wreck case. They are also designed to punish a party that caused an accident for particularly egregious conduct. They additional work to send a message to others to avoid the type of conduct or actions which gave rise to the accident that caused your injuries, damages, and losses.
ACCOUNTABILITY, JUSTICE, AND COMPENSATION IN A CALIFORNIA WRONGFUL DEATH CASE
In addition to horrible personal injury cases arising from car collisions, many families lose loved ones in California wrongful death automobile accidents every year. Cornell University School of Law defines wrongful death is defined as:
Wrongful death is a civil cause of action brought by family members and dependents against individuals who knowingly or negligently cause the death of another person. A wrongful death action may be brought against a person also facing criminal charges for the same event, and even if the person is not found guilty of a criminal charge, the person may be found liable for the wrongful death action because it has a lower burden of proof.
As is the case with personal injury cases, compensation that might be available in a California wrongful death case depends upon the facts and circumstances surrounding a fatal crash. With that said, examples of the types of losses for which a California wrongful death lawyer from our firm seeks compensation for a client or clients include:
• Final medical bills
• Funeral and burial (or cremation) expenses
• Pain and suffering (of deceased individual)
• Mental anguish and emotional distress (of deceased person and surviving family members)
• Lost financial support
• Lost companionship
As is the case with personal injury lawsuits, punitive damages may also be available in certain wrongful death litigation. Punitive damages might be awarded in a California wrongful death lawsuit if the actions of the party that caused a car crash resulting in death are deemed to be especially reckless or egregious.
CALIFORNIA CAR ACCIDENT STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
California has a law on the books that is known as the statute limitations. The statute of limitations sets a specific deadline by which a California automobile accident lawsuit must be filed in court. This includes a lawsuit of this nature filed anywhere in the state, including in Los Angeles. The time period in which such a lawsuit must be filed generally is two years from the date of the accident when the claims being made are for personal injuries. Similarly, a lawsuit for a car accident wrongful death case also must be filed in court within the same two-year timeframe.
The failure to file a lawsuit within be the legally established deadline can have – indeed, usually will have – devastating consequences. If you do not meet the deadline established by law, you likely will be precluded forever from pursuing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit arising out of a car wreck.
There are some highly limited exceptions which might permit the filing of a car accident lawsuit at a juncture in time beyond the deadline established in California law. An experienced California personal injury attorney, like a member of our firm, is the best position to determine whether or not there might exist a possibility to file a lawsuit outside the deadline created by law.
The statute of limitations is yet another reason why a car accident injury victim is wise to seek legal counsel as soon as possible following a collision or wreck. Time really is of the essence when it comes to protecting your vital legal rights in a personal injury case.
HOW CAN ELDESSOUKY LAW HELP YOU RECOVER FROM AN AUTO ACCIDENT IN CALIFORNIA?
Car crash victims in California are immediately met with is confusion when an accident occurs. How did this happen? Am I okay? Is my car totaled? What should I do next? These questions are common and completely justifiable after an accident, and leave an even larger question looming: Who is going to pay for all of this?
At Eldessouky Law, our auto accident attorneys have the answers, and they begin with a complete investigation of your crash and the negligent driver who caused your injuries.
Hiring an attorney to build our case against the negligent driver who hit you might include the following:
• Research the driving record and condition of the driver who caused your injuries
• Interview witnesses and law enforcement officials who were at the scene
• Review all traffic camera footage, where available
• Assume all contact with the insurance companies involved, so you are never intimidated by their manipulative practices
• Ensure you get the proper medical care you need to account for all injuries
• Consult with your medical team to document an accurate accounting of your current and future medical care needs
Compile a strategically sound case to pursue a financial settlement or jury verdict on your behalf
• No accident is too small or too large to for the legal team at Eldessouky Law. We will fight for your complete financial needs, leaving no detail to chance when making our demands.
CONTACT OUR AUTO ACCIDENT ATTORNEY AT ELDESSOUKY LAW TODAY
Have you been injured in a car accident in Riverside, California? Are you caring for a loved one who was injured in a traffic collision? Contact our experienced car accident attorneys today at Eldessouky Law by calling (714) 409-8991 to learn more about the financial compensation you deserve because of your or their injuries. We are available for free, no-obligation consultations now.