This crisis on America’s roadways is a colossal threat to motorists, especially in California, a state with 30.4 million registered vehicles on the road (as of 2020), the country’s highest number of vehicle registrations. Car accident injuries can cost injured victims tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills and property damages. Depending on the severity of the injuries, it could even cost millions of dollars.
Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys work tirelessly to protect injured victims’ rights and aggressively pursue compensation. Our law firm and its Los Angeles-based car accident lawyers have recovered over $150 million in compensation and successfully represented over 3,000 clients.
Whether you’re suffering from broken bones, traumatic brain injury, or any other injury, speak to our award-winning California personal injury lawyers to learn your rights as an injured victim.
California Motor Vehicle Accident Types
The type of motor vehicle accident can affect the severity of the injuries, the type of injuries, the responsible parties, and who is at fault.
Although there are many different types of motor vehicle accidents, here are some of the most common car crashes in California.
It is often believed that the rear driver crashing into the vehicle in front of them is typically responsible for that accident. In California, the state operates under the “rebuttable presumption” law, which presumes that the driver rear-ending another vehicle is at fault. However, that is not always the case; sometimes, another driver may be responsible for the damages.
Rear-end collisions can lead to severe neck and back injuries for the accident victim, including whiplash injuries, strains and sprains, spinal disc damage, soft tissue injuries, and nerve injuries.
Head-on collisions are serious accidents when one driver heads down a road, travels in the opposite direction, and crashes into another vehicle. The speed of their car and the other car increases the impact of the accident, resulting in serious injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, burns, and more.
The accident could also lead to crushing injuries if the victim gets pinned due to the crash force. Crushing injuries can be deadly, especially if emergency medical treatment is not administered immediately.
Head-on collisions can occur from reckless driving, distracted driving, drunk driving, and even failing to yield.
A T-bone accident occurs when the front of one vehicle smashes into the side of the other, forming a “T” shape, hence the name “T-bone.” T-bone accidents can happen at intersections when drivers run a red or stop light while other vehicles traverse the intersection.
T-bone collisions have many causes, such as poor road conditions, vehicle defects, traffic signage issues, and more. Still, terrible driving is the most common cause of T-bone collisions in California.
T-bone collisions can seriously damage accident victims since the side of the vehicle that gets hit offers little to no protection to drivers from a speeding, reckless car.
Rural interstate highways often have a 70 mph speed limit, and if a driver is not paying attention to the road in front of them at all times, they run the risk of a severe accident.
The speeds at which the cars are traveling on the interstate can increase the accident’s impact, causing severe injuries and even wrongful death.
Due to their higher ground clearance, some vehicles, such as SUVs and trucks, are more susceptible to rollover accidents than others. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a Tesla Model S has a 5.7% rollover risk, while a Chevrolet Tahoe has a 24.6% rollover risk.
A rollover accident is a type of vehicle crash that involves a vehicle tipped over on its side or the roof. Rollover accidents have a much higher fatality rate than other vehicle accidents because the occupants of the car can feel the impact of the rollover multiple times, depending on how many times the vehicle rolls over.
Construction companies have the responsibility to ensure a safe environment not only for their contractors but also for the drivers passing near a construction site. Forgetting barriers around the construction site can increase the risk of accidents for all drivers passing nearby. Heavy objects can fall from heights onto moving vehicles, which can cause injuries to the passengers inside the cars.
According to the NHTSA, 150 bus collisions in California occurred from 2012 to 2018, resulting in 172 deaths. School and transit buses are more likely to get involved in fatal crashes than other buses. However, different types of buses can also end up in accidents.
When a driver suffers injuries from a bus accident that was not their fault, they first must determine the liable party, as buses could either be privately owned or run by a government agency.
Trucks are large vehicles, and because of their massive size, they have a more prominent blind spot than any other passenger vehicle. An inattentive or inexperienced truck driver can run over a vehicle driving in its blind spot if they’re not careful, resulting in severe injuries to the driver and occupants of the passenger vehicle. Head and brain injuries are the most common injuries sustained after a truck wreck.
Common Causes of California Car Accidents
A car accident can happen for many different reasons, some of which include the following.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), distracted driving resulted in 424,000 people injured and a loss of 3,100 lives in 2019. 20% of the distracted driving accident victims were people not in a vehicle but walking, riding their bikes, or otherwise outside a car.
Distractions while driving include talking, eating, setting up the radio, using the GPS, watching videos, and putting makeup on, among many other distractions. A speeding vehicle and a minor distraction are a lethal concoction, causing an accident, resulting in fatal injuries or even wrongful death.
Texting While Driving
Texting, talking on the phone, or using the phone while behind the wheel is also a distraction. However, it has its separate category due to the massive number of accidents resulting from using the phone. With their hands and eyes off the road, drivers are 23 times more likely to crash.
Lack of sleep and a dire mental state can affect a driver’s ability to drive safely on the roads, which is why there are laws in place for trucking companies or bus services to follow to ensure that their drivers have adequate sleep before taking the wheel.
However, some negligent companies force their drivers to work longer hours than the law states, all for profit, resulting in tired drivers and a higher chance of an accident.
Drugged or Drunk Driving
The NHTSA states that 32 people die daily from drunk driving crashes, with about one person killed every 45 minutes. In 2020, 11,654 people died in drunk driving accidents, 14% more than in 2019. The unfortunate reality of drunk driving accidents is that they are preventable.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs impairs a driver’s motor skills and reduces their reaction times drastically, leading to an increased risk of accidents and injuries.
According to the National Safety Council, 29% of all traffic deaths are due to overspeeding. Overspeeding causes 1,000 deaths each month across the United States.
Speed limits set by the state allow drivers enough time to avoid an accident and reduce the impact of an accident if one happens. On the other hand, going over the speed limit endangers the driver and those around him.
Most drivers overspeeding are young, inexperienced, and reckless drivers, as statistics suggest that speeding accidents decrease as the age of the driver increases. High-speed collisions magnify the risk of severe injuries as they are directly related to forceful impacts and more significant damages.
Inexperienced and young drivers are more often in the news for reckless driving than adults. Reckless driving provides a temporary adrenaline rush but can lead to a life-threatening accident.
Running red lights, failing to yield, and racing is some of the many forms of reckless driving.
Poor Road Conditions
For years, California has been lagging in funding for infrastructure maintenance, resulting in poor road conditions across the state. Only 65% of the roads in California are in acceptable condition, which puts the state in the top 5 states with the worst road conditions in the country.
Poor road conditions are a hazard for motorists and also motorcyclists. Drivers avoiding potholes, debris, or other obstacles on the road could cause a severe accident.
Rain and fog can severely limit visibility on the road, making it difficult for drivers to see where they are going, resulting in a much greater chance of a collision with another vehicle, pedestrian, or road obstacles.
Rain and snow can lead to wet surfaces, which makes it slippery for vehicles to drive on. Although bad weather affects all types of drivers, inexperienced drivers are often affected more.
If you’re new to driving, you should avoid driving in harsh weather conditions and wait for the weather to settle before hitting the road.
Sometimes the vehicle might have a problem straight from the manufacturer. Tesla announced in 2021 that it would recall more than 356,000 Model 3 cars due to issues with the rear-view camera. The safety department added that the repeated opening and closing of the trunk lid causes wear and tear on the rear camera wire, which can cause the cable wire to separate over time, causing the rear camera feed to cut off, increasing the risk of a collision.
The Tesla example is one of many in the past where automakers recalled their vehicles due to safety issues.
Lack of maintenance also increases the risk of a car accident. Driving with worn-out tires, exhausted brakes, and lower tire pressure are examples of how a lack of maintenance can cause accidents.
Who Is Liable for Your California Car Accident?
Generally, the negligent party is responsible for any injuries or harm they cause to others. Negligence on the road can include reckless driving, drunk driving, overspeeding, breaking traffic rules, and failing to yield, among many others. However, determining who is liable for your car accident in California is a little more complicated than you would think.
Almost one-third of the states in the country follow comparative negligence law, a legal doctrine that divides fault between the parties. California is one state that attributes damages based on the degree of fault.
What If More Than One Party is Responsible for the Accident?
“Degree of fault” entails that there could be more than one driver at fault for an accident. An insurance company may assign a degree of fault to each party, depending on the details of the accident.
For example, say a distracted driver rear-ends your vehicle after you change lanes suddenly. The insurer may determine that both parties are responsible for the fault. However, the other driver may be 70% responsible while you are 30% responsible. You will receive compensation minus the 30% since you were also partially at fault.
Negligence and fault sound pretty straightforward, but the reality is far from it:
All parties involved in an accident will blame the other party for the damages caused.
They may not have the evidence to prove the other party’s fault.
The insurance company might not want to investigate the details of the accident and decide to delay, reject, or minimize claims.
Speaking to a California car accident lawyer about your case can help you understand your legal options and the damages you may recover if you pursue claims. An attorney can also allocate an investigative team to collect evidence from the accident site, compile medical reports, and negotiate with the claims adjuster on your behalf to secure maximum compensation.
Proving Negligence in a California Car Accident Lawsuit
When filing claims or a lawsuit against a negligent party, the injured victim must prove the other party’s negligence to recover compensation for their injuries and damages.
The four critical elements of a personal injury case that a plaintiff must prove are as follows:
The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
The defendant breached the duty of care.
The breach resulted in injuries to the plaintiff.
The plaintiff suffered damages due to the defendant’s negligence.
In California, drivers must exercise caution while on the road and ensure reasonable care to avoid accidents or injuries. Failure to exercise reasonable care can hold the driver responsible for any damages or injuries resulting from the accident.
Let’s look at an example to demonstrate negligence. Elise was driving home from work while Matt went to the grocery store. While on the way, Matt remembered that he had to remind his wife to close the garage door, so he took out his mobile phone to send a text message. When Matt looks up, he suddenly sees Elise’s car and crashes into her vehicle, resulting in neck injuries to Elise totaling $20,000 in damages. If the jury finds Matt negligent, he may be liable for Elise’s damages.
Our experienced car accident attorneys can help gather the relevant evidence to prove these four elements and recover maximum compensation for your loss.
What Damages Can You Recover in a Car Accident Lawsuit?
The damages in a car accident can vary depending on the severity of the incident, which makes each personal injury case unique. When filing a personal injury claim against the negligent party, plaintiffs want to recover the maximum amount of money. However, asking for too much can lead to rejection, and asking for too little can hurt your financial situation.
An experienced car accident attorney can help determine the value of your claims by considering the economic and non-economic damages resulting from the accident.
Economic damages include all the damages that have a dollar value, such as medical bills, therapy costs, rehabilitation expenses, transportation to the hospital, after-care, nursing, lost wages, and so on. On the other hand, non-economic damages are challenging to quantify and include pain and suffering, emotional trauma, loss of companionship, and more.
In certain situations, car accident victims may also receive punitive damages. The court awards punitive damages to punish the negligent party for their actions. These damages usually occur when the driver is driving recklessly or involved in a hit-and-run.
Can You Recover Damages If the Other Party Does Not Have Insurance?
When a driver gets into an accident, the other party files a car accident claim against the negligent driver’s insurance company to recover money under their insurance policy. But what happens if the negligent driver does not have any insurance?
An injured victim may not be able to recover compensation from the negligent driver if they do not have insurance. However, they can recover damages through other means.
In California, the insurance law requires insurance companies to offer uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM coverage) to all drivers. Drivers with UM/UIM coverage can recover damages from their own insurance company in the event of an accident with a driver who does not have insurance.
Although UM/UIM coverage is optional, it can benefit the driver. In some situations, the damages from an accident may be greater than the negligent party’s insurance coverage limits. If the injured victim has UM/UIM coverage, they can recover the remaining amount or the excess damage from their insurer.
But what if the injured victim does not have UM/UIM coverage? It is still possible to recover damages from an uninsured motorist even if the injured victim does not have UM/UIM coverage. Your California personal injury attorney can help investigate if the negligent party has enough money or assets to cover the damages and pursue damages accordingly.
Another situation that may arise is that the uninsured driver causing the accident is not the actual owner of the car. If the car owner decided to let them drive their vehicle, they might be liable for allowing an incompetent uninsured driver to get behind the wheel, resulting in injuries.
Let’s look at a scenario to understand how this works.
Belle rear-ends John. John speaks to Belle after the accident to exchange insurance information, but Belle informs John that she does not have any insurance. Belle apologizes to John and states that she does not have a job, which is why she could not afford insurance in the first place. The accident cost John $10,000 in medical bills and property damage.
John speaks to an attorney who investigates the accident and discovers that Belle was driving her parents’ car. Her parents allowed her to drive the car even though they knew that Belle did not have insurance and had lost her coverage after two reckless driving accidents.
John may be able to pursue car accident claims against Belle’s parents, as the car had insurance at the time of the accident. John may also be able to pursue a personal injury claim against Belle’s parents for negligent entrustment of a car.
How Does an Attorney Help with a California Car Accident Case?
An attorney advocates for injured victims, helping protect their rights and fighting for compensation. When an injured victim seeks the help of an attorney for a personal injury case, the attorney is responsible for dealing with the legal system, dealing with the insurance company, and keeping the client updated on the progress of their case at all times.
After getting into an accident, many people believe they do not need a lawyer since they can fill up the claims form themselves. It is crucial to understand that filing a claim form is a small part of a personal injury case, and they must prove negligence, provide evidence, and handle the insurance companies.
An injured victim’s biggest challenge is dealing with the insurance company. Insurers work in the best interests of their shareholders, not the injured victims. You may find that the insurer is unnecessarily prolonging the car accident case by asking for irrelevant documents or not responding on time.
In many cases, an injured victim may try to settle the case by accepting the first offer the insurance company sends their way. The initial settlement offer is typically much less than the damages caused by the accident, resulting in a financial burden on the injured victim for an accident they did not cause.
Reach out to our California car accident attorneys to discuss your car accident case. We will help determine the value of your claims and stand by your side, helping protect your rights in this dark and testing time.
Here are some ways our attorneys will stand for your rights and fight for your car accident case.
Carry Out An Investigation
Unfortunately, the type of investigation an insurance company carries out does not provide a clear picture of what happened at the accident scene. It can affect the amount of compensation an injured person recovers and even result in a denial.
Our reputable law firm provides our car accident attorneys with the resources to investigate and recreate the accident to determine fault. Our attorneys also conduct their investigations by reviewing police reports, interviewing witnesses, obtaining CCTV footage of the accident, and reviewing medical records, among other responsibilities.
In many accident cases, the injured victims typically head back home without a medical evaluation stating they feel fine. They may feel okay after the accident, but some injuries can take time to manifest, while others are internal injuries, challenging to diagnose with the naked eye.
Our personal injury attorneys at Ehline Law understand the financial toll an injury takes on an accident victim. In many cases, the injured victim avoids going to the hospital because they don’t have the financial resources to seek treatment. We help locate a lien doctor for injured victims so they don’t have to worry about medical bills while receiving world-class treatment.
While at the accident scene, injured victims must take pictures of the damaged vehicles, traffic signs, skid markings on the road, and the surrounding area. However, the evidence goes beyond what you may find at an accident scene; an attorney can help you with that.
For example, a lawyer can subpoena phone records to determine if a driver was using a text phone before the accident. If those records show that the driver was using their phone before the car crash, that evidence could be enough to establish liability. Your lawyer can also work with medical experts to evaluate your injuries and prove they resulted from the accident.
Issuing a Demand Letter
To get damages after an accident, the first thing to do is issue a demand letter, which an attorney can help draft. The demand letter mentions the details of the claim and the grounds for the other party’s liability.
The demand letter typically includes the following:
The details of the parties involved.
The facts of the accident.
Details of injuries and property damage.
The costs and damages incurred by the injured victim.
The value of the claims (compensation required by the injured victim).
The letter is also the first step to starting negotiations with the claims adjuster.
Negotiations with the Insurer
Negotiating is an integral part of the claims process, and it can be complicated if you do not have an attorney by your side.
Insurers have an entire legal team and claim adjusters who deal daily with personal injury claims and liability. They don’t care about your best interests. If you speak to an insurance company after an accident, they will get you to discuss the case, which could jeopardize your chances of securing compensation.
An experienced attorney deals with insurance companies and claims adjusters daily, and they can handle these parties on your behalf. But before negotiations, your California car accident lawyers will let you know the legal options so that you can make an informed decision on whether you want to negotiate a settlement offer or take the case to court.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If there is no mutual agreement over the settlement offer during the claims process, your lawyer can file a personal injury lawsuit and take the case to California civil court. A lawsuit can take a lot of time before it goes to trial; in most cases, the insurers decide to settle it before that happens.
Although insurance companies prefer not to make payouts, they do not like bad publicity and would instead not go to court. A trial is often expensive and time-consuming; an insurance company would try to settle before that. A car accident lawyer with trial experience is more than enough to scare off insurers and settle the case before it even goes to trial.
What Is the Average Settlement Amount for a Car Accident?
Some sources suggest that the average settlement amount for an auto accident in the United States is $41,783. However, this figure may vary depending on the outcome of your car accident.
Factors affecting your claim’s value include the severity of your injuries, type of accident, physical and emotional distress, and daily life disruptions. Your attorney will help calculate the value of your car accident claim and fight to recover that amount.
How Long Do You Have to File a Claim?
Under the California statute of limitations, injured victims can file claims against the negligent party within two years of the accident. However, if the negligent party is a government agency, you only have six months to file a claim against them.
There are certain exceptions to the deadline, and some possible scenarios are when the plaintiff is:
Below 18 years of age.
Mentally challenged or disabled.
In military service.
How Long Does it Take to Settle a Car Accident Case?
If you’re willing to take the initial settlement offer that comes your way, it shouldn’t take more than a couple of months following the filing of the claim. However, initial offers are meager and do not cover the bare minimum medical costs, leaving the injured victim in a dire financial state from the accident.
Speak to our attorney to know more about your case and what kind of damages to expect. It’ll help you decide whether you want to accept the initial offer or negotiate a better settlement.
If you decide to negotiate a better settlement, it could take up to 18 months or even more, and if the case goes to trial, it can even drag on much longer.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
You don’t always need an attorney by your side when filing claims, especially if the total damages are less than $10,000. These cases go to small claims court in California, and people don’t hire a lawyer in such situations. However, speaking to an attorney about your legal options and the potential payout is always crucial.
The legal fees of an attorney can be more than enough to scare away injured victims from reaching out to one. Fortunately, most personal injury attorneys offer an initial free consultation session to discuss the case details with the injured victim.
If you wish to pursue claims, our personal injury law firm offers expert legal representation on a contingency fee basis. We take legal fees from the amount awarded if we win the case.
What Steps to Take After a Car Accident
What you decide to do next after getting into a car accident in California will determine the outcome of your case.
Our personal injury attorneys recommend following the steps below to secure your position as an injured victim and recover maximum compensation:
Stay at the accident scene.
Call 911 for help if you’re injured.
Move your vehicle to the side of the road.
If you can move, take pictures of the damaged cars.
Exchange contact and insurance information with other parties.
Do not admit fault, as you’ll lose your right to pursue claims.
Take down notes of the events leading up to the accident.
Wait for the law enforcement to come down and write a police report.
Let your insurance company know about the accident.
Head to a hospital for a medical examination of your injuries.
If your doctor recommends a treatment, start immediately.
Hire a lawyer to increase your chances of securing compensation.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Ehline Law
If you’re suffering from a car accident injury due to another’s negligence, the road to recovery is just a phone call away. Contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free case review. Our leading personal injury law firm has the resources to help investigate your case, gather evidence, and handle insurance companies on your behalf while you recover.
With more than 15 locations, Ehline Law is always near you, regardless of where you are in California. Contact us now or visit any of our law offices to discuss your car accident and the legal options you have.
Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients.
We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.