More California drivers are getting into car accidents than ever before. In 2016, there were 3,680 fatal car accidents in California. Some blame the economy, arguing that as more jobs are created more drivers hit the roads to get to work. Others blame the rise in technology, arguing that drivers tend to multitask behind the wheel.
Regardless of the reason, the fact remains that car accidents are becoming more common in California. If you have been involved in a California car accident you may be able to recover compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. Speaking with an experienced California car accident attorney is the best way to learn about your options.
Costs of California Car Accident Injuries
Car accident victims can suffer from a wide range of injuries. It can be incredibly expensive to treat and recover from these injuries. In 2013, the CDC estimates that California car accidents resulted in nearly $38 million in medical costs. Those accidents also resulted in $4.44 billion in work loss costs. Together, that adds up to nearly $4.48 billion in car accident-related costs.
How do most California car accident victims pay for these incredibly high costs? A recent study found that more than half of Americans have $1,000 in savings. The same study found that about a third of Americans have no savings, at all. If the average American is injured in a car accident it is unlikely they will be able to cover the costs by themselves.
Fortunately, California allows car accident victims to file personal injury lawsuits to recover compensation for their injuries. A personal injury claim for damages can help to cover costs including:
- Prescription medication;
- Lost wages;
- Diminished earning capacity; and
- Emotional distress.
In the event of a car accident-related death, a wrongful death lawsuit can help to cover the costs associated with a victim’s funeral.
Steps to Take Following a Car Accident
If you are involved in a car accident in California it is important to keep the following suggestions in mind. These steps will help to make sure that you are safe, your rights are protected, and that you are able to maximize any future damages.
- Ask for Medical Attention: The most important thing after an accident is your health and safety. Go to a hospital or doctor for a medical evaluation after an accident, even if you do not think you have been seriously injured. A full medical evaluation will serve two purposes. First, it will help to rule out whether you have suffered any internal injuries that could be very harmful. Second, the information recorded in the evaluation can be used as evidence in any future personal injury claims you file. The sooner your injuries are documented, the more likely it is that they will be associated with your accident.
- Ask for a Police Report: A police report may not be admissible in court as evidence, but it is a great starting point for an investigation. When an officer arrives at the scene of the accident ask them to file a police report. The report can include information that may later be lost or forgotten. This can include witness names and statements or details about road and weather conditions. This can be very helpful to your attorney if you decide to file a claim for damages.
- Contact an Attorney: Insurance companies will try to take advantage of the fact that you don’t specialize in personal injury law. They will try to get you to agree to a low-ball settlement that doesn’t fully compensate you for your damages. When you hire an attorney to handle your claim you will have an expert on your side who knows how to maximize compensation.
Recovering Compensation Through a Personal Injury Lawsuit
When you file a personal injury claim for damages after a car accident it is generally based on the legal theory of negligence. Negligence occurs when one person owes a duty of responsibility to another person but fails to fulfill that duty. When you get behind the wheel of a car in California you have a duty to follow the rules and regulations of the road. You also have a responsibility to drive safely and prevent foreseeable harm. Speeding, distracted driving, and drunk driving are all examples of ways in which a driver could be negligent. When you are injured in a car accident because of someone else’s negligence, you can file a lawsuit to recover compensation.
In California, you can even recover compensation if you were partly responsible for the accident. Your recovery will be reduced by the percent of the accident that is your fault. Imagine you were injured in a car accident and you suffered $100,000 in damages. It is determined that you were 20% at fault for the accident because you were speeding. You would then only be entitled to recover $80% ($80,000) of your total damages. You would also be liable for 20% of damages suffered by the other driver.
The best way to learn about your legal rights following a California car accident is by speaking with an experienced attorney. They will review your case, determine potential liability, and answer the questions you have. Most car accident lawsuits in California must be filed within two years of the accident, so it is important to contact an attorney as soon as you can.