Who is Liable for Car Accidents in California?
The state of California operates under a comparative fault legal standard. This means that the party (or parties) that caused an accident through negligence will be held financially responsible for the crash. Most often, motor vehicle accidents are caused by negligent drivers. Though, there are certainly some exceptions to that rule. Driver negligence comes in many different forms, with some of the most common examples being:
- Running a red light;
- Running a stop sign;
- Failure to yield;
- Following too closely;
- Unsafe lane changes;
- Distracted driving; and
- Intoxicated driving.
If you believe that another driver caused your accident through their unsafe conduct, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced Downey car accident attorney who can investigate your case. Your attorney will be able to put together the evidence needed to support your legal claim.
What You Need to Know About the Statute of Limitations
For most personal injury claims, the state of California has a two-year statute of limitations. This means that you have two years from the date of your Downey, CA car accident to file your legal claim. There are very limited exceptions to this rule. Beyond the statutory requirement, it is also simply better to get your claim started as soon as possible after your crash. You should not wait to take action; consult with a qualified Downey car accident attorney as soon as possible.
Injured Car Accident Victims Deserve Fair Compensation
Under California law, injured victims are owed compensation for the full value of their damages. This means that you are entitled to financial relief for both monetary losses and noneconomic damages. Sadly, in practice, the big insurance companies make recovering full compensation difficult. To protect your interests, you must be able to properly document your damages. If you are unable to prove your damages, you will be unlikely to recover the fair compensation that you rightfully deserve. Our top-rated Downey car accident attorneys can help. Depending on the circumstances of your claim, we may be able to get you money for:
- The damage to your vehicle;
- All emergency medical bills;
- All other related medical expenses;
- Physical therapy;
- Mental health counseling;
- Long-term disability (LTD);
- Lost wages;
- Loss of future earning capacity;
- Pain and suffering;
- Mental anguish;
- Loss of limb;
- Loss of life enjoyment; and
- Wrongful death damages.
Four Tips for Dealing With Insurance Adjusters
For the most part, car accident claims are defended by insurance companies. You may be dealing with your own insurance company, or the insurance company of another California driver; regardless, you need to keep your guard up. You should not rely on the insurance company for guidance. Remember, the insurance company that you are seeking compensation from is the opposing party in your case. The company will be looking out for its own profits, not your best interests. With this in mind, you need to be ready to deal with insurance adjusters. Here, our experienced Downey car accident attorneys share our top four tips for dealing with insurance company representatives:
- Never admit fault for the accident. It is not your job to determine who was or was not at fault for the crash. You have no obligation to give an opinion on this question.
- Do not speculate. Insurance adjusters are trained to try to get you on the phone so that you can simply talk about your crash. These conversations may seem casual, but they are not. You should not answer any speculative or opinion-based questions.
- Do not sign a release for your medical records. Your insurance company may ask for your full history of medical treatment. The company does not necessarily have a right to access all of this information. They are looking for a reason to deny your claim. Do not sign anything without first consulting with an attorney.
- Work through your lawyer. You should not deal with the professionals at the insurance company on your own. Insurance adjusters are highly trained, and they are trying to protect the financial interests of the company. You can and should deal with insurance adjusters directly through your Downey car accident attorney.
Examples: SUV Drives Through Storefront
An elderly SUV driver gave patrons of a shopping center quite the start when she drove her car through a clothing boutique, an empty store space, and a deli. The accident occurred on the morning of March 25th, 2013 in Fair Oaks, California.
Video surveillance from one of the stores that the woman drove through shows her vehicle slowly driving into a parking spot, before quickly thrusting forward and through the clothing boutique’s shop windows. After driving through the glass of the store’s windows the vehicle made a sharp left turn, drove through a wall into an empty storefront and through another wall into a deli. Upwards of 40 people were in the deli at the time of the crash and a few people were in the boutique but, amazingly, no serious injuries were reported.
The elderly driver and her husband, who was a passenger in the SUV, suffered minor scrapes, but are expected to be okay. The cause of the crash remains under investigation, but it appears from video surveillance that the driver mistook the gas for the brake.
Fortunately for All, No Major Injuries
The fact that nobody was hurt when the woman drove through the shops is a good thing for everyone involved. Not only were unsuspecting patrons saved from injury, but the driver of the vehicle was also saved from a personal injury lawsuit. The fact that a driver is elderly is generally not a defense to injuries caused as a result of driving a car through a store or crowd of people. Drivers of any age can be found liable for injuries caused by their negligence or recklessness behind the wheel.
The Risk of Injuring Others
When the driver of a vehicle plows through a store or crowd of people, anyone injured by the collision has the right to seek monetary compensation from those responsible for the injury. This kind of compensation is known as “damages”, and can be awarded for pain and suffering, medical expenses, the cost of physical therapy, and, if an injury is serious enough that it prevents a person from working, lost earnings/wages.
After an Accident
After a person is injured by someone operating a motor vehicle, medical attention should be sought immediately. As soon as injury victims are able, they should then contact a local car accident lawyer and should refrain from giving statements to accident, insurance, and police investigators until an attorney is consulted.
Investigators will no doubt have several questions for injury victims, but waiting to speak with an attorney in no way hurts an investigation and actually helps ensure that any statements made by victims are understood and reported as accurately as possible. Another reason it is a good idea to speak to an accident lawyer is that, historically, those who work with an attorney are more likely to recover damages than those who don’t. Unfortunately, this is because insurance representatives know that people don’t know enough about the law to pursue all of the damages they may be entitled to, and use the fact that victims are unrepresented by counsel to talk them into lower settlement offers.
Why You Can Always Afford Legal Help
At Fisher & Talwar, our top-quality Downey car accident lawyers take on all personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis. What does this mean for you? It is simple: There are no attorney’s fees unless we help you recover money. When you hire our car accident lawyers, there are no upfront costs and no out-of-pocket expenses. We are so confident in our ability to win or successfully settle your cases that we are more than happy to take on all the risks of pursuing your legal claim.