With a little over 39 million residents, California is the most populous state in the United States. So if you drive on California’s freeways, you know that the state’s hefty population translates into countless cars on the road and endless opportunities for car accidents to occur.
Although we all hope never to be in a car accident, they’re sometimes unavoidable. And with car accidents come vehicle and property damage, injuries, and, in some very unfortunate instances, fatalities.
At Chain | Cohn | Clark, we are here to make sure you’re well-informed about car accidents in California, know what to do if you are in a car accident, and understand how our experienced California car accident lawyers can help you through the process of seeking compensation if you’ve been injured due to another driver’s negligence.
California car accident statistics are staggering.
A 2022 study by QuoteWizard analyzed data for speeding tickets, other citations, accidents, and driving-under-the-influence (DUI) incidents to rank drivers in the seventy largest cities in the US. Of the ten cities with the country’s worst drivers, eight were in California—and the city with the worst drivers in America was Bakersfield. Not only that, the top five cities in the nation for DUIs were all in California.
So it’s no surprise that, according to the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), there were 269,031 injuries and 3,737 fatalities in car crashes in California in 2019.
Although these statistics are alarming, there are a few simple steps you can take to dramatically lower your risk of being injured or killed in a car accident.
This list of safe-driving practices isn’t exhaustive, but it does highlight the practices that are most critical to preventing serious harm to you and your family on the road.
The most common car accident causes in California align with many of the safe-driving practices covered above:
Some driving practices (in addition to speeding) are often a factor in car accidents:
Last, some car accident causes are unrelated to the driver:
Car accidents are typically categorized by collision type. NHTSA statistics show that just seven types of collisions account for more than 98% of all car accidents in the US. The seven types from most to least frequent are:
According to the same NHTSA accident statistics, rear-end and side-impact collisions account for half of all car crashes in the US. The two types of collisions that don’t involve two cars—collisions with fixed objects and collisions with objects that are not fixed—are responsible for 53% of all car accident fatalities. And although head-on collisions and rollovers are relatively rare (3.7% of all accidents), they’re particularly deadly, resulting in 17.7% of crash-related deaths.
Millions of injuries result from car accidents every year in the US. Some car-crash injuries are easily treated and heal within days or a few weeks, but many are more severe, resulting in months, years, or even a lifetime of rehab, disability, and/or supportive care. In addition to the physical toll accidents can take on the body, there’s often a psychological toll as well.
Physical and emotional injuries, in turn, translate into a financial burden—paying for doctor and hospital bills, rehab, and counseling; losing wages because you’re unable to work; or perhaps dealing with permanent disability.
If you or a loved one is injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by someone else, contact a California car accident attorney to discuss compensation for the costs you’ve incurred and your physical and emotional pain and suffering.
Concerned you might not be able to afford a lawyer? Don’t be. The California auto-accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Clark work on a contingency basis. This means you don’t pay anything up front; your lawyer’s fee is paid out of the settlement or trial award they win for you.
There’s a long list of injuries that can occur in a car accident, but some of the most common injuries include:
If you’re injured in a car accident, it’s important to get a full medical examination as soon as possible.
First, not all injuries are apparent after an accident. For example, if you experience whiplash, your neck may feel fine immediately after the crash but be very sore the next day. Or, you may not realize you have internal bleeding, but it can be life-threatening if it’s not treated promptly.
Second, getting a medical evaluation right away after an accident begins the chain of evidence you may need to prove that the accident caused your injuries and you therefore deserve compensation.
It’s important to know what to do after a car accident for three reasons:
Should you move your car after an accident? Or is it illegal to move your car after an accident?
Actually, California law indicates that, if possible, you should move your car out of traffic to a safe location after an accident.
What’s illegal to do is to leave the scene of a crash, especially if someone has been injured or killed. You can be fined and/or jailed for fleeing the scene of a car accident.
Here are a few other steps you should take:
California law requires you to report car accidents under certain conditions:
Getting the name and address and insurance information for the other driver involved in a car crash is only the beginning of collecting the information and evidence you need to support an insurance claim—or, if you’re not offered an adequate insurance settlement, a lawsuit.
You should also:
If you or your passengers were injured in a crash, it’s a good idea to talk to a California car accident lawyer as soon as you can. Your lawyer can investigate the crash, help you collect evidence, help with reporting requirements, negotiate with the insurance company, and, if necessary, bring your case to trial.
The simplest way to know if you have a car accident case is to reach out to a California car accident attorney for a free consultation.
In most instances, a car accident lawyer will tell you that if there were no injuries or fatalities in the accident, the settlement offered by the insurance company should cover the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle—the value of property damage is quite straightforward. However, you may still want legal representation if the insurance company claims you were at fault when you weren’t.
If there were injuries or fatalities in the accident, the associated costs are much more difficult to estimate, and it’s much harder to get a fair settlement without the help of a car accident lawyer.
Does it matter who’s at fault in a car accident in California? Yes, it does matter. But there’s a bit more to the picture.
California is an at-fault state. This means that under California law, the party that causes an accident is liable (or legally responsible) for any property damage, injuries, or deaths that result from the accident. In this regard, it very much matters who’s at fault in an accident.
However, California applies a legal doctrine called pure comparative fault. Under pure comparative fault rules, multiple parties can be held responsible for an accident. The insurance company (or in the case of a lawsuit, the judge or jury) determines how much fault each party involved in an accident bears. This degree of fault is determined as a percentage. You can only collect damages based on the percentage of the blame that doesn’t rest on you.
In other words, if a jury says the other driver was 100% at fault in the accident, you can collect the full amount of any damages awarded. But if you were partly to blame—say, 30% at fault—then you can only collect 70% of the damages awarded.
The types of compensation available for car accident claims include:
State laws specify the time limits, or statute of limitations, within which you need to file various kinds of claims after an accident. This applies both to insurance claims and civil lawsuits.
In California, there are three time limits that you need to be aware of:
If you or a family member have been injured in a car accident that someone else caused, the Bakersfield car accident attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Clark can help you through this difficult and often bewildering time. Contact us today for a free consultation.
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