If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident you probably have many questions. Can I recover compensation for my injuries? Who can be held liable? Will I have to pay anything, even if I was less responsible than another driver?
The Los Angeles car accident attorneys at Citywide Law Group are here to answer your questions. We can help to get you the compensation you need to recover from your accident-related injuries. Our attorneys have helped injured clients recover millions in damages. Contact us today to learn about how we may be able to help you. We offer a free consultation and only get paid if you win.
Car Accidents in Los Angeles
According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, more than 75,683 victims were injured or killed in Los Angeles County car accidents in 2014. 6,815 accidents involved alcohol, 3,784 involved motorcycles, 5,352 involved pedestrians, and 4,416 involved bicyclists. With over 217 Million miles driven along Los Angeles County roads each day, accidents are bound to happen.
As the economy continues to improve Los Angeles roads are becoming more congested. No one expects to get into car accident when commuting to work or just going out to enjoy Los Angeles’ beautiful scenery. But, each year thousands of drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists in Los Angeles will be involved – and injured – in a car accident.
How Long Do I Have To File a Car Accident Claim?
In California, the general rule is that you have two-years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury claim against the negligent party (California CCP § 335.1). It can take your attorney several months to properly investigate your accident. Therefore, it’s usually in your best interest to speak with a Los Angeles personal injury attorney immediately following your accident.
Why Should I Retain a Personal Injury Attorney?
You Deserve Compensation For Your Injuries
The costs associated with recovering from a car accident are striking. While the severity of injuries sustained in car accidents is actually declining, the costs associated with recovering from these injuries is increasing. In fact, according to a study by the Insurance Research Council, these costs are actually increasing “faster than the rate of inflation.”
Just how much are car accidents costing victims? A 2014 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that automobile accidents in the United States cost nearly $1 Trillion in “loss of productivity and loss of life” in 2010.
A study by ISO, a Verisk Analytics Company, helped to break down these costs even more. According to the study, the average claim for property damage after a car accident was $3,231 in 2013. The average claim for bodily injury after a car accident was $15,443 in 2013.
What does this all mean? If you are injured in a car accident you should expect to incur some serious costs during your recovery.
At Citywide Law Group, our attorneys are here to help injured clients recover the compensation they deserve. Don’t rely on the at-fault party’s insurance company to pay your claim in full. Insurance companies don’t rake in millions of dollars a year in profit by paying each and every claim that is submitted. Instead, insurance companies will try every trick in the book to make sure that they pay out at as little as possible to injured car accident victims.
The attorneys at Citywide Law Group have over 17 years of experience dealing with these insurance companies. These years of experience have helped us to understand how these insurance companies operate. We use this experience and knowledge to stay one step ahead and fight the insurance companies at every turn. Calling an experienced Los Angeles car crash attorney for help can ensure that an insurance company does not deny or underpay your claim.
How Our Personal Injury Attorneys Will Help You
The process of filing a successful claim for damages after a car accident can be complicated. Our legal team has the tools necessary to navigate this process successfully. Here are a few of the steps we will take when pursuing a claim for damages for an injured car accident victim:
- Investigate the crash that caused your injuries;
- Review police reports and interview eyewitnesses;
- Consult experts, including accident scene recreationists;
- Determine fault and liability;
- Communicate and negotiate with insurance companies and involved parties;
- Research legal precedent and related cases;
- File forms and paperwork within the applicable California statute of limitations; and
- Draft persuasive legal arguments with facts that highlight the reason(s) why you should be compensated for your injuries.
Establishing Fault After a Car Accident
Exercising Reasonable Care
In California, personal injury claims after a car accident are generally pursued on the legal theory of negligence.
California law requires drivers to operate a vehicle with the standard of reasonable care. A driver operates a vehicle with reasonable care when he or she remains aware and alert for pedestrians, obstacles and other vehicles and control the speed and movement of the vehicle. Failure to exercise reasonable care is negligence.
Did you know that you may be entitled to recover compensation for injuries you sustain in an accident even if you were partly to blame? California follows the theory of pure comparative negligence. Pure comparative negligence means that you can be held responsible if you are partly responsible for an accident.
For example, let’s say you are injured in a car accident. At the time of the accident the other driver sped through a stop sign. If you were obeying all traffic laws, the other driver may be held 100% responsible. Another example is a rear-end collision. In those cases, the driver that rear-ended the car in front is usually 100% liable for damages. If, on the other hand, you were texting at the time of the accident, you may also be held responsible.
If it is determined that you were 20% to blame for the accident then the amount you would be able to recover would be reduced by 20%. So, if you had $100,000 in medical bills and property damage, the most you would be able to recover would be $80,000. Since you were 20% to blame, other driver would also be able to file a claim against you for 20% of his or her damages.
Using a Police Report to Establish Liability
Police reports – also known as traffic collision reports – are a great tool for car accident victims. These reports document the facts and circumstances of a crash and capture details that would be difficult – or impossible – to recover down the line. If you are involved in a car accident one of the first things you should do is to contact the police and request a police report. Here are a few of the things a police report will document, which can be incredibly helpful when pursuing damages from an at-fault driver.
- The time and date of the accident;
- Parties involved in the accident;
- Specific location of the accident;
- Weather conditions at the time of the accident;
- Road conditions at the time of the accident;
- Traffic conditions at the time of the accident;
- Vehicle information, including visible damage;
- Witness information;
- Preliminary information about injuries sustained in the crash;
- Statements of involved parties and witnesses;
- Expert opinions about the cause of the accident; and
- Photographic evidence, if the crash was especially severe.
Liability After a Car Crash
More than one party may be liable after a crash. These may include:
- The driver(s) involved in the accident;
- Vehicle manufacturers; and
- Government entities responsible for the maintenance and safety of Los Angeles thoroughfares.
Compensation For Car Accident Victims
Sources of Compensation After a Car Accident
If you are injured in a car accident by a driver who is insured, chances are any claims will flow through their insurance company. These companies may act in two primary roles:
- First, they may defend their insured driver.
- Second, they may pay for damage caused by their insured driver.
Insurance companies may choose to voluntarily pay a claim (in full or in part) or may be forced to do so by a court.
Company Self-Insured Policies
If you want to recover money directly from an employer or company, any compensation you receive may come from an internal self-insurance policy. Many companies reserve money for legal issues like personal injury claims. This allows them to avoid tapping into expensive insurance policies.
If an at-fault driver does not have insurance you may be forced to file a claim against that driver. You may also want to file a claim against the driver if the cost of your injuries exceeds his or her insurance policy limits. If the driver does not have the money to cover your injuries, a court may instruct a driver to sell assets and personal property.
If you are injured in an accident the last thing you probably want to do is figure out which potential sources of compensation are available. The attorneys at Citywide Law Group have over 17 years of experience determining liability and determining potential sources of compensation.
Types of Damages Car Accident Victims May Recover
Damages for personal injury claims are generally broken down into two categories: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are awarded to put victims back in the place they would have been in had they not been injured. Economic damages are awarded to compensation for calculable out-of-pocket costs, which often include:
- Medical expenses;
- Personal property damage; and
- Lost wages.
Non-economic damages are awarded for injuries that are more difficult to assign an objective monetary value. Common non-economic damages awarded after a car accident include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Mental anguish;
- Loss of enjoyment of life; and
- Loss of consortium.
The amount of damages that you may recover depends on the extent of your injuries and the circumstances surrounding the accident. If you were partly at-fault for the accident the amount(s) you may be able to recover may be decreased. The attorneys at Citywide Law Group can explain which costs you may be able to recover through a personal injury claim.
Limits on Recovery If You Don’t Have Car Insurance Coverage
In California, car accident victims may not recover non-economic damages if they do not carry liability insurance. This means that motorists who operate a vehicle without valid car insurance are doing so at their own risk of personal safety.
If you do not carry insurance, you may not recover compensation for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, or loss of consortium. Economic damages, though, are still fully recoverable, despite a victim’s lack of liability insurance.
Common Car Accident Injuries
The severity of car accident injuries is declining – thanks, in part, to safer vehicles. However, this is not to say that severe, life-altering, and/or fatal injuries can’t happen.
In 2014, 639 victims suffered fatal injuries in a Los Angeles County car crash. We have helped clients recover compensation for injuries that include:
- Lacerations and contusions;
- Broken bones and fractures;
- Traumatic brain injury;
- Internal organ damage;
- Internal bleeding;
- Loss of limb(s); and
It is incredibly important to seek a full medical evaluation after a car crash, even if you do not believe you were hurt. Undiagnosed internal injuries can be life-threatening if left untreated. If an internal injury manifests at a later date, complications may cause the cost of treatment to skyrocket.
Causes of Auto Crashes in Los Angeles
Who (or what) is to blame after a Los Angeles auto accident?
Research shows that there are four main factors that contribute to car accidents: equipment failure, roadway design, poorly maintained roads, and driver behavior. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association shows that drivers generally cause 94% of car accidents. The remaining 6% of fault can be attributed to the vehicle itself, environmental factors, and other unknown conditions.
Equipment Failure. Equipment failure generally accounts for 5% of car accidents. Examples of equipment failure may include:
- Brake failure;
- Worn-out, uneven, or under-inflated tires; or
- Faulty suspension.
Roadway Design. The roads we drive on are expertly engineered to limit the number of car accidents and crashes that occur. Car accidents are generally not caused by permanent design features. These include traffic lights, guardrails, or utility poles. Instead, car accidents are more likely to result from temporary changes in roadway design. These may include:
- Poor visibility for construction zones;
- Changes in roadway surfaces; or
- Traffic and congestion.
Roadway Maintenance. Poorly maintained roads are, many times, a contributing factor to car accidents. Examples of poorly maintained roadways may include:
- Litter and debris;
- Cracked or uneven pavement;
- Faded traffic signs; or
- Overgrown trees.
Driver Behavior. 94% of all accidents can be attributed to driver behavior – oftentimes in conjunction with a number of other factors. Examples of driver behavior that may contribute to car accidents include:
- Improper or illegal turning;
- Failing to use turning signals;
- Failing to yield; or
- Poor assumptions about other driver behavior.
Distracted Driving in Los Angeles
Distracted driving is a rising cause of automobile crashes across the United States and in California. Data from the National Highway Safety Association indicates that distracted driving caused 10% of all fatal crashes and 18% of all injury-causing accidents in 2013. Cell phone and mobile device use have also drastically increased distracted driving practices. A study by AAA found that nearly 40% of California drivers surveyed openly admitted to using a mobile device to text or check email while driving.
Statistics on Causes of Los Angeles Accidents
The California Office of Traffic Safety collects data about the causes of California motor vehicle crashes. The most recent data for Los Angeles County indicated speeding, nighttime, hit and run, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs were the most common causes of collisions.
In 2014, alcohol was a factor in 6,815 accidents and speed was a factor in 14,495 accidents. That same year, 7,204 accidents happened between the hours of 9:00 pm and 3:00 am and another 6,816 were the result of a hit and run collision.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident
If you have been in a auto crash it is important to remember a few simple steps. These will ensure that you are physically safe and will help to preserve valuable evidence for your potential claim for damages.
- Don’t Panic. Car accidents can be scary, so it is perfectly fine to take a few moments to gather yourself and try to understand the situation. Take a deep breath and prioritize the following steps.
- Move to a Safe Location. If your accident occurred in a high-traffic area you should move away from the scene of the accident. Many times, drivers approaching the crash are unaware of the hazard. This can result in a domino effect and cause additional crashes. Moving to a safe area can ensure that you do not sustain any further injuries.
- Request Medical Assistance. It is important to request a medical evaluation even if you do not believe that you were harmed in the crash. Injuries may not present themselves immediately. However, a medical professional can help to ensure that there are no internal injuries that could pose a serious threat to your health. Documenting your injuries is also an important step in collecting evidence for your potential claim for damages.
- Contact the Police and Report the Incident. A police report that documents the details of your accident can be invaluable when you decide to pursue damages from an at-fault party.
- Collect Information. If it is safe to do so, begin to gather information that may be important for your future claim for damages. Take pictures of the accident from various angles, ask witnesses for their information, and document the insurance and driver’s license information of the other driver(s).
- Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney. An attorney can be an invaluable asset if you’ve been in a car accident in Los Angeles. Don’t try to fight insurance companies on your own. Instead, let an attorney handle the legal process while you focus on recovering. You are more likely to recover a more substantial settlement or award if you enlist the assistance of an attorney.
Contact An Experienced Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney Today
If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to recover compensation from the at-fault party. The time following an accident can be incredibly stressful. An attorney can be a great source of information and comfort as you struggle to recover.
Insurance companies will likely want to settle a claim directly with an accident victim. This will increase the likelihood that they are able to avoid paying a fair and reasonable settlement amount. At Citywide Law Group, our experienced Los Angeles car accident attorneys will help you fight to recover the maximum amount of compensation to which you are entitled. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn more about how we may be able to help you.
Blog for Car Accidents
- California Code of Civil Procedure 335.1
- California Traffic Safety Info
- Car Accident Do’s and Don’ts
- Statute of Limitations Info Provided by the California Courts
- What To Do After a Car Accident
Sherwin Arzani and his team have over 17 years of combined experience successfully representing those injured due to the negligence of a third party. Mr. Arzani graduated from top ranked University of Michigan School of Law and has achieved several million dollar settlements for his clients.
Sherwin was recently chosen as a SuperLawyer, is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Form, and was recognized as one of the “Top Attorneys in Southern California” by Los Angeles Magazine.