It’s never easy to have to deal with the aftermath of an unexpected accident. Financial expenses can build up in the days, weeks, and months after a crash. In California, you’re entitled to compensation if someone else is at least partially responsible for causing your injuries. However, there will need to be a determination of fault before you can recover the money you deserve.
Many factors will be considered as fault is determined in your personal injury case. It’s important that you work with an experienced attorney throughout the process. At Citywide Law Group, our team has more than 17 years of experience handling complex injury cases. We know how to investigate your case and gather the evidence that’s necessary to get you the money you need. Call Los Angeles personal injury attorney Sherwin Arzani today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.
Negligence in Los Angeles Traffic Accidents
What exactly does it mean to be “at fault” for a Los Angles traffic accident? Fault simply means that you made a mistake and are responsible for what happened. Negligence is a leading cause of traffic accidents in Los Angeles. The person (or people) who were negligent will likely be at fault for a crash.
Negligence occurs when someone has and breaches a duty of care that’s owed to another person. You can recover compensation if that negligence caused you to suffer an injury. Negligence can involve actively doing something (e.g., speeding) or failing to do something (e.g., failing to wear a seat belt).
Examples of negligent conduct that frequently causes accidents in Los Angeles include:
- Changing lanes without signaling
- Driving with broken tail lights
- Texting or talking on the phone
- Making illegal or unsafe turns
- Racing through an intersection to beat a red light, and
- Drinking and driving.
Engaging in any of these behaviors can put others on the road in harm’s way. If these negligent behaviors cause an accident, a driver will share at least some of the fault.
Using Police Reports to Establish Fault
Police reports can be invaluable as you pursue compensation after an accident. While the report itself may not be admissible as evidence in court, it will contain important details about your case. Many of these details can be used to determine:
- What caused the accident, and
- Who is at fault.
It’s important to call the police to report your accident as soon as you can. An officer will be dispatched to the scene to conduct a preliminary investigation. The officer will interview everyone involved in the accident, take eyewitness statements, and visually examine the scene of the accident.
The results of this investigation, as well as any other information that may be relevant to your case, will be documented in a formal police report.
Details that are typically included in a police report include:
- Time, date, and location of the accident
- Names, contact information, and insurance details for all parties involved
- Weather, road, and traffic conditions
- Names and contact information for witnesses
- Descriptions of property damage and injuries
- Sketches of the accident, and
- Preliminary determinations of fault.
That’s right. Police officers sometimes include a preliminary determination of fault, based on the information that’s gathered right after the accident. This opinion is not always correct. More detailed investigations down the line can uncover evidence that presents the accident in a different light.
Relying on Eye-Witness Reports and Statements
Third party witnesses can play a critical role in determining fault for a Los Angeles car accident. A third party is someone who was not involved in the accident. Instead, they happened to be a bystander when the accident occurred. Third party witnesses are preferable because they have no stake in the outcome of an investigation. They’re unbiased and simply offer a neutral perspective about what happened.
When liability and fault aren’t quite clear, the statements offered by an eyewitness can be quite helpful. Witnesses can offer a unique perspective and even provide details that the investigating officer missed. These witness statements can be used in conjunction with police reports and other investigative tools to paint a picture and really understand why an accident happened. The more witnesses there are, the clearer the picture becomes.
Are witness statements always reliable? No. Witnesses can forget details over time or remember things incorrectly. It’s important to track down anyone who may have witnessed your accident as soon as you can. The longer you wait to interview a witness after an accident, the less reliable their input becomes.
Insurance is the primary source of compensation after an accident. Insurance companies will be hesitant to approve your claim and pay you the money you deserve. They’ll do whatever they can to limit or deny your claim. This often includes launching a thorough investigation of the accident. Even if they can’t prove that their insured client is not responsible, they may be able to prove that you share some of the blame. This can harm your ability to recover the money you deserve.
It’s important to make sure that insurance companies aren’t the only ones investigating your accident. You’ll want to make sure that your side of the story is also investigated. Many times, this will involve working with a variety of experts. At Citywide Law Group, our attorneys have developed strong professional relationships with some of the best experts in Los Angeles, including:
- Accident recreation specialist
- Doctors and other medical professionals
- Accountants and financial experts
- Physics and weather experts
- Rehabilitation experts
- Mental health professionals, and
As we investigate your case, these professionals can provide invaluable insight and information about the cause of your accident. Determining what caused the accident is the first step in figuring out who is at fault.
Comparative Fault in Los Angeles Traffic Accidents
California law follows the legal theory of comparative negligence. Comparative negligence means:
- More than one person can be liable for an accident, and
- You’re not barred from recovering compensation if you share some of the blame.
Accidents are rarely cut and dry or black and white. Many factors can contribute to a crash. Anyone who contributes to an accident or injury can be financially responsible for any harm that results. Fault is simply divided between everyone who shares blame for an accident. The more your actions contribute to an accident or injury, the more you’ll be responsible for damages.
Example: You’re involved in a motorcycle accident at a Los Angeles intersection. Drivers of two other vehicles are involved. It’s determined that both of those drivers share responsibility for the accident and your injuries. Driver A is 30 percent to blame, while Driver B is 70 percent at fault. You can recover 30 percent of your damages from Driver A and 70 percent of your damages from Driver B.
What If I’m Partly Responsible For an Accident?
You’re not automatically prohibited from recovering compensation if you contribute to your own accident or injuries. Your claim can be successful as long as someone else also contributed to the accident. However, you won’t be able to recover all of your accident-related damages. Those will be reduced to the degree to which you are responsible for your own injuries.
Example: You’re injured in a Los Angeles truck accident and suffer $100,000 in damages. You were texting at the time of the accident, so you are attributed 25 percent of the blame for the crash. The truck driver shares the rest of the responsibility for the accident. You will only be able to recover $75,000 in damages from that driver. ($100,000 damages reduced by 25 percent fault.)
Maximize Your Compensation By Calling Citywide Law Group
You can pursue compensation on your own after an accident. However, you risk not getting all of the money you need and deserve. Insurance companies and others involved in your accident will do everything they can to minimize your payout. They’ll even try to blame you for your own injuries. The best thing you can do is hire an attorney with experience investigating and handling complex injury cases.
At Citywide Law Group, our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers and Los Angeles car accident attorneys are prepared to help you fight for the money you deserve after an accident. Our goal is to make sure that you are fairly compensated for your injuries. Determining and proving fault for your accident is critical in this process. We have the experience and resources needed to make your case a success. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.