Police chases can be extremely dangerous for bystanders and others on the road. This is true even if the pursuit only lasts for a few minutes. Earlier this week, police attempted to stop a pickup truck that they believed to have been stolen. The woman driving the truck ignored instructions to pull over and sped through a red light to get away. As a result, she crashed into one car, rolled the pickup truck, and landed on top of another vehicle. At least four people, including the getaway driver and her passenger, sustained injuries in the crash. The accident victims who suffered property damage and/or bodily injuries are likely weighing their legal options.
Negligence Per Se
Who can the accident victims hold responsible for the damages they have suffered because of the crash? Most personal injury cases are based on negligence. Negligence occurs when a person has a duty to act in a certain way and fails to carry out this obligation. When a person gets behind the wheel of a car they assume a duty to follow the law and drive with caution. Trying to evade police and speeding through a red light are clear violations of this legal obligation.
Since the getaway driver broke the law her victims may have an easier road to recovery. Her conduct will likely be considered negligent per se. Negligence per se basically means that the conduct is considered to be negligent simply because it violates the law. In traditional negligence cases, victims have to establish that:
- A defendant had a specific duty of care,
- The defendant breached this duty of care, and
- The breach caused them to suffer an injury.
When a defendant is negligent per se, victims don’t have to establish and prove the first two elements. Instead, the victim just has to show that the defendant violated the law and that this violation was a substantial cause of their injury. In other words, the injury would not have occurred if the defendant had not broken the law.
Damages for Car Accident Injuries
Car accident victims can be entitled to recover compensation for the physical property damage and bodily injuries they sustain during an accident. These damages are generally broken down into two categories: economic and non-economic.
Car accidents can be incredibly expensive. In fact, the average cost of a car accident is nearly $20,000 ($3,500 for property damage and $15,500 for personal injury claims). Economic damages are awarded to compensate victims for the financial costs of an accident. In other words, economic damages help to put victims back in the financial situation they would have been in if the accident had never happened. Economic damages are frequently awarded to compensate victims for:
- Property damage
- Medical bills
- Lost wages, and
- A reduced earning capacity.
Accidents can also impose serious physical, emotional, and psychological harms that may not necessarily have a direct financial cost. Non-economic damages are awarded to help victims cope with hard-to-value injuries including:
- Emotional distress, and
- Pain and suffering.
Statute of Limitations Can be Tolled if the Driver is Incarcerated
In most cases, California accident victims who suffer a bodily injury have a period of two years to file a personal injury claim for damages. If they do not file a claim before the statute of limitations expires they will not be able to get the money they need. However, the statute of limitations can be tolled when certain extenuating circumstances exist. Tolling basically means that the statute of limitations is paused temporarily until that circumstance no longer exists. Tolling factors that may extend the statute of limitations include:
- Victim was under the age of 18 at the time of the accident,
- The victim did not discover an accident-related injury right away, and
- The defendant cannot be found or is incarcerated.
If the getaway driver is charged and convicted for evading police she may spend time behind bars. Her victims will not be held to the strict statute of limitations. Instead, their cases can be suspended until the driver is released from prison and available for legal proceedings. If California did not allow the statute of limitation to be tolled it would only harm the victims.
The best thing to do if you have been injured in a Los Angeles accident is to contact a qualified personal injury lawyer. At Citywide Law Group, our attorneys understand that an unexpected injury can be devastating. We will fight to make sure that you are properly compensated for those injuries. Call today to set up a free consultation with our skilled legal team.