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Do I Need a Car Accident Attorney in California?
When it comes to car accidents in California, it’s almost always a good idea to get a personal injury attorney. It is commonly thought that a lawyer is not needed if the accident is minor and does not cause injury. But even a fender bender that seems insignificant can turn into a major headache without a car accident attorney.
It is estimated that speeding alone led to over 10 thousand fatalities in the United States in 2016. In 2021, 2.5 million Americans suffered injuries from car accidents all over the country. A California personal injury attorney can help you navigate the legal mess that can be an unavoidable outcome of an accident.
Under California law, a car accident case involving speeding would be an easy case to show where negligence is indicated. California is an at-fault state, meaning whoever is at fault in a car accident bears most of the burden of responsibility if not all of it. If you don’t know this, you may try to negotiate your insurance claims. Doing this can quickly become a nightmare.
After an accident, you’ll have to deal with the police, your insurance company, maybe someone else’s insurance company, and the medical field. Sound daunting? It is! Dealing with these problems is what an experienced accident attorney can do for you. Contact a California personal injury attorney as soon as you can after a car accident.
Car Accident Statistics in California
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) reported 216,366 traffic accidents in 2022 that resulted in 3,854 deaths and 165,978 injuries.
On a National stance, the National Safety Council (NSC) reported that roads became less safe in 2021 due to a number of factors, including more fatal crashes where people weren’t wearing seat belts, speeding, or drunk. About 46,980 people died in motor-vehicle crashes in 2021. Compared to 42,338 in 2020 and 39,107 fatalities in 2019, this number is a huge leap.
Total motor-vehicle deaths in 2022 are estimated at 46,270, down 2% from 46,980 in 2021 but up 9% from 42,339 in 2020. The mileage in 2022 increased by 0.9% over 2021 and by 9.2% over 2020. In 2022, mileage death rates were estimated to be 1.46 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, down 2.7% from 2021 and stable from 2020.
A total of 5.4 million people were treated for motor vehicle injuries in 2021, and $498.3 billion was estimated to be the cost of motor vehicle injuries. Wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative costs, motor vehicle property damage, and employer costs are included in these costs.
Do You Have a Car Accident Case?
The first thing a car accident lawyer does is determine whether or not you have a case against the other driver. Injury caused by a car accident does not necessarily entitle you to sue. You may have legal recourse if the other party caused your accident deliberately or carelessly. Often, in accidents involving multiple vehicles, it is unclear what caused them.
In the event of a car accident, you may wonder if you can recover damages. You must meet the following two criteria in order to be eligible for a claim:
- Another party’s negligence contributed at least a fraction to the accident
- A car crash left you or a loved one seriously injured
Whether you qualify for compensation after a car accident is a question that we can help you answer. When there are complicated circumstances involved in an accident, a lawyer may consult with accident reconstruction professionals or investigators to understand the circumstances.
Reasons You Might Need a Personal Injury Lawyer After a Car Accident
Few reasons in life make it exciting to call an attorney, and a car accident isn’t usually one of them. Closing a home or a big-money deal, marriage, and other exciting life events make calling an attorney easy. Immediately after a car accident, you are likely feeling many emotions, including anxiety and possibly suffering from pain. Now is not the time to make your life more challenging by handling your case all by yourself.
There are a few reasons not to call a personal injury attorney.
- If the accident is small, with few, if any, personal injuries
- No person involved in the accident is contesting the circumstances of the accident. For example, a driver backs their vehicle into another in a parking lot at a slow speed. The drivers exchange insurance information, and the insurance companies settle the matter without further dispute.
When to get a lawyer after an auto accident
In almost all other cases of car accidents, you would be well-advised to, at the very least, consult with an attorney regarding your case. Sometimes, people can be nervous about contacting a lawyer for many reasons. But you should do so immediately if any of the following applies to your car accident:
- Severe injury that appears to be long-term, permanent, or life-threatening
- Multiple persons sustain any kind of injury, severe or otherwise
- A fatality
- Medical problems and costs that outweigh your insurance caps
- The fault of the accident is disputed by any party
- Your work-life and ability to earn is affected
- The accident happened in a construction zone
- You are emotionally traumatized – sometimes this is referred to as “pain and suffering”
- The insurance company is challenging to work with, or the compensation they are offering doesn’t seem right
Every item on the above list carries with it the potential for significant financial impact. After an accident, you should be focused squarely on your path to recovering from your injuries. Collecting all the information required to bring a claim can be an arduous and challenging process. It would be best left in the capable hands of an experienced California car accident lawyer.
Costs of a Car Accident
One of the reasons that a car accident is so traumatizing is the cost factor. It’s the first thing that starts spinning in your head after it happens. It can feel overwhelming.
You are already thinking about the costs. But you are also worried about the expenses that you don’t even know about yet. Some people might be worried that they can’t afford an attorney. Most of the time, personal injury attorney fees will come out of any settlement once the case is over. This method is often referred to as “working on contingency.” It also means that if you aren’t awarded any damages due to your claim, you do not owe anything. You do not need to worry about these costs upfront.
Every car accident is different. But here are some typical costs associated with car accident cases:
- Medical costs, today and down the road
- Lost work
- Loss of a vehicle
- Car repairs
- Insurance hikes
- Emotional trauma costs
- Possible funeral costs
There are several arrangements to be made right after a car accident. You may even be dealing with several insurance companies if a fatality arises. These are the costs that judges and juries look at when ruling on civil car accident cases.
Not many drivers are willing to step up and say it was their fault. But your attorney can help navigate the system that will ultimately determine who was at fault in the accident. The sooner that happens, the sooner you are on the way to recovering compensation for damages.
Typical Injuries Suffered in Car Accidents
In addition to ongoing expensive medical costs, physical discomfort, and emotional suffering are all common side effects of car accidents. It is also possible that victims could lose a substantial amount of income or may never be able to return to work.
Here is a list of common car accident injuries that may qualify you for damages from a car accident lawyer.
Stress-related or Emotional Injuries
The effects of emotional injuries after car accidents are just as severe as physical injuries. Apart from depression, it is possible to develop post-traumatic stress disorder after an accident due to the stress and anxiety caused by the trauma.
A life-threatening internal organ injury or internal bleeding can occur after a car accident. Getting hurt in a serious car accident can result in internal injuries that are invisible to the naked eye. A prompt medical evaluation can be vital.
Whiplash is one of the most common injuries sustained during a car accident due to sudden and harsh movements. Pain from a whiplash injury usually worsens with time. Like whiplash, concussion symptoms may not appear until a few days after a vehicle incident. Some concussions are minor, while others may severely impair brain function. Seek medical attention if you have memory loss, neck stiffness or pain, disorientation, or headaches following a vehicle collision.
Fractures, Bruises, and Nerve Damage
Car accidents often cause arm, hand, leg, and foot fractures, among other injuries. Although broken bones are not life-threatening, they can cause job absence and costly operations. Collision-related injuries can occur to muscles, ligaments, and nerves. Therapy for these injuries is expensive and painful.
Our car accident attorneys can assist you if you need legal help or advice about your medical bills, lost income, or other damages.
Determining Fault in a California Car Accident
California is an at-fault state. That means that legally speaking, the insurance company of the driver who is found at fault in a car accident will bear the burden of most if not all of the costs. Very few drivers are willing to take the burden of fault right away. You shouldn’t either until you’ve talked to a lawyer. Don’t get tied up in a knot if you think you were at fault. California is also a pure comparative negligence state.
That means that you can recover some damages if you are at fault, depending on how “at fault” you were. If you are found to be 50 percent responsible by the police, they may say at the time, “You’re both equally responsible, and that’s going in our report.” You can still recover damages in California because the accident wouldn’t have happened if the other driver wasn’t 50 percent responsible for it.
In this case, California’s pure comparative negligence rule stipulates you recover 50 percent of the damages. A California personal injury attorney may be able to help you build a case that shifts your level of fault in an accident. Determining fault in a car accident case is determined by California’s duty of care laws. The driver who failed the most in providing their duty of care on the roads will be named the driver at fault.
It may not happen on the day of the accident. Sometimes, California Highway Patrol puts an investigation unit on the situation to recreate the accident and assign fault. The party found to be negligent will have been negligent in providing their duty of care on the road. That could be anything from careless and reckless driving to drunk driving.
These are some of the most common duty of care breaches in California car accidents:
- Careless driving, such as failing to check a blind spot
- Going through a red light
- Texting and driving
- Drinking and driving
- Distracted driving, such as talking on the phone when driving
- Road rage
Duty of Care in California Car Accidents
Duty of care in California car accidents involves determining which driver paid the least duty of care to lead to the accident. California is an at-fault state in car accidents. Dissecting the duty of care in a car accident investigation solves the case.
The legal standard for duty of care in California is found in CACI No. 700, Basic Standard of Care, Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions:
“A person must use reasonable care in driving a vehicle. Drivers must keep a lookout for pedestrians, obstacles, and other vehicles. They must also control the speed and movement of their vehicles. The failure to use reasonable care in driving a vehicle is negligence.”
This standard is what a judge and jury will use when looking at a California car accident case. To avoid being found at fault or negligent, remember the following:
- Check your blind spot
- Don’t speed
- Don’t text and drive
- Don’t drink and drive
It’s that easy.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident
Unless the accident is relatively minor, the first thing you should do after a car accident is to call 911 to report the accident and anyone who may need immediate medical attention. Aside from determining if anyone is hurt, it would be best to interact with others at the accident scene as little as possible.
After you report the accident and wait for the authorities to arrive, exchange information if it is safe to do so. Don’t say anything about fault at this time, and don’t take any money or offers of money. Only exchange phone numbers and insurance information with the other driver or drivers if there is more than one.
Take pictures of the accident and vehicle damage. It’s a good idea to write down your recollection of the accident as soon as possible. Document everything you can as early as possible. Keep every medical receipt and exchange that you can.
If you are being charged for a band-aid, keep the documentation. As soon as you can, write down everything EMTs or medical personnel tell you. Don’t downplay your injuries, but don’t dramatize them either. If you can, call a personal injury attorney as soon as it is safe to do so.
What Should You Say When An Insurance Company Calls?
Following a car accident, expect the defendant’s insurer to call, but be careful. Insurers often mislead injured people and their families about their compensation rights. They might ask tricky questions and turn the narrative upside down. And so, do not answer any questions from the defendant’s insurance company’s claims adjuster.
If your remarks are misinterpreted as implying that you caused the accident and your injuries are not severe, you might be considered at fault, even partly. You may also be pressured to settle for less than you deserve.
Instead, immediately contact the team led by Arash Khorsandi, Esq. at Arash Law. We have knowledgeable auto accident lawyers who can contact the insurance company directly. As advocates for car accident victims, we are here to protect your rights and defend you from shady insurance practices.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Me?
As you can see, determining who is at fault is the most critical component of a California car accident claim. A California personal injury attorney can help you in several ways. They will collect reports and other evidence from the police and medical care providers. They will also work with other drivers and their insurance companies so that you don’t have to. Their job is to advocate for you in every way. They will fight for your medical future, your health, career, finances, and insurance rates.
Do you need one? If you are wondering, then you probably do. A minor fender bender will not keep you up at night the same way the possibility of losing a limb or family member will. Use this line of thinking when you are wondering whether or not to call a lawyer. Be very careful with everyone you deal with before you call one. There are a few necessary steps to take after a car accident to maintain a strong claim or defense in a car accident case.
Best believe that insurance providers have a team of people trained to counter your claims. In the first place, these insurance companies do not have your best interest at heart. Even if it means paying you the bare minimum, they will do whatever they can to protect their interests.
You can ensure fair play when it comes to car accident cases by hiring experienced car accident attorneys. They can begin collecting evidence as soon as they learn that negligent acts caused your damages.
The process of which includes the following:
- Getting the police report from your accident
- Recreating and/or analyzing the scene of the accident
- Speaking with witnesses to determine what happened
- Evaluating and calculating your total damages
- Representing you to other parties
Handling interaction with large insurance companies alone is not advised at all. If you’ve suffered losses due to a car accident, you should have a competent lawyer by your side who can help you understand your legal rights, determine your losses’ compensation, and explore all your options.
You can trust your car accident attorney to act in your best interest if the insurance company attempts to pressure you into settling for less than you deserve. They can represent your interests as well as negotiate with the insurance adjuster.
5 Impressive Advantages Of Hiring A California Auto Accident Lawyer
- They have extensive legal knowledge.
The main benefit of having a good attorney to have your back is that they can guide and support you throughout the legal process. Additionally, accident attorneys can evaluate your claim and advise you on how to proceed based on the elements they gathered. Hence, you feel more confident dealing with the legal system if you have a car accident lawyer on your side.
- They can negotiate with insurance companies.
Avoid the costly mistake of going against big insurance companies on your own. If you hire a lawyer to represent you in settlement negotiations, you will have a better chance of receiving just compensation. When you hire a lawyer, you can be sure that you will receive the highest settlement amount by evaluating the value of your claim.
- They can assist with medical treatment and other fees related to the accident.
Besides helping you recover the costs of medical treatment and lost income, an attorney can assist you with medical treatment. Various traumas, like several types of brain injuries, including traumatic brain injuries and whiplash, can also affect your health and well-being without presenting immediate symptoms.
It’s often advisable to seek legal advice after a car accident, even if you don’t think you’ve been injured. Some injuries may not manifest immediately but may show up days, weeks, or months later.
- They can work with strict deadlines.
In California, personal injury claims arising from auto accidents have a statute of limitations of two years from the date of the accident. A competent lawyer will know how to work around these deadlines and procure all necessary documentation and evidence.
Filing a claim late may also complicate gathering evidence, locating witnesses, and negotiating with insurers. A claim must be filed within a certain time frame; otherwise, you will forfeit your right to claim compensation.
- They can refile denied claims and take your case to court.
Insurance companies may reject claims for a number of reasons, including a lack of supporting documentation, disagreements on responsibility, or disagreements about the amount. However, you can still receive compensation even if the original claim was denied.
By thoroughly examining your case, collecting additional evidence, and presenting legal arguments, your automobile accident attorney can help you obtain whatever settlement is available on your behalf. Furthermore, lawyers can represent you in court if the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement.
What Factors Should I Consider Before Hiring A Car Accident Lawyer in California?
Your car accident claim shouldn’t be handled by just any lawyer; you should pick someone who is knowledgeable, experienced, and easy to work with. In addition, you should be able to trust your lawyer to act in your best interests.
Observe the following signs when choosing the best lawyer to take your case or during the initial consultation:
- They handle many car accident cases as part of their personal injury practice.
- They have at least a decade of experience in personal injury law.
- They offer a free consultation no matter the day or place.
- They are focused on what you say and remember the details you provide.
- They understand the extent of your injury and the loss you have suffered.
- They have a genuine concern for your rights and health.
What Types of Compensation Can I Receive with The Help of A California Car Accident Attorney?
Each California car accident settlement is unique and depends on various factors, including the severity of injuries, property damage, liability, and insurance coverage.
A settlement can range from a few thousand dollars to millions of dollars. Your car accident lawyer can assist in estimating the value of your claim based on the damages, gathering evidence, and negotiating a fair settlement.
If you have been injured in an accident, you may be entitled to compensation for:
- Present and future medical costs
- Anxiety and depression
- An impairment
- Physical therapy costs
- Wrongful death damages
- Wages lost in the present and the future
- Repair reimbursement
- Pain and suffering
How Much Can You Get for Pain And Suffering from A Car Accident in California?
There is no limit to how much pain and suffering claimants can get in California. A judge or jury may award you a certain amount based on the severity of your suffering, the calculation method used, and how convinced they are of your condition.
Statute of Limitations for Filing A Car Accident Claim in California
There is a time limit within which you can file a lawsuit if you have been injured in an accident. This is the statute of limitations. California’s Code of Civil Procedure (CCP § 338) shows the timeframe for filing different claims. Specifically, under CCP § 335.1, a person who sustains an injury due to another person’s negligence or wrongful actions has two years to file a claim.
A delay in filing can lead to issues further down the line, and worst of all, not filing within the statute of limitations can void your claim. You can guarantee that an experienced car accident attorney that your claim is filed promptly and your legal rights are protected.
For instance, following a car accident, you must file a claim within two years if you sustain an injury, such as fractures, wounds, and whiplash, to name a few. Your lawsuit may allow you to recover medical expenses and other costs incurred, including loss of income, due to the accident.
What Happens in An Accident Settlement?
A settlement does not require a formal courtroom setting with lawyers. Nevertheless, the presence of attorneys speeds up the settlement process out of court. Alternatively, you can have your attorney represent you in court if you wish to pursue a trial. You can resolve disputes more effectively when aggressive lawyers represent you in court.
When both parties are equipped with the necessary information about the case and the law surrounding it, they consider various factors when making a decision. A few of these factors are:
- Expenses incurred by the parties during a trial
- How is a lawsuit likely to reach the verdict phase
- How a verdict would affect each party
Both parties consider the risk of going to trial or settlement, with advice from their respective lawyers. Settlements may be opted for if the parties find they will save money over a trial.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the typical fees for a personal injury attorney in California?
Contingency fee agreements prevent you from paying your attorney out of pocket. The lawyer receives a settlement or judgment payment if you win your case. However, you owe your lawyer nothing if you lose your case.
During your consultation, you will learn more about your lawyer’s contingency payment structure. The typical percentage request from the lawyer ranges from 30% to 45% of the settlement or judgment, depending on the complexity of your case.
What is the process for determining fault in a car accident in California?
An insurance adjuster speaks to the parties involved, reviews medical bills and records, and reviews the police report. The adjuster will determine who is responsible for the accident using all of this information.
The law of comparative negligence governs how California determines fault in a car accident. As a result, each driver’s responsibility level will be considered. The victim may be able to recover damages up to the extent of the other driver’s negligence.
What should I do if the insurance company is challenging to work with?
Consider hiring an attorney before talking to the insurance company. Once you submit a claim, the insurance company will use all its resources to reduce or deny payment. An experienced attorney is familiar with insurance companies’ strategies to deny valid claims so they can negotiate on your behalf.
How can a car accident attorney in California help me with my insurance claim?
Accidents can cause significant injuries that can take years to heal; in some cases, the victims never fully recover. The goal of a car accident lawyer is to assist victims in pursuing compensation for the damages caused by other drivers.
What is the process of working with a car accident attorney in California?
Discussion of options and calculations, signing, gathering evidence, demand letter, settlement negotiations, and, if necessary, court action are all part of the initial consultation process
Should I get a lawyer for a car accident that wasn’t my fault?
When you’ve been injured in a car accident that wasn’t your fault in California, getting an injury lawyer can help protect your rights and ensure you receive fair compensation for your damages.
Qualifications to Look for in A California Car Accident Lawyer
You can make your car accident settlement successful by taking immediate action after the accident and choosing the right car accident attorney.
The previous sections have discussed in depth what actions you must take immediately after an accident under California Law. The longer you delay making the decision, the greater your medical expenses and other damages, such as lost workdays.
Here are some strategies to enhance your likelihood of partnering with the ideal car accident attorney:
Choose an Attorney with Extensive Experience Handling Car Accidents
Specialized laws govern personal injury and property damage, making car accident and settlement expertise crucial for lawyers. While lawyers in fields like divorce or family law might lack this specific knowledge, car accident attorneys in California can help enhance your case’s relevance and strength. Choosing a specialized accident attorney boosts your chances of securing maximum compensation for injuries.
Find a Lawyer with a High Record of Settlements
Pick lawyers with a proven track record in securing maximum car accident settlements. An experienced car accident attorney can navigate complex cases, sizable settlements, and challenging at-fault parties using legal expertise. Their history of successful settlements not only assures you of their capability but also fosters trust in the attorney-client relationship.
Shortlist Lawyers with Litigation Experience
It’s essential to hire a car accident attorney with not only the expertise but also the backbone to stand up against insurers and pursue all legal avenues for just compensation. Insurers frequently take advantage of inexperienced lawyers, offering them lower settlements. A veteran attorney willing and prepared to file a lawsuit can compel insurers to present fair offers.
If necessary, they can persuade a jury in court. So, when shortlisting car accident attorneys, prioritize those with a track record of challenging unjust compensations and demonstrating unwavering resolve in the face of adversity.
Look Out for The Best Car Accident Attorneys California Has to Offer
Seek recommendations for car accident attorneys from friends, family, former colleagues, or community groups. Consider crowdsourcing suggestions on social media platforms. Pay attention to the reasons clients were satisfied or dissatisfied with their services.
After receiving referrals, conduct your own investigation. Explore the websites of potential attorneys to learn more about their credentials. If they have a news or publications section, see if the firm boasts any accolades or if the lawyers have authored relevant articles.
Another measure you can do is to look up some of the awards your prospective lawyers have garnered throughout the years. Such recognitions indicate the lawyer’s prominence and their commitment to staying informed on industry advancements. Additionally, an attorney needs both substantial financial backing and deep-rooted connections within the legal community to cultivate such collaboration.
Be wary of candidates offering guarantees that sound overly optimistic. A proficient lawyer will provide a balanced perspective, clarifying potential outcomes based on case specifics. Prioritize your comfort; if a candidate makes you feel pressured or overpowered, don’t hesitate to seek counsel elsewhere.
Get a Free Consultation With a California Personal Injury Attorney
If any aspect of your accident is in any way complicated, you would be well-advised to consult with an experienced accident attorney. The case may never go to court, as most cases are settled outside of the courtroom. But your California personal injury attorney will help you navigate the at-fault laws so that you get the compensation you deserve.
Very often, a demand letter is the first step. Your attorney will send this to the other driver, and sometimes the insurance company. This letter will list the facts and the number of costs and damages you are now suffering.
Yes, this is the beginning of a legal problem. But it is also the beginning of a legal solution. Don’t accept an insurance company’s offer to settle without discussing it with an attorney.
The insurance company does their best to keep their money. The less they pay you to compensate you for your losses, the more they get to keep. They do this by lowballing you. If they aren’t talking to an attorney in your case, it will be easier for them to take advantage of you.
When demand letters don’t work, personal injury lawsuits are the next step. Most are settled before trial. Again, let the lawyers handle this. They have experience in how these processes work.
When you do this, you help ensure you will get the compensation you deserve after a car accident. Medical costs can be exorbitant after a car accident. Many suffer permanent damage and permanent health care costs every year. You deserve to be compensated for that. This is true even if you were at fault.
Let your California personal injury lawyer navigate every area of that problem for you.
The dedicated legal team at Arash Law has decades of experience advocating for car accident injury victims just like you. We have recovered over $500 million in personal injury cases in San Francisco, Riverside, San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento, Sherman Oaks, and throughout California. At Arash Law, we offer a no-win, no-fee guarantee. That means that we don’t get paid unless you do. Our consultation is free and there are no hidden fees. We are open 24 hours a day. Call us at (888) 488-1391 or contact us online to get started today.