If you get involved in a car crash, you probably have much to worry about. For instance, you will have to seek treatment if you sustained any injuries. Also, you may need to deal with filing an insurance claim and having the damage to your car fixed. Generally, there is a lot that will be going on, and it could be stressful, mainly when the auto crash wasn’t your doing. That is why you have to recover as much damage as possible so it can help you get your original life back without much stress.
When you seek the services of a car accident lawyer, he/she can help you get your deserved compensation without much of a hassle. While you focus on getting better, let the attorney fight for your right to compensation. He/she will negotiate with insurance companies, and in so doing, he/she may be able to obtain the best maximum compensation you can get. At The LA Personal Injury Law Firm, we help Los Angeles residents who have been involved in auto accidents to get their rightful compensation. Call us right away for faster and trusted services. In this article, we focus on how car accident compensation is determined.
California Car Accident Laws on Compensation
California has several laws that could apply should a car crash ensue. These statutes determine how auto insurance lawsuits are handled, the compensatory damages you can recover as well as when to file a claim if need be. Drivers who get involved in an auto crash must understand these statutes and their effect on compensation claims.
Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements
In California, the law provides that car owners should be financially accountable for any accident in which they get involved. The insurance code requires that all motor vehicles be covered with at least 15/30/5 of insurance. By this, it means that the insurance should provide coverage of:
- $15,000 for the death or injury of one party
- $30,000 for death or injury of two or more parties
- $5,000 for damage of property
Drivers should have evidence of their insurance coverage readily available should they get involved in a vehicle accident. They should present this proof when an officer asks to have it after an accident or when obtaining or renewing the vehicle registration. Failure to provide insurance proof may lead to fines and even driver’s license suspension.
Underinsured and Uninsured Motorist Coverage
The law requires that insurance companies should provide uninsured driver physical injury as well as underinsured driver coverage. These forms of insurance cover property damage and injuries that a driver who didn’t have insurance coverage or didn’t have enough insurance caused.
Other Types of Auto Insurance
The type of insurance we covered above is only the least that California State requires for its car drivers. However, you can still buy additional coverage. Since California has a fault-based system of insurance, in case you cause a crash, the other injured driver or passenger could file a claim seeking to be compensated for the loss they incurred. The compensation can be of any amount above that which your insurance can cover. Therefore, most drivers buy supplemental insurance. These include:
- Medical payments coverage
- Increased liability insurance coverage
- Collision coverage
- Comprehensive coverage
- Theft insurance coverage
Proposition 213 and Auto Accident Compensation
In the 1990s, voters in California passed into law Prop 213. When this law was implemented, it affected how uninsured motorists can get compensated for damages once they have been involved in a car crash. The law prevents uninsured motorists from being compensated for non-economic damages under certain circumstances. Non-economic damages refer to compensation for loss of companionship, pain, and suffering, etc.
Because of the changes this law brought, it’s critical to determine how recovering compensation works when you get into a crash that causes injuries or deaths.
How Proposition 213 Affects Your Auto Accident Claim
As per Prop 213, you might be unable to recover non-economic damages after an auto accident in case you don’t have car insurance. However, we have exceptions to this rule. The exceptions include:
- If you are a passenger in the uninsured vehicle, you are eligible for non-economic damages. Prop 213 applies only to motorists
- Uninsured drivers cannot claim non-economic damages for the damage of the car if they are caught driving while intoxicated and are convicted, even if they aren’t to blame for the accident
- Uninsured motorists can’t recover non-economic damages even if it is not their fault that the accident happened
- Uninsured drivers can still recover compensation for medical expenses and other economic damages
- You can’t recover non-economic damages in case the crash occurred while you were committing a felony
Several uninsured motorists might not know that they don’t have insurance. For example, if a driver’s coverage ends without his/her knowledge, he/she may not know that he/she is not a policyholder anymore.
Other Exceptions to Prop 213
Luckily, we have exemptions to Prop 213 as follows:
- There are cases where a motorist could be driving his/her employer’s automobile, and the car isn’t insured. In a situation like this, the driver can recover non-economic damages
- A driver can recover non-economic damages in case he/she is insured but borrows a car that has no insurance and gets involved in an accident
- Prop 213 doesn’t cover privately-owned roads. Consequently, there might be specific scenarios where an uninsured driver can claim non-economic damages after a crash on a private road
Why Proposition 213 Matters
Various types of crashes may result in horrific emotional and physical injuries. For example, a person who sustains a severe disfigurement will most likely suffer intangible damages too, like, loss of consortium or loss of enjoyment of life.
Non-economic damages enable you to receive a significant overall compensation amount for your lawsuit. Without non-economic damages compensation, you will most likely not get enough to get your life back to where it was.
What You Should do if Involved in a Car Accident
It is crucial for individuals involved in an auto crash to know what they are supposed to do. Failure to do what is required of you may lower the chances of being compensated. Or, it may reduce the amount of compensation to which you are entitled. Here is what you should do in case you get into an accident:
- Do Not Leave the Scene of the Accident
If another person was killed or injured as a result of the accident, do not drive off. Stay at the scene until law enforcement comes unless you require urgent medical help. Driving off from the accident scene where another person was injured could subject you to criminal charges. Additionally, you may not be able to claim compensation for your loss.
If it was only property that was damaged, you might legally leave the scene once you have identified yourself to the other involved parties and also the authorities. Failing to identify yourself could also subject you to criminal charges.
- Seek Medical Care
If you got injured in the accident and require immediate medical help, don’t wait for law enforcement to arrive. Call 911 to let them know of the accident. If you are unable to contact 911, request somebody else to do it for you. Also, if you are capable, ensure you provide your contact details to the drivers involved in the accident before you go.
Seeking medical help is crucial since it will help you have the appropriate documentation in case you need to pursue a claim. Explain to your doctor that you got into an auto accident for him/her to make the correct diagnosis. Additionally, you should inform your insurance provider about the crash or start the process of filing a lawsuit with the insurance company of the at-fault party.
Even if you sustained minor injuries, make sure you see a doctor for treatment. Do not underestimate the severity of the harm you suffered. Other injuries may seem manageable, but if left untreated, they could develop to fatal complications.
- Gather as much Information as You can
If you are in a stable state of health, you should collect as many details as possible. The information to gather should include:
- The name of the other driver or drivers involved in the accident
- Their addresses
- The license numbers of the involved drivers, their registration, and insurance card
- Telephone numbers
- The license plate numbers of the cars involved in the crash
- The model, year, color, and make of the involved vehicles
- Insurance details, including the name of the insurance company as well as the policy number
- Also, obtain the names of the witnesses, if any, plus their contact details in case there will be a need to reach out to them after the crash
We also advise that you record and document the accident scene. For instance, you take photos or videos of the:
- Accident scene
- Traffic controls
- The damage that was done to every car
- Visual obstacles
- Injuries you sustained
- Property damage on the road, if any
- Any close by signs that could be useful
Preferably, the photographs of all these items should not be taken from the same angle.
- Do Not Admit to Being at Fault
It’s incredibly critical that you do not accept to have done anything wrong even if you think it was you who caused the collision. You could be the one to blame, but the other motorist could also be partially at fault. Only ask if the other motorist is hurt and or needs medical help. In case the other motorist compels you to accept guilt for the crash, politely ask them to contact your insurance provider.
The conversation you have with the other involved parties could hurt your personal injury claim. You could say something that the other driver could use against you when determining fault for the accident. Therefore, instead of talking, you should wait for your attorney to arrive at the scene to handle the matter.
Deciding who is at fault often narrows down to finding out how negligent a driver was. Being careless means, you operated the vehicle in a manner that an ordinary careful motorist wouldn’t drive given the same circumstances. A standard, careful driver obeys traffic rules and shows a reasonable level of caution. Negligent acts, on the other hand, include:
- Distracted driving
- Failure to maintain a proper lookout
- Driving while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs
- Disobeying traffic signals and laws
- Following another vehicle too closely
In some instances, there are specific driving rules to which a driver did not adhere. Different driving rules that might play a role in compensation claim cases are:
- Speed limits - Motorists have to pay attention to all speed limits posted on the road. These speed limits are intended for optimal driving conditions and daylight hours. Drivers are required to lower their speed at the time when driving conditions aren’t optimal
- Following distance - A motorist who rear-ends another vehicle is almost always to blame for the crash. This is because he/she has not kept adequate space between his/her car and that which was in front. In case an automobile before you stop suddenly, you should also have sufficient time and space to stop, so you don’t cause a rear-end collision
- Distracted driving - A driver should not use electronic devices like a cell phone or being distracted otherwise while driving. When a driver is distracted, it takes his/her mind and eyes off the road. In other cases, it takes his/her hands off the steering, creating a chance for an accident
- Preemption - Any driver entering a road has to yield the right of way to an oncoming vehicle. Also, when doing so, he/she should proceed with caution. This rule applies when a driver is exiting an alley or driveway to enter a highway or another road. The motorist must make sure that he/she has enough time to exit and enter another route without disrupting the flow of traffic
These are only a few of the relevant road rules to which a driver should adhere. A skilled personal injury attorney can evaluate the specific facts surrounding your auto crash to determine the laws that have been broken and by whom. A judge may need to decide if the rules were broken in deciding whether he/she will award damages to the victim of the accident.
In most cases to do with auto accidents, the insurance provider selects a claims adjuster who conducts investigations into the crash. The adjuster may obtain written or verbal accounts concerning the collision from the other involved parties. Witnesses can also be called to give an account of what they witnessed. The adjuster could request proof of the damage caused, e.g., the documentation of lost wages, medical reports, or medical bills.
Compensable Damages in Auto Accidents
Under California law, every personal injury victim has the right to be compensated for the loss they suffer in case of an accident caused by the negligent acts of others. Like several other states, California divides this compensation into various categories. The most common ones include non-economic and economic damages.
- Economic Damages
Economic damages refer to compensations that are linked to a specific financial loss. These kinds of damages can easily be calculated in monetary value. They include:
- Vehicle replacement or repair costs
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Lost income
- Past & future medical bills
- Loss of business opportunities or employment
- Loss of earning capacity
- Burial expenses (in case the injures 5 succumbs to the injuries)
- Loss of property use
- Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages refer to compensations that are not easy to calculate. They compensate for intangible losses. They include:
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
While most states have a limit when it comes to certain kinds of damages, for instance, non-economic damages, the State of California doesn’t impose this limitation. However, as we have seen, the state has Proposition 213 that forbids a driver who doesn’t have car insurance from recovering non-economic damages like emotional distress and pain and suffering. This law applies irrespective of who was to blame for the crash. The driver can still file a claim of economic damages against the party at fault.
Pure Comparative Negligence Rule Applies
Like several other states, California practices the pure comparative negligence rule and uses this rule when determining liability. This is especially so when two or more people or entities share fault in personal injury cases. Under the comparative negligence rule, each individual to blame for a crash is responsible for their degree of the blame. This rule makes sure that victims of an accident can recover at least part of the damages they suffer. Also, it prevents the injured parties from recovering compensation for injuries caused by their contribution to an accident.
For instance, if an accident takes place, it may be determined that the first driver was 70% at fault, while the second was 30% to blame. In case the second motorist was injured and suffered damages worth $200,000, his/her compensation would be lowered by 30% to $140,000. Also, the second motorist would be responsible for 30% of the first motorist losses.
In certain auto accidents, several parties could be to blame for the crash. In this case, the law allows the courts to hold all the at-fault parties financially liable for damages resulting from this kind of crash. Each party will be held accountable to the extent of their guilt.
Even if the injured party contributed to the occurrence of the collision, he/she isn’t prevented from recovering damages from the various at-fault parties.
The “pure” part of this statute means a victim of an accident can be compensated irrespective of his/her level of guilt. For instance, in case the motorist was 90% to blame for the crash, he/she can still claim the remaining 10% of the damages. In most states, the victim of a collision is only permitted to recover damages if he/she was 50% or less to blame for that collision.
The comparative negligence rule applies in cases where the jury or judge determines the degree of fault of the involved parties. But, it can also be used when an auto insurance claim adjuster is assessing a claim. The adjuster may decide on the extent of fault for each involved party and then suggest an offer to settle based on his/her decision.
Statute of Limitations
Statute of limitations refers to the timeframe you have to file given legal actions like a personal injury claim. In California, the statute of limitations to file a personal injury claim for a car accident is two years from the date the accident happened. If you are registering a property damage claim, for example, car damage, then you have three years from the day of the accident to do so. And if you want to file a claim to sue a government agency for the loss or damage you incurred, you have only six months from the date of the crash to do so.
If you file a claim against the at-fault motorist when the timeframe has passed, the court will most likely dismiss your claim since the deadline would have expired. This means you won’t be able to receive your deserved compensation.
Increasing the statute of limitations
We have a few cases when the timeframe to file a claim can be elongated. In given situations, the timeframe is tolled; that is, it is paused temporarily until a particular event occurs. A few of these cases include when:
- The complainant cannot find the defendant
- There’s a sensible delay in discovering the accident-related injury
- The complainant is mentally incapacitated or a minor
- The defendant has been imprisoned
Your personal injury attorney can explain to you when these scenarios arise.
Find A Los Angeles Auto Accident Attorney Near Me
In any personal injury case, working with a skilled attorney can give you a better chance of maximizing the compensation amount you can recover. An attorney handles different responsibilities when helping you to recover damages. He/she will advise you on your rights, handle negotiations with your insurance provider, gather proof that could help you win your case, etc. Thus, as you can see, an attorney’s help comes in handy. If you need an attorney after a car accident in Los Angeles, contact The LA Personal Injury Law Firm at 310-935-0089. After the consultation, we will start working on your case right away.