Each year in the United States, approximately three million people suffer nonfatal injuries in motor vehicle accidents, including car crashes. Here in California, 277,160 people were injured in collisions in 2017 — and an additional 3,904 people were killed.
Despite major advances in safety in the automotive industry, car accidents are still happening at an alarming rate across the state of California. If you have been hurt in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
When another driver’s negligence causes an accident, they can be held financially responsible for their victim’s medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
Our law firm represents injury victims throughout California, including Stockton. We offer free initial consultations, where we listen to your story, and give you legal advice on your rights and options. If you choose to work with us, we will handle your case on a contingency fee basis, which means that you won’t pay us anytime unless we recover money for you.
Common Causes of Stockton Car Accidents
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the majority — 94% — of automobile accidents are caused by driver error. While some crashes are caused by environmental factors, such as poor road conditions, or vehicle issues, like faulty brakes, in most car accident cases, a driver is at fault.
As accident attorneys, we represent clients who have been hurt in all types of motor vehicle accidents. Most frequently, we see cases involving:
- Driver inattention
- Distracted driving, including texting while driving or even eating while behind the wheel
- Drowsy driving
- Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and/or drugs
These accidents often cause serious injuries, and may even lead to fatalities. When a loved one is killed in a car accident, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit with the help of a Stockton personal injury lawyer.
In these collisions, drivers and passengers may suffer a range of injuries, including:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Scrapes and cuts (lacerations)
- Head injuries
- Broken bones (fractures)
- Nerve damage
- Internal bleeding
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Back injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Internal injuries, such as organ damage
- Loss of limbs or amputation
- Leg and knee injuries
- Wrist and hand injuries (often from the airbag deploying)
- Catastrophic injuries
In addition, many car accident victims suffer emotional distress as a result of a car accident. Being in a collision can be incredibly traumatic, and the recovery process may be slow. As a result, people who are hurt in car crashes may also deal with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Determining Fault in a California Auto Accident
In order to file a personal injury lawsuit in California, you must first determine who was at fault for the accident. Determining fault in a motor vehicle accident is often straightforward, such as situations where one driver runs a red light and slams into another driver.
However, there are a number of situations, like multi-vehicle pile-ups, where it can be harder to figure out who is at fault.
In California, a car accident victim can recover for their losses if they can demonstrate that the other driver was negligent in some way. Negligence is a legal standard that essentially means that a person failed to act with the care that a reasonable person would in a similar situation. There are four elements of negligence:
- Duty: the other driver (defendant) owed the victim (plaintiff) a duty of care.
- Breach: the defendant violated or breached that duty in some way.
- Causation: this breach was the proximate or but for cause of the accident (i.e., but for the defendant drinking and driving, the accident wouldn’t have happened).
- Damages: the plaintiff suffered losses as a result.
In California, all drivers owe others on the road a duty to use reasonable care when operating a vehicle. This duty of care encompasses a number of things, including using reasonable care, looking out for pedestrians and other vehicles, and controlling the speed and movement of the vehicle. If a driver violates this duty of care, such as by speeding or texting while driving, they may be held responsible for any injuries that they cause.
In some accident cases, more than one driver is at fault. For example, if you changed lanes without signaling and a speeding driver rear-ended you, both you and the other driver may share some degree of fault. Under the principle of comparative fault, even if you are partially to blame for the accident, you can still recover for your losses. However, your total compensation will be reduced by the percentage that you were at fault.
In the case above, a jury finds that you were 30% at fault for the crash. If your total damages were $100,000, your award would be reduced by 30%, or $30,000, for a recovery of $70,000. In this way, you can still get compensation for your losses even if you share some of the blame for the collision.
There are three main types of damages in a personal injury lawsuit: economic, non-economic, and punitive. Economic and non-economic damages are considered compensatory damages, in that they are intended to compensate a victim for their losses. Punitive damages are rarely available in a personal injury claim, as their purpose is to penalize a wrongdoer for intentional or reckless conduct.
Economic damages involve losses that are easier to prove, often with a bill, paystub, or invoice. They include things like past and future medical expenses, vehicle repairs or the replacement cost of a vehicle (property damage), lost wages, and reduced earning capacity.
By contrast, non-economic damages compensate an injury victim for intangible losses, which are often more difficult to prove. Non-economic damages may include things like pain and suffering, scarring, disfigurement, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. A skilled Stockton car accident attorney can use their knowledge of similar cases to help put together a strong claim for damages for non-economic losses.
Our law firm will analyze the facts of your case, consulting with medical experts and other specialists to determine fault and come up with a demand for the full extent of your damages.
From the first meeting until the final resolution of your claim, we will work collaboratively with you to help you get the compensation that you deserve for your injuries.
How Can a California Personal Injury Attorney Help Me?
After a car crash, you may be approached by an insurance adjuster who asks for a statement, requests that you sign something, or offers you a settlement from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. You should never give a statement, sign anything, or accept an offer from the insurer without first consulting with a personal injury law firm. Remember that the insurance company’s goal is to minimize their losses, not to ensure that you get the highest possible recovery for your injuries.
A skilled personal injury lawyer will act as your advocate. Their job is to fight for your best interests, using their knowledge of personal injury law and experience with the California legal system. Most cases begin with a free consultation, where an attorney will advise you on your rights and options for moving forward with a case.
If you decide to hire the law firm, they will immediately begin an investigation to determine who was at fault, and who may be responsible in an accident claim. This investigation may include reviewing police reports, interviewing witnesses, obtaining surveillance videos and pictures of the scene, reviewing medical records, and working with accident reconstruction experts. Throughout this fact-gathering process, your lawyer will analyze the case in light of California personal injury law to develop a winning strategy.
Next, your attorney will put together a demand letter to send to the insurance company. This letter outlines the facts of the case, why their insured was at fault for the accident, and sets forth your demand for damages (compensation). This starts the process of negotiations, where the insurance company makes a counteroffer, and the parties go back and forth until a settlement is achieved.
Most insurance claims are resolved through settlement. However, if the insurance company refuses to give you a fair offer, then your lawyer may advise you that the best option is to take the case to trial.
In court, your attorney will introduce witnesses and evidence to demonstrate that the at-fault driver should be held responsible for your losses.
What Should I Do After a Car Accident?
If you are injured in a car crash, you may not know what to do next. The first and most important thing to do is seek medical care as soon as possible. Even if you don’t think that you are badly hurt, seeing a doctor can ensure that you are properly diagnosed and get the treatment that you need.
If you can, exchange information with the other driver. Do not admit fault, or tell them that you are sorry. Keep in mind that anything that you say to the other driver can be used against you in a future accident claim.
At the same time, try to collect contact information from witnesses. If the police were called to the scene, this information may be contained in a police report. Eyewitnesses are often valuable in a personal injury lawsuit.
If you are able to do so, take pictures or videos of the scene and your injuries. Your personal injury lawyer can use these to investigate the crash, gather information, and prove your case.
Do not give a statement to the insurance adjuster from the other driver’s insurance company. You are not required to do so, and anything that you tell them could undermine your claim. Instead, tell the adjuster that you plan to hire a lawyer, and that all communications can go through your attorney.
Finally, consult with an experienced Stockton personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney is required to represent your best interests and will fight for your right to compensation.
What Happens If I Am Hit By an Uninsured Driver?
In California, drivers are required to carry a minimum amount of insurance. If an uninsured driver hits your vehicle, or if the at-fault driver does not have enough insurance to cover your damages, you may be able to file a claim through your own insurance company through an uninsured/underinsured motorist policy (UM/UIM).
Insurance companies in California must offer UM/UIM coverage to drivers. However, this type of coverage is optional. If you do have a UM/UIM policy, then your insurance company should compensate you for your damages in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, up to your policy limits.
Importantly, just because you are filing an insurance claim with your own insurer doesn’t mean that the company will simply pay the claim. Insurance companies exist to make money, and they build profits by denying or minimizing legitimate claims. If you have been hurt in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, reach out to a Stockton car accident attorney for help with filing your claim.
My Family Member Was Killed in a Car Accident. Can I Sue the Driver?
Wrongful death lawsuits allow certain family members to hold an at-fault driver responsible for their loved one’s death. Under California law, spouses, domestic partners, children, grandchildren (if the children are deceased), and anyone who would be entitled to the deceased’s property under California’s intestate succession laws can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Intestate succession is the legal term for how a person’s property is divided if they die without a will.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, family members may recover compensation for funeral and burial expenses, lost wages that the victim would have earned, and compensation for their loss of companionship and support. While it may be difficult to think about filing a lawsuit after losing a loved one, it is a way to achieve justice for your family member. It can also ensure that you have the money that you need to move forward after such a loss.
What Happens If the Other Driver Broke a Law?
In California, drivers may be held liable under a negligence per se standard if they break a law or regulation and cause an accident. Negligence per se is a legal doctrine that holds that a defendant is presumed to have acted with negligence if they violate a statute or ordinance and injure someone in the process. In comparison to other personal injury cases, the victim won’t have to prove that they are negligent in this type of case.
A defendant may be presumed negligent if they:
-Violated a statute, ordinance, or regulation;
-This violation caused death or injury to a person or property;
-The death or injury was the type of harm that the law was designed to prevent; and
-The person who suffered the death or injury is someone that the law sought to protect.
For example, drunk driving laws were enacted to protect other motorists and pedestrians from people causing accidents while driving under the influence. If another driver hits you while driving drunk, they may be considered negligent per se because they violated California’s DUI laws, causing you injury, and this injury was the type of harm that DUI laws were drafted to prevent.
Hurt in a Car Accident? We’re Here for You.
Automobile accidents can be incredibly traumatic, causing serious injuries, pain, property damage, and even lost wages. It can be hard to figure out what to do, particularly if you haven’t been involved in an accident before. We are here to help.
At Megeredchian Law, we represent Californians who have been hurt in all types of accidents, from bicycle accidents to truck accidents to dog bites to car crashes. We offer free initial consultations, and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more or to schedule a consultation with a seasoned Stockton Car Accident Lawyer, reach out today at 1-866-631-6059, or fill out our online contact form.