The California auto accident lawyers at Shouse Law Group assist crash victims to file a claim and get financial compensation. We can help you get all the medical treatment you need. Even if you have no health insurance coverage or can’t afford the copays.
We manage everything. So you can focus on recovering and getting your life back.
Motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause of personal injuries in the United States. Every year, nearly 2 million people are injured in motor vehicle crashes. More than 200,000 people are injured each year just in California.1 Auto crash injuries in California can cost victims tens of thousands of dollars in:
The driver who was at fault for causing the collision is liable to the other drivers or passengers for their injuries or damages. Fault in a California car crash is based on which driver was negligent in causing the accident. However, even when both drivers are at fault, the injury victim may still be able to recover some damages from the other driver.
Not all vehicle wrecks in California are caused by negligent drivers. Collisions can also be caused by defective car parts, hazardous road conditions, or even driverless vehicle malfunctions. In these cases, vehicle- or parts manufacturers or government agencies may be at fault for the crash.
Vehicle crash injury victims may need to hire an auto accident attorney to get the insurance company to cover their damages fully. In some cases, the attorney will need to file a personal injury lawsuit to make the liable party pay for money damages.
Compensatory damages available in an automobile wreck injury lawsuit may include:
Before dealing with the auto insurance company or taking a settlement check, talk to our Los Angeles car accident lawyers about your case.
Below, our California personal injury lawyers discuss some frequently asked questions about car accident cases in California:
- 1. Who is at fault in a California car accident?
- 2. What damages are available in a motor vehicle wreck lawsuit?
- 3. What is the role of a lawyer in handling my California car crash case?
- 4. How to choose a car accident lawyer in California?
- 5. Major Types of California Vehicle Accidents
- 5.1. Rear-End Collisions
- 5.2. Head-on Collisions
- 5.3. T-Bone Smash-ups
- 5.4. Bus Collisions
- 5.5. Truck Wrecks
- 5.6. Motorcycle Injuries
- 5.7. Collisions with Bicycles
- 5.8. Hitting a Pedestrian
- 5.9. Uber/Lyft Accidents
- 5.10. Driverless Vehicle Crashes
- 5.11. Crashes with Drunk Drivers
- 5.12. Wrecks Caused by Dangerous Road Conditions
- 5.13. Police Car Casualties
- 5.14. SUV Rollovers
- 5.15. Tire Defect Problems
- 5.16. Guardrail Injury Lawsuits
- 6. Frequently-asked-questions
If you have further questions about California car accident laws after reading this article, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
Fault in a California vehicle crash can be complicated. Generally, a party’s fault is based on “negligence.” When a driver is negligent and causes an injury, the negligent driver may be liable for any damages. A car accident attorney can be instrumental in building a case that the other party was negligent.
Negligence can include careless driving. Or not paying attention to other drivers on the road. “Negligence per se” can apply if there were violations of traffic laws. Some of the most common causes of motor vehicle crashes include:
- Running a red light,
- Texting while driving,
- Distracted driving,
- Drunk driving, or
- Failing to yield the right of way.
Under California’s negligence laws, when a negligent driver causes injury or damage to another, the negligent driver is liable for those damages. In order for an injury victim to get compensation in a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff has to show the defendant was negligent in causing the pileup. The legal standard for negligence in a California vehicle collision lawsuit are:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
- The defendant breached that duty of care through negligence; and
- The defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s injuries.2
Drivers in California owe others on the road a duty to use reasonable care when operating a vehicle. The duty of care for drivers involves:
- Using reasonable care when operating a vehicle;
- Looking out for pedestrians, obstacles, and other vehicles; and
- Controlling the speed and movement of the vehicle.3
When a driver fails to use reasonable care and it causes an accident or injury, the negligent driver is liable for damages.
Example: Bella was driving home from school. Michael was going a little over the speed limit because he was late for work. He was texting his boss that he was going to be a few minutes late when he looked up and suddenly saw Bella’s vehicle stopped in front of him. Michael hit Bella’s car, causing her to suffer car damage and neck injuries totaling $10,000.
If a jury determines Michael was driving negligently because he was not looking out for other vehicles and did not use reasonable care, Michael may be liable for Bella’s damages as the at-fault driver.
In some cases, both drivers may be partially at fault for causing an accident if both were negligent. Under California’s “comparative fault” law, even if both drivers share some of the fault, an injured driver can still get some damages. However, the amount of damages may be reduced based on the driver’s share of fault.4
Example: In the example above, it turns out Bella had dropped her phone on the floor and hit the brakes in the middle of the road to reach down and grab it. A jury finds Bella is 40% responsible for the accident and Michael is 60% responsible.
Bella may be able to recover $6,000 in damages from Michael. Under principles of comparative negligence, Bella’s award is reduced based on her comparative level of fault. ($10,000 minus 40% equals $6,000).
Negligence and fault in a California car wreck can be complicated. Each side may blame the other for causing the fender bender. A driver may not have any proof that the other driver was to blame and the insurance company may not be interested in finding out what really happened.
Talk to your California motor vehicle injury lawyer about your case. Your attorney can give you a better idea of how strong your case is and what damages may be available. Your attorney can also investigate the accident, subpoena records to find out what really happened, and negotiate with the insurance adjuster to get you the most money available.
Damages in a car wreck are based on the injuries and losses suffered by the injury victim. When filing a personal injury claim, plaintiffs (car accident victims) ask for maximum compensation for their losses to be paid by the negligent party.
These damages in a personal injury lawsuit include both economic and non-economic compensatory damages. Economic damages are generally those that have a set dollar value, like medical bills or vehicle repairs. Non-economic damages can be more difficult to value, and include things like pain and suffering caused by the crash.
Common compensatory damages in a California road accident can include:
- Medical costs,
- Vehicle repairs or replacement costs,
- Lost income from not being able to work,
- Lost future earning capacity,
- Emergency medical treatment,
- Physical therapy or occupational therapy,
- Medication and medical supplies,
- Future medical care and treatment,
- Pain and suffering,
- Compensation for loss of limb,
- Compensation for scars or disfigurement, and
- Loss of consortium for a spouse or partner.
In some cases, vehicle crash victims may also be able to get punitive damages. Punitive damages, or exemplary damages, may be available when the other driver was reckless, intentionally tried to injure someone, or did a hit-and-run.
We often get questions about how much to expect from a car accident settlement. When a driver gets into an accident with an uninsured driver, he or she may not expect to be able to recover damages. However, there may be a couple of ways to get damages when the other driver doesn’t have bodily injury and liability insurance.
California insurance law requires insurance companies to offer uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage to drivers. However, this UM/UIM coverage is optional. If a driver injured in a crash has UM/UIM coverage, their insurance company should compensate them for their damages caused by the uninsured driver, up to the liability limit.
Similarly, if the damages caused by the other driver are higher than the other driver’s liability coverage, underinsured motorist insurance policies pay for the excess damage, up to the liability limit.
Even without UM/UIM coverage, an injured party may still be able to recover damages from an uninsured motorist. Many uninsured drivers claim they do not have much money or assets to cover the costs of medical payments and other injury damages. However, your California car accident attorney may be able to investigate their situation to see if they have other assets they are not telling you about.
In some cases, family members may be liable if they allowed the uninsured family member to get behind the wheel of their car. By showing negligent entrustment of a motor vehicle, the vehicle owner is liable for allowing an incompetent driver to drive their vehicle.
Gary is rear-ended by Samantha. Gary tries to get Samantha’s insurance information but she says she doesn’t have insurance. Samantha apologizes but says she lost her job and can’t afford insurance. Gary suffers $5,000 in medical bills and car repairs.
Gary does not have UM/UIM coverage. Since Samantha doesn’t have insurance Gary doesn’t think he should bother filing a lawsuit. Gary contacts a lawyer to find out what his rights are. Gary’s attorney investigates the car accident claim.
Gary’s lawyer finds out Samantha was driving her parents’ car. Samantha’s parents let her borrow the car even though they knew Samantha didn’t have insurance and she had lost her coverage after 2 prior drunk driving accidents.
Gary may be able to file a claim with Samantha’s parents’ car insurance because the car was insured at the time. Gary may also be able to file a personal injury claim against the parents for negligent entrustment of a motor vehicle.
Over 30,000 people are killed every year in motor vehicle crashes.5 When the victim is killed, they are not able to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver to hold them responsible. However, under California’s wrongful death laws, the surviving family can hold the responsible person liable for their negligence.
Certain family members can file a claim for damages in a wrongful death auto casualty case. This includes:
- Domestic partner,
- Child or children,
- Grandchildren (if the children are deceased), or
- Anyone else entitled to the property of the deceased under California’s intestate succession laws.
Damages available in a wrongful death car accident lawsuit can include:
- Burial expenses,
- Funeral expenses,
- Lost financial earnings the victim would have earned, and
- Compensation to the family for the loss of companionship and support.
After the death of a loved one in a car wreck, the last thing the family may be thinking about is a lawsuit. However, a wrongful death claim can help with the financial costs of losing a family member. It may also be the only way to hold the person responsible accountable for their actions. A car accident lawyer can handle the claim so your family can focus on healing after your loss.
Yes. Following a car accident, the plaintiff can sue the at-fault parties for:
- Loss of use of the vehicle; and
- Diminution of value of the vehicle
Many victims in car accidents do not realize that they are entitled to these damages. But these damages can amount to several thousand – or even tens of thousands of dollars.
2.3.1. Loss of use
Vehicles involved in car accidents are often in the repair shop for several days or weeks. The car owner can recover damages for this “loss of use” of the vehicle from the at-fault parties.
In California, victims who lose the use of their vehicle are entitled to the rental value for a similar vehicle “in like and quality” for a reasonable time. Victims are entitled to these “loss of use” damages even if they do not end up renting a vehicle at all.
Predictably, loss of use damages can be very high if the damaged vehicle was a high-end luxury vehicle.
2.3.2. Diminution of value
Vehicles involved in car accidents always lose value, especially if there is frame damage. Even if the car is fully repaired, the car still carries a stigma. And future buyers will pay less for it than they would if there had been no accident. The car owner can recover damages for this “diminution of value.” 6
The role of a lawyer in handling a California car crash case is to be an advocate for the accident victim. This involves dealing with the court system, the insurance provider, and keeping the client informed on all the developments in their case.
Some people don’t think they need a lawyer after an injury wreck. However, make sure you understand what is at stake before accepting the insurance company’s offer or sign away your rights in a settlement. The insurance company is a business, and they may not have your best interests at heart.
Contact an experienced California auto crash injury lawyer for a free consultation on your case. A free consultation means you can get a better idea of what your claim might be worth without any cost to you. The following are some of the ways a lawyer will fight for you in your auto accident case:
If the police department responded to the automobile fender bender at the scene of the accident, the officers may have conducted an investigation at the scene. This generally includes
- sketching out the scene,
- getting statements from each party involved, and
- possibly getting third-party witness statements.
If law enforcement didn’t respond to the accident scene, the insurance companies involved may talk to their customers to get their side of what happened in the incident.
Unfortunately, these brief investigations don’t provide a clear picture of what happened during the accident. They may also include errors and false statements by the other driver.
Your attorney may do their own investigation into the crash. This includes:
- Reviewing the police report
- Reviewing the insurance company report
- Interviewing eyewitnesses
- Obtaining surveillance video of the scene
- Reviewing records of past problems at that location
- Investigating the other people involved and their past incidents
- Inspecting the scene of the smash-up
- Reviewing medical records
- Having an expert review the records
With a more in-depth investigation, your attorney can provide a clearer picture of what happened during the wreck. This includes who was at fault, and why the other person should be held responsible for their negligence.
A victim in an injury crash may be tempted to downplay their injuries. Car wreck injuries can be complicated, severe, and develop over time. Even if the driver feels fine after the crash, neck pain, loss of mobility, headaches, and other complaints can develop days or even weeks later. Your attorney will make sure you seek treatment as soon as possible to make sure your injuries don’t get worse.
Other injury victims may not want to get medical care because they are worried about the cost of treatment. If another driver caused the crash, that driver should be responsible for paying for your damages. Your attorney will encourage you to get proper treatment after an accident and fight to get those medical bills covered by the other driver’s insurance provider.
Evidence in a car collision claim goes beyond just taking pictures of the damaged vehicle and getting a copy of medical records. The other driver may try and hide evidence of the cause of the accident. An attorney can take action to make sure the evidence is retained and not tampered with. This evidence can be reviewed by engineering experts or medical experts to help build your case.
Under California state law, one of the first steps after a crash to get damages is to issue a demand letter. The demand letter provides the outline of the claim and the basis for the other party’s liability. The demand letter generally includes:
- The parties involved,
- The facts and circumstances of what happened,
- Property damage and medical injuries involved,
- Losses and costs caused by the wreck, and
- Demand for compensation from the insurance company.
The demand letter is also generally the beginning of negotiations with the insurance adjuster.
One of the most important parts of trying to get damages after a car collision is negotiating with the insurance company. It can also be one of the riskiest parts of a claim if the injured individual does not have a lawyer.
The insurance company has a team of lawyers and adjusters who deal with liability and injury claims every day. If you talk to the other driver’s insurance company on your own, the insurance company may try and get you to say certain things to help their case. So they can deny your insurance claim or pay you less money or no money. Let your lawyer deal with the insurance company so you will have the best chance for full compensation.
It is generally up to the crash victim to decide whether to accept the insurance company’s settlement offer. Your lawyer will let you know your options. If the insurance company doesn’t want to play ball or only offers a small portion of your damages, your attorney can take the case to court.
If negotiations with the insurance company don’t work, your lawyer can file a personal injury lawsuit in California civil court. This will include a basis for liability and a claim for damages. A car collision lawsuit can take significant time to go all the way to trial. However, most injury lawsuits are settled before trial. The closer the case gets to trial, the more likely both parties are to accept a settlement offer.
When choosing a car accident lawyer, drivers may want to consider a number of factors. This includes the car accident lawyer’s
- Success rate,
- Experience working for insurance companies,
- Reputation among clients,
- Reputation among lawyers and judges, and
- Customer service (including visiting you in the hospital if necessary).
The best way to choose may be to talk to the personal injury attorney and get a feel for whether that person will be the best choice. Most car crash victims have never dealt with a lawsuit before and want someone who will explain the process and keep them in the loop about their case. Your lawyer should be someone who is available to answer your questions and take the time to keep you up to date on your case.
There are many causes of car accidents in California. The type of traffic accident can affect who is at fault, the types of injuries, the seriousness of injuries, and who is responsible for the damages. Some of the most common types of car accidents in California include:
Rear-end collisions often cause serious neck or back injuries, including whiplash, to the driver in the lead car. Most people think the rear driver is at fault in a rear-end collision. However, liability is not automatic and sometimes the lead driver or another driver is responsible for the damages.
When a driver crosses over the median, intentionally or accidentally, it may lead to a head-on collision. These can be some of the most serious crashes – often causing traumatic brain injuries – and are often caused by distracted driving, failure to yield, or a drunk driver.
There are many causes of T-bone collisions in California. While some are caused by poor road conditions, faulty vehicle parts, or unclear traffic signage, most T-bone collisions are caused by bad driving. These types of incidents can result in serious injuries as passengers or drivers are hit directly on the side of the car with little protection between them and a speeding car.
A collision with a bus generally involves a transit company or city bus. When the driver or company is negligent, the injured passengers, drivers, or pedestrians can file a claim against the driver, bus company, or city agency, or whoever is responsible.
Truck wrecks involving a semi or tractor-trailer in California can leave injury victims with serious injuries and financial damages. If the truck driver or trucking company was negligent in causing the crash, the victims can seek damages by filing a lawsuit. The company may also be responsible if they negligently hired, trained, or retained a dangerous driver.
Motorcycle riders generally have very little protection between their bodies and the road. Even a low-speed collision can cause serious damage. Whoever was responsible for causing the motorcycle accident may be liable for injuries. This could include a driver, another motorcyclist, pedestrian, or even the city.
Cars colliding with bikes in California can be caused by reckless drivers, dangerous road conditions, or unclear road signs. California personal injury laws allow injured cyclists to file a lawsuit against the driver who caused the damage.
Pedestrian accidents often cause serious harm because people do not have anything protecting them against outside forces. Even a low-speed knockdown accident with a pedestrian can result in head injuries, internal bleeding, neck or back injuries, or broken bones. California pedestrian and crosswalk laws help determine fault and liability for these accidents.
Crashes and vehicle injuries involving the popular ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft can result in claims against the driver, the company, or other drivers. These claims can be more complicated because the driver’s insurance liability coverage depends on whether the driver had the app on at the time of the injury.
Autonomous vehicles are supposed to make the roads safer for people but even driverless vehicles can get into collisions. Victims can file a personal injury lawsuit against the company behind the driverless vehicle for losses. If a self-driving car is responsible for causing the wreck, the victim may have a claim for damages under California’s product liability laws.
People injured by a drunk or intoxicated driver have the right to sue for damages. The driver does not need to be convicted of a DUI before a civil lawsuit can be filed. Even if the driver is never convicted, he or she may still be liable for negligent driving resulting in a crash.
Dangerous road conditions can cause vehicle collisions or increase the chance of injury. This includes crashes involving dangerous road debris on the highway.
Liability in a police car crash can depend on whether the police officer was responding to an emergency, had on lights and sirens, or was driving negligently at the time of the accident.
SUV rollovers have higher rates of serious injury and death compared to other automobiles. In some cases, the injury victims may have a product liability claim against the car company for selling a dangerous vehicle without warning drivers of the risks.
Defective tires can cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle causing serious harm or death. The tire seller or manufacturer may be liable for tire defects which cause innocent people to suffer injury or death.
When guardrails on the highway are defective they can slice through a car, injuring or killing the people inside. Guardrail injury lawsuits may be filed against the government, contractors, or guardrail designers.
It depends, there is no average settlement. Usually, the maximum recovery is the defendant’s policy limit. But it can be more than that if you have uninsured motorist coverage or the defendant has other assets to go after. The actual value is a function of special damages (those that can be specified, such as medical bills) plus general damages (those that have to be generalized, such as pain and suffering).
Two years is generally the statute of limitations (or deadline/time limit) in which to bring a lawsuit. Most car accident cases settle in around 18 months. But the time it takes to settle a car accident claim can vary from a few months to a few years. If the case proceeds to trial, the case will drag on much longer than if it’s settled by way of negotiations.
Not always. Smaller cases can go to small claims court in California if there is less than $10,000 in damages. No one gets a lawyer there. But it is always recommended that car accident victims consult with an attorney about their options and potential payouts.
Car accident victims can go through their health insurance if they like. But we can also arrange treatment on a lien. This is where the doctor will defer the cost of treatment until the case settles. This can be a good option for specialty care to avoid co-pays. It is also a good option for people with no health insurance.
Yes, you should report the crash to your insurance. But be vague. Beyond that, let your attorney talk with your insurance company.
Insurers spend billions on marketing to make you think they’re “like a good neighbor” or that “you’re in good hands.” But their real mission is to pay the least amount they can get away with on your claim. Anything you say to them can be used against you later. So it is best to have a professional in between you and them.
Do not speak to a representative of the at-fault motorist’s insurance company. Leave that to your attorney.
If you think you may be injured, you should seek medical attention right away. Going for medical treatment is how you prove you were injured at all. The insurance does not care what attorneys say, and they do not even care what the patients say. They just care what the doctors say.
- Remain at the scene.
- Seek medical attention.
- Move to a safe area.
- Record the other vehicle’s info.
- Exchange contact info.
- Do not admit fault.
- Do not say you are hurt.
- Leave your contact information if necessary.
- Take photos.
- Make a record of what happened.
- Document your injuries.
- Report the accident (if necessary).
- Notify your insurance.
- Hire a lawyer.
- Concentrate on healing as your attorney fights for the maximum settlement.
Call California Car Accident Lawyers for help…
For questions about car collision lawsuits in California or if you want to discuss your case and legal rights with one of our experienced car accident attorneys, please contact our legal team at Shouse Law Group through our contact form or phone number.
Our legal representation operates on a contingency fee basis. That means we get no money unless we win your case. Read our testimonials about our years of experience winning fair settlements. And contact our attorneys today for an initial consultation and legal advice.
We have local law offices in and around Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities in the state of California.
- California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
- California Highway Patrol
- Car Accident Report forms
- California Insurance Code
- California Vehicle Code
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Motor Vehicle Safety. See also California Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) annual report.
- California Civil Jury Instructions (“CACI”) 400. See also California Civil Code section 1714(a). See also Ladd v.County of San Mateo (1996) 12 Cal.4th 913, 50 Cal.Rptr.2d 309, 911 P.2d 496. See also Coyle v. Historic Mission Inn Corp. (2018) 24 Cal.App.5th 627, 234 Cal.Rptr.3d 330. See also Carachure v. Scott (Court of Appeal of California, Fourth Appellate District, Division Two 2021) 70 Cal. App. 5th 16. See also Arriagarazo v. BMW of North America, LLC (Court of Appeal of California, Third Appellate District, 2021) 64 Cal. App. 5th 742.
- CACI 700. Basic Standard of Care. See also Bewley v. Riggs (1968) 262 Cal.App.2d 188, 68 Cal.Rptr. 520. See also Watkins v. Ohman (1967) 251 Cal.App.2d 501, 59 Cal.Rptr. 709. See also Whitford v. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (1955) 136 Cal.App.2d 697, 289 P.2d 278.
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 406. See also Pfeifer v. John Crane, Inc. (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1270.
- California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60.
- Collin v. Am. Empire Ins. Co., (Cal. App. 1994) 21 Cal.App.4th 787 (calculating loss of use). Malinson v. Black, (Cal. App. 1948) 188 P.2d 788 (plaintiffs entitled to loss of use even without renting a replacement). Meyers v. Bradford (1921) 54 Cal.App. 157 (calculating loss of use). California Code of Regulations Section 2695.8 (2). Reynolds v. Bank of America National Trust Savings Assn. (1959) 53 Cal.2d 49, 345 P.2d 926 (justifying loss of use damages). See also Metz v. Soares (2006) 142 Cal.App.4th 1250.