California Auto Accident Laws
California is home to some of the most notorious traffic in the country. Given how many millions of drivers hit the streets each day in the Golden State, it’s not surprising that many find themselves involved in an accident. Familiarizing oneself with California’s car accident laws and resources for victims is a good idea for any motorist in the state.
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California Auto Accident Statistics and Notable Settlements
California is the most populous state, so it makes sense that it also has the highest number of fatal car accidents in the country. Of the more than 32,000 fatal accidents that occur nationwide each year, though, California contributes an average of ten percent. Even more disturbing are the statistics collected by the National Safety Council that show the number of fatal California traffic accidents is growing each year.
While nationally, most accidents occur in rural areas, California car crashes are more likely to happen within city limits. It’s no surprise to anyone that Los Angeles leads the state in accidents each year. The most recent crash data reveals that the city saw more than 39,000 people injured or killed in 2015 alone. Speeding was the most common contributing factor in LA crashes that year.
While Los Angeles leads the pack in sheer volume of accidents, other metropolitan areas also contribute significantly to the state’s high numbers. 4,516 people were injured or killed in accidents in San Francisco in 2015, and another 9,237 were hurt or killed in collisions in San Diego the same year. In the state capital, 4,502 people were injured or died in accidents in 2015. Speeding was also the leading contributing factor in all of these cities.
With so many collisions each year, it is no wonder that many notable car accident settlements have made headlines in California. One of the largest settlements was awarded to a family whose car was struck by a drunk driver in Redwood City. In the case of People v. Tom, the father was killed in the crash, while the mother and children suffered serious injuries. The defendant was ordered to pay more than $7,000,000 to the surviving family members.
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No-Fault Laws in California
While some states require drivers to carry no-fault insurance to cover damages in an accident regardless of who is at fault, California does not. A financial responsibility state, California asks drivers only to pay for damages they cause. This means that drivers seeking compensation following a wreck may see their damages reduced depending on how their actions contributed to the accident. For example, if a jury determines a driver was approximately 10 percent responsible for the accident, their settlement can be reduced accordingly.
Of course, proving fault can be difficult. In many cases, a thorough investigation can help shed light on how the accident happened. An experienced personal injury attorney can connect car accident victims with professional investigators who know what to look for in such cases. Reconstruction experts can provide invaluable testimony to prove which driver was at fault.
California Car Accident Settlement Calculator:
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Car Accident Compensation Laws
California law allows for car accident victims to seek damages from the person responsible for their crash. Damages can include the medical costs associated with injuries sustained in the accident, the economic loss of taking time off of work to recuperate, and even the pain and suffering endured by the victim.
Thankfully, California has no limit on the amount of damages a victim can pursue. There are, however, a few caveats. Accident victims have just two years from the date of their crash to file a bodily injury claim and three for personal property claims. If a government vehicle is involved, this statute of limitations shrinks to just six months. These deadlines mean anyone involved in an accident in California should reach out to a personal injury lawyer sooner rather than later.
California’s Proposition 213 could also trip up some accident victims seeking compensation. Passed in 1996, the proposition prohibits those involved in car accidents from seeking non-economic damages if they themselves do not hold auto insurance. Economic damages like lost wages or property damage may still be sought if there is enough evidence.
Good Samaritan Laws in California
It is human nature to want to help those in need. Thankfully, California’s Good Samaritan laws allow bystanders to assist accident victims in the moments they need it most. While no person is obligated to offer help, those who wish to may proceed without fears of being sued later on. When a Good Samaritan rushes to the aid of a victim, they are required to exercise care.
It is important to note, however, that the Good Samaritan laws protect those providing medical care in an emergency setting from being sued. Those who offer help in a non-medical context, like moving an unconscious person from a vehicle, however, may be held liable for damages. No matter how good their intentions, if the Good Samaritan does not act with care and their action results in injuries, they can be sued by the victim. People wishing to help at the scene of an accident should keep these laws in mind before deciding to rush in.
California Accident Settlement Taxes
Generally, the California state government cannot impose taxes on proceeds that you receive from a personal injury settlement. But there are exceptions in California state law:
- It was a breach of contract settlement or award. If a breach of contract led to your injuries or illness, the basis of the lawsuit is that breach, the California state government has the right to tax the damages.
- Punitive damages. Awards you receive that are only to punish the defendant are taxable in California. That is why your attorney will probably ask the jury to split any verdict or settlement into compensatory and punitive damages.
- Lost wages. Your economic damage award in California is usually taxable as the state government sees it as funds you would have paid taxes on if you were not hurt.
Judgement interest. If interest is added to your verdict for the amount of time you claim pended in the California legal system, the state government may tax that portion of your settlement.
California Car Accident Resources
After an accident, the sheer number of tasks on a person’s to-do list can feel overwhelming. Trying to handle insurance claims, accident reports and lawsuits while recuperating from injuries is often virtually impossible for one person to shoulder. Thankfully, Lawsuit Info Center can pair accident victims with local attorneys who specialize in car crashes. Call 877-205-4877 for a free, no-risk consultation today.
Not sure if you need a lawyer? There are a few resources to explore in time meantime.
For those involved in an accident that resulted in injuries, death, or property damage of $1,000 or more, Form SR-1 should be filled out and returned to the California DMV within 10 days of the wreck. Failure to file this form can result in license suspension. Anyone feeling hesitant about filing should check out Lawsuit Info Center’s guide on accident reports.
Many people are curious to know how much their car accident settlement could be worth. While every case is different, our guide on average whiplash settlements can shed light on how claim value is calculated. For more precise figures, a conversation with a personal injury lawyer can be beneficial.
When accident victims are ready to file an insurance claim, Lawsuit Info Center’s guide on which insurance company to call can offer insight. No matter what questions remain in the aftermath of a wreck, we’re here to help.
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