Orange County Car Accident Attorney
Being involved in a car accident is a traumatic experience. You may be dealing with serious injuries, as well as dealing with insurance companies, medical bills, and attempting to make the negligent party pay for your injuries. The entire process can be extremely stressful, leaving you anxious and frustrated, particularly if your injuries were serious. You may have missed work, or may not be able to return to work at all, due to the extent of your injuries.
Your medical bills and your normal monthly bills may be nothing short of alarming, and you may be wondering where to turn. Those who have experienced such a situation, those who are currently in the middle of a similar situation, or those who may one day end up in this situation should remember one important fact: Speaking to an experienced Orange County car accident attorney as soon as possible after a car accident are much more likely to end up with a more positive outcome than those who attempt to do it alone.
Who is Liable for Your Car Accident Injuries?
Every state varies in assigning liability for car accidents and other personal injuries. In the state of California, a driver injured through the negligence of another is entitled to recover compensation from the at-fault party. However, if the driver seeking compensation bears some degree of responsibility, any compensation he or she receives will be reduced by the percentage of fault. This makes the state of California a pure comparative negligence state.
As an example, if another car makes an unsafe lane change, side-swiping your vehicle, then that driver will be liable. However, if you were exceeding the speed limit at the time of the accident, you might be deemed 20 percent at fault for the accident. Suppose your total damages are $60,000. Under the comparative fault laws of California, you would be entitled to recover $48,000 (the $60,000 in damages, minus 20 percent, or $12,000).
Most auto accident occur because at least one driver has exhibited negligence, and that negligence was responsible for the accident. Drivers have a duty of care to act in a responsible, reasonable manner while behind the wheel. This means drivers must not ignore traffic signals, must not exceed the speed limit or driver faster than the weather and road conditions warrant, must not tailgate, fail to signal, or commit any other violations of the California Vehicle Code. Drivers must also not drive while distracted, fatigued or impaired.
Typically, an insurance adjuster will determine fault, probably with the assistance of a police report. The police report will be based on statements from drivers, witnesses to the accident and physical evidence. If fault is unable to be determined, a judge and jury may be asked to determine who was responsible for the crash.
What are the Most Common Types of Injuries from a Car Accident?
When the spinal cord is damaged, patients could experience reduced sensation and control of their arms, hands, legs, feet, or other body parts, and could end up permanently paralyzed. Less serious, but still traumatic is a herniated disk or other back injuries, leading to numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, and leg and/or arm pain. Whiplash may be the injury which occurs the most often in a car accident. While a whiplash injury may often be disbelieved by others, in fact it is a serious injury. When the head and neck are “snapped” back, then forward forcefully, during a car accident, the neck muscles and ligaments can be damaged.
Some of the most common types of injuries following a car accident are head and back injuries. When a seated passenger or driver is involved in a high-speed collision—or even a lower-speed collision, in some cases—their heads may strike the dashboard, window or steering wheel, resulting in concussion, traumatic brain injuries, lasting cognitive issues, coma and death. Traumatic brain injuries can require long-term medical care, and can lead to vision problems and hearing loss, as well as personality disorders and an inability to perform the type of work the victim performed prior to the car injury.
When the chest area suffers blunt force trauma during an auto accident, broken ribs and collapsed lungs may result. Internal bleeding may be an issue, as well as damage to organs, the abdominal area and the pelvis. In severe auto accidents, there may be severe lacerations, limb damage, requiring amputation, or eye injuries which result in loss of vision. In addition to physical injuries suffered from car accidents, many of those involved in a serious car accident will suffer emotional distress or trauma. Some will even suffer post- traumatic stress disorder, and may be unable to get into a car again.
California Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents
Every state sets time limits for those injured by the negligence of another to file a claim for damages. These time limits are known as statutes of limitations. In the state of California, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the accident (under California Code of Civil Procedures Section 335.1) to file a claim for damages in the form of a personal injury lawsuit.
For damage to your vehicle, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a claim for property damage, under California Code of Civil Procedures Section 338. If your car accident was in any way caused by a governmental entity, such as a city bus, or if your car accident occurred on government property, a different set of rules will apply. You must file a claim with the governmental entity within six months from the date of the accident. If your claim is denied, you have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit.
What Type of Damages Could You Collect for Your Car Accident Injuries?
In most situations, you will be entitled to collect compensatory damages for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Your lost wages can include those since the accident as well as future lost earnings if you are unable to return to work. Medical expenses include hospital bills, doctor expenses, prescription drug expenses, rehabilitative therapy expenses, and, if you must travel to obtain medical assistance, you may even be entitled to reimbursements for gas, meals and motel. Punitive damages are sometimes awarded, when the behavior of the defendant was particularly reckless, malicious or deliberate. Punitive damages both punish the defendant as well as providing a deterrent to others.
Car Accident Statistics
According to the Association for Safe International Travel, in the United States, more than 37,000 people die in automobile crashes every year. Further statistics regarding car accidents include the following:
- 35 million Americans are injured or disabled from automobile crashes annually;
- More than 1,600 children under the age of 15 die every year from car crashes in the United States;
- Drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 are involved in nearly 8,000 fatal car crashes every year;
- Among U.S. citizens traveling abroad, car crashes are the single greatest cause of death;
- In the state of California, there were 3,074 deaths in 2014 from car accidents;
- Of those auto accident fatalities in the state of California, 876 involved alcohol impairment and 995 involved excess speed.
- Eight hundred and eleven of the fatalities from car accidents in 2014 in the state of California resulted from an intersection collision.
- In Orange County alone, in 2014, there were 173 fatalities resulting from car accidents.
Most Common Causes of Car Accidents
Despite vehicles being manufactured with higher levels of technology, and more emphasis on safety, car accidents continue to occur. While the cause of any car accident is a combination of a specific set of circumstances, there are some accident causes which are more typical, including:
- Driver error is, by far, the largest single cause of car accidents in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Under the broad umbrella of “driver error” are the following:
- Distracted driving is one of the primary reasons people end up in car crashes in today’s busy society. Driver distraction can encompass the use of cell phones, whether texting or talking, changing radio stations, using a GPS in busy traffic, turning around to see what the children are doing in the back seat, talking to passengers, looking at something on the side of the road, or even daydreaming. The National Safety Council reports that 25 percent of all car crashes are related to cell phone use, so this may be the primary form of driver distraction. The margin of error is a matter of two to six seconds, generally, and the “average” time it takes to read or send a text is five seconds or more. When the driver is engaged in a distraction, the brain is much less likely to perceive a road hazard quickly enough to avoid an accident.
- The NHTSA statistics claim alcohol is a factor in 40 percent of all car accident fatalities, as alcohol consumption results in a decreased reaction time, poor decision-making skills, and poor vision.
- Driving while fatigued has similar results to driving while impaired. An exhausted or drowsy driver has slower reaction times, and is much more likely to miss a traffic control sign.
- Speeding is another type of driver error, and is one of the most common causes of car accidents among teens. Conversely, while teens are the most likely to exceed the speed limit, they are also the least experienced drivers, and the least-equipped to deal with a driving hazard.
- Tailgating is the cause of many accidents, particularly on freeways when traffic has slowed, and drivers fail to leave enough distance between themselves and the car in front.
- Road rage, is, unfortunately, all-too common in today’s society, and can lead to serious car accidents.
- Aside from driver error, there are non-driver-related causes of car accidents, including the following:
- Weather conditions, particularly rain and snow can make the roadways slippery, and can impair visibility;
- An improperly maintained roadway can lead to a car accident, as it can become difficult to stop quickly or to maintain traction;
- The performance of the vehicle—or lack of performance—can lead to a car accident. Faulty brakes or tires can hinder a driver’s ability to stop quickly, and other mechanical issues could keep the driver from avoiding hazards;
- Driving at night can be more hazardous than driving during the daytime, as hazards are more difficult to see;
- Curvy roads can be difficult to maneuver, and when drivers don’t slow down on curves, accidents can occur, and
- Construction zones can often be set up in a confusing manner, and when drivers don’t slow down and pay attention, car accidents can result.
Where Do Most Car Accidents Occur?
Most drivers have heard that car accidents typically occur close to home, with only about one percent happening more than fifty miles from home. When you consider that most of us do the bulk of our driving close to home, the statistic makes sense.
We commute to work, take our children to school and to athletic practice and events, we go to the grocery store, the movies, to visit friends and to church. Residential neighborhoods are the primary spot for automobile accidents. Pedestrians who come out of nowhere, parked cars, reduced speed limits and children playing in the streets all increase the likelihood of a car accident. Many car accidents also occur in parking lots.
Drivers are distracted, and usually in a hurry to get home, and may not be as alert to other drivers as they should be. In 2015, Detroit, Michigan was chosen as the most dangerous city to drive in (followed by Baton Rouge, Baltimore, Springfield and San Bernardino).
Larger cities, overall, are more dangerous to drive in, however New York City ranked as the 34th safest city for drivers in 2015. August appears to be the most dangerous month to drive, possibly because many families are engaging in the “last hurrah” of the summer before school starts, meaning there are more drivers on the roadways.
How an Orange County Car Accident Attorney Can Help
If you have been involved in a car accident it is extremely important that you contact an Orange County personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will speak to witnesses, talk to the insurance company for you, collect all the necessary evidence, and put together a solid case on your behalf. With an Orange County attorney by your side, you have the necessary time to heal from your injuries while your attorney will work to receive the compensation you are entitled to.