Being one of the largest cities in California, San Diego is rather busy, with a lot of things going on. This goes to traffic in the city as well, without forgetting the many cars that pack on the roads. For this reason, car accidents are a common occurrence. If you or your family member have been injured in a car accident in San Diego, and the injury was caused by another person or company, know that you can seek the help of a personal injury attorney. Our team of professional personal injury attorneys at the San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm helps injured in San Diego seek compensation from the responsible parties.
An Overview of Personal Injury Laws in California
When a person leaves their home in the morning, they do not expect that they might need to speak to a personal injury lawyer by the end of the day. No one foresees danger even when there are a wide range of potential threats on the roads that they have to face every day. There are unsafe drivers on our roads, for instance, unleashed dogs, broken steps, and also faulty goods. The unsafe behavior and dangerous obstacles are things that people have to face every day and the reason why, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, 32 million people in the US were treated for personal injuries in 2012.
While not all personal injuries result from recklessness, intentional conduct and negligence of another person, most of the severe injuries witnessed so far are those that result from the wrong conduct of people, businesses and government entities. Personal Injury Law in California has established a framework that imposes civil responsibility for fatalities and injuries on persons whose carelessness, intentional acts, and inattentiveness cause damage to others.
If there is a possible legal explanation to hold the defendant responsible for the monetary and non-monetary damage suffered by a personal injury victim, financial responsibility could be imposed on them. In most cases, liability will be based upon negligence, which is the most basic term used in personal injury claims. Negligence, in this case, will refer to failure by a person to take reasonable care to avoid foreseeable harm. Most personal injury lawsuits are based on involuntary accidents, but intentional injuries like those suffered during a physical or sexual attack could also constitute a base for imposing responsibility on the person on the wrong.
Also, strict liability can be used to hold a person financially responsible for the injuries sustained by another person. This will be used in specific circumstances when the law can allow fault to be imposed on another person who is not guilty.
A personal injury claim in California necessitates that the behavior of the defendant caused physical, financial, and/or emotional harm to the victim. Any personal injury, including falling on a slippery floor and being injured by a drunk driver allows the injured to seek a wide range of damages, which include lost income, medical costs, diminished earning capacity, pain, and suffering, care of a loved one and loss of companionship among others. The adverse impact the accident has on the insured's lifestyle and also punitive damages will be considered as well.
Car Accident and Personal Injury Laws in California
As mentioned above, personal injuries can result from car accidents. If this happens and you are in California, it is vital to understand how the state's laws affect your injury claims. There are several laws that you need to learn and understand, including the following:
California pedestrian laws:
Section 21950 of California statutes provide that a driver of any car must stop to give way to pedestrians crossing the road with a marked or even an unmarked pedestrian crossing. The same law states that no pedestrian is allowed to enter a marked or unmarked pedestrian crossing when the traffic is close because this constitutes an instant hazard.
Section 21456 provides the control signs that a pedestrian must observe and adhere to. A walk or a signal of a person walking indicates that pedestrian can cross the road in the bearing of that signal. For drivers, this signal means that you should give way to pedestrians. A steady or flashing Don't Walk, Wait, or an Upraised Arm signal means that no pedestrians should be crossing the roadway at that time in the direction of that signal.
Section 21953 provides that pedestrians that want to cross a road at any other place other than the marked crosswalk should give way to all cars that are using that roadway.
Section 21956 makes it illegal for a pedestrian to stroll along or upon an adjacent roadway outside any business or residential district. When sidewalks have not been provided, pedestrians can only walk along or on the left hand side of the road or when their shoulder is in front of traffic but from the other side.
Section 21952 provides that any car must give approaching pedestrians the way before they can drive upon or over any sidewalk.
California driving laws
There are several laws that drivers must abide by to maintain safety on the roads. These are, for instance:
Section 21462 which require every driver to obey all traffic control policies that apply to them, unless otherwise guided by a police or traffic officer.
Section 21650 provides that drivers must always drive on the right side of the roadway, except in the following circumstances:
- When they are passing another motorist that is moving in the same way
- When they are placing their car in an illegal position to take a left turn
- When the lane on their right is in despair or under construction
- When driving on a roadway whose traffic is restricted to only one way
- When a road does not have a sufficient width
Sections 21750, 21751, and 21753 states that drivers who are moving in the same way must enter the left lane at a good distance and that they should stay in that passing lane until it is okay for them to get back to the correct way. Drivers who are being overtaken must not intensify their speed until the other driver has completely overtaken them.
Section 21751 provides limitations to drivers overhauling on the left. This should only be done if the left is visible and that the overtaking car can get back to its original road without meddling with the operations of the approaching traffic.
Section 21754 provides that drivers can make a pass on his/her right but under these conditions:
- When the motorist they want to overtake is almost taking a left turn. The driver that is making the pass on a right is, however, needed to do this without taking off the most-used part of that road.
- When that road has two or more lanes on traffic, all going in the same way
- If the driver is driving on a street with just one way
- If driving on a highway that has two roadways and traffic is limited to only one way on each of those roads
Sections 21703 and 21706 state that drivers shouldn’t follow other drivers too closely on a highway. Drivers should maintain a distance that is prudent and reasonable. They should also pay attention to their speed and haste of other motorists as well as circumstances along the road while considering the distance to keep between them and other vehicles.
Any driver that is towing a vehicle is required to maintain an adequate distance ahead of them with other cars to allow any vehicle that wants to overtake to do so and take the space without being in danger.
Section 23123.5 provides that drivers should not operate a vehicle while at the same time they are using an electronic mobile device. This is unless the device is configured and designed to be operated hands-free or by voice. Drivers are, however, allowed to use mobile electronic devices to call for emergency help.
Section 21800 states that when two motorists come close to an intersection at almost the exact time, the motorist on the left side of the road must give way to the one on the right.
Section 22107 states that a driver may not turn left on a road until that turning can be done with rational safety, and this can only be done if they have given the right signal.
Section 21802 says that any driver that is about to cross or enter a road from a different place than from another road must give way to other motorists on the road that they intend to cross.
According to Section 21200 of the California statutes, bicyclists are required to obey all the traffic laws provided for car drivers and can be subjected to the same punishments as drivers for not adhering to traffic laws.
California Motorcycling Laws
There are specific laws that only apply to motorcyclists in California, including:
Section 27803, which requires all bikers and their passengers to have helmets while using public roadways, and
Sections 25650 and 25650.5, which require every motorbike riding on a road during darkness to have, as a minimum, one headlight turned on, but not exceeding two.
Every motorbike that was manufactured and registered on 1st January 1978 and after must be fitted out with, at best, one headlight and not beyond two. The headlights should automatically light when the motorcycle engine is started and should stay on as long as the motorbike engine is on.
Car Accident Compensation Laws in California
Just like in many states, California has an ‘at fault’ or ‘tort’ system for car accident insurance claims. A person seeking compensation for personal injuries sustained in a car accident is required to show liability on the part of the other driver if they want their compensation claim to be a success.
Your case could go beyond the insurance claim to a full legal proceeding. California is a jurisdiction of pure comparative negligence. If the case proceeds to trial, for instance, the jury or judge will have to calculate the proportions of liability for every driver in percentages, and then decrease each driver's fault accordingly. If for instance, the driver suffered $15,000 damages, but the court found him/her to be 30% at fault, he/she will only get 70% compensation, amounting to $10,500.
Types of Compensable Damages
Damages resulting from car accidents are categorized as monetary/economic and non-monetary. The economic damages are those that require replacement or repair of damaged cars, lost income, current and future healthcare expenses, and any other out-of-the pocket expense that the injured may pay for. Non-monetary damages, on the other hand, are those damages that do not require monetary compensation. These will be, for instance, emotional distress, pain, or disfigurement that resulted from the accident.
Here is a list of some of the costs that result from car crashes:
Suffering and pain
Pain and suffering are legally defined as the physical or mental distress for which a person may seek damages in a lawsuit. The damages, in this case, will be based on the type of injuries sustained, how serious the pain suffered was, and the prognosis for future pain associated with the sustained injury. Mental and emotional damage is also included under suffering and pain and will include damages such as stress and anxiety.
If you have been involved in a car accident, you can sustain all kinds of injuries, starting from a few cuts or bruises, going to serious injuries such as paralysis and permanent disabilities. Note that some injuries will not produce symptoms immediately. An injured person may, therefore, require additional medical care down the road. That is why it is crucial to go through a medical examination shortly after the accident if you feel that you have been injured. Some of the medical expenses you may have to cater for include:
- Physical therapy and cognitive therapy if you have sustained a brain injury
- Consultations with doctors and other health care professionals
- Ambulance fees
- Accessories such as heat pads or crunches
- Permanent disability
- In-home services, even if it is non-medical
Serious car accidents may cause a person to stay out of work for a long time, and this is where compensation for lost wages comes in. Some people sustain injuries that make it impossible for them to earn a living. If you have to spend so much time in a hospital, for instance, you are unable to work because of the physical therapy sessions you are attending, or you developed mobility problems, you will have to get proper compensation for the lost wages. You will be required to prove that the injuries sustained are what has impaired or diminished your earning ability.
Loss of companionship or affection
Some injuries deprive a person of their ability to show affection to the spouses. Some people's ability to engage in sexual activity is affected. Unlike all those other damages, this type of damage is claimed by the uninjured spouse. Note that other costs have to be recovered before your spouse can recover this.
Limits on the Damages You Can Claim
California, unlike other states, does not generally have a limit on damages a person can claim on a personal injury case. However, there will be a few traps here and there that could limit or even disregard your compensation claim for a car crash.
The principal limit, which is considered as the strictest limitation will be the time limit for filing a claim, also called the Statute of Limitations. This is the period when a person has to file a claim after getting injured. For personal injury lawsuits, the claimant has two years to file a lawsuit, as provided in Section 335.1 of California Statutes. For property damage lawsuits, the claimant has three years to file a legal claim for compensation as provided in section 338 of the California Penal Code. For applications involving a government agency, the claimant has six months to present a legal claim as provided in Section 911.2.
In addition to the statute of limitations, California has a unique type of limit for car accidents, which involves a driver without insurance or one without evidence of financial obligation. This is according to Proposition 213 that was passed in California by voters. According to this proposition, if a motorist does not have an insurance cover, it will be difficult to recover the non-monetary damages like emotional distress, suffering, and pain. This is so regardless of who is liable for the accident. Financial costs such as medical expenses and lost wages will still be available as long as the fault is proven.
The last limit will be affecting those people whose personal injuries led them to stay long in hospitals. In such a case, medical malpractice damages may also affect their livelihood. What this means is that if your car crash injury becomes more severe because of a medical malpractice, your non-monetary damages will be limited to up to $250,000.
How to Preserve Your legal Claim When Injured in a Car accident
A car accident will leave you in great pain, emotional distress, and sometimes anxiety. The physical and psychological damages are likely to influence your decision and also cloud your judgment. When you are facing such difficult circumstances, what you do after that will have an essential and lasting impact on your legal rights and the remedies you get out of it. That is why it is necessary to walk with an experienced personal injury attorney throughout the process. With an attorney by your side, you will proceed well and take immediate legal action to ensure you get the right compensation for the sustained injuries. Here are some of the crucial steps you could choose to preserve your claim:
Give consent to medical attention
When a person is dealing with a lot of stress plus the adrenaline rush that comes when you are involved in an accident, it is possible to underestimate the severity of injuries sustained.
In most cases, people in shock will not experience pain immediately. Again, some injuries will not show their symptoms until after some time has passed. If there are paramedics on the accident scene, and they want to take you to the hospital, it is vital to give consent and trust their medical judgment. It is vital to see a physician whether you injure your leg or hurt your head in a fall, even if you think that the injuries are not significant.
Take pictures and gather as much evidence as you can
Immediately after getting into a car accident, the injured or the person driving with them should get information from the other driver, including the driver's name, their insurance information, car license plate number, and address/phone number. If there are witnesses, get their contacts too. Any broken part of your car should be preserved as evidence. If possible, take pictures of the injuries sustained, the damage on your vehicle, and the relative position of your car. You need to capture the entire vicinity of that accident in multiple angles.
Ensure that an accident report is prepared
An accident report will document all the details of the accident, as well as the people involved in that accident. Even if you think that the injuries you sustained are minor, it is essential to have this record. In all types of vehicular collisions, it is vital to call law enforcement officers before you leave the accident scene as they will be the ones to prepare the accident report. When speaking to the law enforcement officer, it is okay to indicate who you think, in your opinion, caused the crash.
Be careful what you say
When you are in shock, it is very easy to make incriminating statements, especially when speaking to law enforcement officers. Some of these statements will be put on record and could be used against you when the time to file your legal claim comes. Allow your attorney to speak on your behalf.
Find a Personal Injury Law Firm Near Me
Car accidents happen when we least expect, and this unpreparedness can affect your ability to file for a legal claim to get compensated for the sustained injuries. There are several processes one must take, and there is a lot to learn, but with the right personal injury attorney by your side, everything will fall in place. The San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm is comprised of highly trained and experienced attorneys who have successfully represented many personal injury victims. Call us at 619-478-4059 and let us help you get the compensation you deserve.