California is generally a busy state, with many things going on every day in all its cities. Its traffic is equally dynamic. It means that car accidents are quite common too, some minor and others severe. A minor accident is quickly forgotten as soon as the injured are feeling better. However, a fatal accident will live in the minds of people for years to come because the loss of life is significant
Unfortunately, California records several fatal car accidents every year. The good thing is that there are personal injury laws in place to help families recover what they lose through the death of a loved one. If you are in San Diego, CA, you can contact us at San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm. We could help you navigate the legal process to ensure that you are getting the compensation you deserve.
California Fatal Car Accident Statistics
When a person gets into their vehicle, they do not expect that they might need to talk to a personal injury attorney soon enough. No one anticipates danger on our public roads. However, there is always a possibility of getting injured or causing another person to get injured. Car accidents happen when we least expect. When they happen, a lot of people get hurt, and the property gets destroyed. The only hope the injured have of getting some form of compensation is filing a personal injury lawsuit in a civil court. That is why you may need the help of a personal injury attorney.
Statistics show that the country records over 33,000 car accidents every year, in which over 36,000 deaths have occurred. The numbers of casualties vary from one state to the other. The same statistics show that the population of a state affects the number of accidents that occur. With a population of over 39 million people, California has recorded high numbers of fatal car accidents in the country. The 2018 statistics show that over 3000 fatal crashes were recorded in the state, in which over 3500 deaths occurred.
Most people who lose their lives in California car accidents are car occupants, followed closely by pickups and SUV occupants. Other affected road users include large truck occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. It means that everyone on the road is at risk of getting into an accident despite the state government’s measures to improve road safety. It also means that road safety is the responsibility of every road user. Since anyone can cause a car accident, everyone should be careful not to cause an accident.
Various types of car crashes have been reported in the country in recent years. Some are those that involve only one vehicle, and others involve multiple cars. In California, the number of single-vehicle crashes is almost the same as that of multiple-vehicle crashes. It means that road users should take both types of accidents seriously because even the safest driver can get into a fatal accident. Many motorists are only suspicious of other drivers without realizing that they, too, can lose control of their vehicle and cause an accident. However, careful one is, certain factors such as poor roads or weather conditions could affect a sound driver’s driving skills.
The most reported cause of fatal accidents in the country today is intoxicated driving. Despite the constant awareness that motorist receives every day, some drivers will still get behind the wheel while intoxicated. In 2018, 65% of all reported fatal car accidents in the country were caused by drunk drivers. More than 1,300 drivers in California lost their lives in fatal car accidents involving alcohol-use the same year.
California has apparent laws against drunk driving. Drivers suspected of operating under the influence must submit to BAC testing. Again, a drunk-driving conviction in the state attracts hefty penalties, including the possibility of losing one’s driver’s license to suspension or revocation. The state has also created awareness of the dangers of drunk driving to ensure that all motorists take the necessary precautions while on the roads. Even with that, we still have cases of drunk driving being reported every week. People are still losing their lives in car accidents involving drunk driving.
The use of seatbelts, especially for front-seat passengers, is encouraged to protect themselves from severe injuries in case of an accident. The national rate of seatbelt use was 90% in 2018. Statistically, unrestrained vehicle occupants are more likely to get fatally injured in a car crash than restrained ones. In California, we had a 96% seatbelt use in that year, with almost 600 fatally injured cases for unrestrained vehicle occupants. However, the number of restrained vehicle occupants who got fatally injured in the state was over 1,100, the highest we had in the country under that category.
Lastly, we had 45% of all fatal car crashes in the country in 2018 happening in rural areas. It means that there is no much difference in the number of fatal accidents in urban and rural areas in the United States. However, in California, most car accident deaths are reported in urban areas. The heavy traffic witnessed in most cities and towns could be why accidents in these areas are more severe than those that happen in rural California.
Day/Time for Most California Fatal Accidents
There is no specific month in which most fatal car crashes occur in California. However, DMV reports show that most accidents occur on Saturdays and Sundays as opposed to weekdays. Weekends are when most people are relaxing and enjoying some fun, especially after a busy week at work or school. Some people stay out drinking until late, hence the increasing cases of drunk driving in the state. Others are in a hurry to join friends and family for some fun. Wednesdays are supposedly when fewer accidents and car crash deaths are reported in the state.
As of the time, it seems that most car crashes in the state occur between noon and midnight, as opposed to between midnight and noon. People are usually more calm and careful in the mornings, before the afternoon and night rush. The highest number of fatal crashes in the state was reported between 5.00 pm and 6.00 pm, while the fewest numbers were reported between 4.00 am, and 5.00 am
Alcohol as a Factor in the State’s Fatal Car Crashes
Drunk driving has been severally mentioned as one of the leading causes of fatal car crashes in California. Despite knowing the dangers of drunk driving, many drivers will still get behind the wheel after a drinking spree. The truth is that drinking and driving do not go together. A person with high blood-alcohol content is incapable of making rational decisions while on the road. Thus, he/she is most likely to cause an accident than a sober person. Since alcohol incapacitates a person’s mind, an intoxicated person can cause an even severe accident than a sober one.
It explains why law enforcement officers in California must check a driver’s BAC level if he/she is suspected to be operating while under the influence. In case of a fatal car crash, the police are also required to take the deceased driver’s BAC to check whether or not he/she was driving under the influence. A blood test will quickly reveal whether the police’s suspicion was correct. If the driver’s BAC level were lower than what is legally required, his/her BAC results would not be recorded.
Police in California also conduct routine checks on the roads to stop and arrests motorists who are still driving under the influence. This is done through the regular DUI checkpoints that are randomly set up in the main highways. The police come up with criteria by which they will be stopping vehicles. If a driver is stopped and is suspected of being intoxicated, he/she is arrested, after which a BAC test is conducted. The driver will be released if the test results show that he/she was not driving under the influence. However, if the BAC results show a higher than the legal limit, the driver will be arrested and charged with DUI in a criminal court.
In addition to that, California has apparent DUI laws that provide the legal guidelines by which an intoxicated driver is convicted. State’s DMV also has its criteria through which it penalizes drunk drivers. The most severe of these penalties is getting one’s driver’s license revoked and their vehicle impounded. All this is a move to caution drivers against drunk driving and promote road safety for all users. Other penalties include jail time, fines, and restitution payment in case a drunk driver caused an accident in which a person was injured.
Other Causes of Fatal Car Crashes in California
Unfortunately, drunk driving is not the only cause of all fatal crashes in the state. There are many other causes, most of which result from negligence. They include:
More often than not, we run late for meetings, school, or even to get to work. When that happens, we tend to speed up to be there at least on time, or just a few minutes late. However, if you are driving, this is detrimental, not only to you but also to other road users. When a motorist is speeding, they do not have enough time to react if something comes up. That is why speeding is listed as a significant cause of fatal accidents in most states today. Speeding is a careless way of driving. Anyone that is injured in an accident in which a driver was speeding deserves compensation from the driver.
Failing To Yield to Other Road Users
All motorists, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians have a right to use public roads. California has clear traffic rules guiding each of these road users on when and how to yield to each other. There are certain times drivers are required to yield to other drivers. Failing to give the other right of way can lead to a devastating accident. Unfortunately, some drivers will behave as if they always have the right of way. Since the other motorist expects the driver to yield to them, they end up crashing into the car that failed to give way.
The nature of an accident like that will be determined by the speed at which both drivers were traveling. A driver that fails to yield to pedestrians is also likely to hit them or hit other motorists as he/she tries to avoid hitting the pedestrian.
Failing to yield is negligent behavior that has resulted in so many devastating accidents in California. If your loved one has been fatally injured in an accident where the driver failed to yield, the law allows you to pursue the negligent driver’s compensation.
This is another major cause of fatal car accidents in California. When a driver makes a wrong turn, he/she confuses other people the road, which could lead to a severe accident. Despite having clear guidelines on making safe turns on our roads, some drivers still make improper turns. Some do this mistakenly, maybe because there is no clear sign to guide them, but the results are usually devastating. Here are examples of wrong turns that drivers often make, which have resulted in fatal accidents:
- Turning right on a red right even when there is a clear “no turn on red” sign
- Turning left on a red light
- Making a turn without signaling
- Going through a stop sign to make a turn, without first yielding to oncoming traffic
- Making illegal U-turns
- Making a turn in a place where there is no designated turning area
Failing to Observe Traffic Signals and Signs
Traffic rules are set to keep everyone on the road safe. Violating traffic rules and signals is a significant cause of serious car accidents in California. The state has enough traffic rules, especially those that pertain to traffic signals. Everyone using public roads is expected to understand and obey all the rules. There are different types of traffic signals on our roads today.
The regulatory signs will guide motorists and other road users to use the road and protect others from accidents. For instance, they are parking signs, yield signs, speed limit signs, and stop signs and parking signs. The warning signs, on the other hand, designate specific parts of the road. They include school zones, no passing zones, animal crossing, railroad crossing, and pedestrian crossing.
It is vital to determine and differentiate the different traffic signs to increase our safety on the road and others’ safety. This way, the state can reduce the number and severity of accidents on our roads.
Use of Seatbelts to Reduce Car Accident Deaths
The use of shoulder harnesses and seatbelts is encouraged for vehicle occupants, especially front-seat passengers, to reduce fatalities on our roads. The truth is, they can save lives, though not all lives. As mentioned above, California has a higher rate of seatbelt use when compared to other states. However, we still have reports of car accident fatalities, even among seatbelt users. This means that seat belts alone are not the only way to stay safe and protect oneself from suffering severe injuries in a car accident.
People need to do a lot more than wearing seatbelts if we want to bring down the number of deaths resulting from car accidents. First, we need to bring down the number of accidents on our roads. This is an individual responsibility, as every road user has their part to play in this. If we all used our roads carefully, observing all traffic rules and signs, and avoiding negligent behavior on the roads, we could achieve that.
Consequences of Fatal Car Accidents
The number of vehicles on our roads increases every day, and so is the risk of car accidents. Drivers need to be a lot more careful now than ever if we want to bring down the number of car accident deaths in the state. As mentioned earlier, a small accident will be quickly forgotten, especially if no one was injured and no property was destroyed. However, a fatal accident will ring in the minds of people forever. The loss of a person is not something that can easily be forgotten. That is why California has severe consequences for those found guilty of causing fatal car accidents.
What Happens If I Accidentally Killed Someone in California?
If there is proof that a driver was at fault in causing another person’s death, he/she could be charged in a criminal court for an offense like vehicular manslaughter. The crime is defined as causing another person’s death when driving a vehicle while engaging in negligent or unlawful conduct. The criminal penalties the offender gets, in this case, will depend on whether he/she was involved in gross or ordinary negligence. This is an offense that could see the offender facing a prison term of up to six years and paying hefty fines.
What Happens If I Lose a Loved One in a Fatal Car Accident?
This is where California personal injury laws are applied. They ensure that the deceased’s family can receive compensation for all the losses incurred after losing their loved one. Suppose a person is killed in a car accident, and there is sufficient proof that another person’s negligent or reckless behavior was the cause of that accident. In that case, the family is allowed by law to pursue compensation. This can be done by filing a lawsuit in a civil court against the negligent party.
A person who is found guilty in a criminal court for vehicular manslaughter can still be sued in a civil court for causing another person’s death through negligence. The deceased’s family do not lose their chance of filing for compensation even though the offender has been sentenced in a criminal court.
Note that this can still happen when a fatality occurred in a car accident, but the defendant has not been convicted of vehicular manslaughter. Even if there were no criminal charges, the victim’s immediate family could not pursue compensation by filing a claim in a civil court. California laws are apparent on the people allowed by law to file for compensation for their loved one’s loss. The immediate family could be the parents, spouse, children, or grandchildren of the deceased person. From that lawsuit, the family can collect compensation for economic and non-economic damages incurred after their kin’s death. Compensation may include:
- Medical costs incurred after the deceased person was injured. This would apply if their death did not occur immediately.
- Funeral costs and burial expenses, including all the transport costs and preparations incurred before and on the day of burial
- Wages and benefits lost after the death of a kin. These include all that he/she would have earned had they lived.
- The pain and suffering the family suffered before ( if he/she did not die immediately after the accident )and after their kin’s death.
- Loss of companionship, consortium or guidance for his/her survivors
Note that the parents have two years to file a wrongful death claim in a California civil court. The two years starts from the date of the fatal accident. You might need the help of a legal expert to gather all the evidence and prepare all the required papers before the set deadline.
Find San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer near Me
If you lost a loved one in a fatal car accident, you might be eligible for compensation under California personal injury laws. What you should do is to get in touch with an experienced personal injury attorney immediately to understand your options. At San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we have competent attorneys ready and willing to help you through the legal process. We have enough experience in the industry to know what it takes to win a case. Therefore, if you are in San Diego, CA, call us at 619-478-4059 and take advantage of our unbeatable expertise.