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Determining Liability in a Car Accident Case

Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers in California

Every day, car accidents prevalently occur on California streets and highways. Indeed, the California Highway Patrol has noted that more than 220,000 individuals were injured on state roads in a single year, with an additional 3,100 fatalities as a result of traffic-related accidents.

The injuries resulting from a California car accident can vary, but what remains constant is car accident victims face loss of income from missing workdays, compounding medical debt, and even permanent disabilities. Moreover, families who have tragically lost a loved one are not only left to grieve but are also forced to suffer from financial hardship.

Since determining fault in a California car accident case can be complicated, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney if you, or someone you care about, have been hurt. Call us today at (800) 576-4620.

Identifying Fault in California

Although a majority of the time police may correctly determine fault in their report, there are times when a police officer’s fault assessment is incorrect. Perhaps one of the most common situations in which a law enforcement officer may improperly determine fault is when one or more of the accident victims is unable to speak for themselves. This could be because they are too injured to speak, is taken away by an ambulance, or has tragically passed away as a result of the collision. In such cases, a police officer may only get one version of the facts.

Every California car accident case is centered on the legal theory of negligence. If the court finds that one party’s negligence caused the accident that resulted in harm, that party will be found at fault and liable. Negligence happens when a party fails to act within the degree of reasonable care that is expected of them under the particular set of facts.

For example, every driver in California and across the nation owes a legal duty to drive his or her vehicle in a reasonably safe manner in order to prevent injuries to others. Some common examples of negligence include driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, distracted driving, violating traffic laws, and aggressive driving.

What Is Comparative Fault?

California is a “comparative fault” state, which is sometimes referred to as “comparative negligence.” This means that someone who is injured in a California car accident may still recover monetary compensation even if he or she is found to be partially at fault by a court for causing the accident that resulted in his or her injuries.

Under the comparative fault rule, a portion of the injured victim’s damages can be covered by the other negligent party. A jury will determine what percentage of fault an injured-plaintiff had in causing the accident and contributing to his or her injuries. The damage award is then reduced by the injured-plaintiff’s percentage of fault.

What Should I Do After a Car Accident?

It is important to be aware that, in California and pursuant to state law, after any car accident all drivers have certain obligations to report the collision. Under California Vehicle Code Section 20008, a driver of any vehicle that is involved in a car accident must make a written report of the crash, within 24-hours of the incident, if the crash resulted in injuries or death to any person.

It is important to be aware that, in California and pursuant to state law, after any car accident all drivers have certain obligations to report the collision. Under California Vehicle Code Section 20008, a driver of any vehicle that is involved in a car accident must make a written report of the crash, within 24-hours of the incident, if the crash resulted in injuries or death to any person. If a police officer arrives at the scene of the accident, however, he or she will write a report on behalf of the agency and you do not need to make your own separate report.

Reporting Your Accident to the DMV

In most situations, someone involved in a California car accident needs to report the crash to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (CDMV). In fact, any driver who is involved in a car accident, in California, must report the accident to the state DMV within 10 days of the crash if:

  • Anyone involved in the accident was injured, no matter how minor
  • Anyone involved in the accident was killed
  • The car accident resulted in property damage - to a vehicle or real property - that is more than $750

The traffic accident report form can be found on the California DMV’s website.

Reporting Your Accident to Your Insurance Company

States across the nation, including California, do not have laws stating whether or when a policyholder must report a car accident to his or her insurer. That being said, every car insurance contract does require the policyholder to report any car accident shortly after the incident has occurred - often written as a “reasonable period of time.”

The reason being that the sooner the insurance company knows about the crash, the sooner it can begin to try to defend the claim. If a policyholder fails to report a California car accident within a reasonable amount of time, the insurance company may deny coverage altogether in connection with the accident. This is because an insurer can define a “reasonable period of time” as only a couple of days, depending on the facts of the accident.

Statute of Limitations in California

It is important to understand that all personal injury cases are subject to a statute of limitations. Simply put, a statute of limitations is a time limit in which a plaintiff has the right to bring a lawsuit in court seeking monetary compensation for damages suffered. Failure to file a lawsuit within that time period results in the claim being forever barred.

California’s Code of Civil Procedure, Section 335.1 sets a two-year deadline for filing a lawsuit for injuries resulting from another’s negligence. If the California car accident resulted in injury, the lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of the crash. If the California car accident results in fatalities, the deceased’s surviving family members must file a lawsuit within two years of the person’s death.

If you or someone you know has been hurt in a California car accident, contact our skilled attorneys at Haig B. Kazandjian Lawyers, APC for an initial case evaluation.

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