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RECENTLY INVOLVED IN A CAR ACCIDENT?

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The streets of Orange County, California, have seen a fair share of car accidents. In 2021 alone, the total number of car accidents in Orange County was 11,953, with 67.02% of the victims being drivers and 32.98% passengers and other roadgoers. This shows that such accidents can affect the lives of not just the person behind the wheel but also the passengers and pedestrians.

These numbers also emphasize the need for road safety in the county. Understanding the car crash situation can help you take the necessary steps, such as what to do after the car accident and how to work with a car accident lawyer. Here’s an overview of Orange County, California, car accidents, and what to do when you’re in one.

Table of Contents

What Is a Car Accident?

A car accident involves motor vehicles and can result in property damage, injuries, or even fatalities. The nature of a car accident can vary, but the most common is the collision of two or more vehicles. It can also happen when a vehicle crashes into an object on or near the road, such as a tree or utility pole, or collides with pedestrians.

Various factors, such as driver errors, adverse weather conditions, or mechanical failure, could contribute to the accident. The severity ranges from minor collisions causing damage to the car to multi-vehicle accidents with devastating consequences.

7 Things You Should Do Following an Auto Accident in California

Being in a car crash can be overwhelming, but knowing what to do after is crucial for your safety, well-being, and legal protection. Consider the following steps to help you out.

1. Check for any Injuries

Immediately after the accident, check yourself and your passengers for injuries. It’s your legal and ethical duty to assist those who are hurt. As stated in the California Vehicle Code Section 20001, you must stop and remain at the scene that resulted in injuries or death.

2. Get to Safety

If your vehicle is obstructing traffic, move it to the side of the road. But first, make sure it’s safe to do so. According to the California Vehicle Code Sections 22651 and 22651.05, you must move your vehicle off the street or highway as long as no one is injured or killed. This step helps prevent additional accidents and ensures a smooth flow of traffic.

3. Call 911

Call the emergency hotline to report the accident, especially when people are injured. Besides providing immediate medical assistance, emergency responders ensure that law enforcement arrives to document the incident, which can be helpful down the road.

4. Gather Relevant Information

Exchange information with other parties involved in the accident. Some of the things you should collect include:

  • Names of those involved
  • Contact information
  • Current residence address
  • Driver’s license numbers
  • Vehicle registration details
  • Insurance information

According to the California Vehicle Code Section 16025, all drivers involved in the accident must exchange information after a collision unless they cannot do so. Enlisting the help of an auto accident attorney in Orange County lets you accomplish this task easily.

5. Collect Evidence

Take photographs of the accident scene, vehicle damage, and visible injuries, if there are any. Documenting can back your statement when dealing with insurance claims or potential legal proceedings. To further strengthen your case, consider talking to any witnesses.

6. Seek Medical Treatment

Even if you feel fine immediately after the accident, you should still seek medical attention. Some injuries may not manifest symptoms instantaneously, so it’s best to discover and address them as early as possible. Moreover, prompt medical documentation can be vital for insurance claims and personal injury cases since it’s your duty to prevent injuries from worsening.

7. Notify your Insurance Provider and Start the Claim Process

Contact your insurance provider to report the accident as soon as possible. California law states that you must also inform the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) about it within a certain period. However, the statute of limitations for car insurance claims depends on your provider. 

Remember, California operates under an “at-fault” system for car accidents, which means the negligent driver’s insurance will cover the damages and injuries. If you’re unsure what to do, reach out to an auto accident lawyer in Orange County.

Common Car Accident Injuries in Orange County

Car accidents can lead to a wide range of injuries with varying degrees of severity. Knowing these common injuries can help prevent them from worsening, and seeking the necessary medical and legal support.

Broken or Fractured Bones

The impact from the car accident can lead to broken or fractured bones in the arms, legs, ribs, pelvis, or other parts of the body. These injuries can vary in severity—from hairline fractures to compound fractures.

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

TBIs can result in mild concussions to severe, life-threatening brain trauma. Even seemingly minor accidents can result in mild TBIs, manifesting as headaches, dizziness, or cognitive issues. More severe TBIs can have lasting effects, such as memory loss, personality changes, and impaired motor skills.

Whiplash

This neck injury occurs when the head suddenly jerks forward and backward, typically due to the impact of rear-end collisions. Symptoms may not appear immediately after the accident. However, a whiplash can cause neck pain, stiffness, headaches, and even long-term discomfort.

Aortic Dissection

This type of injury is a severe and life-threatening condition where the inner layer of the aorta from the heart tears, causing blood to flow between the layers of the aortic wall.

Scarring and/or Disfigurement

Severe lacerations or burns sustained during a car accident can result in permanent scarring and disfigurement. These injuries not only have physical effects but also emotional and psychological ones. They can impact your self-esteem and overall well-being.

Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries can lead to varying degrees of paralysis, ranging from temporary loss of function to permanent disabilities. You may face lifelong challenges in mobility and daily living.

Amputations

Some car accidents may have extreme forces that result in severed or injured limbs or extremities and lead to traumatic or surgical amputations.

Nerve damage

Nerve damage can result from the strong impact of a car accident or surgical procedures needed to address other injuries. It can lead to chronic pain, loss of sensation, or impaired motor function—all of which may degrade your quality of life.

Internal Bleeding or Internal Organ Damage

Car crashes can cause internal injuries that may not be apparent right away. However, internal bleeding or organ damage can be life-threatening, so victims must seek immediate medical attention even though there are no obvious injuries.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Car accidents can put a strain on one’s psyche, resulting in lasting psychological effects such as PTSD. You may experience flashbacks that can make you feel like you’re still in the situation, resulting in anxiety, depression, and emotional distress.

Death

Major car accidents can also result in fatalities. Statistics from 2021 showed that 1.26% of the total crashes in Orange County were fatal. The loss of a loved one in a car accident is a devastating experience, affecting families and communities.

Why Do I Need an Attorney After a Car Accident in California?

Hiring an Irvine car accident attorney is a wise choice when dealing with the aftermath of a vehicle crash in California. Firstly, these attorneys possess the legal expertise to navigate the complexities of car accident cases. They ensure you follow correct legal procedures and understand your rights.

Second, they can help you secure the compensation you deserve to cover medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and other intangible costs. Attorneys can represent you in insurance negotiations so you won’t get a lower-than-deserved remuneration. They also have the resources to investigate and gather evidence, helping establish fault in the accident and strengthen your case.

But more importantly, consulting an attorney reduces the stress and burden of post-accident proceedings significantly, letting you focus on your recovery while they uphold your rights.

How Can a Car Accident Lawyer Help You Seek Compensation?

A car accident lawyer will not only help you navigate the legal procedures of your case but also ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.

1. Determine the right type of compensation

A skilled car accident lawyer helps identify the various types of compensation you can receive beyond medical expenses. They can help convince the court to award you lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. By understanding the full scope of your losses, your lawyer can advise you on pursuing a case that awards you the finances you need to recover.

2. Calculate the amount of compensation

Assessing the value of your claim is one area of expertise of a car accident lawyer. Current and future medical bills, lost earnings, the impact of the accident on your quality of life, and other factors are considered when calculating the amount of compensation you should get.

Their experience can help you seek an amount that accurately reflects the extent of your injuries. For instance, if the accident results in an injury requiring ongoing treatment, they can consider that and include the costs in your claim.

3. Set compensation expectations

A car accident lawyer can manage your expectations by reviewing the compensation you may be eligible for. By taking into account previous legal cases, the specifics of your case, and their experience, they can give you a clear understanding of what you can reasonably expect from the legal process.

Remember that you can always ask them to go into more detail about their experiences handling similar cases and the results.

4. Collect evidence

Gathering compelling evidence is crucial in any case or claim. Your car accident lawyer can assist you in collecting and presenting evidence, such as accident reports, witness statements, medical records, and expert testimonies. For example, if there were CCTVs at the accident site, your lawyer can obtain and present the footage to establish liability.

The more proof you can collect, the more you can build a stronger case and the higher your chances of receiving fair compensation.

5. Maximize compensation

A car accident lawyer deeply understands the legal system and can use negotiation skills to maximize your compensation. They can negotiate settlements on your behalf so you can receive the highest possible amount. Car accident lawyers can also speak with the liable party’s insurance company to increase the settlement offer by presenting the full extent of your injuries.

6. Have leverage during legal proceedings

Having legal representation can provide leverage when facing the other party. The lawyer can talk you through the complexities of the legal process, making it less likely for the opposing party to take advantage of your lack of legal knowledge. If the other party disputes liability, your lawyer can present a compelling case that establishes their responsibility, strengthening your position in negotiations.

California Car Accidents by the Numbers

Car accidents in California happen more often than you realize. Here are some statistics about California car accidents:

  • From 2019 to 2022, California saw a 22% increase in traffic fatalities. (TRIP via KTLA)
  • There was also a 28% increase in the chances of an individual dying from a traffic crash in the same period. (KTLA)
  • In a report by the California Office of Traffic Safety, there was an approximately 7.6% increase in traffic deaths from 2020 to 2021 (KTLA)
  • California held the record of the state with the second-highest volume of fatalities from alcohol-impaired driving in 2020, with 1,159 deaths. (Statista)
  • The State Highway Safety Report reveals that California had 4,285 total fatalities in 2021. (FHWA)
  • The same report says there were 17,920 serious injuries in the same year, a 16.42% increase from 2020. (FHWA)
  • California ranks eighth among all 50 states for the deadliest when it comes to male crash victims. (KTLA)
  • The ratio of male to female fatalities per 100,000 licensed drivers is 4.03, which means men are 4.03 times more likely to die in a car crash than women. (KTLA)
  • In 2022, there were 14 fatalities per 100,000 vehicles in California, with 4,407 total deaths that year. (USA Today)
  • California is one of two states that had more than 1,000 speed-related fatalities in 2021, totaling 1,384. (USA Today)

5 Ways to Prove Negligence in an Auto Accident Claim in California

Proving negligence is crucial in California to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Here are some ways to establish liability and demonstrate the at-fault party’s negligence.

1. Duty of Care

First, establish that the at-fault party owed you a duty of care. All drivers must safely operate their vehicles and follow traffic laws. They must drive at reasonable speeds, obey all traffic signals, and take the necessary precautions to prevent accidents.

2. Breach of Duty

After establishing the duty of care, you must then show that the at-fault party breached that and failed to act with reasonable care. This can involve actions like speeding, running red lights, or driving recklessly, which can all constitute a breach of duty.

3. Causation

When proving negligence, you must also prove that the at-fault party’s break of duty directly led to the accident and injuries. You must show that their actions were the cause-in-fact of the accident.

4. Proximate Cause

Aside from causation, you must prove proximate cause—or the legal concept that the at-fault party’s breach of duty was the foreseeable cause of the accident. In other words, their actions should have been expected to result in the accident. Proving a proximate cause is vital in building a solid negligence case.

5. Injuries Suffered and Damages

To recover compensation, you must establish that you sustained actual injuries from the accident, leading to damages. Damages may include:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering

How to Deal with Insurance After an Auto Accident in Orange County, California

Dealing with insurance companies is a multifaceted process that requires a well-structured approach. First and foremost, you must swiftly report the accident to your insurance company. Then, gather the necessary information and evidence, like the other driver’s insurance details and eyewitness accounts, to establish liability and quantify damages.

Documenting the accident scene, vehicle damage, and injuries is equally significant because visual evidence can strengthen your claim. Seek immediate medical care, even if you feel fine initially, to document the link between the accident and potential injuries. An official police report can also provide further support, reinforcing your case.

Remember to avoid admissions of fault when communicating with your insurance company since it can negatively impact your claim. Familiarize yourself with your insurance policy to make well-informed decisions during the claims process. If it becomes too complex or adversarial, consult a car accident attorney in Orange County to protect your rights and secure fair compensation.

How Car Accident Photographs Can Help Your Personal Injury Case

Photographs of the car accident and the site where it happened are the type of documentation that can strengthen your personal injury case. It provides visual support to your statement and another view of the situation.

1. Take photos from different angles of the scene

By capturing multiple angles of the accident site, you get a complete view of its condition, such as traffic signs, the state of the road, and the positions of the vehicles. This information can help establish liability, especially when one of these things is a significant factor in the mishap.

2. Take pictures of visible injuries

Photographs of visible injuries are crucial evidence of the damage you sustained from the accident. They provide a record of the severity and extent of your wounds, which can support your claim for compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other costs.

Taking photos immediately after the accident and throughout treatment creates a timeline of the progression of your injuries. These images further emphasize the need for ongoing medical support and the impact the accident had on your daily life.

3. Snap a shot of property damage

Pictures of damage to your vehicle and other belongings help quantify the extent of the losses you suffered in the accident, which validates a claim for repair costs. 

They also provide visual evidence in case other parties dispute or have statements with discrepancies regarding your vehicle’s state. The more angles you capture, the stronger the case that will help your lawyer negotiate with insurance companies or during legal proceedings.

How to Use Witness Statements to Build a Strong Personal Injury Case

Witness accounts can corroborate your statement about the auto accident. Maximize their impact by obtaining detailed statements that describe the accident’s sequence, the witness’s perspective, and any overheard conversation. 

Gather as many witness statements as possible. Multiple witness statements providing consistent narratives that align with your description can enhance your case’s credibility. Moreover, they can attest to who was at fault and the actions that led to the car crash. Aside from a consistent narrative, the impartiality of independent witnesses can add credibility to your case.

How Accident Documentation Can Help Your Case

Documenting your accident can help build a strong case after an auto accident—here’s how.

1. Seeking Medical Attention

When you receive medical attention, make sure to get detailed medical records. These documents will provide a clear link between the accident and your injuries, offering concrete evidence of the injuries you’ve suffered.

2. Taking Photos and Videos

Visual evidence can illustrate the severity of the accident and its impact. It provides clarity and supports your claim, helping insurance adjusters (and potentially, the court) understand the circumstances better.

3. Collecting Witness Statements

Eyewitness accounts provide an unbiased perspective on the accident. Their testimony can help corroborate your version of events and establish liability on the at-fault driver’s part, carrying significant weight in negotiations and court proceedings.

4. Requesting a Copy of the Police Report

An official police report includes crucial details such as involved parties, their statements, and any citations issued. It offers an authoritative account of the accident and becomes a factual basis for your case.

5. Being Cautious with Social Media

Sharing too much information online can hurt your case. As such, Irvine car accident lawyers advise not to post anything on social media during the claims process. Avoid discussing the accident, your injuries, or any related details online. Doing so prevents insurance companies and opposing parties from gaining materials to discredit or undermine your case.

How Do I Dispute Car Accident Fault in California?

Establishing fault and liability is essential to solving a car accident personal injury case and determining compensation.

1. Understand California's at-fault car accident law

Filing for a dispute means having a comprehensive understanding of California’s at-fault car accident law. The state employs a “pure comparative negligence” system, meaning that more than one person can be liable for the accident. However, as long as you are a victim, even if you are partially at fault for an accident, you can still pursue compensation for your damage.

Keep in mind that if the law finds that you contributed to your own injuries, they might reduce your compensation based on a percentage. 

For instance, you were texting while driving and collided with someone who ran a red light. As a result, you suffered $150,000 in damages. The judge may rule both of you liable, stating that you were 30% at fault while the other party was 70% at fault. Since you’re also at fault, you must pay the other party $45,000 in compensation.

2. Write your own account of the events

Write a detailed account of the accident while the details are still fresh in your memory. Include information about the events leading up to the collision, the crash itself, and any actions you and others took afterward. Be objective and factual, avoiding speculation or assumptions, as these will not help your case.

Remember to compile supporting evidence such as photographs, witness statements, and other relevant documents. These records will strengthen your case when disputing fault with insurance companies or in court.

3. Visit the police station

If you believe the initial police report contains inaccuracies, visit the station that created it. Provide your account and evidence supporting your dispute and request that they attach it to the official report. The information you give them can help the judge decide who is liable.

When discussing the discrepancies with the police, present your case clearly and concisely. Let them know which facts are inaccurate, and give them any additional information or proof supporting your version of events.

How to Obtain An Accident Report

An accident report is an official document by the police department. This document contains the details of the car accident, such as the parties involved, repairs or damage, etc.

  • Before filing for a report, you need your driver’s license or any ID, vehicle’s license number or vehicle identification number (VIN), and insurance information. If another party was involved, obtain their vehicle and insurance information, too. 
  • If a law enforcement officer is not already at the scene, call one. Once everyone in the area is safe, call 911 to dispatch law enforcement and first responders. 
  • While you are not legally obligated to speak to the police, it’s best to provide your side for the police report. Stick to the facts and avoid admitting fault, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Saying you’re at fault means that the law will hold you liable. 
  • Before the officer leaves the scene, obtain their name, badge number, and the police or incident report number if available. This information is vital for referencing and obtaining a copy of the accident report later.
  • Ask the police how to obtain a copy of the accident report. Some stations provide reports online, while others may require a visit to the police station. Be sure to also inquire about any associated fees or requirements. You can also ask your insurance company for a copy if you don’t want to pay any fees.
  • If there are delays or issues in obtaining the report, follow up with the police station. Ensure you provide all necessary information and ask them about the status of your request.

What Are Recoverable Damages for Car Accidents in California?

If you’re the non-liable party in a car accident, you may be entitled to various recoverable damages to help you survive its physical, emotional, and financial impact.

1. Medical expenses

This type covers the associated costs of your injuries, such as hospital bills, doctor’s fees, medications, surgeries, rehabilitation, and any necessary medical devices.

2. Lost wages and loss of future wages

Injuries that result from car accidents may prevent you from working. In this case, you can claim recoverable damages for the income you couldn’t earn during your recovery period. If you sustain severe or permanent disability, you may also be eligible for recoverable damages for the loss of future wages. These damages ensure you don’t suffer financially due to your inability to work.

3. Property damage

Property damage compensation covers the repair or replacement of your vehicle and other affected personal property. The responsible party generally covers these costs in an at-fault state like California. 

4. Pain and suffering

These recoverable damages address the physical and emotional distress the accident has caused, including chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and other non-economic damages.

5. Punitive damages

Punitive damages are less commonly awarded if the at-fault driver’s behavior is particularly reckless or malicious. They are meant to punish the wrongdoer and deter others from committing similar actions. 

Car Accident Frequently Asked Questions

After a car accident, immediately examine yourself and your passengers, if you have any, for any possible injuries. Call 911 right away while moving to a safe location. Be sure to let the police know you were hurt so they can file a report. You will use the document to support your insurance claim later on.

If you availed of medical payments (MedPay) coverage, you wouldn’t need to pay your expenses out of pocket. Regardless of who is at fault, the coverage helps pay for medical costs incurred from a car accident.

This optional add-on to an auto insurance policy typically covers the policyholder, any passengers, and family members driving the car.

Ultimately, in an accident where someone else is at fault, your attorney’s goal will be to make the defendant’s insurance pay.

If the other driver was at fault, your best option is to claim coverage via the uninsured or underinsured motorist provisions of your automobile insurance policy.

The uninsured motorist coverage applies when the at-fault driver has no car insurance. Meanwhile, underinsured motorist coverage takes effect if the at-fault driver has insufficient coverage to pay for your accident-related losses.

However, this is different from “full coverage.” A common misconception is that full coverage will cover your injuries, but it typically refers to damage to the car. You should consult with a car accident attorney if you are unsure what type of coverage you have.

The court may reduce the compensation you can recover if you were partly at fault for the accident. This principle is based on the doctrine of comparative negligence or comparative fault law.

Here, the court assigns a percentage of fault to each party. For example, if you were 25% at fault for causing the accident, you would be liable for paying 25% of the damages. Hence, you can still recover some amount despite being 99% at fault. 

You could be entitled to compensatory damages, punitive damages, or both. The former refers to compensation given to a victim for any injuries sustained or losses incurred due to the accident. Meanwhile, the latter is a payment by the defendant because of their negligence. 

Typically awarded on top of compensatory damages, punitive damages are intended to punish those who have acted negligently and set an example to discourage others from committing similar acts.

Yes, you can demand compensation from the car manufacturer through a product liability claim. To hold the manufacturer liable, you must establish that the car was defective and such defect rendered it unreasonably dangerous or unsafe to drive. 

Three types of defects might give rise to manufacturer liability. First is the design defects present in the product from the beginning, making it inherently unsafe to use. Meanwhile, manufacturing defects are acquired during the manufacturing or assembly of the product. 

Lastly, marketing defects are product packaging or marketing flaws, such as insufficient instructions, improper labeling, or inadequate safety warnings.

Note that this is an extremely costly type of case because attorneys will need experts to analyze the vehicle’s defective design. It should also be noted that the defendant’s car company will invest in heavy litigation to defend its reputation and avoid making payments. Because our fees are contingent, the injuries must typically be catastrophic to proceed with the case.

Every case is different, but time is of the essence in a personal accident claim. Contact a car accident lawyer immediately so you’ll be properly guided on how to proceed with your case. 

In particular, avoid providing detailed descriptions of the accident, such as any injuries you might have sustained. To be safe, contact a car accident lawyer in Orange County or an Irvine injury attorney after the accident. Your attorney will guide you on what and what not to say to the insurance company to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.

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