If you are feeling overwhelmed after a serious car accident and want to know your rights under California personal injury law, then call the car accident lawyers at Timothy J. Ryan & Associates. We negotiate with the insurance company for you so that you can focus on healing. We are driven to win your case for you, just as we have for other victims of car accidents in Orange County.
When should you contact a car accident lawyer?
You should contact a car accident attorney immediately after your accident to help you understand how insurance claims work, advise you of the types of evidence you should gather, and schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. Some people even contact our car accident lawyers from their Orange County hospital room, but ideally, you should reach out to us to schedule your consultation within a month of your accident. It would be a great time to talk to a personal injury attorney if you are currently getting treatment or if you would like to seek medical attention, and if the accident occurred within the last two weeks.
The worst time to contact an attorney is after the statute of limitations has lapsed or you are getting close to the deadline. A statute of limitations is a legal deadline for filing a personal injury case with the courts. After that deadline, your rights have been voided, you lose your ability to collect fair compensation, and no matter how serious your injury attorney is, there is nothing that they can do for you. Even if you do try to file a claim, it will almost certainly be dismissed. Each state sets its own statute of limitations, and in California, you must file your personal injury claim within two years of the accident.
Due to the complexities of California statute of limitations and traffic laws, you should not wait to contact our legal team. You can reach us at 714-908-9069, and we will be happy to schedule a personalized consultation with you
Should I get a lawyer for a car accident that was my fault in California?
Car accidents usually result in passengers and the other driver sustaining injuries. Therefore, you should seek out an experienced auto attorney. Car accidents are very emotional for the injured, so only an experienced personal injury attorney can properly handle your case. If you are found liable for the damages, then you will be responsible for paying those damages up to the limits of your insurance policy. If you sustained any injuries, then you will be left with the financial burden of paying your medical bills.
In California, all drivers are required to carry proof of auto insurance with them. The state minimum limits are:
- Bodily injury liability coverage: $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident minimum
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage: $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident minimum
- Property damage liability coverage: $5000 minimum
The other party will try to collect compensation from your insurance company by proving fault. The evidence that they will gather to establish fault include:
- Their bills for property damage
- The police report
- Eyewitness testimony
- Photos and videos of the damaged vehicles, skid marks, and other details from the accident scene
It’s important that you hire an attorney who will be on your side and thoroughly investigate your claim to determine what legal options are available to you.
How much can someone sue for a car accident in California?
Car accidents lead to costly medical treatments and other losses. You deserve to be compensated for every dollar that the accident has cost you. There is no specific limit or cap on how much Orange County plaintiffs can seek after suffering in car accidents. You can sue the liable party for the full extent of your legal damages.
Can you sue for pain and suffering from a car accident in California?
You can be awarded pain and suffering damages in your Orange County car accident. California does not cap damages on pain and suffering awards in some personal injury lawsuits. Caps are legal limits on how much a plaintiff can receive from a personal injury claim. Although there are caps on how much a victim can receive in pain and suffering in specific personal injury cases, those rules do not apply to car accidents in California. Therefore, there is no cap on how much you can receive in pain and suffering damages if you were injured in an Orange County car crash.
What You Should Do Following an Automobile Accident
Many steps are legally required to follow in an Orange County car accident. Your car accident claim starts at the moment of the crash. Follow these tips so that you are not in violation of California law and to strengthen your case when it is reviewed by the insurance company.
Per California Vehicle Code § 20008, the drivers involved in an auto accident must report the accident to the California Highway Patrol. If you can, you should get out of your vehicle and check on the other driver, the passengers in their vehicle, if any, and anyone else that was involved, such as pedestrians or bicyclists. You must call 911 to have the police arrive so they can write an accident report and paramedics can treat you and the injured driver.
After an Orange County car accident, the next thing you should do is exchange names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, and insurance policy information with the other driver and any witnesses to the accident, including the passengers. You should also obtain license plate(s) and vehicle identification numbers. Car crashes are very stressful, but it’s important not to say too much without legal representation present. Even if you believe that you are responsible for the auto accident, you should not apologize or accept responsibility for the car crash.
Take Photos of the Car Accident Scene
Photos and video evidence are extremely useful in a car accident case because they clearly show the damage, where the accident happened, and which direction each vehicle was traveling before the crash. To get the most out of your photos, take photos from far away that encompass the entire scene and close-up photos that show details. Your photos should include street signs, traffic signs or signals, and the license plates of all of the cars involved.
Seek Medical Attention
One of the most important steps you should take after a car accident is to be evaluated by a medical professional who can order the right diagnostic test to determine if you are suffering from serious injuries. You may not even feel them right away, but several hours, days, or weeks later, you may be in a lot of pain or have noticed that your range of motion in your joints or neck is inhibited by stiffness and discomfort. Fortunately, you can ask one of our attorneys about what to do about the medical costs you will incur. We have been fighting for the rights of California injury victims for almost four decades and have recovered more than $1 billion in compensation. Get checked out by a doctor, and then call us.
Contact A Personal Injury Lawyer
Hiring an experienced car accident attorney is the best way to learn about personal injury law and your rights in Orange County. Remember that you are not legally obligated to speak to the other driver’s insurance company
Types of Car Accidents
The most common types of car accidents are:
- Head-on collisions
- Rear-end collisions
- Side impact collisions
- Multi-car accidents, also known as chain reaction accidents
- Rollover accidents
- Intersection or left-turn accidents
- T-bone accidents
- Sideswipe accidents
Common Auto Accident Injuries
Even though fewer people were driving in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an uptick in non-restrained motor vehicle occupant deaths, speeding, and alcohol-related fatal crashes. Nationally, the motor vehicle injury costs were estimated at $473.2 billion, including lost wages, medical bills, property damage, employer costs, and administrative expenses. The most common types of serious injuries include:
Any bone in the body can be broken as a result of a car accident. Fractures of the pelvis, ribs, femurs, hips, wrists, arms, and face are likely after a car accident because of the tremendous force that the body absorbs. Healing may require surgery, a cast, prescription pain medication, and physical therapy.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
This is one of the most devastating types of injuries after car accidents. Traumatic brain injuries range in intensity from mild to severe, with severe TBI forever changing the victim and their families. Mild TBI accounts for 90% of all cases and causes headaches, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, blurred vision, and cognitive issues such as difficulty concentrating or memory problems. Moderate to severe TBI accounts for 10% of all cases and includes concussion, swelling of the brain, seizures, slurred speech, persistent headaches, profound confusion, and even coma.
Whiplash is a common car accident injury caused by the forceful movement of the head forward and back, resulting in the neck moving similarly to a whip cracking. Most victims of Orange County car accidents who suffer from whiplash heal on their own without extensive medical treatment and by using over-the-counter pain relievers. However, others may require prescription pain relievers and physical therapy since their injury prevents them from sleeping comfortably and causes them daily pain.
Neck and Back Injuries
Spinal cord injuries, paralysis, and broken spinal discs are some of the most devastating Injuries after a serious accident. The back is made up of the cervical spine, which supports your neck and head, the lumbar spine in your lower back, and the thoracic spine, which is the middle section of your spine and supports your body when walking.
Vertebrae are the small bones surrounding and protecting your spinal cord that are vital to standing and moving properly. When you have been injured in a car wreck, your doctor will tell you where the exact location of your injury is. Back and neck injuries can lead to tingling sensations or numbness in any part of your body, difficulty breathing, difficulty balancing, incontinence, inability to move your extremities, and extreme pain.
Why Do I Need an Attorney After a Car Accident?
Personal injury cases are rarely straightforward. What makes them even more complicated is that it’s not easy to investigate an accident. It takes time, forensic expertise, knowledge of the law, and other resources. It requires gathering documents like the police report and your medical records and knowing how to use the information therein to develop a legal strategy.
Suppose your injuries prevent you from completing simple tasks in your daily life without assistance or not working has put you in dire financial straits. In that case, it’s almost impossible to put in the effort to investigate a claim. A personal injury attorney is your advocate and has the resources and background to build a claim based on strong evidence. The insurance companies will have their own lawyers advocating for them, so you should have legal representation in your corner supporting you.
Proving Negligence in an Auto Accident Claim
The elements you must prove in an auto accident claim are:
- Duty: The defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff
- Breach: The defendant breached that legal duty through their conduct or failure to act in a certain way
- Causation: The defendant’s conduct or lack of action caused the plaintiff’s injury
This means that your attorney must prove that if the other driver had been more careful, then the crash would not have happened. Photographic evidence and eyewitness testimony are crucial in helping to prove negligence.
Dealing with Insurance After an Auto Accident in Orange County, California
The insurance company has a team of attorneys, so you need strong legal representation to get every dollar you deserve for your damages. The insurance companies often deny claims and argue that the claimant either failed to promptly seek medical care for their car accident injuries, didn’t report the claim in a timely manner, or was fully or partially at fault for the accident. They may call you and slyly word their questions so that your answers can be twisted to show that you are liable for the crash or exaggerating your injuries.
They could even hire private investigators to check out your social media accounts to see if they can find evidence that you are not suffering as much as you say you are. You deserve an advocate who will talk to the insurance companies for you, protect you from harassing phone calls, and prove your side of the story.
How Car Accident Photographs and Witness Statements Can Help Your Personal Injury Case
Photos and videos of the crash and aftermath are indisputable evidence of who was involved in the crash, where it happened, which direction drivers were traveling from, and what caused the crash. Photos that show a significant amount of damage strengthen your injury claim and prove why you suffered certain injuries. Pictures of license plates make it easy to identify the cars that were involved in the crash.
Witnesses are helpful when there is a dispute over who caused the accident. Their testimony recalling what they heard and saw before the accident can provide clarity when there are conflicting accounts between the two drivers over what happened. However, their testimony is only helpful if they are a credible witness. Witnesses who watched the accident from start to finish and weren’t distracted at the time of the crash are more credible than those who only witnessed the end of the accident.
Types of Compensation
There are two types of damages that an accident attorney can help you recover: compensatory damages and punitive damages. The two types of compensatory damages are economic damages and non-economic damages.
Under California law, you can recover financial losses related to your car crash. These include medical bills, future medical expenses, lost wages, future lost earning potential, property damage (car repairs or replacement), and other out-of-pocket expenses. Household services, childcare and even grocery delivery services could be included in your personal injury claim if your injuries prevented you from being able to provide the services for yourself independently.
Medical expenses include your emergency room visit, hospital stay, any surgeries that were needed, follow-up doctor’s visits, prescription medications, rehabilitation like chiropractic care or physical therapy, and medical or assistive devices such as crutches or a wheelchair. They also include diagnostic testing from when you received medical attention, such as X-rays and lab tests. These injuries can be verified by using your medical records and bills or invoices.
Contact an Orange County car accident attorney from Timothy J. Ryan & Associates to increase your chances of recovering fair compensation for your losses stemming from your serious car wreck.
Non-economic damages include pain and suffering after an auto accident. In addition to the physical injuries, surgeries, and medical treatments, accident victims endure the emotional distress and scars they are left with after a car crash. You can recover compensation for your emotional injuries and mental distress if you suffered:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Loss of function of an organ
- Permanent disfigurement
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Punitive damages are awarded to a personal injury victim to punish the defendant for their particularly reckless driving. Unlike economic and non-economic damages which are meant to help the victim recover losses, punitive damages are awarded as a punishment for malicious or incredibly negligent behavior. They are not available in every personal injury lawsuit, and there must be clear and convincing evidence of willful and wanton negligence.
Frequently Asked Questions
These are some of the most common questions people have for our personal injury attorneys. The information here does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Rather, all of the content is meant for general informational purposes only. Readers of our website should contact us at 714-908-9069 in order to schedule a consultation and obtain advice concerning their specific legal matter.
How long do you have to report a car accident in California?
Motor vehicle accidents must be reported to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within ten days if there were injuries, wrongful death or if the damage to the vehicle(s) involved is greater than $750.
Is California an at-fault state?
Each state sets its own insurance and car accident laws. When it comes to auto accidents, a state has no-fault or at-fault insurance laws. California is an at-fault state, which means that the driver responsible for causing the auto accident is liable for paying the financial losses and property damage sustained by the injured party. That also means that to receive damages in a personal injury case, your injury attorney must prove liability in your car accident case.
In an at-fault state, the driver responsible for the motor vehicle accident and their insurance company are responsible for paying for the medical treatment and other damages in proportion to their degree of fault.
Insurance companies have 40 days to accept or deny your claim after receiving your documentation, evidence, and proof of the claim. Once your injury claim has been settled, the insurance company must pay it within 30 days.
What is the average settlement for a car accident in California?
How much each car accident case is worth depends on the particular circumstances surrounding it. The average settlement for a car accident case in California is between $21,000 and $25,000. However, we recommend that you call us now to speak with an Orange County car accident attorney from Timothy J. Ryan & Associates so you can tell us what happened on the day of the accident. We can tell you about other cases we have successfully handled that are similar to yours. We can advise you of how much we have won for former clients and what we believe it will take for you to get the settlement that you want.
How are settlement amounts determined?
There are two common ways that settlements are calculated. The first one is called the multiplier method, and it is one of the most common ways that insurance companies and lawyers calculate pain and suffering damages. The first step in the multiplier method is to add up all of your economic damages using your receipts, invoices, and documentation of all your expenses. You will need to provide any bills that you receive in the mail, wage and salary information from your employer, and receipts for services and repairs to your vehicle. Independent contractors and self-employed individuals can receive help from our law firm regarding how to calculate lost wages.
After all of these expenses are totaled, they are then multiplied by a number between 1.5 and 5, depending on the severity of your suffering, how devastating the accident has been for you, and other aggravating factors. For example, if a general contractor or art teacher gets in an accident and suffers multiple fractures in their hands, then they may not be able to return to their former job and may have to find a new career. It would be a devastating financial loss, and emotionally it would be very hard for them to stop doing something that they were passionate about that brought them fulfillment and made them feel accomplished.
More serious accidents with aggravating circumstances, such as a drunk driver, can merit higher multipliers. If a limb had to be amputated or if the victim was left paralyzed, then the multiplier could be four or higher.
The per diem method, also known as the daily rate method, is another way of calculating pain and suffering damages after a car accident. With this method, your insurance company and attorney come up with a dollar amount for every day that you were living with the physical pain and emotional distress caused by the accident. This method is not used as often since it’s hard to justify what daily rate to use.
What are the most common causes of car accidents?
Car accidents are often preventable when one or both drivers use reasonable care behind the wheel and adhere to traffic laws. The most common causes of car accidents include:
- Animals and other road obstructions
- Distracted driving, such as texting while driving
- Driving while intoxicated or drunk driving
- Falling asleep behind the wheel
- Improper turns
- Inclement weather
- Reckless driving
- Unsafe lane changes
- Wrong-way driving
The National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA) reported that 3,142 people died due to distracted driving in 2019. Sending or reading a text while driving is extremely dangerous. While your eyes are not focused on the road, your car is still moving with no one to stop it if a sudden obstruction enters the road or if there is a change in traffic. If you are traveling at 55 mph and look down at your phone for five seconds, you would have traveled the length of a football field without even seeing where you’re going.
One survey found that 87 percent of respondents knew that cell phone use while driving is dangerous, but 53 percent of those drivers still admitted to making a call while driving, and 45 percent admitted to sending or reading a text message. Even worse, with so many apps available, they found that 32 percent of respondents participated in video chats. Distracted driving doesn’t just include using your phone. Eating and drinking, adjusting your radio, or looking at a navigation system are all examples of distracted driving.
In 2017, California residents were asked about their most important traffic safety concerns in a Traffic Safety Study sponsored by the Office of Traffic Safety. The second-highest safety concern was drunk driving, which increased 5.6 percent from 2016, which could be due to the statewide 16.2 percent increase in alcohol-impaired collisions from 2015 to 2016. In 2016, 1,059 people were killed in alcohol-impaired crashes in California. There were 3,623 motor vehicle fatalities in 2016. Of those car accidents, 29 percent involved a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or above, which is slightly higher than the national average.
Contact An Orange County Car Accident Lawyer Now
Serving Los Angeles County, Orange County, and San Diego County, we handle many personal injury cases and are ready to help you. The insurance company is required to advise you of all benefits, time limits, and other provisions in accordance with your insurance coverage. But they are not necessarily looking out for you the way an auto accident attorney does. The car accident lawyers at Timothy J. Ryan & Associates stand up for you while ensuring that you are crystal clear regarding what is going on with your case and that all your questions are answered.
We offer a complimentary case evaluation with one of our skilled and experienced personal injury attorneys. You don’t pay unless we win for you, so there is no risk in talking to an attorney at our law firm today. We want to help you move forward after this distressing and shocking experience. Call us now at 714-908-9069 to schedule your initial consultation.