Car accidents and other motor vehicle accidents claim the lives of about 37,000 people annually in the nation. About 2.4 million others are injured in traffic accidents. In California, more than half of traffic fatalities occur in single-car accidents, with just 43% resulting from two-car crashes or multi-vehicle pile-ups.
A serious car accident can be traumatic, and it may be difficult to know what to do after an injury. However, the decisions you make in the moments, hours and days following a motor vehicle accident can have a lasting impact on both your health and your future financial stability.
First Steps after a Car Accident
Your first concern after a car accident should always be obtaining any necessary medical treatment. If you’re in doubt about whether or not you need medical care, it’s better to err on the side of caution and see a doctor. Some injuries are not immediately obvious, particularly since you may be in shock right after the accident and thus numb to some of the effects. Others, feel the effects of whiplash days following the accident.
In addition to protecting your health, seeking medical assistance promptly can also help protect your claim if you turn out to be seriously injured. If you don’t seek medical care for days or weeks after the crash, it can be difficult to prove that your injuries resulted from the accident.
Depending on the severity of your injuries and the circumstances surrounding your motor vehicle accident, you may be able to take additional steps to preserve your personal injury claim. For instance:
- If you are able, collect contact information from any witnesses or ask someone else to do so
- Avoid making statements like, “I’m sorry! That was totally my fault!” at the scene of the accident—many people make this type of statement emotionally or to be reassuring, but it can come back to haunt you
- Be cautious in interactions with an insurance company—though the representative will likely be friendly and supportive, their job is to save the company money by weakening your claim
- Talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after the accident
Car Accident Case Timelines
In California, an injured person typically has two years to file a lawsuit for damages. However, in some circumstances, much shorter limitations periods apply. For example, an injury claim against the city of Los Angeles must be filed within six months. Missing the filing deadline for a personal injury claim may mean that you are never able to recover compensation for your injuries.
The Advantages of Acting Quickly in a Car Accident Case
Though most car accident victims will have up to two years to file a lawsuit, there are good reasons to speak with a car accident lawyer right away. For example:
- The earlier in the process you secure representation, the less interaction you’ll have to have with insurance companies and other parties
- Seeking advice soon after the accident will help protect you from innocent mistakes that may harm your case
- With the passage of time, important evidence may be lost or destroyed
- Over time, witness memories fade and become confused, or witnesses may be difficult to locate
Common Causes of California Car Accidents
Most car crashes are avoidable. That means that most injuries and fatalities suffered in traffic accidents result from someone’s negligence, and the negligent party may be liable for damages.
Thousands of people are killed and hundreds of thousands are injured by distracted drivers every year. While texting and driving gets a lot of attention, many other distractions can be equally dangerous. Some common examples include:
- Drinking coffee
- Talking on the phone
- Turning to talk to children or backseat passengers
- Using GPS navigation
- Playing games on a mobile device
- Lighting a cigarette
- Watching videos
- Putting on make-up
- Taking off a jacket
- Searching for something in a purse or a dropped object
Most drivers engage in one or more of these behaviors, and many do not realize how dangerous their actions are. However, an automobile travels a significant distance in just a few seconds, meaning that even the briefest inattention can be dangerous.
Many people who would never think of driving under the influence of alcohol routinely get behind the wheel fatigued. In fact, a significant percentage of Americans are chronically sleep-deprived, meaning that they routinely drive with some degree of impairment. You may be surprised to learn just how dangerous that impairment is.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that a driver who has slept fewer than four of the previous 24 hours is more than 11 times as likely to crash as one who slept at least seven hours. The risk decreases as the number of hours slept increases, but remains elevated for all drivers who have slept less than seven hours.
Driving Under the Influence
Everyone knows that driving under the influence of alcohol is both dangerous and illegal. Yet, there are tens of thousands of DUI arrests in Los Angeles each year, and more than 150,000 statewide. And, many drunk drivers are never arrested.
About 29% of California traffic fatalities involve a driver whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was at or above the legal limit of .08%. Many more involve drivers who had some alcohol in their systems at the time of the accident.
More than ¼ of traffic fatalities occur in accidents in which at least one driver was speeding. That’s not a surprise, given that 60% of drivers responding to a recent survey admitted to speeding. While speed is often a factor in the accident, speeding is often combined with other risky behavior on the road. For example, 45% of speeding drivers who were involved in fatal crashes in 2015 were also under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.
Other Car Accident Causes
There are many other possible causes of car accidents. Some other common causes include:
- Reckless driving
- Weather-related visual impairment
- Icy or wet roads and bridges
- Unsafe lane changes
- Improper turns
- Vehicle defects or faulty maintenance
- Loose objects in the road
- Tire blowouts
- Medical conditions
While some of these causes involve factors beyond the driver’s control, such as weather conditions and debris in the road, negligence may still play a role. For example, a driver in a rainstorm may be driving too fast for conditions, even if he or she is not exceeding the speed limit. Or, distracted driving may lead to a collision with an object in the road that could have been avoided by an attentive driver.
Damages in a Car Accident Case
Damages in a car accident case will depend on a variety of factors, including the degree of fault attributed to each party, the severity of the injury, the cost and duration of medical treatment, and other losses.
Injuries in a car accident may range from relatively minor, such as cuts and lacerations, to permanent injury or death. Some injuries commonly sustained in motor vehicle accidents include:
- Broken Bones
- Head and Brain Injuries, including Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Spinal Cord Injuries
- Other Neck and Back Injuries
- Soft Tissue Injuries
- Burn Injuries
In addition, the victim of a serious car accident may suffer psychological injuries, such as anxiety or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Treatment of some of these injuries can be extremely expensive, and some require lifelong medical care. For example, a car accident victim suffering from a traumatic brain injury may have headaches, vision and hearing problems, cognitive issues, and even personality changes that require ongoing management and medication. Some TBI victims are never able to return to work. Others can work, but below pre-accident levels, resulting in a significant decrease in earning capacity.
Damages awarded in a settlement or by a jury are intended to “make the victim whole.” Though money won’t truly compensate for the pain, trauma, and other suffering associated with a serious accident, fair compensation can help the victim and his or her family rebuild. For example, compensation received through a personal injury lawsuit can pay for medical care, make up for decreased earnings, provide for any necessary accommodations, and replace property that was destroyed in the accident.
Some of the most common types of damages awarded in car and truck accident cases include:
- Reimbursement for medical costs
- Provision for projected future or ongoing medical expenses
- Compensation for lost wages, both past and projected
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
- Costs of rehabilitation
- Costs of therapy or psychological counseling
- Property damage
An experienced car accident lawyer can be your best source of information about the type of damages you may be entitled to.
Talk to a Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer Right Away
When you’ve been serious injured or lost a loved one, your attention is understandably focused on healing and rebuilding. When you retain our law firm to represent you in a car accident case, you get the best of both worlds. You can rest assured that your claim is in good hands and an experienced professional is gathering evidence, monitoring timelines and building the strongest possible case on your behalf while you rest and recover.
Getting started is easy. All you have to do is schedule a free consultation right now.