Due to its sheer size and large population, California often leads the nation in having the most annual car accidents. With such a high volume of collisions, it is important to understand California’s car accident laws and what to do if you are in an accident.
California uses an at-fault insurance system to determine who pays for compensation. Whether you live in California or are driving from out of state, it’s important to understand what to do should an accident occur while driving in the state of California.
What is an At-fault State?
Quite simply, an at-fault state requires the at-fault driver to pay for the victim’s compensation claims. This monetary compensation can include a victim’s pain and suffering, lost wages, medical costs and other factors.
The at-fault driver’s insurance company will offer the victim a compensation package, which the victim has the option to decline. If the victim declines the insurance company’s package, they may file a personal injury claim for additional compensation.
Additionally, California uses a contributory negligence system. In this situation, drivers’ insurance payouts are based on their percentage of fault in causing the accident. This means that even a driver who is found at-fault for an accident can recover damages, to a certain percentage. A driver who was found to be 25% at fault in an accident, for example, would only be entitled to 75% of their total compensation.
How is Car Accident Fault Determined?
After an accident, the parties’ car insurance companies will determine who was at fault. This review process includes evidence taken at the scene, the police report and driver statements.
In some circumstances fault may be easy to determine. Oftentimes, the police report includes evidence to make driver negligence evident.
To determine negligence, one party must have failed to operate their vehicle in a reasonable manner, when considering the circumstances. When the driver breaches that duty to operate the vehicle safely and causes an accident that directly results in losses and damages, that party is at fault in a car accident case.
There are a few common forms of negligence a police may report to help determine fault:
- Distracted driving
- Breaking a traffic rule
- Defective auto parts
- Driving under the influence
- Aggressive or reckless driving
While negligence may be clear cut in certain situations, sometimes a determination requires a deeper dive into the facts of the case.
In such instances, legal counsel may be essential to establishing fault in a car crash.
What Should You Do After a Car Accident?
“The moments after a car accident case are crucial for a number of reasons,” says Attorney Marc Karlin of Karlin & Karlin. “As a motorist involved in a car accident, you have a duty to ensure the health of other parties and make an accident report. Doing so is the right thing to do and can also bolster your car accident insurance package.”
First, drivers in a car accident should do their best to remove their vehicles from the flow of traffic and check to see if any injuries occurred. If so, dial 9-1-1 immediately and receive medical treatment.
If there were no injuries, contact the police to file a report and exchange all relevant information (contact, license plate, insurance information) with the other parties in the vehicle. Likewise, be sure to take pictures of the crash, road signs, road evidence and any other factors that can be crucial in a car accident case.
Furthermore, it may be important to contact a knowledgeable California car accident lawyer to help you with your case. Even if you have minor injuries after an accident, it is crucial that you speak to a lawyer to help handle questions from the insurance companies. Doing so can help you avoid common car accident claim mistakes.
Car accidents are not always clear cut and rely on police reports. To help improve your case, it is important to record evidence at the scene of the crash to better establish fault.