It is no secret that California is home to some of the nation’s busiest highways. Between tourists traveling through the state on vacation, large commercial vehicles transporting goods locally and to the other side of the country, and local residents on their way to or from work or errands, roads and highways can get quite congested. When large numbers of vehicles are all attempting to share the same roadway, traffic congestion, gridlock and (most seriously) car accidents – both fatal accidents and those resulting in serious injuries – are certain to follow.
A car accident can leave a victim and his or her family with catastrophic injuries, significant financial expenses, and considerable mental anguish and pain. These losses and expenses can be compensated through a California car accident lawsuit in cases where the car accident is caused by the careless or reckless conduct of one or more other individuals and/or entities. Our California car accident lawyers can help you pursue a claim for financial compensation against the at-fault parties and recover the money you need to be made financially whole. To begin the recovery process or discuss what you should expect, schedule a consultation with one of our injury attorneys today.
Potential Causes of Auto Accidents
In most cases, the driving errors of one or more individuals are to blame for a car crash. Errors may be committed because the individual is not devoting a sufficient amount of care and attention to what he or she is doing. In other cases, the individual who causes the accident may be well aware of what he or she is doing and the risk of a serious crash that the behavior creates, but he or she chooses to engage in the behavior anyway. This is often referred to as acting “recklessly” (as opposed to “carelessly”).
A car crash that warrants attention from a California car accident lawyer may be caused by one or more of the following:
- Impaired driving: Most Californians are familiar with the 0.08 alcohol limit set by statute. But a person can be impaired by alcohol long before that person’s blood or breath alcohol concentration reaches 0.08. Drugs can also impair an individual’s ability to drive safely, even if the drug is prescribed to the individual or can be legally purchased over the counter. The impairing effects of some drugs can be magnified if alcohol is consumed with the drug(s). Driving while impaired not only significantly increases the likelihood that the impaired driver will be involved in a fatal or injury car crash, it can be considered careless and/or reckless behavior and subject the impaired driver to civil liability for any injuries and/or deaths he or she causes.
- Distracted driving: Distracted driving is fast becoming one of the leading causes of car crashes by a significant margin. Texting while driving – taking one’s eyes off of the road in order to read or respond to a text message – is an especially dangerous form of distracted driving. But there are other actions and behaviors that can also be considered distracted driving because they take the driver’s full attention off of the task of driving and the road in front of him or her. Being distracted by landmarks or scenery, carrying on a conversation with passengers, attempting to adjust the car’s radio system, or dealing with an upset child can all divert the driver’s attention from the road – and can all be considered careless, negligent behavior.
- Road hazards and obstructions: A large tree branch, a truck tire, potholes, or other similar debris can make driving safely an impossibility and require quick thinking and decisive action from drivers in order for collisions to be avoided. Or an improperly designed intersection or other roadway feature can increase the risk of an accident. The design and maintenance of most highways and roads fall under the jurisdiction of at least one public agency. These agencies have a responsibility for designing roadways that are reasonably safe for motorists and for maintaining these roads in a reasonably safe condition. When a dangerous road condition or design contributes to a car accident, both the person or entity immediately responsible for causing the hazard, as well as the government agency responsible for maintaining that road, may be responsible for monetary damages.
- Mechanical defects: Sometimes there is little a driver can do to avoid an accident because a hidden, unseen part deep inside the car is defectively designed and/or manufactured. Defects in car parts have made national headlines in recent times. If a manufacturer either designs a vehicle or a component of a car in a defective and dangerous way when other reasonable, less dangerous design options are available – or if the manufacturer creates a car or car component that is unsafe because it does not conform to design specifications – then the manufacturer can be found civilly liable for any injuries or other losses attributable to a crash caused by the defect.
Your California car accident attorney should conduct a complete investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding your accident so that all primary and contributing causes can be uncovered and the responsible parties identified. Your car crash attorney may need to consult with engineers, law enforcement officers, and/or reconstruction experts in order to accomplish this important task.
Steps to Take Following a Car Crash
What you do in the moments after a car accident can have a profound impact on your ability later recover compensation for your injuries if it is determined that your car crash was caused by another’s negligence. Although those first few minutes and hours after a car crash can be extremely stressful and disorienting, you should try to:
- Think safety first: Your first concern should be getting yourself and your loved ones to safety. If the car can be safely driven, consider moving the car to the side of the road out of the way of traffic. (If you are uncertain about the condition of the car, or if you are injured, leave the car where it is and focus on your injuries.) Be aware of leaking fuel and other combustible fluids – if you notice a fuel leak, get yourself and others to a safe distance as soon as possible. If you suspect that you or a loved one has sustained a serious head, neck, or spine injury, do not move such person unless it is absolutely necessary to save the person’s life. Moving a person with a head, neck, or spine injury without properly stabilizing the person can result in even more serious damage being inflicted on the person.
- Summon law enforcement and/or medical assistance: Any crash in which you are involved should be reported to the police if there is damage to property and/or personal injury to someone. If you suspect that someone is injured – or if you are concerned about being injured yourself, you should request that emergency medical personnel respond to your crash as well. Even if you do not feel injured, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible after the accident. Some serious injuries sustained in car accidents may not manifest any outward symptoms for hours or even days after the accident. Delaying medical evaluation and treatment until symptoms first begin to appear can result in more severe damage and longer treatment periods. Not only this, but delaying treatment may be considered a negligent act and result in a reduction of the compensation award to which you would otherwise be entitled.
- Do not admit fault, say you are “sorry,” or provide details about the accident that you are not 100% certain are true: Admitting fault for causing the accident immediately makes it more difficult for you to recover financial compensation for your injuries and ignores the fact that the other driver or some other party may be partly or completely responsible for causing the accident as well. For this reason, refrain from making any statements such as “I’m sorry,” or “It’s my fault” to anyone, including the other driver. If asked to provide details about the accident by responding law enforcement officers, only provide those details that you are absolutely certain are true and correct. Do not “guess” at your speed, whether your light had turned red, or whether you had applied your brakes before the accident. Insurance companies and other drivers can rely on these statements and reduce or deny your claim for compensation if it turns out your initial answers were wrong.
- Collect names of witnesses and exchange information with the other driver: If possible, collect the name, insurance information, license plate number, and make and model of the other driver’s vehicle as this information will be necessary to file a claim with your insurance company and may be necessary if a lawsuit becomes necessary. Also, do not neglect to speak with witnesses at the scene of the accident. If a person either saw the accident occur, spoke with you or the other driver, or rendered aid to you or the other driver, obtain the person’s name and address or telephone number. This person may need to be subpoenaed to testify at your car accident lawsuit in order to help establish fault.
- Write down your own recollection of the accident: As soon as it is practical, you should sit down with pen and paper or at a computer and write down your recollection of the events leading up to and immediately following the accident in as much detail as possible. Record your recollection about the weather, traffic conditions, road conditions, how fast you were traveling – any piece or detail of information you can remember should be recorded. Look this statement over again in a few days or review it with your San Diego car accident lawyer. Once you are satisfied that you have recorded as many details of the crash as you can, use this when called upon to discuss the car accident. In this way, your recollection can remain accurate and consistent and you will not be later accused of making different statements on different occasions.
Importance of a California Car Accident Lawyer
Ultimately, only you can determine if you need the assistance of an experienced California car accident attorney. However, having the legal assistance of a knowledgeable California car crash attorney can help you determine the steps you need to take to secure compensation for yourself and any injured family members. At The Sargent Firm, we use our legal training and cutting-edge technology to fight for our clients injured in car accidents. We accept cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning that we do not charge anything until we win your case.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident and suspect that another person is responsible for causing the accident, contact one of our four offices or contact us through our website for efficient, knowledgeable, and compassionate legal representation.
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