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California Car Accident Laws Drivers Must Know

As a California driver, it’s your responsibility to comply with all relevant road laws and to know what to do if you wind up in an accident. However, as any accident victim can attest, being seriously hurt in a wreck can leave your brain foggy. It’s good to be prepared to drive safely and legally every time you’re on the road as well as to educate yourself about the most important laws in California for your own safety and the safety of others.

While you hope that you never wind up in a serious accident, it can happen to anyone. Prepare yourself for what to know before you drive and how you’ll need to respond in the event that you are injured in a crash. You shouldn’t have to go through this process alone; if you’re a California car accident victim, you need legal support in order to be positioned for maximum compensation.

Insurance Laws

You know you need car insurance to operate a vehicle in California. It’s not worth the risk of underinsuring or failing to insure your vehicle at all because this could be a very costly mistake if you end up in a wreck. All vehicle owners are required under the law to be financially responsible for accidents by carrying minimum coverage on their vehicles. This is known as 15/30/5 insurance. That breaks down to:

California Car Accident
  • $15,000 in coverage for the death of or injury to one person
  • $30,000 in coverage for death of or injury to more than one person
  • $5,000 for coverage related to property damages

There are three primary occasions in which a California driver might be asked to show proof of insurance. Having a copy of your insurance card with you or on your phone can help you in all three. These are helpful when a police officer asks to see it, when you’re in a vehicle accident, or when obtaining or renewing your vehicle registration. Without insurance, you could be facing fines or the loss of your driving rights.

Insurance companies in CA must offer underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage to drivers, but it is not mandatory for you as a driver to accept this coverage. If you’re hurt in an accident with another driver who did not have the right coverage, however, you’ll thank yourself for getting this.

Reporting Accidents in California

It’s just common courtesy to stop when you’ve been in an accident. But your responsibilities under California driving laws extend beyond that. You need to stop at the scene of the crash, find out if anyone has been seriously hurt, and exchange your contact and insurance information with the other driver.

In addition, if someone was injured or killed in the accident, a driver must comply with California Vehicle Code 20008 which requires that the driver submit a written report about the crash to the California Highway Patrol or to the local police no later than 24 hours after the wreck. If an officer arrived on the scene when the wreck happened, this is not required for the driver to submit additional materials.

A ten-day notice to the DMV is required under California Vehicle Code 16000 if it involved injury, death, or property damage in excess of $750.00.

Victim Rights

Were you recently hurt in an accident? If so, you could be protected by some other California laws that allow victims to recover compensation when they’ve been seriously hurt in an accident. If someone else’s negligence caused you to get hurt in a California car crash, you could be able to recover economic and non-economic damages by filing a claim with your insurance company. Economic damages refer to actual losses you’ve experienced or will experience directly because of the wreck, such as:

California Car Accident
  • Past as well as future expected medical expenses
  • Vehicle replacement or repair costs
  • Lost income
  • Lost business or employment options
  • Burial expenses when a loved one has been killed
  • Loss of the use of your property

Non-economic damages are often the subject of confusion for California car accident victims, particularly because they cannot be easily calculated. These can include mental anguish, loss of consortium, emotional distress, disfigurement, and more. California does not impose a cap on the amount of these damages.

The importance of having car insurance comes up again with this topic, because California does have a specific rule that blocks accident victims who have no insurance from recovering compensation in the form of non-economic damages for emotional distress or pain and suffering. This is true even if another party was responsible for the accident. If this applies to your accident, you would still be eligible to get lost wages, property damage, medical expenses and other economic damages for your accident, however.

The key element of your claim is showing that another driver breached the duty of care and caused you to suffer serious injuries. This can be due to general distracted or reckless driving or might also be related to criminal activity, such as driving under the influence or excessive speeding. In those cases, the criminal aspects of that driver’s case will be handled separately from your personal injury claim.

California Car Accident Laws for Filing

Being hurt in an accident is the first step in a long road to recovery for many accident victims. It is easy to become overwhelmed with keeping track of all the medical appointments and other tasks required of you. However, you can overlook the critical aspect of meeting filing deadlines for your accident. Waiting too long could mean being prohibited from recovering any compensation due to the accident as a result of California’s statute of limitations law.

In California, you have a maximum of two years to file a legal claim based on your injuries from the date of the accident. If you exceed this time period, the judge can dismiss your claim entirely regardless of the severity of your injuries or the fact that the accident was caused by another person. It’s always in your best interests to speak with a qualified California car accident attorney as soon as possible after your crash so that you have a good idea of your rights and responsibilities.

While there are some rare exceptions in which case the judge would extend the statute of limitations, it is always better to meet with a personal injury lawyer right away. It can take some time to gather the necessary evidence and to get a sense of how your injuries might influence your life, but be careful that you don’t wait too long to get your claim filed.

The sooner you speak to a lawyer, the sooner you can get on the path to recovery.

California Car Accident Laws When Cases Involve the Government

The laws mentioned above apply to all lawsuits in which you’re in a wreck with another party or entity. The exception to the statute of limitations applies to those cases in which you have a claim against a government agency or entity. For example, perhaps part of your injuries are related to a poorly maintained road and you are naming the local authority for that as responsible, you need to file your claim in an accelerated manner. This timeframe is shortened so that you must wait no longer than six months to file that case.

Don’t try and settle your claim alone. Since these cases can be quite complicated, and having an experienced car accident attorney is strongly recommended to help maximize your insurance compensation so you can simply focus on getting better.  As an accident victim, you’ll need to remain focused on your care and trying to put your life back together. Let the legal aspects of your case be managed by an experienced California personal injury law firm, like Lalezary Law Firm.

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