The aftermath of a car accident can be a confusing, anxiety-ridden time. You may be in shock and shaken from the accident itself, and may have sustained serious injuries as the result of another’s negligence. Dealing with insurance companies and medical professionals while attempting to keep your “normal” life going forward can seem like an overwhelming task.
If you were seriously injured, you may be unable to work while watching your medical expenses and regular bills mount alarmingly. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may be eligible for compensation. If you or a loved one have been injured in a car crash, call Los Angeles car accident attorney Joshua Glotzer today for a free consultation.
Car Accidents in Los Angeles
With a population of more than 4 million (over 10 million in Los Angeles County), the city of Los Angeles reportedly has more cars than people. When you add the estimated 45.5 million annual visitors to Los Angeles County, you begin to see why many consider Los Angeles traffic a veritable nightmare.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, Los Angeles residents drive 23 miles per resident, per day, making them rank 21st among the largest 37 cities. Los Angeles ranked number one in the nation for time stuck in traffic and L.A. Angeles residents who traveled in “peak” periods were subjected to 72 extra hours behind the wheel every year because of traffic jams. According to the Los Angeles Department of Public Health:
- As of 2010, motor vehicle accidents were the 3rd leading cause of injury death, hospitalization and emergency room visits among L.A. County residents.
- During 2010, there were 604 motor vehicle deaths and 6,476 non-fatal motor vehicle hospitalizations.
- Motor vehicle deaths and hospitalizations were more common among males in Los Angles, but emergency room visits related to motor vehicle accidents were more common among women.
- Motor vehicle accident injuries were highest among 20-24 year-olds, while motor vehicle accident deaths were highest among those 65 and older.
Importance of an Experienced Legal Team
The other party’s insurance company may offer to pay a minimal amount of money as settlement for your case, or they will try to make you believe that you’re not entitled to any compensation and will deny your claim altogether. Talking to an attorney at the soonest possible time after an accident can ensure that your rights to compensation under California Law are protected.
Whether you suffer a serious injury or a minor injury consisting of soft tissue injuries to your neck and back, we can help you obtain compensation for your injuries.
Talk to an Attorney before Dealing with an Insurance Company
After a car accident, it’s always best to talk to a lawyer first. At a minimum, you can report the accident to your own insurance company and give your own insurance company a statement. But you should never talk to, or give a statement to, the other party’s insurance company, as it may use your statement against you, either to minimize your personal injury claim or to deny your injury claim altogether.
Preparing for the Initial Consultation
Your attorney needs to gather all relevant information in order to assess your situation. During the initial consultation after an auto accident, we advise you to bring as much information as possible, including:
- Medical records
- Medical bills
- Emergency room bills
- Emergency room records
- Information on the other driver such as the driver’s name, address, and telephone number
- Insurance information for both parties to the accident
- Pictures of the accident and of your injuries
- Names, addresses and phone numbers of witnesses
In California, you may not be entitled to claim compensation for pain and suffering if you were not insured at the time of the accident. Talk to your lawyer about this issue if you are uninsured.
What Compensation Are You Entitled to Following an Auto Collision?
If you’ve been involved in an auto accident that was not your fault—or at least mostly not your fault—you may wonder what compensation you may be entitled to. When an accident is very minor, many people will file a police report and let their insurance company know, but they may decide to simply pay the losses out of pocket to avoid having their insurance rates potentially go up. For a more serious accident you may be entitled to the following damages:
- Compensatory damages are the most common type of damages, and meant to “make you whole again”. Compensatory damages can cover the following:
- Medical expenses;
- Lost wages;
- Loss of earning capacity (future wages), and
- Property loss (damage to your vehicle).
- General damages include those that do not have an easily-calculated dollar amount. General damages tend to be much more subjective, and include the following:
- Emotional distress or trauma caused by the accident;
- Pain and suffering;
- The inability to have children due to accident-related injuries;
- A disfigurement which causes you emotional pain;
- The loss of an extremity, which can lead to psychological issues, and
- Loss of consortium if the auto accident resulted in a strain on your relationship.
- Punitive damages could be awarded if the person who hit you is deemed especially careless or negligent, such as when a person is injured by a DUI driver. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and deter others from acting in the same manner.
Establishing Fault After a Car Accident
Following a car collision, after ensuring everyone is taken care of medically, the question of who was at fault typically arises. Determining fault can be tricky, however from the insurance company’s perspective, it is determined in the following manner. The first issue is whether a state is “fault” or “no fault.” California, like many other states is considered a fault, or tort state in regard to automobile accidents.
This means that in the state of California, before a person’s insurance will pay for damages, that person must be found to be responsible for causing the accident. In no-fault states, there is no requirement to show who was at fault. The insured person collects from his or her own insurance company for all medical expenses and lost wages. In fault states, like California, when an accident occurs, the at-fault driver’s insurance will pay for car repairs, medical expenses and other losses such as lost wages or pain and suffering.
California also follows the pure comparative negligence law, which allocates fault between the parties, reducing recovery accordingly. This means if the damages in an auto accident amounted to $60,000, and you were judged to be 20 percent at fault, you can still recover damages for 80 percent of that $60,000, or $48,000. In other words, you will seek compensation in direct proportion to your degree of responsibility for the crash.
As an example, suppose you quickly change lanes and are hit by a driver who is exceeding the speed limit. The court may find the speeding driver 60 percent responsible, since if he or she had been driving the speed limit, your sudden lane change might not have resulted in an accident. The remaining 40 percent responsibility may be allocated to you, for failing to properly look and signal prior to changing lanes.
Factors Involved in Determining Fault
There are many factors involved in determining who was at fault for your auto accident, such as:
- The police report. The police report is a vital piece of the puzzle in the determination of who was at fault in an auto accident. Police officers are trained to determine fault in the face of conflicting stories, and are also trained to accurately “read” the evidence at the scene of the accident. Insurance companies will typically put significant stock in the police report.
- Evidence gathered by you. Following your auto accident if you are not severely injured, it can be extremely helpful to your eventual case to take photographs of the vehicles, injuries and the scene of the accident in order to help your insurance company determine fault. If there were witnesses to the accident, make sure you jot down names and phone numbers, giving your Los Angeles auto accident attorney a strong foundation on which to build your case.
- Which driver admits fault at the scene. It is extremely important that you never admit fault at the scene of an accident. Cooperate with the police, exchange information with the other driver, but do no more than state the facts. You may not actually be aware of the true cause of your accident, so even if you believe you are the at-fault driver, allow the police and your insurance company to come to that conclusion on their own.
Causes of Motor Vehicle Accidents
Of course every automobile accident is unique, and yours is no exception. The facts and circumstances surrounding your accident will determine how you will proceed; however some of the more common factors and causes involved in automobile accidents include:
California Code 23123(a) governs driving while talking on a cell phone, while California Code 23123.5 governs texting while driving. Many experts feel distracted driving has become the top cause of car collisions in our increasingly busy lives. As a nation off multi-taskers, we have allowed that habit to extend into our time behind the wheel as well.
At any given moment, it is likely a majority of the drivers on the roadways have at least a part of their attention somewhere other than on the road. We are thinking about work, about which child needs to be picked up or dropped off, about our plans for the upcoming weekend, and about what we will cook for dinner. When you add these mental distractions to actual physical distractions, you can see how this creates increased risk of an accident. Drivers routinely:
- Talk on their cell phones;
- Send or receive text messages;
- Eat an entire meal;
- Turn around to see what the children are doing in the back seat;
- Change radio stations;
- Check the GPS;
- Talk to passengers, or
- Watch what’s happening on the side of the road.
The NHTSA estimated in 2013 that driver distraction was responsible for a minimum of 10 percent of all fatal crashes and 18 percent of all crashes resulting in serious injury. Among drivers ages 15 to 19, at least 10 percent were reported as distracted at the time of their involvement in a fatal crash.
Many believe these statistics are very conservative and that there are many more crashes related to distracted driving. The U.S. Department of Transportation calls distracted driving a “dangerous epidemic on America’s roadways,” stating there were 3,129 people killed in distracted driving crashes in 2014.
Cell phone use may be the most dangerous distraction of all. Although California motorists were prohibited from talking on hand-held cell phones while driving in 2008, and a ban on texting came in 2009, subsequent studies have shown that even hands-free technology can be a significant distraction.
Further, despite the fact talking and texting are against the law, a 2014 survey found that at least 75 percent of drivers admit to texting while driving, and even more talk on their cell phone. Some research points to the fact that talking on a cell phone while driving is equivalent to having a blood alcohol content of .08 percent (the legal limit).
California enacted a resolution that proclaimed April 6, 2005 as Drowsy Driver Awareness Day in response to the number of fatigued drivers on the roadways. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a full 60 percent of drivers admit to driving while feeling very tired or drowsy. More than a full third admit to actually falling asleep while driving. Four percent (11 million drivers) say they have been involved in a car collision, or nearly had a collision because they fell asleep while driving. According to the NHTSA, a minimum of 100,000 auto collisions are the direct result of driver fatigue. Some additional facts about fatigued driving:
- It can be difficult to determine whether an accident was the result of a fatigued driver, as there is no “test” to determine level of fatigue.
- Self-reporting of fatigue does not result in reliable data because few people want to admit they were exhausted, yet got behind the wheel anyway.
- Police are not trained to identify drowsiness as a collision factor;
- Collisions attributed to other causes may actually be the result of fatigued driving.
- Young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are the group most likely to drive while drowsy or fatigued.
- Men are more likely than women to drive while fatigued, and twice as likely to actually fall asleep behind the wheel.
- Adults with children in the household as well as shift workers are more likely to drive while drowsy or fatigued.
- Almost three-fourths of Americans drive to and from work, and many of these are drowsy drivers.
Reckless driving is a criminal offense, although it is punishable as a misdemeanor in most situations. Reckless driving is showing willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others, or driving in a careless, reckless or negligent manner. Reckless driving can also include the failure to maintain reasonable and proper control of the vehicle.
Reckless driving charges, under California Vehicle Code 23103, can come with other criminal charges stemming from the same incident. While reckless driving may sound relatively minor, there are serious consequences associated with reckless driving charges, including imprisonment for five to 90 days, a fine up to $1,000, or both. If convicted of reckless driving you will also receive two points on your driver’s license, and may have your automobile insurance cancelled. Reckless driving can include:
- Excessive speed;
- Failure to yield;
- Failure to use blinkers;
- Drunk driving;
- Distracted driving;
- Passing red lights or stop signs in a manner which endangers others;
- Changing lanes back and forth in a manner which endangers others, or
- Failure to have proper lights on your automobile.
According to the NHTSA, inclement weather is responsible for as many as 22 percent of all automobile accidents. The following types of weather can adversely impact driving:
- High winds can result in lane obstruction due to visibility issues due to dust or lane obstructions from wind-blown debris, increasing accident risk.
- Rain can impact visibility, and can result in pavement friction and lane obstructions due to accidents, increasing accident risk.
- Fog can impact visibility, resulting delays, speed variances and an increased accident risk.
The overwhelming majority of car collisions related to weather occur on wet pavement, during rainfall. Freeway travel speeds can be reduced by three to 16 percent when rain is present—estimates of the delayed vehicle-hours due to inclement weather across the nation is 544 million hours.
Auto Accidents Caused by an Auto Defect
Auto defects, particularly with the tires and brakes of vehicles are responsible for a significant number of auto accidents. Despite the fact that the radial tires manufactured today are significantly safer than the tires of twenty-five years ago, problems can still occur due to improper air pressure or tire traction. Under-inflated tires are the number one-cause of blowouts, and when a blowout occurs in heavy traffic, there could be a number of resulting accidents.
Research has shown that automobiles with ABS are more likely to be involved in a fatal rollover accident than other types of brakes. Braking systems are extremely complex, and can fail for a variety of reasons, whether from improper installation or flaws in the basic design. Brake defects are rarely noticeable until the brakes fail. In addition to defective brakes or tires, the suspension of a vehicle keeps the car’s tires in contact with the roadway in a stable manner. Defective suspension can prevent a driver from navigating a road obstacle in a manner that avoids an accident.
Auto Accidents Caused by Impaired Drivers
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014, nearly 10,000 people were killed in crashes involving an impaired driver—nearly a third of all traffic deaths in the United States. More facts about impaired drivers and auto accidents include:
- 19 percent of the traffic deaths attributed to an impaired driver were children, between the ages of 0 and 14. Half of those children were riding in the vehicle with an alcohol-impaired driver.
- 1 million drivers were arrested in 2014 for driving under the influence—only one percent of the 121 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired drivers in the U.S.
- Sobriety checkpoints are believed to reduce the number of alcohol-related collisions by about 9 percent.
- Ignition interlock devices are associated with a 70 percent reduction in re-arrest rates for impaired drivers.
Where Do Most Car Accidents Occur?
According to the NHTSA, California had the second-highest number of fatal car accidents in 2013, and a large number of these accidents took place within 25 miles of the driver’s home. In fact, Progressive Insurance, after surveying more than 11,000 people, found that 52% of the reported crashes in the study occurred five miles or less from home, and a staggering 77% occurred fifteen miles or less from the driver’s home. Of course to a certain extent this is due to the fact that most of your driving is done within that radius. Another reason for this could be that most of us tend to be more alert when driving in unfamiliar areas.
The repetition of driving to and from work or within our own neighborhood to run errands, tends to put our brain on autopilot. Most people have, at one time or another, arrived at work or home, only to realize they had no memory of the actual trip.
The time of day can also impact auto accidents—the late afternoon an evening hours are the most dangerous tie to drive. In 2013, a full 16 percent of fatal auto accidents occurred between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.—the time of day when the children are getting out of school and adults are getting off work.
Common Car Crash Injuries
Although the injuries sustained from a car accident will vary from one accident to another, there are some injuries which are more common following a car crash. These injuries include:
- Injuries to the head—Head injuries are among the most serious injury a person can receive from a car accident. When a collision occurs, the driver and passengers may hit their heads against a window, a dashboard or a steering wheel, resulting in open head wounds. The brain can also be slammed from one side of the skull to the other as the head snaps forward, then backward. Traumatic brain injuries can occur, ranging from a relatively mild concussion to a coma, or lasting cognitive issues.
- Injuries to the back—Back injuries are also common among those involved in a car collision. These injuries can range from mild to moderate pain levels which last several days to several weeks to spinal cord damage which can lead to permanent paralysis on the most severe end or reduced sensation, numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, limited mobility and pain in the arms and legs on the less severe side.
- Neck injuries—Although whiplash often has a negative connotation, due in part to the fact that there is no specific medical test which can confirm whiplash, it is a very real, very painful injury. When a car is struck from the rear, the sudden movement of the head and neck can result in neck muscle and ligament damage, which causes significant pain for the victim for a considerable amount of time.
- Chest injuries—Blunt force trauma suffered in a car collision can result in a collapsed lung or broken ribs. Internal bleeding in the chest area may be the most immediate problem following an injury to the chest, however there may also be damage to internal organs or to the abdomen.
- Facial lacerations—Following a car accident, injuries to the face are commonly seen when the face strikes the windshield, collides with an airbag, strikes the dash or steering wheel and comes into contact with shattered glass. Bruises and scrapes are common, and lacerations and fractures can also result from a car accident. In more serious car accidents, the jaw can be injured or fractured or there can be significant dental injuries.
- Psychological injuries—Emotional trauma following a car collision is fairly common, resulting in the inability to sleep, PTSD, persistent anxiety and depression. A recent study suggested that a full third of all those involved in a non-fatal auto accident suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder, phobias, depression and persistent anxiety for as long as a year following the accident. Many of those who have been involved in a serious car accident may even find it difficult to get back into a car, whether as the driver or passenger.
There are many more injuries which can result from a car accident, including broken bones and other internal injuries. Even if you think you are fine following an auto accident, it is a good idea to be checked out at the ER or by your own doctor anyway.
In many cases, the adrenaline rush you experience when a car accident occurs can mask injury symptoms. You may think you are okay, then days, or even weeks following the auto accident you can experience serious effects from an injury sustained during the collision. At this point it can be much more difficult to convince an insurance company that you did, in fact, receive your injuries from the car crash.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident
This video outlines the steps to take after a car accident including the documents you should bring when meeting with a personal injury attorney.
Speak to Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney Today
You can rely on our firm whenever there’s an accident involving you, your family, or your friends. We represent clients in the same way we would represent members of our own family, and work tirelessly to ensure that you get the maximum value of the injury settlement, or jury award, that you deserve.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto collision, call Los Angeles car accident lawyer Joshua Glotzer for a free consultation at (844) 821-5271.