The most common way Americans become injured or killed throughout the nation is via car accidents. In 2017, nearly 4,000 people died from car accidents in California alone. Leading car manufacturers have made significant improvements to car safety in the past few years, but accidents still happen. If you become involved in a car accident, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and unsure of what could happen next. However, it is crucial you know your rights and how you can hold negligent drivers accountable for their actions.
Our team at The Ward Firm works diligently with clients so they can receive compensation and move forward from this stressful experience. Our attorney, Justin L. Ward, has helped many Stockton residents navigate their personal injury cases while listening carefully to their concerns. We know this is a difficult situation, and the legal system in California is notorious for its intimidation tactics. Fortunately, we’re prepared to help you work through this process every step of the way.
What Causes Auto Accidents in California?
Driving a motor vehicle requires serious responsibility and focus. There are some cases where an environmental factor is the reason for an accident, but most of the time, another driver is the reason. Automobile accidents typically occur due to the following actions:
Texting or using a phone behind the wheel
Driving while tired
Driving under the influence (DUI)
Outside issues such as bad weather, faulty car parts, etc.
Distracted driving is the most common way car accidents happen. Activities like looking away from the road, changing the radio, or using your phone. Speeding can increase the odds of an accident becoming fatal, and DUI is not only incredibly dangerous but can result in hefty fines, prison time, license suspension, and other staggering penalties.
Victims of car crashes can sustain severe injuries, some of which are life-threatening. No matter if you or a loved one were injured in a car accident, you have the right to file a personal injury claim against the opposing party.
What to Do If You’re Involved in a Car Accident in Stockton
As soon as you’ve been involved in a car accident, it’s imperative you remain calm and follow the below steps to avoid additional injuries or damage.
Prioritize safety. After assessing the situation, determine if your vehicle is blocking traffic. If you can still operate the vehicle, move it to a safer location to avoid additional collisions. Also, determine if you or anyone else needs medical attention and call emergency services immediately if necessary.
Report the accident. Under California law, you are required to contact law enforcement if a car accident occurs. Doing this also allows you to file claims in the future against the other driver.
Exchange contact information. You and the other driver should exchange contact information if possible. This information should include phone number, license plate number, address, and more. You may also need to record insurance information as well as witness’s information should any be present. Witnesses can also provide support for your claim if they saw the accident occur firsthand.
Document the accident. Photos of the scene can be considered evidence for your case, so be sure to document the entire situation as much as possible.
File additional reports. You’ll need to report the accident to your insurance company so they can perform an investigation. Also, you have 10 days to report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if it resulted in an injury, death, or any property damage that exceeded $1,000.
As complicated as these steps can be, having the help of a Stockton car accident attorney can streamline the process and ensure your rights are protected.
How to File a Car Accident Claim in Stockton
While it’s highly advised to speak with legal representation first before filing a claim, there are still steps you must take to hold the other party responsible.
After the accident has occurred, contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Usually, your insurance card has a phone number listed that you can call, or you can use their website or mobile app if available. Even if you’re not at fault for the incident, give your insurance company a call anyway. If you do not have insurance, you can still file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. This doesn’t mean their company can represent you, though. Because this insurance company can simply ignore your request, you may want to have legal representation on hand before making a call.
As previously mentioned, you have 10 days to inform the DMV about the accident, but only if the accident caused a fatality or more than $1,000 in property damage. It’s important to know that notifying the DMV is not the same as suing someone for the damages. Also, when looking into car repairs, insurance companies may allow this to proceed as planned but separate this deed from covering your injuries.
Finally, the statute of limitations to file a claim with an insurance company is two years from the date of the accident. For example, if you sustain a serious leg injury that requires hospitalization and rest for many months, the insurance company should consider your case if it is filed within two years. Filing a claim past the two-year period can result in your entire claim being ignored by a judge. Only in rare circumstances can you file a claim after two years, though you may want to speak with your attorney about this before taking action.
Proving Liability for Your Stockton Car Accident
When filing a claim against the other driver, you must be able to prove they are liable for the accident. In some cases, determining fault is fairly easy, such as cases where a driver speeds through a stop sign and hits another driver. However, certain cases aren’t as clear, such as collisions involving multiple vehicles. In these cases, it can be more difficult to determine who is at fault.
Proving fault can be incredibly challenging, as several details can get involved that may be hard to keep track of. Personal injury law is quite vast, meaning the average driver in Stockton may be unsure how it all works. Fortunately, you have the right to hire personal injury attorneys to examine your case and determine how to proceed.
Is California a No-Fault State?
California is considered an “at-fault” state. In short, this means if a driver is responsible for an auto accident, they could be liable for the damages caused. Because of these regulations, every party involved in the accident can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. A no-fault state, on the other hand, requires each party to file a claim with their own insurance company. While these cases tend to resolve faster, drivers who weren’t at fault have more responsibilities on their hands, which complicates the overall scenario.
Negligence in Stockton Car Accidents
Legally, negligence means a person fails to treat others with the care that a reasonable person would. Essentially, a driver who is negligent doesn’t show concern for others on the road and puts them in danger with their actions.
Drivers have a duty to be responsible when operating their vehicles. Drivers should watch for pedestrians, stay at or below the speed limit, and properly control their vehicles. By violating your responsibilities as a driver, you can be held liable for causing damage or injuries.
In some cases, multiple drivers can be considered at fault. For instance, if you fail to use a turn signal, only for someone to rear-end you, both of you can be held liable. In this situation, you can both still seek compensation for your economic losses or injuries. In California, your compensation is reduced by a certain percentage depending on your involvement in the accident. As an example, your compensation awards could be reduced by 25% if you are found to be 25% responsible for what happened.
How Stockton Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help
While it is technically possible to navigate California’s legal system on your own, this isn’t recommended. There are several reasons why you should instead speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
First, having legal representation can help defend you against others trying to take advantage of your situation. Insurance companies may ask you to sign something or submit a statement following your case. Their goal is usually to minimize the amount of money they’ll lose and not allow you to recover as much as possible. Also, insurance companies can be difficult to approach and deal with, but an experienced lawyer can help protect your rights and ensure this process runs smoothly.
Having a personal injury attorney in Stockton allows a qualified party to examine your case and determine who should be held liable. If you took photos and got other parties’ information after the accident occurred, you can show this to your attorney, who can use this to build a stronger defense. They can also look at police reports, surveillance videos, medical records, and other relevant documents so they have a better chance of securing more compensation for you.
Many residents in Stockton who are injured in car accidents are unable to work or do any basic activities for an extended period of time. Trying to build your own case while working through injuries or emotional trauma can be debilitating. You may also not be in the right state of mind to defend yourself, and you may not have the right details required for a strong defense. Instead, someone well-versed in personal injury law can gather the details they need and begin working on a defense while you recover.
Because of the statute of limitations, you get two years from the date of the accident to file a claim. However, some individuals find it challenging to earn compensation the longer they wait. While you can at least inform your insurance company of the incident, there is a two-year period where you can file the claim itself. On the other hand, your attorney can help you file a claim, let you recover, and work on a plan to fight for compensation.
Proving negligence is arguably the most difficult part of holding another driver liable for a car accident. You may have evidence and a recollection of events, but if you don’t present this well enough, you may not earn as much compensation for your injuries. Fortunately, we have the knowledge and experience needed to present our arguments precisely and clearly so your interests are respected.
The Different Types of Compensation
When seeking compensation after experiencing a car accident, you can recover through multiple different methods.
Property damage includes any structural damage sustained as a result of the accident. This includes your vehicle as well as any buildings or other property that was damaged in the event. The property damage amount increases depending on the severity of the accident. If your car is totaled, you may want to fight for as much compensation as you can to cover all of the monetary losses.
Economic damages consist of lost wages from work, medical bills, and more. Depending on how intense your injuries are, you can lose a significant portion of your finances. Not only do you have to worry about your physical condition, but you can also suffer emotionally as well. Some services like therapy can be grouped in with the rest of your economic damages. You and your attorney can secure compensation that can cover these expenses so you’re not left struggling.
Non-economic damages are also known as “pain and suffering.” Car accidents can affect your psychological state, and any distress experienced as a result of the incident falls under this category. In order to determine how much compensation you can earn, your attorney can look at past cases and give you an estimate.
In any case, you may be able to earn more compensation for your case than you expected or more than you would have earned without legal assistance. A careful review of your situation, along with a passionate and experienced attorney, may allow you to have several different types of damages covered.
Car Accident Lawyers FAQs
Q: Why Are Car Accidents Considered Personal Injuries?
A: A personal injury is defined as physical, emotional, or financial damage as a result of another party’s neglect. Personal injuries include dog bites, wrongful death, work accidents, and car accidents. Car accidents can fall under personal injury if another driver does not adhere to California driving laws and puts others at risk of injury.
Q: Am I Required to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney for My Case?
A: No, you are not required to speak with a legal group about your car accident. However, attempting to navigate your situation alone can be taxing, especially if you have severe injuries that require you to rest. Insurance companies may also employ bad-faith tactics when you file a claim, and these can be easy to miss and difficult to argue against. An experienced attorney will fight for your interests, which is why hiring one can make a large difference in the outcome of your case.
Q: Can I Sue a Driver If They Killed My Family Member in a Car Accident?
A: Yes, you can file a claim against a driver if their actions caused the death of a loved one. This usually falls under wrongful death, which is considered a type of personal injury case. According to wrongful death laws, loved ones can hold other parties liable for damages caused by this death. The compensation you earn can go towards funeral services, lost wages, and more. While you may not have experienced the accident firsthand, you are still affected by this horrible tragedy, giving you the opportunity to file a claim.
Q: What Happens if the Other Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance?
A: California insurance laws require residents to carry a minimum amount of an insurance plan. However, if the driver who causes your injuries doesn’t have insurance or enough to cover the damages, you can file a claim through your own insurance company. Even in this situation, you may want to consult your attorney first so they can offer their advice on the matter.
We’re Here to Help
Car accidents can be devastating both emotionally and financially. The legal system throughout Stockton is known for being intimidating and complicated to understand, but you don’t have to navigate it on your own. While you rest from your injuries, a Stockton car accident lawyer at The Ward Firm can begin building a case for you.
We take pride in looking through all evidence and finding solutions to our clients’ concerns. Because legal matters can be challenging to work through, we act aggressively yet concisely to represent you as optimally as possible. If we don’t hear a valid offer from the insurance company that will meet your needs, we’re willing to go to court to have this matter settled.
Auto accidents can completely change how you live the rest of your life. To ensure you have what you need and to ensure the responsible driver is held accountable, we hope you give us a call. Contact us today via phone or email, and we’ll begin preparations to defend you.
Schedule a Free Consultation
At your free initial consultation, you will meet directly with Justin, and he will explain how he can best help you with your case. If you decide to work with us, we will immediately get started on creating a strategy that protects your interests.
To get more information, call our office at 916-443-2474 or send us an email using our contact form. We are available by phone 24 hours a day. Se habla español.
The Ward Firm is open and actively assisting clients with personal injury, criminal, and employment related matters, and we do not anticipate any interruption in representation. However, please understand that all appointments will be telephonic as we observe the CDC's recommended social distancing.