What to Do When an At-Fault Driver Dies in the Crash

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), California saw a 10% increase in traffic deaths last year, with approximately 4,300 fatalities. Sadly, the spike in traffic-related deaths was not new, as it was the second consecutive year of increased motor vehicle crash fatalities. The nation also experienced a 16-year high in traffic deaths in 2021. Today, the world has more car accidents and related fatalities than ever.

Outlined below, are crucial steps to heed after an accident, followed by how to navigate an accident involving a fatally injured at-fault party.

  • When you are in a safe location adjacent to the accident, you should always call the police as it ensures proper procedures and cooperation of all parties involved and official and adequate documentation through a police report. In addition, the accident or injured parties may require emergency medical technician (EMT) services.
  • Check yourself for any immediately apparent wounds and the well-being of passengers in your vehicle.
  • If you can, taking photos of the vehicles involved will be helpful later in the process, and identifying and speaking with potential witnesses. Taking notes of your recollection of the events leading up to and causing the accident is also beneficial.
  • Always follow up with a medical provider, even if you feel fine, and get checked out at the emergency room, an urgent care clinic, or your primary care doctor for injuries that may not be immediately visible to you.

These steps should always be followed but are easier under typical circumstances. However, in some accidents, injuries sustained, and fatal events can prevent some of the above steps from taking place.

What happens if you get into a wreck, are injured, and incur damages, but the at-fault driver passes away in the accident?

Can you still seek compensation if the at-fault driver died in the accident?

Yes. In short, if the at-fault driver dies in a car accident, their insurance company is still obligated to pay damages to the other driver. Due to California’s at-fault status, the responsible party’s insurance company is accountable for paying damages. In the event the driver who caused the crash passed away as a result of the accident, their insurance policy would still be the source of compensation for any injuries or property damage you may have sustained but bear in mind the insurance policy likely has a limit.

What happens if the compensation offered doesn’t cover medical expenses, future expenditures related to the injury, and other associated costs and damages? The negligent driver’s estate might be able to provide compensation if the at-fault individual had inadequate or no insurance. Although seeking compensation in this way can be more complex and may require filing a lawsuit, you still have the right to pursue it. Under such circumstances, it is wise to seek the knowledgeable legal guidance of a San Francisco Bay Area attorney.

Concern for the Loved Ones of the Deceased

In addition to such instances being more challenging, they can also be emotionally burdensome. You may feel concerned for the at-fault driver’s family, what they are going through, and what the claim or suit process and receiving rightful compensation may mean for them. Yes, the individual likely has a family who is now mourning the loss of their loved one. However, medical debt and related expenses can add up quickly after an accident, so it is best not to postpone filing a claim and reaching out to a lawyer. Keep in mind that your primary point of contact, in most cases, will be with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. An experienced California Bay Area attorney can guide you through this process, provide support at each juncture, and ensure that you receive the total compensation to which you are entitled. We invited you to contact our offices to schedule a free consultation with our skilled Bay Area car accident attorney.

Calculating Lost Earning Capacity in a California Car Accident

After sustaining an injury in a California motor vehicle accident, whether caused by someone else’s negligence, carelessness, or other wrongful acts, you are entitled to compensation. An accident victim who is left unable to work temporarily or, in extreme cases, permanently, due to an accident-related injury, can quickly fall into debt. Fortunately, California realizes the heavy financial burden such circumstances can place on victims and their families. In California, victims have the right to seek compensation specifically for what is known as “loss of earning capacity” and other economic damages.

California Loss of Earning Capacity and Lost Wages

Lost earning capacity, or time and money yielded due to the detrimental loss of one’s ability to work and garner income in the future, can be calculated and recovered as compensation. Though both “lost wages” and loss of earning capacity are examples of economic damages, the two are notably different. Lost wages or loss of income refers to the money lost from being unable to work while you are recovering before either filing a suit or until a settlement goes into effect. Lost wages are typically easier to calculate as they have already transpired. However, loss of earning capacity looks to establish the hypothetical earnings an individual will lose out on, in the future, due to their injury.

Common Questions Regarding Loss of Earning Capacity

Loss of earning capacity income is not calculated as current wages but is instead a projection of what the victim would have presumably earned if they hadn’t been injured in the accident.

What types of income fall under “loss of earning capacity”?

Including income like hourly wages and salary pay, lost earning capacity examples also include benefits, 401ks, self-employed income (business owners), overtime pay, sick pay, vacation pay, commission, stock options, and potential raises.

 How is loss of earning capacity calculated?

To recover damages for loss of earning capacity, a thorough calculation is made. Along with analyzing earnings, the type of injury also needs to be considered; can you be fully rehabilitated? Will you be able to return to work in the future, and in what capacity, if at all? For example, your employer may be asked to testify about your job performance and outlook. The position you held and potential for growth, your educational background, workforce-related job trends, and the area you live and work in are some additional factors assessed. A medical expert may be asked to describe your injury and how it has impacted your life and health in the present and future. Having a skilled personal injury attorney with ample experience in cases involving economic damages is advisable.

Does an Injury have to be life-changing to qualify for loss of earning capacity?

A common misconception is that lost earning capacity only applies when the plaintiff has sustained an injury from which they cannot recover. However, this simply is not true. Even if the injury could or does resolve in the future, the plaintiff is still eligible for loss of earning capacity at the time of settlement or trial. A serious injury, but not necessarily life-altering, still allows a victim to pursue lost earning capacity damages.

Personal Injury Law in California

Proving that you have lost your earning capacity due to a personal injury is a complex process. Still, it is essential if you want to focus on your recovery plan and eliminate any stress related to debt, future medical costs, and living expenses. A personal injury attorney with extensive knowledge of California personal injury laws will know how to proceed and maximize your compensation successfully. If you or a loved one have suffered a severe injury following a California car accident, contacting an experienced Bay Area personal injury attorney is crucial.

Understanding Comparative Negligence & Fault in California Bay Area Accidents

California is an exceptionally beautiful place to live; however, it also has some of the most traffic-congested areas in our country, notably the Bay Area with major cities like San Francisco and Oakland. In densely populated regions, accidents are much more prone to happen, and nationwide, there was a surge of traffic-related fatalities in 2021. In the aftermath of an accident, there are several vital steps to take, like filing a police report, visiting urgent care to treat or check for injuries, documenting damage to vehicles, filing insurance claims, and figuring out who is to blame for the collision. When involved in a crash, determining fault is always a priority, but many are unaware that it’s not always clear-cut; responsibility may be assigned to multiple parties, and a partially at-fault party may still seek and receive compensation for damages.

What is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative fault laws or the doctrine of comparative negligence pertains to how much fault is assigned to each party involved in a collision. In California, relative negligence laws allow individuals to still recover damages from a crash, even if they partially contributed to its cause. In such cases, compensation is calculated in relation to the percentage or amount of fault. For example, in the event you are deemed to be 40 percent at fault for an accident, you would be liable for 40 percent of damages, but you will still qualify for compensation. While all states have some variation of this law, in those with modified comparative negligence rules, an individual cannot recover compensation if their fault in the accident is typically greater than 50 percent. Fortunately, California is a pure comparative fault law state, meaning an individual can still seek compensation despite being 99 percent at fault.

Comparative Negligence Defense

In car accident lawsuits or claims, comparative negligence can be utilized as a defense. A person accused of fault may argue that the victim was partially responsible for their injuries. The court or the jury determines each party’s percentage of liability in a comparative negligence case. Your compensation will be adjusted or reduced depending on how much you contributed to the accident.

Accidents may be triggered by various forms of negligence, which can impact the amount of damages you owe. A knowledgeable California car accident and personal injury law attorney can assist you in identifying the fault and pinpointing critical elements of the accident that can help your case. Some examples of negligence include but are not limited to:

  • Running a traffic light or failing to yield
  • Driving recklessly
  • Failure to signal
  • Tailgating
  • Speeding
  • Disregarding seatbelt laws
  • Ignoring pedestrian crosswalks, signs, and traffic lights

Pure comparative negligence can positively or negatively affect your case if you are partially at fault for an incident. Motor vehicle accidents, the claims process, and determining fault percentages are complex, making the process of recovering compensation both overwhelming and challenging. It can be additionally stressful when another party tries to claim they are the sole victim in a crash, and you are entirely to blame for the collision. If you or a loved one have been in a car accident, it is wise to contact an experienced Bay Area car accident lawyer right away. Schedule a free consultation today and have your questions and concerns addressed by our skilled and proficient attorney.

FAQs: California Car Accidents and Personal Injury Claims

Does filing a personal injury claim require a court appearance?

A motor vehicle accident claim is usually settled out of court and through negotiations with the parties and related insurance companies involved. Despite this, many insurers attempt to settle claims quickly and for the least amount possible. However, in instances where the insurance company does not make an acceptable offer, we are prepared to litigate on your behalf for complete compensation.

In California, how much compensation am I entitled to after a car accident?

California allows you to recover both general and special damages.

General damages are for elements such as pain and suffering or how the accident and injury have affected your quality of life. It is challenging to specify how much money should be allocated for such damages as there is no set rule. It typically depends, however, on what kind of injury you suffered, how much discomfort you endured, and how long your injury lasted.

Among special damages are healthcare-related expenses due to the accident (e.g., general medical fees, prescription costs, and therapy or treatment expenses). Also included under special damages may be lost wages and repair costs for your vehicle.

You will receive compensation based on the type of injury you sustained, the cost of hospital care and medical treatment, and any losses you have incurred due to the accident. Many accidents may cause significant trauma to the victim, which deserves consideration when establishing compensation amounts.

Is it possible to seek compensation for both past and future expenses?

Past and current medical expenses are more straightforward to calculate as bills, statements, and receipts are all accessible. Although future medical expenses are not as simple to document, as they have not yet occurred, they can be evaluated and determined. Traumatic brain injuries, spinal injuries, and any injury requiring extensive treatments or long-term therapy can add up quickly as future costs. During litigation or negotiations for compensation, your attorney can establish reasonable estimates for these costs as well as treatment needs. Expert testimony from doctors and healthcare providers is often used for this purpose.

What do I have to prove for my California accident claim to succeed?

California law requires that you prove the other party was negligent in how they operated their vehicle. In other words, you must demonstrate the following factors:

  • The defendant was negligent in how they operated their vehicle or neglected traffic laws. For example, the defendant may have sped, ran a red light, or engaged in distracted driving behavior.
  • That plaintiff suffered an injury.
  • That defendant’s negligence significantly contributed to the harm the plaintiff suffered.

Note: In instances where you are partially at fault for an accident, you may still recover compensation if you can demonstrate that the defendant’s actions also played a meaningful role in the collision.

When pursuing a personal injury claim, how can an attorney help?

Although you won’t always require an attorney to file a car accident or associated personal injury claim, having proficient counsel on your side can significantly reduce the stress of the entire process and ensure you receive just compensation. An attorney can assist in investigating the collision, gathering evidence to demonstrate fault and determine damages, and estimating the value of those damages. In addition, your lawyer may negotiate settlements when appropriate, represent you in litigation and fight on your behalf for your right to complete compensation. Contact our Bay Area personal injury firm today for a free consultation.

Types of Traumas After a Car Accident

According to data from UC Berkeley’s Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS) and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), California experienced a significant increase in traffic-related injuries in 2021. An injury related to a motor vehicle accident may leave you wondering what trauma effects can arise.

A car accident victim may suffer temporary or permanent injuries, depending on the extent of the accident and its impact. These are in addition to legal and economic ramifications, along with navigating insurance claims.

Victims must be conscious of the extensive trauma, mental pain, and adverse effects that car accidents often produce.

Trauma following an accident; what and why?

Trauma is a physical and psychological reaction to an accident’s stress and unrest. It is not uncommon for victims to feel powerless, helpless, in pain, shocked, and even left with fear and doubts about their self-worth. The fear of getting behind the wheel can result from an injury from a collision. Others may become anxious about traveling in vehicles in general. Despite these common reactions, they can make daily life and activities more challenging.

Six Car accidents trauma-related conditions

Trauma effects after a car accident are difficult to predict, although they are more likely to develop among car accident victims. Among the predominant conditions linked to car accident injuries and trauma are:

  • Acute stress disorder (ASD)
  • Stress response syndrome
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Psychological distress
  • Emotional trauma

Acute Stress Disorder: Develops in the days and weeks following an event characterized by an intense and painful reaction to trauma. Some individuals may feel detached or numb in an emotional sense, while others may exhibit unpredictable behavior.

Stress Response Syndrome: When an individual has difficulty coping with or adapting to a particular source of stress, such as a significant change in life, accident, loss, or event. The syndrome is often referred to as “adjustment disorder,” as patients often face hurdles attempting to adjust to life after a traumatic event.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: PTSD is a psychiatric disorder triggered by scary, startling, or life-threatening events. As reported by the American Psychological Association, car accidents are a leading cause of PTSD in Americans. PTSD is denoted by persistent flashbacks or reliving memories of the event that precipitated the trauma and disorder.

Traumatic Brain Injury: 1.5 million traumatic brain injuries (TBI) occur in the U.S. annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and occur when a strong external force damages the brain. These injuries range from mild to severe. However, they account for the majority of disabilities and deaths in adults. Signs of a TBI can manifest immediately or develop over time.

Psychological Distress: Moods can fluctuate wildly and cause painful physical and mental symptoms. Psychological distress can signal the beginning of major depressive episodes, panic disorders, and anxiety. In addition, the trauma can result in impairment of cognitive functions. An extremely stressful or traumatic experience can cause psychological distress.

Emotional Distress: While emotional distress can take many forms, its generally characterized by mental anguish, feelings of hopelessness, self-isolation, and depression. Emotional distress is usually a response to a particular crisis or event.

Many forms of trauma, unfortunately, go unnoticed, undiagnosed, and untreated. Getting appropriate care is imperative. The following are symptoms of trauma to be aware of:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Flashbacks or night terrors
  • Avoidance
  • Development of new fears
  • Self-isolating behavior
  • Emotional detachment or “numbness.”
  • Mood swings (frequent ups and downs)
  • Insomnia or new and poor sleep patterns
  • Problems focusing or learning
  • Depression or low moods
  • Loss of interest
  • Loss of motivation
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling foggy
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite or change in diet
  • Reduced libido
  • Aggressive or unpredictable behavior
  • Feelings of hopelessness

Can compensation after an accident include trauma?

Compensation may be available depending on the specifics of your claim. Consult an attorney specializing in this field to ensure you receive fair compensation. Compensation can assist with medical bills, prescription expenses, treatment costs, therapy, and more challenging to measure losses like pain and suffering. The trauma of a car accident can be grave and debilitating, but an attorney who is supportive and experienced can make all the difference.

How to be Compensated for Your Injuries as a Passenger in a Vehicle

If you have been injured while riding in someone else’s car, you are likely facing many of the same challenges as the driver, with the added difficulty of knowing how to navigate compensation for your injuries when the vehicle you were riding in was not yours.

Can you file a claim through the insurance of the driver? Can you initiate a claim through your own insurance? What if you were riding in an Uber or Lyft when you were injured? You may have a lot of questions following your accident and more confusion than answers.

In this article, we will explore these issues to help you move forward and collect the compensation you deserve.

Can you file a claim through the insurance of the driver?

Yes. As an individual who was injured in the vehicle of an insured driver, you can file a claim for damages through the driver’s motor vehicle insurance company. These damages may include your past medical bills, future medical bills, and lost wages from time off from work. If your injuries were significant, these damages may also include compensation for temporary or permanent disability, loss of earning capacity if you are no longer able to physically work at your job, and pain and suffering.

Can you initiate a claim through your own insurance?

If you are finding it difficult to file a claim through the motor vehicle insurance of the driver, you can also file a claim for compensation through your own insurance company. Typically, your insurance company will demand payment from the insurance company of one of the drivers involved in the accident on your behalf. They may also try to resist dealing with your claim altogether. If your insurance company does pay you for the claim, your compensation will likely be reduced by the amount of your deductible.

What if you were riding in an Uber or Lyft when you were injured?

Being injured as a passenger in an Uber or Lyft ridesharing vehicle presents its own set of unique questions and challenges. In these cases, there may be more than one party you can seek relief from including the driver of the Uber or Lyft vehicle, as well as the companies themselves.

Contact an Experienced Injury Attorney Today

If you have been injured as a passenger in someone else’s vehicle, the path to and challenges involved with recovering compensation for your damages may be different, but you are still entitled to be made whole by the individual who was negligent in causing the accident, whether that individual was the driver of the vehicle you were riding in or the driver of another vehicle.

Our team of highly skilled and experienced personal injury attorneys can help you navigate all of your options and pursue the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means that you will not owe any legal fees out of pocket, and we only get paid if you win your case in a settlement or court judgment.

For more information and to schedule a complimentary consultation of your case contact Dan Rose Law today.

Whiplash Injuries

Medically consulted injuries associated with car crashes have risen to roughly 4.8 million per year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) unveiled that the US just experienced an all-time high in traffic fatalities in 2021. Additionally, The Bay Area is home to the 4th most congested city in America and is no exception to the uptick in accidents and injuries. Common injuries related to collisions are back injuries, spinal injuries, traumatic brain injuries, burns, and whiplash.

45% of people who have chronic neck pain attribute that pain to a past motor vehicle accident, according to the analysis conducted by the Spine Research Institute of San Diego.

What Is a Whiplash Injury?

Generally speaking, whiplash is a term used to describe an injury to the neck, specifically, a sprain. A rear-end collision is a familiar source of whiplash as it induces the neck’s abrupt forward and backward motion. A sudden, violent jolt can force your neck’s soft tissues beyond their normal range of motion, resulting in a sprain. According to the Spine Research Institute of San Diego, there are 3.1 million new whiplash injuries each year.

Most Common Causes of Whiplash

John Hopkins Institute finds the most common cause of whiplash injuries is auto collisions, specifically rear-end impacts. Sports injuries can also cause whiplash, particularly in contact sports, and incidents of physical abuse and assault.

The force does not have to be great for car accidents to render a whiplash injury. These injuries often result from accidents in which vehicles were moving as slowly as five to ten miles per hour.

Whiplash: Signs and Symptoms

Before discussing signs of whiplash, it is vital to note that whiplash does not always appear instantly. After an accident, your body releases hormones like adrenaline to shield you from shock and trauma. As well as activating a fight-or-flight response, hormones temporarily mask or reduce pain. Unfortunately, this often results in individuals abstaining from emergency medical treatment (EMT) on scene and skipping an urgent care visit following an accident. A physician should always check you for any signs of injury that may not be immediately apparent in the aftermath of an accident.

Whiplash will almost always result in stiffness and soreness in the neck, which can also radiate to the shoulders. Usually, you’ll notice that your neck is less mobile than it would be if it weren’t injured.

You may also experience any of the following:

  • Blurred vision
  • Muscle spasms
  • Limited range of motion
  • Tingling or numbness traveling down to the arms and hands
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Feeling unsteady, disoriented, or dizzy
  • Problems with memory can accompany a whiplash injury
  • Depression and irritability

Tips for Avoiding Rear-end Collisions

Sadly, sometimes accidents are unavoidable due to other drivers’ aggressiveness, speeding, distracted driving, and general negligence. However, defensive and safe motorist techniques can help reduce the odds of a crash. Make sure you pay attention to the road ahead and your surroundings; be aware of the distance between you and other vehicles as you approach an intersection, a red light, and other road slowdowns. In addition to staying mindful and alert, you can avoid rear-end wrecks and other collisions by using your signals and mirrors, avoiding getting boxed in, and keeping a safe distance from reckless drivers you may encounter.

An Injury Caused by Someone Else’s Negligence

Consult with a knowledgeable Bay Area personal injury attorney when you suffer whiplash or any other injury due to another driver’s negligence. At-fault parties should always be held accountable. The cost of medical bills, therapy, prescriptions, and lost wages can quickly add up. Consulting an experienced car accident and personal injury attorney can help you navigate the claims process and ensure proper compensation.

Bay Area Accidents Due to Aggressive Drivers

Aggressive driving, also referred to as reckless driving, is more prevalent in the Bay Area than one may assume. According to The UC Berkeley Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS), the rate of fatal and severe crashes has reflected a notable increase. Overall, the U.S. has been experiencing an intense spike in traffic fatalities and serious injuries related to aggressive driving.

In a statement from The U.S. Division of Transportation (DOT), on May 16, 2022, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg expressed grave concerns and stressed the need for an urgent response to a “national crisis of fatalities and serious injuries on our road.”

Description and Examples of Aggressive Driving

Aggressive driving is often associated with rush-hour car wrecks; however, it may occur in residential neighborhoods just as frequently and result in harmful and sometimes lethal outcomes.

Aggressive manifestations may include, but are not limited to:

  •   Excessive speeding
  •   Failure to obey traffic signals (red light accidents)
  •   Failure to honor street signs
  •   Tailgating
  •   Weaving in and out of lanes
  •   Cutting off drivers (often without signaling)
  •   Driving illegally on shoulders or driving on sidewalks
  •   Passing or attempting to pass vehicles in no-passing zones
  •   Failure to signal turns or lane changes
  •   Aggressive left turns
  •   Erratic lane changing
  •   Ignoring drivers or the signaling of others
  •   Driving in bike lanes or intimidating cyclists
  •   Disregarding “right of way”
  •   Exerting personal frustration on motorists
  •   Intentionally creating a hazardous merging situation
  •   Swerving (often repeatedly)
  •   Intimidation through aggressive acts or gestures
  •   Purposefully misusing auto horn to annoy, startle, or distract motorists
  •   Deliberately endangering motorcyclists

Dangerous Left Turns in the Bay Area

Being the fourth most congested city makes driving in San Francisco all the more dangerous. An increase in motorists on the roads translates to higher volumes of aggressive drivers and thus reduced time to safely maneuver challenging left turns. The results are difficult driving conditions, dangers to pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers, and ultimately, an increased risk for collisions, injuries, and fatalities.

Note: Research published by The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) in conjunction with The Vision Zero initiative discovered that nearly 40% of all traffic fatalities in San Francisco involved a left-turning vehicle. Stressful situations such as left turns in high traffic congestion can aggravate aggressive drivers and increase the likelihood of reckless driving.

Consequences of Aggressive Driving

In many cases, reckless driving offenses are attached to more severe charges like driving under the influence (DUI), hit-and-runs, street racing (illegal drag racing), and even vehicular manslaughter.

As part of California Vehicle Code Section 12810(b,c), the California Department of Motor Vehicles can impose two points on a driving record for reckless driving convictions. A reckless driving conviction may result in other costs, such as your insurance company raising your premiums or canceling your coverage altogether.

A reckless driving offense is considered a misdemeanor in California. Section 23103 of the California Vehicle Code defines the offense as driving “a vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.”

One can commit the act of reckless driving on a public road or in an off-street parking facility.

The consequences of such an offense under California Code Section 23103(c) are “persons convicted of the offense of reckless driving shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not less than five days nor more than 90 days or by a fine of not less than one $145 nor more than $1,000, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”

However, additional circumstances may lead to increased charges, including “wet” reckless driving (DUI and reckless driving) and even vehicular manslaughter.

Recommendations to consider if you come across an aggressive driver:

  •   Try to (safely) stay out of or leave the path of the aggressive driver.
  •   Avoid eye contact with the aggressive driver.
  •   Do not respond to or return gestures from an aggressive driver.
  •   Keep calm and avoid interactions with the aggressive driver.
  •   Ensure doors and windows are shut and locked
  •   Provide adequate room between yourself and the car ahead of you, whether at a red light or in stop-and-go traffic, or to pull out if needed.
  •   Call 911 over safety concerns for yourself and other drivers.

When an aggressive driver causes an injury or accident

In the event of an accident or injury caused by a reckless driver, you should contact an experienced San Francisco Bay area accident and injury attorney. You have the right to hold a driver responsible for injuries suffered due to an aggressive driver or related-wrongful death.

California Car Accident Laws

If you’ve just been involved in a car accident in California and experienced injuries and/or property damage, you want to be made whole again by the person responsible for your injuries. You may be wondering how much compensation you may be entitled to or how to navigate negotiations with the insurance company.

 In this article, we will explore some important elements you should know about California car accident law and how they might affect you.

 1.    California is an at-fault state.

If you are injured in an accident caused by someone else in California, you may be glad to learn that California is an at-fault state, which means that determining which party was negligent in causing the accident is relevant in the insurance claim process.

 Other states like New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and others are no-fault states, which can make it much more complicated in some instances for car accident victims to reach full compensation in a timely manner.

 As California is an at-fault state, the most important part in recovering compensation for your injuries, lost wages, and property damage is establishing the other party’s negligence.

 As the claimant or plaintiff, you have the burden of proving the other party’s negligence by a preponderance of the evidence or that it is more likely than not that they negligently caused your injuries. In some limited circumstances, if you are seeking punitive damages, this standard will be higher, and you will be required to show clear and convincing evidence of the other party’s negligence.

 Let’s take a closer look at the four elements of a negligence claim:

 The driver had a duty to operate their motor vehicle as a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances.

  • The driver failed to operate their motor vehicle as a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances.
  • This failure was the actual cause of the accident.
  • The failure resulted in damages to the claimant/plaintiff.

 The evidence available in your case must be substantial enough to prove that each of the above elements are more likely than not true.  If you are experiencing any difficulty in processing your claim through insurance or if there has been any question as to which party, if any, was at fault, you should consult with a California car accident attorney right away.

 2.    California follows a comparative negligence rule.

Under California law, you can recover damages from a party who was negligent in causing your injuries even if you were also negligent in the accident. However, the amount of compensation you receive will be reduced by your percentage of contribution to causing the accident. This is a legal standard called “pure comparative negligence”.

 It is therefore important to not only establish the negligence of the other party, but also present a strong defense against your own contribution to causing the accident, if you are alleged to have acted negligently.

 3.    You must report certain car accidents to the California DMV.

If anyone involved in the motor vehicle accident was injured or killed, or if the total property damages amount to over $1,000, you must report the accident to the California Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days after the accident.

 An Advocate on Your Side

A Bay Area car accident lawyer can assist you if you have been injured in a California car accident due to the other driver’s negligence. By filing your claim with the guidance and experience of a San Francisco Bay Area personal injury attorney, you can significantly strengthen the likelihood of a positive outcome for your claim and in receiving complete compensation for your injuries and related damages.

 

California San Francisco Bay Area Car Accident Statistics

Every year, negligent and reckless drivers cause thousands of injuries and fatalities. Analyzing bay area car accident statistics can help you identify and learn about the most common causes behind collisions in the San Francisco Bay Area and across California. By educating yourself, you may be able to help avoid these collisions in the future and know what to do should you find yourself in an car crash in California. Additionally, a California auto accident caused by another party may entitle you to financial compensation. Let’s explore the stats, reasons behind accidents in the Golden State, and what to do if you have been involved in an accident.

During the pandemic, traffic deaths increased in the Bay Area.

Car accidents are the foremost cause of personal injury claims in the San Francisco Bay Area and the rest of California. Accident injuries can be painful, costly, and life-changing, whether caused by a minor fender bender or a multi-car pile-up. For the very unfortunate, car accidents can result in death.

Dan Rose car accident attorney - Weekly Fatal or Severe Injury crashes in the CA Bay Area 2019-2021

This graph shows the weekly fatal or severe injury crashes in the 6 bay area counties in the years 2019, 2020, and 2021. Data is provided by UC Berkeley TIMS (transportation injury mapping system).

Despite fewer drivers on the roads, fatalities in most of the region’s largest counties stayed steady or increased slightly in 2020. Contra Costa County, on the eastern side of the Bay Area, has seen traffic deaths climb from 77 to 102 throughout 2020, despite a nearly one-third drop in overall crashes, according to data collected by The San Francisco Chronicle.

2020 was a unique year in traffic and vehicle statistics as the pande

mic and its lockdowns greatly influenced them. The morning and evening high traffic peaks flattened in comparison to prior years. A sharp decline in minor car crashes was observed across all nine San Francisco Bay Area regions.

The state is experiencing a return of traffic, tickets, accidents, and congestion after a two-year hiatus caused by shutdowns, and unpredictable Covid-19 spikes, which are (for now) in the “rear-view mirror.” The return to pre-pandemic traffic volume is reflected in numerous sources of statistical data from 2020 and 2021.

For example, an interesting bay area car accident statistic, over 55,800 distracted driving tickets were issued by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in 2021.

Over 13,000 accidents were caused by driver inattention in the same year (2021), based on preliminary data collected by the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (CHP maintains SWITRS). The data is made available by the University of California, Berkley, and UC Berkley’s Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS). Fifty-six distracted drivers were killed in crashes in California, and nearly another 6,300 were injured.

Distracted Driving is a Killer

These recent statistics have identified distracted driving as a significant contributor to car accidents and fatalities in the Bay Area. With smartphones, people are now better connected than ever before, but they are also more prone to distracted driving. California’s Office of Traffic Safety defines distracted driving as taking your eyes or mind off the road or taking your hands off the steering wheel — especially when texting or using your phone.

The United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report on distracted driving discovered it takes only five seconds to read a text message while driving. Unfortunately, most individuals are guilty of glancing down at their cellphones at least once in their driving years, if not much more often. What can happen in five seconds with your eyes on a screen and not the roadway?

An annual report by the Road Ecology Center at the University of California Davis found the Bay Area Freeway, Interstate 280, between San Bruno and Cupertino, as California’s deadliest highway in 2021 for wildlife-vehicle collisions. The report discloses a list of hotspots along the route for increased risk of animal collision with vehicles. This list is topped by multiple locations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Dan Rose car accident attorney - San Francisco 2019 crash results graph

Mule deer, mountain lions, bears, and newts are the most frequent roadkill victims. Imagine hitting a mountain lion at speeds of 65 miles per hour, the damage to your vehicle, the injuries to you and your loved ones, and the death of an animal whose habitat has been shrinking due to growing highways, businesses, and residential areas. It takes less than five seconds for a deer to leap into traffic and get hit and most likely killed by your vehicle. Such an accident can be catastrophic for all involved and could result in a multi-car accident on a major freeway.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety piloted a study in 2018 that found individuals interacting either visually or manually with cell phones while driving more than doubled the likelihood of a crash than individuals who abstained. Approximately 10 people die each day in The US from distracted driving.

Risky Behavior at Higher Speeds

In 2020, California recorded 3,723 motor vehicle deaths, increasing from 2019. Experts are suggesting that 2021 witnessed an even more significant increase in car accident-related fatalities in California, including the Bay Area, as Covid-19 related restrictions and shutdowns have been lifted and terminated.

The spike in fatalities comes as cities around the Bay Area struggle to meet Vision Zero’s goals of ending traffic deaths.

Since the beginning of the decade, fatal crashes in most of the Bay Area have steadily increased. During the pandemic, the trend remained essentially unchanged despite declining traffic.

The National Highway Safety Administration’s recent findings suggest that as average traffic speeds increased nationwide throughout 2020, drivers engaged in more dangerous behaviors, such as not wearing seatbelts and driving under the influence.

In 2019, 50% of drivers killed in motor vehicle collisions tested positive for legal or illegal drugs, an 8% increase over the previous year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Several studies have indicated an alarming rise in personal injuries sustained in collisions and linked them to the increase in alcohol and drug use stemming from the pandemic.

According to the latest California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) crash rankings for San Francisco County in the categories of “Had Been Drinking Driver < 21” and “Had Been Drinking Driver 21 – 34,” the county holds the highest or rather the worst, ranking possible. The two categories focus on crashes in which there were fatalities or injuries involving a driver under the age of 21 and drivers between the ages of 21 and 34.

According to the NHTSA, despite Americans driving less in 2020 due to the flu pandemic, 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes, the most since 2007.

From 2019 to 2020, California had the most significant increase in the quantity of alcohol-impaired driving collisions. Thirty percent of fatal accidents nationwide were caused by alcohol-impaired driving.

In the event of any type of motor vehicle collision, the importance of wearing a seatbelt cannot be overstated. The seatbelt is one of the most essential safety measures in any vehicle as it keeps occupants in place and minimizes injuries in the event of an accident.

NHSTA data shows an increase in the ejection rate during car accidents from 2019 to 2020, and preliminary data suggested an expected rise for 2021.

Note: The highest ejection rate occurs among males 18-49. The ejection rate is inextricably linked to seatbelt use.

Ride Share Accidents

Many Americans now use ridesharing services regularly. Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft provide mobile apps where drivers can offer ridesharing services using their own vehicles. Users in need of transportation order a driver at the touch of their smartphone’s screen. It is assumed that these apps make it easier for customers to get rides on demand rather than relying on traditional taxis and buses. However, convenience and technology growth may have cost some their lives.

  • A study conducted by the University of Chicago Booth Business School using comparative data from the NHTSA with figures from Uber and Lyft revealed the number of car accidents, fatal accidents, and fatalities involving vehicle occupants and pedestrians has risen by 3% as a result of ridesharing.
  • The study was conducted between 2011 and 2016. Experts estimate the original figure has increased as the popularity of rideshare apps has only continued to grow and extend from metropolitan cities to residential and rural areas.
  • According to an estimate by the Department of Transportation, the cost of fatalities due to ride-hailing is about $10 billion. Non-fatal accidents are not included in this figure.

Population, Pedestrians, and Cyclists

California’s rising car accident injuries and deaths may also result from the state’s large population. With approximately 39.51 million people, California is the most populous state in the US. California is often at the top of US lists regarding statistics on auto accident injuries and fatalities, with the Bay Area, unfortunately, as no exception.

Even if you aren’t the primary driver in your household or prefer to walk, pedestrian fatalities, particularly for those age 65 and older, have increased since 2019 in California.

Another sobering statistic — for those who enjoy cycling — according to the NHTSA, California hit a 25 year high in 2018 for traffic accident-related fatalities of cyclists. A slight decrease was observed in cyclist fatalities for 2019. However, experts believe the numbers may be higher once the data is made widely available for 2020 through 2022, as many individuals picked up cycling as a hobby during the pandemic.

Note: Helmet use is as important for cyclists as seatbelts are to motor vehicle drivers. A helmet can make a huge impact when involved in a car accident for a cyclist to avoid a traumatic brain injury and other life-altering damages.

Many cyclist enthusiasts attribute recent fatal accidents and injuries to road rage. In April of last year, The Bay Area lost a cycling legend and local hero, Joe Shami, who was hit and killed by an SUV just as Shami was about to close in on 100,000 miles ridden on his bike. Bike lanes exist for everyone’s safety, but all drivers do not observe them, even though it’s the law.

The Bay Area and all of California have much to offer its visitors and residents from beaches, ski resorts, the wine country of Napa Valley, historic districts, and gorgeous coastal drives. For drivers considering making a permanent move to California, they should note the state’s high accident rates and traffic congestion. However, the safety of California’s roads depends on the safety initiatives taken by the state’s drivers; make safety your priority.

Which City in California has the most accidents?

Among California’s cities, Los Angeles is the deadliest for driving, according to the NHTSA. The ranking is partly attributed to the city’s population size, increased risky behavior on the roads in recent years, and accidents occurring on Interstate 15. After a five-year analysis of federal crash data, the freeway known as I-15 was anointed by Dateline MSNBC as the deadliest road in all of the United States. Eight million drivers travel the interstate freeway each year, contributing to excessive traffic accident rates. In the past 10 years, 8% of fatal accidents have occurred on I-15, which spans Nevada and cites its deadliest roadway segment as the 180 miles running through San Bernardino County of California.

 

San Jose is still the city with the most car accidents in the Bay Area region and it continues to rise. Among the leading factors contributing to the Bay Area’s safety ranking are traffic congestion, distracted driving, driving under the influence of drugs, drinking and driving, road rage or any form of aggressive driving, speeding (on the rise in the entire state), coastal road curvatures, and highway construction zones.

Another noteworthy mention is Simi Valley, a city just outside of Los Angeles. Simi Valley has ranked highest in at-fault-related car accidents for 2021.

What to do if you have been in a California car crash?

Even if an accident is minor, it’s always best to call the police. The other driver may be hostile, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or simply unwilling to share insurance information. The police will not only begin a report but get all information from all parties involved.

Next, if you are not severely injured and can do so safely, take photos of the damage to the vehicles involved.

It’s also wise to always get checked out by a medical professional for any signs of injury after you have been in an accident. Even if you have no apparent damage, you may have sustained an injury and not yet know it. Adrenaline and other hormones released after an accident can mask pain. Some injuries, like whiplash, can take hours and even days to manifest.

Finally, if you or a loved one have been injured in a collision or a loved one died due to another at-fault driver, please speak with an experienced California car accident attorney.