Car Accident Lawyers
Though car accidents are one of the most common causes of injury in the United States, most people never consider that it could happen to them or someone they love. When one does occur, the shock alone can be devastating, and the potential injuries make the situation seem all the more devastating. This can be a hard event to process, but thankfully there is a system in place to help you move forward and get the compensation you need from those responsible.
At Sachs Law, APC, our knowledgeable car accident attorneys can help you through the aftermath of an auto accident. Our firm focuses exclusively on personal injury; we know how to investigate these cases, deal with the insurance companies, and evaluate the total value of your case so you can get the full compensation you deserve.
Here are some of the many reasons to trust Sachs Law, APC with your car accident case:
California law states that after a car accident the negligent party who caused the accident is the one held liable for any resulting damages. States that follow this law are referred to as “fault states.” California does acknowledge cases where more than one person is responsible for an accident, including the injured party. In these cases, California follows a pure comparative negligence rule. This means that even if you are partially responsible for the accident that led to your injuries you are still eligible to pursue compensation.
In fact, the “pure” in pure comparative negligence means that no matter how much fault you bear in the accident you can still file a claim. In all cases, however, your compensation will be reduced by the same percentage of fault you are determined to be responsible for. For example, if you are found to be 20% at fault for the accident that led to your injuries the total compensation amount awarded to you will be reduced by 20% as well.
Even if we take all available precautions and exercise care on the roads, the reality of the matter is that accidents happen. For this reason, all California drivers are required to purchase car insurance in order to legally operate a motor vehicle. Since California is an at-fault state, car insurance pays for the damages that you may inflict to other drivers on the roadways up to the limits of your policy.
California requires drivers to carry at least the following minimum auto insurance coverage:
- Bodily injury liability coverage: $15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident
- Property damage liability coverage: $5,000 minimum
Drivers may also elect to purchase uninsured motorist coverage which helps to pay for their own injuries and property damage in the event that they are hit by a driver without insurance, though this coverage may be waived.
If elected, the minimum uninsured motorist coverage is:
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage: $15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident
- Uninsured motorist property damage coverage: $3,500 minimum
Unfortunately, actually collecting this coverage after an accident can often be an uphill battle. An insurance company’s main goal when evaluating claims is to pay as little money as possible in order to protect its own interests. An attorney can help to protect you against unfair treatment and maximize your chances of securing the compensation you are owed under your policy.
When someone is involved in a car accident, it can be easy to point fingers at the party you feel is responsible. And while you may not be wrong, there may be more factors involved when determining who can be held liable for the injuries sustained. Unfortunately, the potential causes of car accidents are not widely known, so legal matters may get complicated. It’s important to understand how accidents can happen so if you need to take legal action, you can do so in an educated manner. Car accidents are frequently attributed to:
- Acts of negligence by a driver: There are certain things a driver can do to be considered negligent when driving. Typically, these are acts that are also illegal such as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, driving distracted, or driving recklessly. Reckless driving could include acts such as speeding or cutting through traffic. Distracted driving may be the result of cell phone use, or passengers who are doing things to directly cause the driver to swerve or otherwise drive in a negligent manner.
- Product defects: One thing that people may not be aware of is the presence of a product defect. This means something on the vehicle failed resulting in the collision. For instance, if a driver attempts to brake while approaching a red light but the brakes fail, they would be unable to stop, potentially causing a rear-end or T-bone collision.
- Road dangers: It’s not always the driver’s fault and there are times when specific dangers on the road can cause a serious accident. A pothole can cause a driver to lose control of their vehicle or a missing traffic signal can cause serious confusion at an intersection. These types of accidents are not uncommon and it’s the person or entity responsible for road safety who should ensure everything is safe.
If you’ve never been involved in a car accident before, you may be wondering what you should do next. First and foremost, have yourself examined by a medical professional as soon as possible. Even if you do not think you sustained any serious damage, it is worth it to have a doctor look you over to be sure. Some injuries are internal and may not start causing you problems for days or weeks after the accident.
It is also important to get the details of the case straight. Write down everything you can remember as soon as possible. Taking pictures of the accident can also be helpful if you are able to do so. Any detail can make a difference in your case, so don’t be afraid to write down things that may seem trivial. You will have to prove that someone else was responsible for the accident to validate your claim. We can help you craft an argument for this and perform our own investigation, but anything you can tell us will help.
For a more comprehensive checklist of what to do after a car accident in Califonia, be sure to adhere to the following steps:
- Stop and render aid: Always pull over and tend to anyone who is injured. Fleeing the scene of an accident is not only a crime in California, but it will almost certainly prevent you from being able to recover any compensation for your injuries.
- If anyone is injured, call 911: If anyone is seriously hurt, unresponsive, or if you are unsure of their condition, call for an ambulance at once. Stay with them, but unless you have first-aid or professional medical training, do not attempt to provide medical treatment or move them.
- Call the police: It is always a good idea to call the police immediately after a car accident so there is a law enforcement professional present to facilitate the exchange of information and create an official report of the incident. In California, drivers are mandated by law to call the police within 24 hours of any accident that results in injury or death. Likewise, drivers must also notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of any accident that results in injury, death, or more than $1,000 in property damage within 10 days.
- Exchange information: Once the police arrive, you will need to exchange information with the other involved drivers. This includes names, addresses, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers, vehicle registration information, and auto insurance information. If there are any witnesses to the crash, make sure to get their contact information as well.
- Do not apologize or discuss the crash: Do not discuss the crash with the other involved motorists during this time. Even seemingly innocent remarks such as “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t see you” can be misconstrued as admissions of fault before an investigation is even performed. Tell the police your version of what happened. Be truthful and avoid making any sort of speculative statements.
- Collect evidence: Your smartphone is your greatest asset at the scene of an accident. Use it to take photographs or videos of the damage to all vehicles, their positioning relative to each other before they are moved, tire tracks on the road, debris, traffic patterns, weather conditions, and any other details that help explain what happened. If you can, get photographs of your injuries before they are treated.
- Get medical help: If you were lucky enough to not need emergency medical attention at the scene, once you are cleared by police to leave, seek medical care as soon as possible. Any minor aches or pains you experience could be initial symptoms of more serious injuries that can worsen if left untreated. Seeking prompt medical treatment can not only protect your health, but it can also establish a medical record of your injuries which can support your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit later on.
- Contact your insurance company: Most auto insurance policies require drivers to notify their insurers of a crash within a few days to be eligible for coverage. If you wait too long, your claim for compensation may be denied. Tell them enough to open up a claim, but do not discuss the details of the crash until you have discussed your case with an experienced attorney.
Rear-end, head-on, and side collisions are the most frequent types of auto accidents, and the injuries they accompanied, both small and great, should be equally known. Spending time discussing your accident with an attorney will allow you to better understand the value of your case, and what you can expect depending on your situation.
Common injuries include:
- Cuts, bruising, and burns: This can occur in almost any accident. Broken glass or flying debris can cause the cuts, and these, in turn, may leave scars. Bruising may result from the driver’s body hitting the door or the steering wheel or from having a body part caught between two objects. Burns are another injury not specific to any type of accident. Cars can catch fire, and dangerously hot liquids can leak out and burn the skin.
- Limb injuries: Feet, legs, hands, and arms are all at risk of injury in a collision. Both simple and compound fractures are possible. Drivers might sprain their ankles or have fingers and toes severed. In some severe cases, there may be loss of limbs due to the accident.
- Hip and shoulder injuries: Drivers may incur a broken pelvis from the shock that is released upon impact. Their shoulders, which will lock up instinctively, may suffer as a result of the shock that courses through the hands when these are gripping the steering wheel.
- Internal bleeding: When the impact of the body against an object or the impact of flying debris is more acute, it can cause internal bleeding, especially abdominal bleeding. The objects that are most often linked to chest injuries are the seatbelts and steering wheel.
- Whiplash and spinal injuries: When there is a rear-end collision, there is almost always whiplash. This refers to any injury to the neck muscles, ligaments, and/or tendons caused by a sudden back-and-forth motion in the neck. It can hurt the nerves and even affect the spinal cord. For example, the force of the collision could fracture the cervical spine, the vertebrae that compose the neck. In the lower back, crash victims may experience a herniated, or slipped disk.
- Traumatic brain injuries: These can occur when the head hits the steering wheel or side window, or they may arise when the brain, which continues to move when the head is still, collides against the interior of the skull. The majority of TBIs stem from car accidents. With TBIs, victims may experience disorientation, bouts of memory loss, and other changes in their mental state. TBIs range from mild to severe with mild being labeled as a concussion. The more severe, the longer and more lasting the mental changes.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder: About 9% of car accident victims develop this condition, according to the National Center for PTSD. Moreover, the risk for PTSD corresponds less with crash severity and more with the prior mental health of the victims themselves and how they respond to the crash. PTSD can result in flashbacks, nightmares, and a fear of driving.
Whiplash is one of the most common car accident injuries. It can cause severe pain and result in accruing medical bills, required physical therapy, and an extended recovery period. Whiplash occurs when a person is thrust forwards and backward by rapid acceleration and deceleration forces. The movement jolts the victim’s head and neck and can lead to severe injuries. Rear-end car collisions are the most common cause of whiplash. Whiplash injuries require medical attention and may lead to permanent damage.
Serious whiplash may result in:
- Extreme neck pain
- Strong headaches
- Tingling or numbness that moves into the arms or hands
- Loss of balance or coordination
- Instability in the neck
- Spinal issues
- Mental health issues including depression, insomnia, increased irritability or behavioral changes
Car Accident Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
The statute of limitations in California to file a car accident claim is two years from the date of injury. This means you have two years from the date of your injury to file a claim or you may lose your right to compensation. If, however, you want to file a claim for vehicle damages only you have three years from the date of the accident to do so.
If you are hit from behind on the road, chances are that the other driver is responsible for the accident. This is generally the case regardless of the reason that you stopped because drivers are responsible to maintain a safe distance from the car in front of them.
If you need to slam on your breaks to avoid an animal in the road or an item on the street, drivers behind you should have enough of a buffer to react accordingly.
There are exceptions to this rule, which are governed by the laws of comparative negligence. For example, if both of your brake lights were out in your car, you may be considered partially liable for the accident.
In a perfect world, you would be able to collect the maximum amount of compensation you are owed from your insurance company or the other driver’s insurance after a crash. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Insurance companies ultimately do not have your best interests at heart and are more concerned with protecting their bottom lines than providing you with a maximum payout. An attorney can help to ensure you are treated fairly by the insurance companies and maximize your chances of securing compensation for the full value of your losses.
No. If you receive a settlement offer from an insurance company quickly after a car accident, chances are good they are attempting to cheaply and quickly resolve your case and move on. A first offer from an insurance company almost always is lower than what you are truly owed. If you accept the offer, you will be unable to seek further compensation – even if you later discover that your losses are far greater than you initially realized. For this reason, you should always have an attorney review any insurance offer before you make a decision.
How you will pay for the services of an attorney is the last thing you need to worry about after a car accident. Sachs Law, APC takes on all car accident cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning that unless we win or settle your case, you pay nothing for our legal services. Your legal fees will be based on a percentage of the amount of compensation we recover on your behalf. We will cover all upfront costs to alleviate the financial burden during your recovery.
You do not have to go through this difficult time alone. At Sachs Law, APC, our California and Nevada auto accident attorneys provide our clients with dedicated assistance as they recover from their injuries and figure out what to do next. The last thing you should worry about while healing is dealing with an insurance company. We can speak to them so you don’t have to.