Los Angeles Auto Accident Lawyer
Car accident lawyers, how can they help? If there is one image that most people from outside of Los Angeles have about the City of Angels, is the massive freeway packed bumper to bumper with traffic. Indeed, some of the country’s largest freeway systems run through Los Angeles and out to other parts of the country. All these roads packed with motor vehicles, commercial trucks, bikes and motorcycles make Los Angeles a breeding ground for motor vehicle crashes.
When a person is injured in a motor vehicle crash, he or she may be able to recover compensation for his or her injuries and losses if another driver or person is found to be responsible for causing or contributing to the crash. The injured victim who files a lawsuit is known as the “plaintiff,” and the at-fault party is called the defendant.
A car accident lawsuit may be necessary if you are injured by an uninsured or underinsured motorist or if the defendant’s insurance does not believe its client was at fault and refuses to pay you compensation.
California Car Accident Statistics
California’s Office of Traffic Safety is the state agency in charge of maintaining traffic-related safety statistics. Each year the office publishes traffic safety data from a previous year as a way of keeping the Los Angeles community and other Californians aware of traffic safety trends in their local areas. Statistics from 2013 (the most recent year available from the Office of Traffic Safety):
- There were 3,000 traffic-related fatalities in 2013, an increase from 2,966 in 2012;
- Alcohol is thought to have played a role in about 29 percent of all fatal traffic accidents;
- The rate of drug-impaired drivers who are killed in motor vehicle crashes has been increasing each year since 2006; and
- It is believed that half of the 498 passengers killed in traffic collisions would have been alive had they simply used their seat belt properly.
In some measurements, California is at or better than the national average. In other measurements, California has some room for improvement. The statistics do paint a rather scary picture of driving in California: drivers in Los Angeles in particular and throughout California are at a higher risk of being involved in a serious traffic crash than other drivers in other areas of the country.
Common Injuries Suffered in Car Accidents
The severity of injuries a plaintiff may suffer in a car crash will depend on a multitude of factors including: the age and general health of the plaintiff, whether the plaintiff was properly wearing his or her safety belt; the speed at which the collision occurred, the angle of impact, and other safety features the plaintiff’s car had installed. It is not uncommon to see plaintiffs with:
- Cuts, lacerations, or “puncture” type wounds from glass and sharp metallic surfaces;
- Injuries to the face and/or eyes;
- Broken bones or ribs;
- Spinal cord and neck injuries;
- Burns from spilled fuel or other dangerous substances;
- Amputations and loss of limbs; and/or
- Traumatic brain injuries.
All of these types of injuries have two things in common: they can cause a significant amount of pain and distress and they all are only healed through time and medical treatment.
Common Causes of Car Accidents
Car accidents happen for a myriad of reasons, but in most cases the car crash could have been avoided had one or more motorists not been acting carelessly or negligently. Some of the more common reasons for car accidents in and around Los Angeles include:
- Distracted driving: Distracted driving encompasses more than simply talking on one’s cell phone or texting while driving (although each of these are increasingly-serious problems). Distracted driving can also occur if the driver takes his or her eyes of the road to change the radio station, attend to a fussy child, or engage in conversation with a passenger.
- Drunk or impaired driving: A person can be too drunk to drive long before his or her alcohol concentration reaches 0.08. In addition, a person can be impaired by illegal drugs, prescription medications, or a combination of substances that make it unsafe for them to drive.
- Reckless driving: When a person disregards safety signs and traffic control signals, he or she places himself and others on the road at risk. Violating a reasonable law such as a traffic law is strong evidence suggesting negligent behavior.
- Defects: Cars or other vehicles may have defective parts or have been repaired in a defective manner. This would make the vehicles unsafe for their own operators as well as others on the roadway.
It is important for a car crash plaintiff and/or his or her attorney to determine the cause of the crash as this will not only determine whether the plaintiff can recover compensation through a car crash lawsuit but also who the plaintiff ought to seek compensation from.
Types of Motor Vehicle Collisions
A car accident lawyer will be able to help an injured driver or passenger in pursuing compensation through a car accident lawsuit. An attorney should be able to assist an injury victim with the following types of collisions:
- Car v. car: A common type of collision, this accident involves two or more cars that collide with one another or are otherwise involved in the crash;
- Car v. commercial vehicle: These are serious accidents that oftentimes result in catastrophic injuries to the plaintiff;
- Car v. motorcycle: Motorcyclists lose when they are struck by a motor vehicle or otherwise collide with a passenger car. Injuries can be severe;
- Car v. bicycle: Helmets and safety gear can help reduce the chance of a bicyclist being injured in a bicycle crash, but the threat cannot be eliminated entirely. A few dozen bicyclists are killed each year in California in traffic collisions; and
- Car v. pedestrian: A pedestrian strike can easily kill the pedestrian: if the pedestrian is not killed, he or she will almost certainly suffer catastrophic injuries such as traumatic brain injury.
Although the circumstances may differ slightly between these various types of accidents, the basic law applicable to each is the same. Knowing this law, the factual propositions that must be proven, and how the evidence fits in with the law are the benefits an experienced car accident lawyer can bring to a plaintiff’s case.
Damages Available to Car Accident Victims
When a motorist is injured in a car crash, he or she is likely to face expensive medical bills, time missed from work, property damage, and other expenses and losses attributable to the collision. A car accident lawsuit enables the motorist to sue the at-fault driver or party to obtain compensation for these expenses and losses. A car accident lawsuit plaintiff may be able to recover:
- Economic damages such as:
- Costs for past medical treatment, emergency care, prescription costs, and hospitalization along with ongoing medical needs and treatment;
- Time missed from work, including any bonuses the plaintiff would have received had he or she been at work; and/or
- Property damage to the plaintiff’s vehicle and any property damaged inside the vehicle;
- Noneconomic damages such as:
- Mental pain and suffering, as the plaintiff will likely be in considerable pain after an accident which can have a detrimental affect on the plaintiff’s quality of life;
- The loss of the value of household services, if the plaintiff had previously provided help with household chores and tasks but can no longer do so; and/or
- The loss of enjoyment of life, if the plaintiff is unable to return to hobbies and activities that once brought him or her joy.
In addition, if the at-fault party acts intentionally or recklessly in causing your motor vehicle crash, you may also be able to recover punitive damages designed to “punish” the at-fault party for their behavior and deter others from engaging in similar behavior.
What Must I Prove to Win My California Car Accident Lawsuit?
A car crash lawsuit is generally a type of negligence lawsuit in which an at-fault party is found to be legally responsible if:
- The at-fault party acted negligently: To act “negligently” means, in other words, to act in an unreasonable manner under the circumstances. If a reasonably careful driver in the same situation as the at-fault party found him- or herself just before the crash would not have done what the at-fault party did (speed, run a red light, consume alcohol or drugs, etc.), then the at-fault party can be said to have acted negligently.
- The plaintiff suffered injuries: The victim/plaintiff must also demonstrate that he or she did in fact suffer some type of injury or loss. The plaintiff need not necessarily be injured in any of the manners described above (although the plaintiff typically is): so long as the plaintiff can be said to have suffered some loss, some expense, and/or some injury (physical or otherwise), this requirement is met.
- There is a causal relationship between the plaintiff’s injury and the at-fault party’s conduct: Finally, the plaintiff must show that he or she would not have been injured or suffered the loss that he or she did if the at-fault party had not acted in the negligent manner that he or she did. This causal connection can be established through eyewitness testimony, photographs and diagrams, and in some cases through the testimony of expert witnesses such as engineers and accident reconstruction experts.
All of these propositions must be proven by the plaintiff with evidence and testimony that convinces the court by a preponderance of the evidence (that is, that the propositions are more likely than not true).
How Long Do I Have to File My Car Accident Lawsuit in Los Angeles?
California has adopted a two-year statute of limitations in car accident injury cases. In other words, you generally have two years from the date of your accident to file your car accident lawsuit in California. Failure to meet this strict deadline can result in your case being dismissed by the court without ever reaching the merits of the case and without any award of compensation to you. The statute of limitations’ “clock” may be stopped in certain circumstances if, for example, the at-fault party cannot be located within California or if you were not able to detect your injuries immediately after the crash. It is best to file your lawsuit as soon as possible, however, to avoid running into trouble with the statute of limitations.
What Should I Do After a Car Crash in Los Angeles?
Your first concern after a car crash should be your safety and the safety of others in your vehicle. Summon medical help and, if possible, move yourself and any other passengers to a safe location away from any fires, glass, spilled fuel, and/or traffic. Get evaluated by a qualified medical professional as soon as possible following the crash and follow all of your medical professional’s reasonable treatment advice and directions.
At the accident scene, you should attempt to write down the name, contact information, insurance information, and make, model, and license plate information of every other driver and car involved in the crash. Take down the names and contact information of any witnesses who say they witnessed the crash or spoke with the other drivers following the crash. If you have a cellphone and can do so safely, take pictures of the accident scene, the damage to each of the vehicles (especially your own), and any visible injuries you and/or your passengers suffered. Keep all of this in a secure location.
Finally, speak with an experienced Los Angeles car crash lawyer as soon as possible to learn what legal rights and remedies you may have and how to assert these through a car crash lawsuit.
Where Can I Go If I Need Additional Assistance?
Courthouse staff are unable to provide you with any legal advice or assistance. If you have additional questions about your car crash case, make an appointment and speak with a car crash lawyer in your area. Some lawyers offer new clients a free initial consultation in which the attorney will go over the facts of your case and answer some of your questions.