In 2020, despite the pandemic and its stay-at-home orders, traffic deaths in California surged to the highest level in almost a decade, with 3,723 fatalities. The year 2016 came in a close second at 3,680 highway deaths.
Californians log an average of 12,524 miles per driver per year, giving the state the honor of being the most “driven” state in the United States, with 340 billion collective miles behind the wheel.
In other words, the odds of getting into an accident and suffering injuries in the Golden State are pretty high, even when a virus forces people to be homebound.
If you or a loved one has been injured, or worse, lost their life in an accident in or around Torrance, California, or in cities throughout Los Angeles County, including Van Nuys, Norwalk, and Compton, contact the car accident/personal injury attorney at The Law Office of John Goalwin.
Attorney John Goalwin has four decades-plus experience holding negligent drivers accountable for the injuries they inflict. He can help you win the just compensation you deserve for any injuries you suffer or for the loss of a loved one in a car accident.
Under California’s insurance laws, you must report your accident and injuries to your insurance company, which will then press a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. If you’re the at-fault driver, you should likewise report the accident to your insurer immediately since the other party’s insurer will be pressing a claim against you and your insurance. In that way, you can get your version of the events out first.
Insurance policies generally have a clause requiring you to report a claim with a “reasonable amount of time,” which could be as little as a day or two. Otherwise, they can argue you broke your contractual obligation. Report your accident and consult with an attorney immediately if you’ve been injured.
Insurance companies are for-profit institutions, so they use professionally trained claims adjusters to investigate and assess liability. Adjusters are trained to limit the parent company’s financial exposure, and they will often use every trick in the book to get you to say or do something that enables them to lowball your settlement or even deny it. That’s where the negotiating skill of a personal injury/ car accident attorney who knows the tactics of claims adjusters can prove invaluable.
If your medical expenses, lost wages, and other injury-related personal damages exceed the coverage limits of the at-fault driver, your own uninsured and underinsured motorist riders might cover the difference, unless you declined those insurance options. It’s also possible to file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver. A personal injury lawsuit raises the bar on the compensation you can obtain.
Drivers in California must obtain auto insurance or prove financial responsibility by making a cash deposit of $35,000 with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or purchasing a $35,000 surety bond.
The minimum requirements for insurance coverage are $15,000 for the injury or death of one person, $30,000 for the injury or death of more than one person, and $5,000 for property damage, collectively known as 15/30/5.
In California, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is two years from the date of the injury, but only one year if the injury is not discovered until after the accident. Insurance companies, however, expect to be notified almost immediately of a claim. If you wait more than a day or two, they can claim you broke your contractual obligation for timely reporting.
Another fact to consider when filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit is California’s use of the pure comparative negligence standard. This means that not only the driver you allege to be at fault will be assigned a portion of the fault in percentage terms, but so will you.
Say you are rear-ended, but your brake lights aren’t functioning. A jury, or even a claims adjuster, might assign you 30 percent of the fault (or more or less). In that case, if you’re awarded $20,000 in compensation for your injuries, you will receive only $14,000 ($20,000 reduced by your 30 percent share).
In cases of fatal car accidents, you may file a wrongful death lawsuit if you’re the decedent’s surviving spouse or domestic partner, the decedent’s surviving children, and/or the grandchildren of any deceased child of the decedent.
If there is no surviving person in the decedent’s line of descent, the suit can be brought by anyone who “would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession.” This would include parents or siblings, even a legal guardian or “putative spouse” (someone who was financially dependent on the decedent and thought they were in a marriage situation).
If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one in Los Angeles County, contact The Law Office of John Goalwin. Attorney John Goalwin will listen to your story, investigate, assess liability, and advise you of the best course forward. Even if you’ve already reported the claim to your insurer, call to explore your options and retain an aggressive representative to press your claim.