If you have been involved in a car accident in San Diego or Southern California, you could suffer devasting personal injuries like a traumatic brain injury, spinal or back injuries, or internal organ damage. Fortunately, you may deserve compensation for your injuries under California law.
However, you must establish the other driver's negligence to pursue a successful auto crash claim. You need to understand the key elements of a negligence claim, common causes of car accidents in California, the necessary evidence to prove your case, and how your partial fault can impact your claim. It is also crucial to consult with an experienced car accident attorney who can determine if you have a claim and fight with the insurance company on your behalf to secure the settlement you rightfully deserve.
Elements of a Negligence Claim in California
To win your case and obtain the compensation you are entitled to, you have to prove the elements of a negligence claim under California law. You must establish these four elements.
Duty of Care
You must show that the other motorist owed you a duty of care. In our state, all drivers have a legal responsibility to operate their motor vehicles responsibly and exercise reasonable caution to avoid causing harm to others on the road.
Breach of Duty
You must also establish that the other driver breached their duty of care. This typically involves showing that they failed to act reasonably prudently, such as by violating traffic laws, driving recklessly, or engaging in distracted driving behaviors.
Establishing a direct causal link between the other driver's breach of duty and the injuries you sustained is essential. You must demonstrate that their actions or negligence directly caused the accident and damages.
You must provide evidence of the injuries and losses you suffered due to the car accident and the compensation you seek. This documentation includes medical records, bills, property damage assessments, and other relevant documents that quantify your physical, emotional, and financial damages.
Leading Causes of Car Crashes in Southern California
Car accidents in Southern California and San Diego can occur for various reasons. A motorist's negligence is often the underlying cause of the auto wreck.
You must figure out the cause of your auto collision to know if you have a valid claim against the other driver. A skilled car collision lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation to determine why the auto wreck occurred. Here are some of the top causes of these preventable collisions.
Exceeding the posted speed limit is a leading cause of car accidents in California. Higher speeds reduce a driver's reaction time and increase the severity of injuries in the event of a collision. Speeding also reduces the effectiveness of vehicle safety systems, such as braking and handling. Victims can suffer more severe injuries when a driver is speeding, even if they only go a few miles over the speed limit.
Distractions—such as talking on a cellphone or texting, eating, grooming, or attending to children in the backseat—divert a driver's attention from the road and take their mind off their driving. Even a momentary distraction can have disastrous consequences and lead to a tragic collision.
Driving after consuming alcohol or drugs impairs judgment, coordination, and reaction times. Intoxicated drivers are much more likely to make poor decisions, exhibit reckless behavior, and have reduced vehicle control.
Fatigue can impair a driver's ability to safely operate a vehicle in ways similar to drunk driving. A motorist fighting to stay awake could fail to see the need to slow down and rear-end another vehicle or veer over the center lane and cause a head-on collision.
Failure to Obey Traffic Laws
Disregarding traffic laws, such as running red lights or stop signs or not yielding the right of way, dramatically increases the risk of accidents.
Following too closely reduces the time and distance available to react to sudden changes in traffic conditions. Tailgating increases the chances of rear-end collisions, particularly if the leading vehicle needs to brake suddenly, which is common on San Diego's busy roads and highways.
Not Driving for Weather Conditions
California experiences a variety of weather conditions, from heavy rain to dense fog and slippery roads. Drivers who fail to reduce their speed, do not maintain a safe following distance, and do not use their headlights and windshield wipers when facing adverse weather conditions cause many avoidable crashes.
Aggressive driving behaviors such as excessive speeding, abrupt lane changes, and cutting off other drivers put other motorists and passengers on the road at risk of suffering catastrophic injuries. Aggressive driving can escalate into dangerous, violent road rage incidents.
Faulty vehicle components or inadequate maintenance can lead to mechanical failures while driving, such as brake malfunctions or tire blowouts, and cause motorists to lose control of their vehicles. Victims who suffer injuries may be able to pursue a product liability action against the parts and motor vehicle manufacturer.
Evidence Required to Prove Your Auto Wreck Case
You will need evidence to prove the cause of your car collision, the seriousness of your injuries, and the damages you deserve. You must collect as much evidence as possible to win your case. A knowledgeable car accident attorney will know what evidence you need and how to obtain it. Here are the types of evidence typically required in these cases.
Call the police from the accident scene and obtain a copy of the police report. The report will contain valuable information that can help you prove the other driver's negligence, such as how the crash occurred, motorist and witness statements, the officer's conclusions about who was at fault, and any citations issued.
Photographs and Videos
Take photos or record videos of the wreck scene, vehicle damages, and your injuries. Visual evidence can be highly persuasive in demonstrating the severity of the collision and its impact on your well-being. Photos and videos can also help your lawyer determine the cause of the wreck.
Collect contact information from any witnesses present at the scene. Their statements can support your version of events and provide additional perspectives on the accident. If the eyewitnesses are third parties who do not know you and have no stake in the outcome of your case, their testimony and written statements can be compelling evidence to help prove the other driver's liability to compensate you.
Substantial medical evidence that documents the injuries you suffered, the treatments you need, and your prognosis for a full recovery are essential to settle your case successfully. Gather all medical records related to your injuries, including hospital reports, diagnostic tests, and treatment records. These documents provide objective evidence of the extent and nature of your injuries.
Depending on the complexity of your case and the disputes raised by the insurance adjuster, you may need to hire an expert witness to prove an element of your case or refute the insurance company's arguments. Accident reconstruction experts, medical professionals, or engineers can provide valuable insights and testify regarding what caused the accident and the resulting injuries.
Wage Loss Documentation
Collect your paystubs and other documents from your employer to prove the wages and other benefits you lost from your job while you were off work recovering from your injuries.
Property Damage Receipts
You should obtain several estimates of the cost to repair or replace your car and any other property damaged in the collision. You should also save the receipts to document how much you spent.
Your attorney will need to review the other driver's auto insurance policies to determine how much insurance coverage there is to compensate you.
How Your Partial Fault Affects Your Car Accident Claim
If you were partially to blame for your auto collision, this would affect the value of your claim. California follows a pure comparative fault doctrine, which means your compensation may be reduced if you are found partially at fault for the accident.
Under this law, your compensation is reduced in proportion to your assigned percentage of fault. For example, if you are found 20% at fault and your total damages amount to $100,000, your recoverable amount will be reduced by $20,000.