Accidents involving cars and other motor vehicles frequently happen across the globe. California, with its sprawling cities and heavy traffic, is no exception. The state reported approximately 3,786 motor-vehicle fatalities in 2021.
Located in Northern California, Sacramento County is one of the state’s most dangerous places for driving. In 2021, California’s Transportation Injury Mapping System documented 3,874 injuries and 64 fatalities in Sacramento collisions.
Although no road is free from the threat of a car crash, some cities in Sacramento County are more high-risk than others. These include Elk Grove, Folsom, and Sacramento, to name a few.
Some accidents occur because of poor road conditions, but most are due to the negligence of one or more motorists. California follows an at-fault system when determining liability for motor vehicle accidents. Thus, whoever caused the accident is responsible for paying for the damages sustained.
More than one driver can be partially at fault for the crash in Sacramento, California. Such cases require determining the percentage of liability for each driver, which can affect one’s rights to compensation.
Car accident victims will need the help of a personal injury attorney when securing the amount they legally deserve for their injuries and losses. Learn about maximizing car accident compensation and how a lawyer can significantly help.
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Relevant California Laws for Car Accidents in Sacramento
California has numerous car accident laws that may apply to your case. Understanding them can help protect your rights and fulfill potential obligations after getting involved in a car crash. Be familiar with these laws and how they can affect any legal claims you decide to file.
Financial responsibility law
Section 16020 of the California Vehicle Code mandates motor vehicle owners and drivers to demonstrate proof of financial responsibility. The section ensures at-fault motorists can pay for any injury or property damage caused by a traffic collision.
Purchasing auto insurance liability is the most common form of financial responsibility. Under Section 16056, your insurance policy must cover the following minimums:
- $15,000 for the injury/death of a single person
- $30,000 for the injury/death of two or more persons
- $5,000 for property damage
Carrying this level of auto liability insurance will keep you compliant with California’s compulsory financial responsibility law. However, your liability insurance will not compensate you for your injuries.
The minimum liability insurance may not be sufficient to cover the full extent of the injuries and damages sustained in an accident. Thus, it’s wise to consider additional policies.
There are other methods of establishing financial responsibility. Section 16021 specifies the following as acceptable alternatives to liability insurance.
- Deposit $35,000 with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
- Get a DMV-issued self-insurance certificate
- Purchase a surety bond of at least $35,000 from a licensed company in California
You must also always carry a valid proof of financial responsibility in your vehicle and provide them in the following circumstances:
- Requested by law enforcement
- Renewing vehicle registration
- Involved in a traffic accident
If you fail to provide proof of financial responsibility, the authorities may issue you a citation under Section 16028. This violation can subject you to fines or other penalties.
According to Section 16029, the fines range from $100 to $200 plus penalty assessments for a first offense. Meanwhile, any subsequent offense results in a fine between $200 and $500 plus penalty assessments.
Car accident liability laws
In an at-fault state like California, you can claim compensation for your injuries and losses after establishing the other driver’s negligence. There are essential elements required when proving negligence.
The California Vehicle Code can be valuable in establishing negligence and determining liability in car accident cases. You can use it to demonstrate that the other driver was negligent by violating the traffic laws, such as driving under the influence or over the speed limit.
However, proving fault can be challenging, and any disagreement over who is at fault can cause a delay in your settlement. Additionally, you may bear some responsibility for the accident with the other at-fault driver. This liability can jeopardize your chances of getting a settlement or award in a claim.
The good news is California follows a pure comparative negligence rule. It allows injured car crash victims to recover damages, provided the other driver is at least one percent at fault. This rule means even if you’re 99% responsible for the crash, you can claim compensation for your losses.
The bad news is your percentage of fault reduces your damages under comparative negligence rules. Suppose the award is $80,000, and the court finds you 60% liable for causing the crash and injuries. In this case, you can only receive 40%, or $32,000.
Statute of limitations
Auto accident victims may lose their rights to recover compensation after a specific time. Each state has a statute of limitations establishing how long a plaintiff can bring legal action against a defendant. The particular time limit depends on the type of case you want to file. It usually begins from the date the incident occurred.
Under Section 335.1 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, you have two years to file a lawsuit for bodily injury claims. If the injury was not discoverable immediately, you have one year from the date of discovery. Meanwhile, Section 338 specifies you have three years to sue for property damage.
You will forfeit your rights to maximum compensation if the statute of limitations runs out. The court will likely refuse to consider your case with some exceptions.
Knowing how long you must file a lawsuit is crucial, even if you’re confident you can resolve your case through the insurance claim. If you wait years to pursue a claim, there’s also a good chance you will lose or damage the evidence relevant to your case.
Accident reporting requirements
Knowing what to do after getting in a vehicle accident can help you protect your rights to secure fair compensation.
Stopping is the first thing you should do after a crash. Otherwise, you may be committing a hit-and-run, punishable under Section 20001 of the California Vehicle Code.
The state also has specific requirements for reporting a traffic accident. Failure to notify the authorities about a reportable collision can result in fines and other penalties.
Section 20008 requires drivers to report an accident that results in injury or death. They must file a written report to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) or local police department within 24 hours. Under Section 16000, the driver must file a report with the DMV for accidents that involve injury, death, or property damage exceeding $1,000.
California doesn’t have a law that requires you to report a crash to an insurance company. But your insurance policy may have an accident reporting requirement.
Some insurers may deny you compensation if you fail to notify them promptly. Thus, it’s always best to check the terms of your insurance policy.
Essential Tips To Maximize Your Car Accident Compensation in Sacramento
Knowing what to do after a traffic collision can make a difference in your car accident settlement, especially if you sustained serious injuries. It’s easy to get confused and make costly mistakes that could hurt your chances for fair compensation.
Here are a few tips to help Sacramento auto accident victims maximize the amount of their car accident compensation.
Seek immediate medical treatment
Having a doctor check on and treat you after a car accident is crucial for your health and well-being. You must seek immediate medical attention even if you think you were not hurt. Some injuries may not manifest immediately, but medical professionals can discern hidden signs and symptoms.
Additionally, you have a formal record that documents your injuries, their extent, and necessary treatment when you get medical attention. It will help establish the connection between your injuries and the car accident. You can use the medical bills and records as evidence to fight for the compensation you deserve.
Some accident victims wait too long to visit a doctor after a crash, risking their health and rights to fair compensation. Getting prompt medical treatment can help prevent your injury from getting worse. It would also keep the insurance company from arguing that your injuries were caused by something else.
Document and preserve evidence
Documentation is critical for maximizing your car accident compensation. You need physical evidence to prove the other driver’s negligent actions and the severity of your injuries.
Although the moments right after the accident can be overwhelming, gathering and preserving as much proof as possible is essential. The following are some things you should document and maintain to support your claim:
- Photos and video footage of the crash scene
- Police report
- Statements and contact information of witnesses
- Pay stubs and other lost wages documentation
- Medical reports and receipts
- Pictures of your physical injuries and property damage
Keep a journal of your car accident injuries
You may forget critical details of the accident that could help maximize your damages. A car accident journal can help accurately document the injuries you suffered and their impact on your everyday life.
Consider starting a journal as soon as possible after the accident. It will help you monitor your symptoms and how they change over time. You can write down your physical and mental struggles at home and work. Journaling is an excellent way to provide evidence for the extent of your injuries and the pain and suffering you must endure.
Use caution when dealing with insurance adjusters
Insurance adjusters are not your friends. Remember, they aim to ensure the insurance company makes a profit, not protect your best interests. They will not hesitate to exploit your ignorance and persuade you to accept the lowest settlement possible.
When talking to an insurance adjuster, it’s essential to limit your conversation to the basic details of the accident. Never discuss your feelings and injuries or make any statements they can use to weaken your claim.
No matter what they tell you, never provide a recorded statement. Even if you only misunderstood a question, they can use your words on record against you. They may also discourage you from hiring an attorney so they can manipulate you into accepting their first offer.
The best way to deal with an insurance adjuster is to have a lawyer talk to them on your behalf. An experienced attorney knows the tactics of insurers and how to deal with them.
Stay off social media
Insurance companies and lawyers use social media when investigating personal injury claims. Photos, videos, or posts on your social media accounts contradicting your claim could hurt your chances of getting maximum compensation.
For instance, you claim that the crash caused significant injuries, but you posted photos of you partying with friends. The insurance company may use that to argue that you are exaggerating your injuries and reduce or deny your claim.
The insurance company will likely investigate any social media content to show that you’re not as badly hurt as you claim. It’s advisable to refrain from using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter after an accident. This way, you can avoid potential problems with your personal injury claim.
Consider disabling your social media accounts to prevent them from gathering anything that could affect your compensation. You should also avoid discussing details concerning the accident and your injuries as much as possible.
How can a Sacramento car accident lawyer help you get maximum compensation?
Many accident victims don’t want to hire a lawyer because of the expense, but it may cost them more in the long run. Working with a Sacramento car accident lawyer can provide the best outcome for your car accident case.
An experienced attorney will provide case-specific guidance. They will investigate every aspect of your case and consider all factors when securing compensation.
A lawyer will help determine and prove fault for the crash. They know what laws and evidence will best support your claim and hold the other party liable.
Car accident lawyers also know how to calculate the value of your claim accurately. They will examine how your injuries affect your life and find ways to maximize your damages. An attorney will collaborate with expert witnesses like medical professionals and accident reconstructionists to prove your injuries and the other driver’s negligence.
Lawyers also have negotiation skills and strategies to reach a fair settlement with an insurance company. Suppose you are unable to settle a case. In that case, a Sacramento car accident lawyer can take your auto accident case to court.
Did you know?
Crashes involving cars, buses, trucks, or motorcycles result in the death of approximately 3,700 individuals every day around the world.
Get the Maximum Car Accident Settlement With the Help of a Personal Injury Lawyer
Have you or a family member gotten hurt in a traffic accident? Worrying about money should be the least of your concerns while recovering. But being unable to work and dealing with pain and hefty medical bills can cause tremendous stress.
A personal injury lawyer experienced in handling car accident cases can help ease the situation. They know how to protect your rights and increase your chances of a better settlement.
Many accident victims don’t know the value of their personal injury claims and settle for less than they should. As a result, they’re on the hook for anything the settlement does not cover.
Don’t let that happen to you. Let a Sacramento car accident attorney negotiate a settlement for the maximum compensation you deserve.
With numerous law offices and attorneys around you, finding someone trustworthy to handle your case can be challenging. The Personal Injury Center is a reliable place to start your search. Get a free consultation today so we can match you with qualified lawyers in your area.
Seek competent legal assistance for your car accident compensation. Visit The Personal Injury Center now to find an experienced personal injury attorney.
FAQs on Maximizing Your Compensation in a Car Accident in Sacramento
There's no one-size-fits-all rule of when accident victims should hire an attorney. Generally, it's in your best interest to hire one as early as possible after a car crash. Having a lawyer soon after an accident will minimize the chances of making any costly mistakes. It will also ensure you establish and file your case before the statute of limitations has passed.
There's no law mandating you to hire a lawyer. However, it's best to have an attorney look at your case, even in minor accidents. A minor car accident can still impact your health significantly if it results in serious injuries.
Finding the best lawyer to represent you is only possible if you know what you need. Not all lawyers have the specific knowledge and skills you need for your car accident case.
However, you should follow some general guidelines when assessing a potential advocate for your case. Below are some qualities you want in a Sacramento car accident attorney:
- Has a proven track record of representing auto accident victims
- Works on a contingency arrangement, meaning they don't charge you until you get your settlement or judgment
- Experienced in local and state transportation laws
- Has an excellent history of taking cases to trial