In Orange County, California, Newport Beach is aspirational living at its best. Miles of beautiful beachfront features luxury homes and hotels for the rich and famous. It rivals Irvine, Laguna Beach, and Los Angeles for Southern California’s best restaurants and spas. They line up along Hoag, San Joaquin Hills Road, and Newport Coast.
However, despite its idyllic setting for surfers and strollers, the roads of Newport Beach are far from perfect. California’s highway system is among the worst in the US in 2021, with potholes and uneven roads making for a rough ride.
Moreover, reckless driving contributes significantly to car crashes in this coastal city. Out of the 460 Newport Beach car accidents resulting in injuries and fatalities, 79 are due to drunk driving. An additional 122 were speed-related, some likely due to running a red light.
The local news is rife with examples. Take the single-car accident along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) that killed one person and left two with serious injuries. The cause of the car crash is unknown, but Onscene.tv provided photos suggesting it was due to driver error.
Another vehicle accident along Riverside Avenue with multiple fatalities involved a self-driving vehicle with its driver-assist mode deactivated. An analysis of the crash data suggests it was due to speeding and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Victims of these negligent accidents have a cause to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, these cases are rarely straightforward. It’s advisable to consult an experienced car accident lawyer in Newport Beach to get fair compensation. This article will discuss the legal processes involved in personal injury claims.
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Legal Obligations in a Newport Beach Car Accident
You have certain legal obligations when you’re involved in a car accident in Newport Beach or anywhere else in California. Chapter 1 of the California Vehicle Code, specifically Sections 20001 to 2009, specifies these obligations. Most of the sections involve steps to secure the safety of all parties in the accident.
Check for injuries and shift to a safe location
Section 20001 requires all drivers to stop their vehicles and stay at the scene of an accident involving property damage, injury, or death. A driver’s failure to comply will result in fines or imprisonment of up to $1,000 and one year, respectively.
In serious injuries or death cases, the fine goes up to $10,000 for the at-fault driver. Additionally, a hit-and-run incident imposes an additional five years in prison.
However, you may move yourself and others to a safe location if there is a potential for further harm. Check for injuries to all parties involved in the crash and render reasonable assistance when necessary, as required in Section 20003.
Call emergency services
The duty to render aid includes calling for help and arranging transportation to the nearest medical facility for injured parties. In California, it typically involves calling 911 for police and emergency services.
Provide the 911 operator with relevant information about your location and the status of everyone so they can make the right calls. Wait for help to arrive, ensuring other vehicles know about the accident with road flares and hazard lights.
Exchange information for the police report
Section 20003 compels drivers to exchange information, including their names, addresses, driver’s licenses, insurance information, and vehicle registration numbers. They must also get all injured passengers’ names and current addresses and give the information to law enforcement.
In case of death and no police are available to receive the information, Section 20004 applies. It requires drivers to report to the nearest law enforcement agency or office of the Department of the California Highway Patrol. You should request a copy of your Newport Beach accident reports from the Newport Beach Police Department.
Additionally, you should provide the contact information of witnesses in case the California Highway Patrol needs additional reports, as per Section 20009. The law section applies whether your accident occurred in Newport Beach or Anaheim
Take pictures of the accident scene
Although no statute requires you to document the scene of the accident, it will help with your personal injury claim. Take pictures or videos of the location to support your statements about the circumstances leading to the accident. Include anything of evidentiary value, such as street signs, skid marks, and property damage. Document it from all angles to avoid any disputes to your claim.
Contact your insurance company
California follows an at-fault state system for car accidents. Meaning you must prove fault and make a personal injury claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer. Likewise, you must notify your insurer of the incident if you have personal injury protection (PIP) or comprehensive coverage.
You might need them in case the responsible driver has no available car insurance or does not have enough to cover your losses. Most insurance companies require a report of the accident within a few days for a valid claim. It would be best to inform them immediately.
After notification, the insurance company will have an adjuster assess your claim and investigate. Make sure to avoid making any statements without the advice of a lawyer.
Seek medical attention
If you sustain injuries, whether apparent or not, you need to seek immediate medical care. Even if you feel fine, you still need a thorough physical examination. Some injuries may not manifest until a few hours or days after the accident.
A physician will examine you and order diagnostic tests to identify car accident injuries that may not show up at once. Obtaining immediate medical attention ensures you get the treatment you need before you develop any complications. Additionally, insurance adjusters or defendants may use any delays in seeing a doctor to deny your claim.
Consult an experienced car accident attorney
Insurance companies or lawsuits require evidence. In California, the victim must prove that the other driver was responsible in order to file a claim with the insurance company. The same applies when suing the at-fault driver or other parties for causing the accident.
You will need the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney to navigate the legal process of a personal injury claim.
Understanding Car Accident Laws in Newport Beach
A car accident in Newport Beach triggers various California laws and regulations. Here are a few of these laws and regulations and their summary to help you avoid any penalties for violating them.
Vehicle Code Section 16000
Section 16000 to 16005 of the California Vehicle Code details the thresholds for accident reports. Drivers must report car accidents resulting in injury, death, or property damage over $1,000. They must file a report to the California Highway Patrol or local police department within 10 days of the accident.
Additionally, suppose the accident occurred on a highway. The driver must submit a written report to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
Failure to submit the report could result in the suspension of driving privileges until you can show proof of financial responsibility. However, the sanction will not apply if no one reports the accident within one year.
Civil Code Section 1714
California Civil Code Section 1714 outlines the general liability principle for personal injuries in Newport Beach. It states that individuals, businesses, and government entities are responsible for their actions and must exercise reasonable care to avoid injuring others.
The section establishes they are liable for any injury or damage caused by their negligence. Negligence refers to a person’s failure to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances, harming others.
Section 1714 also describes comparative negligence when multiple parties contribute to an accident. Each party is proportionally responsible for damages in personal injury cases based on their degree of fault.
Civil Code Section 3281
Section 3281 of the California Civil Code establishes the right to damages when someone experiences harm due to another individual’s unlawful actions or inaction. Damages are monetary compensation for the injury caused to the victim.
Civil Code Section 1430
Section 1430 of the California Civil Code describes the comparative negligence rules in California car accidents. Multiple parties may be jointly and severally liable for economic and non-economic damages. Plaintiffs who bear some responsibility for their injuries will receive a reduction in damages proportional to the percentage of their fault.
Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1
The Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1 provides the time limit for a cause of action. The rule is two years for a fatal crash or personal injury lawsuit. A separate section gives you three years to file a claim for property damage.
Vehicle Code Section 16056
Section 16056 of the California Vehicle Code sets the minimum requirements for car insurance. It states that all drivers must carry liability insurance with the following minimum limits:
- $15,000 for death or injury to an individual
- $30,000 for death or injury to multiple individuals
- $5,000 for property damage
Drivers may carry more coverage to avoid personal injury lawsuits for wrongful death or serious injuries. Uninsured motorist coverage is not mandatory, but insurers must offer it with liability insurance. Drivers may also obtain other insurance, such as PIP and comprehensive insurance for property damage unrelated to accidents.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Newport Beach
You may file a personal injury proceeding in California if damages exceed policy limits or the insurance company denies your claim. Follow these steps to file a lawsuit in Newport Beach:
Establish legal standing
You need to establish you have a right to file a personal injury lawsuit. You must demonstrate you suffered harm as a direct result of the defendant’s actions or inactions. Specifically, you must have evidence that you suffered physical, emotional, or financial injury from the defendant’s conduct.
Additionally, you must show that the defendant owed a duty of care to you and that their breach caused your injury. Moreover, you must show that the court has jurisdiction over the defendant.
Establishing legal standing requires significant resources you may not have. Hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer is advisable.
Hire a lawyer
Finding the right lawyer is critical in filing any civil lawsuit. Technically, you can do it yourself, but dealing with a car accident’s aftermath is already stressful enough. It’s best if you consider finding an attorney to help you.
A lawyer can establish a legal basis for your claims. They can review medical records, gather witness statements, and go over accident reports, photos, and footage. Sometimes, they consult experts to reconstruct the accident or support your claims. A personal injury lawyer can also represent your interest with insurance companies or at trial.
However, choosing the right lawyer takes careful consideration and research. You want an attorney who can put in the time, effort, and skill to build you a strong case. You need a professional who will ensure you get the best possible settlement or verdict.
Moreover, you should choose a lawyer who communicates well and makes you comfortable. Personal injury cases can take several weeks to months to resolve, so you want to work with a lawyer who makes you feel at ease. Finally, hire a lawyer you can afford. Most work on contingency, meaning you can limit your upfront costs to court and similar fees.
Determine the venue for your lawsuit
Legal standing includes identifying the appropriate venue for your lawsuit. The court must have jurisdiction over everyone involved in the case. For a Newport Beach car accident involving residents, the Orange County Superior Court is the most probable venue for filing a lawsuit.
Suppose the at-fault driver or other defendants do not have a permanent address in Orange County or California. Generally, California claims jurisdiction over out-of-state drivers for accidents that happen in the state, but there are exceptions. In such cases, your lawyer will determine the proper venue for your case.
File your claim before time runs out
The statute of limitations sets the timeframe for filing a personal injury case. In California, the time limit is two years from the incident date or discovery of the injury. The distinction is important because some injuries may not be immediately apparent. Additionally, some injuries may have long-term consequences that require extensive investigation.
File your complaint
Before initiating legal actions, your attorney may attempt to settle with the defendant. Your attorney will submit a summons and complaint to the court if a consensus cannot be reached. Filing a civil case in Orange County requires the following documents:
Other legal documents may be needed, depending on the case. Your personal injury lawyer can file the correct paperwork for you.
Going to Court in Newport Beach
Going to court for personal injury claims in Newport Beach is considered a last resort. Typically, most people can resolve their cases faster and at less cost through a settlement, provided they have a preponderance of the evidence.
You and your lawyer may agree to a settlement with the defendant at any time before and during a trial. However, if the parties cannot agree to compensation, a trial can resolve a case, often resulting in higher awards.
California courts may consider two damages you can claim for your injuries. Economic damages are quantifiable financial losses, including medical bills and rehab expenses. It may also include income loss, loss of potential earnings, burial expenses, and repair or replacement costs for your vehicle.
Non-economic damages are intangible losses not easily quantified in financial terms. These losses are subjective and may include physical pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish. In some instances, the court may consider inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, reputational damage, and loss of consortium.
These are compensatory damages designed to reimburse the plaintiff for their losses. Another type meant to punish the defendants is punitive damages, awarded only in exceptional circumstances.
The following factors in a personal injury claim will help the court determine the appropriate damages:
- Nature and extent of the harm or injury
- Past and future medical expenses
- Lost wages and earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Property damage
- Comparative fault
Although the judge will instruct the jury about evaluating a case’s value, their verdict is often unpredictable. An experienced lawyer can persuade a jury to decide in your favor. Still, it can quickly go the other way if your attorney fails to properly represent you.
Did you know?
Drunk driving contributed to more than 17 percent of deaths in Newport Beach in 2020.
Navigating the Legal Waters With a Personal Injury Lawyer
Filing a claim or lawsuit may seem straightforward. But many legal pitfalls can lead to a denial of your compensation. In Orange County, California, car accidents often result in serious injuries and death, many at the hands of negligent parties.
Suppose you or a loved one suffered harm in a Newport Beach car accident. You can use the available resources at The Personal Injury Center. The site features legal articles to help you make informed decisions and obtain fair compensation.
We have compiled a range of legal resources to help you understand the personal injury claim process, including access to a free consultation. Allow us to match you with reputable personal injury law firms or lawyers to handle your claim.
Filing a Newport Beach car accident claim is a complex legal process. Visit The Personal Injury Center for help.
FAQ on Newport Beach Car Accidents
Speeding contributed to over 26 percent of injuries and fatal crashes in Newport Beach in 2020. Approximately 17 percent were attributed to DUI-related incidents.
Personal injury verdicts can vary significantly, so there is no single average amount that accurately represents the state. However, the median amount is around $110,000.
You may file your claim in a Small Claims court. However, you cannot have a lawyer represent you. Moreover, you must collect the award yourself since the court will not handle the payment. There is also no appeal option if you lose your case.