Car accidents are the leading cause of accidental injuries and deaths throughout the United States. These incidents are also one of the leading causes of personal injury claims in the US. If you or a loved one recently sustained injuries and suffered economic losses because of a negligent driver, insurance may not be enough to fully cover your losses. The Law Office of Black & DePaoli, PC can help injured car accident victims recover the damages they experience due to the negligence of others. It’s vital to understand the value of reliable legal counsel when you are facing any car accident claim in El Dorado Hills, CA.
Is It Worth Getting a Lawyer for a Minor Car Accident?
You might think that your car accident does not warrant the attention of an El Dorado Hills car accident lawyer, but it is always best to err on the side of caution in these situations. Even a seemingly mild fender-bender can cause internal injuries and other damages that are not immediately apparent. While it may be possible to resolve a very mild accident that only caused slight cosmetic damage to your vehicle, there could still be a risk of hidden damages appearing after the fact. Ultimately, it is always safest to consult an experienced El Dorado Hills car accidents lawyer after any car accident to determine whether you have grounds for a civil claim against the driver who caused the accident.
Most Common Causes of Car Accidents
Car accidents happen for many reasons, and some of the most common causes of these incidents include:
- Distracted driving. Any form of distraction behind the wheel can potentially cause a serious accident. If a driver was not paying attention to the road for any reason and hit you, they are responsible for the resulting damages.
- Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol. It is illegal to drive any vehicle while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, but DUI accidents, unfortunately, can and do happen throughout California. If you sustained injuries because a drunk driver hit your vehicle, they will be liable for your civil damages and also face criminal prosecution for DUI.
- Bad weather. While most of California enjoys mild weather throughout the year, severe weather can still appear and make driving conditions very dangerous. Drivers must always use extra caution when driving in inclement weather.
- Speeding and other moving violations. Drivers have a duty of care to abide by the rules of the road and heed posted traffic signals. When drivers exceed posted speed limits, make illegal turns, or change lanes without signaling, they put other nearby drivers at risk.
- Mechanical failures. Drivers have a responsibility to address known issues with their vehicles as soon as they discover them. However, if a driver’s vehicle has a defect they had no way of detecting, the vehicle manufacturer could be liable for an accident under product liability laws.
If you experienced a car accident and believe another driver’s negligence is to blame, California law allows you to seek compensation for your losses from the other driver. Typically, the first step in recovery after a car accident is to file an insurance claim against the at-fault driver’s policy, but their insurance coverage may be insufficient for your total losses. This is just one reason why it is so crucial to speak with an attorney after a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence.
Important First Steps to Take After a Car Accident
Your first steps after an accident can have a significant impact on your ability to recover compensation for your losses. Your first concern after a car accident should always be your personal safety and health. Check yourself and your passengers for injuries, and if you feel well enough to move around safely, check on the other drivers involved. If possible, try to take photos of the accident scene, your injuries, and the damage to your vehicle before the police arrive and clear the area.
California state law requires a driver to contact the police to report any accident causing significant property damage, injury, or death. If you are unsure whether an accident requires a call to the police, it is always best to report it to avoid potential liability for hit-and-run charges. Additionally, reporting the accident to the police will generate an official record of the accident. The police report from your accident will be an instrumental piece of evidence in a subsequent insurance claim and/or civil suit against the at-fault driver.
Be careful when speaking to the police when they arrive. Answer their questions honestly and concisely, but do not say anything they could potentially interpret as an admission of guilt. For example, even saying something as simple as “I’m sorry” could be construed as an admission of guilt. Answer the police’s questions honestly and politely until they allow you to leave.
Once you are free to leave, you should see a doctor as soon as possible, even if you think you only suffered minor cuts and scrapes. A car accident is a traumatic incident, and adrenaline in your system could be dulling pain sensations. It’s not uncommon for car accident victims to discover they are hurt much more than they initially realized after their accidents. Visiting your doctor as soon as possible not only prevents a hidden injury from worsening but also helps you prove your personal responsibility in a future insurance claim and/or civil suit against the at-fault driver.
Handling Insurance Claims After Car Accidents in California
California state law requires all licensed drivers to maintain auto insurance coverage that includes:
- $15,000 or more in bodily injury liability coverage for a single person hurt in an accident.
- $30,000 or more in total accident liability coverage for a single accident.
- $5,000 or more in property damage liability coverage.
The first step toward recovery after a car accident is usually an insurance claim against the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy. However, if the driver only has a minimum coverage policy, or if they do not have auto insurance, you will need to take alternative action to secure compensation for your losses in the form of a civil claim against the driver responsible for your accident.
If you must file an insurance claim, either against an at-fault driver’s policy or your own auto insurance policy, it is best to consult an El Dorado Hills car accidents lawyer first. Your attorney can help you draft your claim letter and handle correspondence with an insurance claim adjuster on your behalf. This will significantly decrease the chance of experiencing unjust pushback against your claim or any bad faith tactics from the insurance company.
Even if you are successful with your insurance claim, there is no guarantee that the settlement you receive will be enough to fully compensate for the losses you experienced from your accident. In this situation, your El Dorado Hills car accidents lawyer will help you begin the process of filing a personal injury claim against the driver responsible for your damages.
Building Your Car Accident Claim Against a Negligent Driver
There are two main tasks your attorney must accomplish in any car accident claim: they must prove the defendant was negligent and caused your accident, and they must establish the full scope of your claimable damages. Proving negligence in any personal injury case comes down to establishing four basic elements of negligence:
- Duty. Your attorney must prove that the defendant named in your claim owed you a duty of care in the situation in question.
- Breach of duty. Next, your attorney must show that the defendant breached their duty of care in some way.
- Damage. You can only file a civil claim if you sustained actual harm. Your attorney must show the full extent of your damages claimable under applicable laws.
- Causation. Finally, it’s essential to prove that your claimed damages are the direct results of the defendant’s negligence and not some other cause.
If you and your attorney can successfully establish these four components of negligence, you are likely to succeed with your car accident claim. The next phase of your case will be establishing the full scope of your damages.
Potential Recovery From Your Car Accident Claim
A car accident claim filed against a negligent driver falls under the purview of personal injury law. The damages available from a successful personal injury claim in California include:
- Medical expenses. An injured plaintiff has the right to claim compensation for the medical expenses they incur from a car accident. This includes immediately calculable expenses like hospital bills and prescription costs as well as anticipated long-term medical costs if their injuries are likely to require ongoing treatment and rehabilitation.
- Lost income. A car accident can leave a victim unable to work for an extended time, and they can claim their lost wages during their recovery. Additionally, it is possible to secure compensation for lost future earnings if the victim is unable to work in the future due to a permanent disability acquired from their injury.
- Property damage. Car accident claims often involve expenses related to the repair or replacement of the plaintiff’s vehicle and any other personal property damaged or destroyed in the accident.
- Pain and suffering. This may sound difficult to quantify in terms of monetary value, but an experienced El Dorado Hills car accident attorney can help their client determine an appropriate amount of pain and suffering compensation to claim based on the amount of their claimed medical expenses and the severity of their injuries.
In addition to these damages, plaintiffs may also receive punitive damages at the discretion of the judges overseeing their claims. If a defendant was egregiously negligent or criminal in causing the accident in question, a judge may award punitive damages not to repay a plaintiff’s loss but instead to punish the defendant. Depending on how the accident occurred, it is also possible for a defendant to face criminal prosecution for causing the accident.
What Happens if a Car Accident Is Fatal?
If you recently lost a loved one due to the actions of a negligent driver, you and your loved ones have the right to file a wrongful death claim. This type of lawsuit is very similar to a personal injury claim and will effectively replace the personal injury claim your loved one could have filed had they survived the crash. Navigating a wrongful death claim is much easier when you have an experienced attorney on your side. The Law Office of Black & DePaoli, PC understands how difficult these cases can be and the extreme emotional distress most wrongful death claimants experience. We can provide the detail-oriented and compassionate legal representation your family needs after losing a loved one to another driver’s negligence.
Expert Witnesses in Car Accident Claims
Some car accident claims are more complex than others. A plaintiff may have difficulty establishing the full scope of their claimable damages or proving pain and suffering to the court. It may also be initially difficult to prove a defendant’s liability for an accident if material evidence is minimal or questionable. At the Law Office of Black & DePaoli, PC, our team knows how to navigate these complex issues and find the experts who can help our clients navigate their cases with confidence.
We may consult with medical experts, engineers, accident reconstruction experts, and various other professionals across multiple disciplines to support our clients’ cases. Expert witnesses may simply provide consultation services to help us understand highly technical and complex issues related to a case, or they may play more active roles and testify on behalf of our clients, providing the court with professional interpretations of more difficult aspects of a case. Rest assured that if your car accident claim demands input from expert witnesses, we will locate the expert witnesses who can assist with your case.