Car accidents are unpredictable. One minute, you are driving or riding in a car, and the next minute, you are shaken, injured, and disoriented. Injuries of those involved in them range from mild to deadly. If someone caused the crash because they were not driving with care, they should be held accountable for keeping you from reaching your destination unharmed.
Drivers owe a duty of care to everyone they share the road with. That legal responsibility gives the victims of negligent drivers legal recourse to recover financial compensation for the damages they incur due to their injuries. Pursuing a personal injury or wrongful death claim will not return you or a loved one to the moment before the crash, but it will hold a negligent driver responsible for what they did or failed to do to protect your life.
At Pasternack Injury Law Group, we represent injury victims and their families in San Diego, California, and the surrounding areas, including Chula Vista, El Cajon, Imperial County, Julian, National City, Oceanside, and Ramona. Our San Diego car accident lawyers use more than four decades of combined experience to personally deliver the legal guidance you need and deserve.
How Do Liability Claims Work in California?
California is an at-fault insurance state. The law holds people financially responsible for car driver negligence. Negligence is a breach of the duty of care everyone on the roadways owes to everyone else.
There are three ways to recover compensation after a crash:
- Car accident victims can file a claim against their own auto insurance coverage. For example, if you have medical payment benefits, you can claim those to help with your initial medical bills. Medical payment benefits are payable regardless of who was at fault for an accident. If the at-fault driver did not have an auto liability policy or the limits are insufficient to fully compensate you, you can file an uninsured (UM) or underinsured (UIM) claim against your own coverage if you have it.
- Victims can also file a third-party liability claim against the insurance of the person who is liable in a car accident. This may take the form of a personal injury claim or, in the event of a loved one’s death, a wrongful death claim. You could claim up to the limits of that driver’s policy, as well as any other policy that might indemnify them, such as umbrella liability coverage. Your personal injury attorney will explore all potential coverage that could be used to compensate you fairly for the losses and harms you have suffered.
- Finally, if your attorney cannot negotiate a just settlement with the other driver’s insurance company, you can file a lawsuit against the negligent driver. Such a lawsuit will be defended by that person’s insurance company and its attorneys. If your claim is not settled prior to sending the case to the jury, the jury will decide what compensation you should receive.
Will the At-Fault Driver Have Insurance?
California auto owners are required by law to carry at least minimum liability coverage in the sums of $15,000 in bodily injury coverage for an accident injuring one person, $30,000 per accident involving more than one victim, and $5,000 for property damage. In lieu of an auto liability policy, an owner may submit $35,000 in cash to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), carry a $35,000 surety bond, or provide proof of sufficient self-insurance and receive a certificate of the same from the DMV.
As you can see, these minimum limits are low. A trip to the emergency room can cost more than double the required bodily injury coverage. Of course, many California auto owners do pay for policies with higher liability limits, but you can only count on the negligent driver having the minimum and, in some cases, no coverage at all. This is why you should pay for coverage in your own policy, such as UM and UIM, that will help protect you if you need it.
What Other California Laws Address Injury and Death Claims?
There are two other key laws relevant to personal injury and wrongful death claims. The first is that California observes pure comparative fault. Even if you share fault for the crash, you can still recover compensation from the other driver commensurate with your percentage of fault. For example, if your damages are $100,000 and you are assigned 30% fault, the $100,000 would be reduced by 30%, leaving you with $70,000.
The second law deals with the amount of time you have to either settle your claim or file a lawsuit. In both personal injury and wrongful death claims, you have two years from the date of injury or death to file a lawsuit. If you let the statute of limitations expire, you forfeit your right to pursue compensation, which is why it is best that you talk to a San Diego wrongful death lawyer right after the accident.
Can I File a Wrongful Death Claim?
If someone would have been able to file a personal injury claim had they survived the crash, their surviving spouse or domestic partner, children, or personal representative named in their will can file a wrongful death action. If the decedent leaves none of these people behind, parents, siblings, and other parties may pursue one.
Contact Pasternack Injury Law Group Today
When you’ve been injured in a car accident, the road to recovery can feel overwhelming. That’s where Pasternack Injury Law Group comes in. Our team of experienced San Diego car accident attorneys is dedicated to helping you navigate your personal injury claim. With a deep understanding of California’s laws, a commitment to fighting for fair compensation, and a track record of success, we’re here to stand by your side every step of the way.
Don’t let the aftermath of a car accident leave you uncertain about your future. Contact Pasternack Injury Law Group today for a free consultation. Our experienced attorneys are ready to listen, advise, and fight tirelessly on your behalf. You deserve justice and the compensation you need to heal. Let us be your trusted allies during this challenging time.