Auto Accident Injury Claims: A Guide

What cases fall under personal injury?

If you have an accident or get injured in California, you may have a case under personal injury law. Personal injury, according to the American Bar Association, is any injury caused to you or damage caused to your property due to someone else’s negligence. In some cases, negligence does not have to be proven to win a personal injury case. It really depends on the situation.

Auto accidents are a common type of personal injury case. Most car accidents are caused by someone’s negligence, such as not stopping at a stop sign or breaking some other road law. The negligent party is often held responsible by the courts for damages and injury caused.

Pursuing Compensation

You probably know that after you’re injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s reckless, negligent, or careless actions, you can pursue claims for financial compensation for your physical injuries. However, there are other losses and damages you might be entitled to claim depending on the facts of your case. The following is a general primer on what you might be entitled to receive following a car crash.

It is important to note that personal injury law is civil, not criminal. This means that punishments, such as jail time or probation, are not handed down in such a case. The remedies are monetary in nature. This information is only intended to educate and should not be interpreted as legal advice. For specifics to your situation, please consult a qualified automobile accident attorney in Los Angeles or the city where you live.

Medical bills

Receiving a slew of unexpected high medical bills can quickly overwhelm anyone’s finances. But if you’re injured in a car accident, what choice do you have but to seek medical treatment? These expenses may include ambulance transportation, emergency room treatment, CT scans and other tests. If your injuries are severe enough to require extended hospitalization, the costs can skyrocket and rapidly outpace insurance coverage. Even just keeping track of all the different bills from medical providers quickly becomes overwhelming. It is important to involve an auto accident lawyer as soon as possible, so that they can immediately begin tracking of all your expenses and assessing how much compensation you will require to cover your medical bills.

Pain and suffering

Pain and suffering is legally defined as “the physical and mental distress suffered from an injury.” This includes your actual injuries (e.g., a broken bone), but is also a catch-all term for the physical pain, limits on activity and range of motion, detriment to predicted lifespan, and mental and emotional ill effects stemming from the accident. Claims for pain and suffering vary considerably, and are subjectively assessed, as opposed to medical bills, which can be calculated based on fixed numbers. Your attorney will help you figure out an appropriate dollar amount to claim that they believe is reasonable and achievable.

Property losses

Beyond your physical injuries, you will likely experience material losses. The most obvious would be your car, which might be totaled. However, other property loss can include items that were damaged or destroyed in the accident, such as an aftermarket high-end stereo system or items that were in the trunk (e.g., a new pair of skis). Your lawyer will ask you about all these items and assess their replacement value.

Lost wages

Recovering from serious injuries takes time, treatment, and rest. For many people – particularly blue-collar workers and “gig” employees – the inability to work means a significant loss of income. This situation worsens if your injuries prevent you from returning to your previous line of work. Even comparatively secure, salaried employees could find themselves in trouble financially because they are left unable to pursue their chosen career. A skilled car accident lawyer can calculate the wages lost in the short, medium, and long-term, including assessing what you would have earned had you been able to continue along the career path you were on prior to the accident.

Losses of consortium

Sadly, some injuries go beyond life-altering. If your loved ones suffer due to your catastrophic injury, they may be entitled to additional compensation from the party who cost them your place in their lives. For example, if you are left paralyzed, your spouse will likely be able to claim loss of consortium (which includes companionship, sexual intimacy, and more). Or, if you suffer brain damage, your children could seek compensation for the loss of moral support, parental guidance, and more. While money certainly cannot replace you in your family’s lives, an attorney can hold those responsible for your loss accountable.

Long-term care

Some automobile accident injuries are permanent and will require changes be made to enable you to live your life with support and comfort. These could include hiring a live-in caregiver, installation of assistive equipment in your home, mobility support equipment (e.g., a walker or wheelchair), and more. You will need a lawyer to calculate the amount of compensation required based on your injuries and predictions from your medical team of the progress you will likely make, and the assistance you’ll require on an ongoing basis.

If you’ve been involved in an auto accident

There are certain steps you must take if you’ve been in a motor vehicle accident. This section will lay out these steps for you to follow in the event of an accident on the road.

Be sure to assess the situation at hand

The first thing to do if you are in a motor vehicle accident is to stop and assess the situation. Determine if there are injuries, and the extent of the damage. Make sure the environment you are in is safe. If not, carefully move to a safe place alongside the road, or off onto the shoulder if you are on a major highway.

Call for assistance

Call 911 for assistance and an ambulance if there are serious injuries. You must also report the accident to the California Highway Patrol, if you are on the highway. Once the police arrive at the scene of the accident, you will need to show them your license and registration. You must also show proof of financial responsibility, or you will face a potential citation and fine.

Serious accidents must be reported to the DMV within 10 days

When someone is killed, injured, or property damage exceeds $1,000, this is considered a serious accident and must be reported to the DMV within 10 days. You must complete the Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California form SR-1. You must submit this form in addition to other insurance company policy forms.

In order to fill out the SR-1 you need to gather important information at the scene of the accident:

  • Place and time of accident
  • Other driver’s name, address, and date of birth
  • Other driver’s driver license information (#/State)
  • Other driver’s license plate number and state
  • Other driver’s insurance company, policy number, and the expiration thereof
  • Policy holder’s name and address
  • Vehicle owner’s name and address
  • Explanation of injuries or property damage

What are factors that can help prove fault in an auto accident?

Proving fault in a car accident injury case can be very confusing thus it is highly recommended that you contact an experienced attorney if you’ve been in a crash.

No matter the type of accident, it is imperative to determine who is responsible for the accident and who will be held liable. It may be obvious to those involved but this is irrelevant until evidence is provided that supports your arguments and your claims. To make a stronger argument these are the factors that can help in backing your claims:

Police reports: Police reports are considered official documents that provide detailed information regarding the accident. They also hold the officer’s opinion on who should be held liable as well as the circumstances in which the accident took place. This is why police reports are generally considered the most important piece of evidence to support an argument because it is an official document from a recognized law official that details their opinion about the accident.

Amending a police report:  If there is a mistake in a police report and you recognize it you can get it amended easily if the error was factual for e.g. wrong license plate no but if the amendment is regarding contested information then it is very difficult to get it amended but not impossible.

Traffic laws: The traffic laws for the state are the rules by which drivers must abide and if you can show that you were following the laws while the other driver wasn’t then this is very strong evidence to support your argument and puts you in a very strong negotiating position.

No fault car accident: In these scenarios, it is abundantly clear whose fault the accident is thus there is no argument and little discussion and deliberation in the processing of the case.

Rear end accidents: If you are hit from behind in an accident it is almost always the case that the collision was the fault of the trailing driver and this can be used to give you a very strong arguing position as it is the responsibility of the driver to keep a safe distance between their car and the car in front. There are cases where the driver in front might also share the blame by not using the correct indicator or having broken rear lights in that case they are still liable but you also share liability in the form of contributory negligence.

Is there a crash tax in Los Angeles?

Yes, there is a crash tax in LA and in more than 50 cities in California. In other words, if you are involved in an accident and LA City emergency vehicles respond, such as paramedics or the fire department, you will be billed. If you don’t have health insurance, you will be billed directly. Thus, bringing a personal injury case and collecting from the at fault driver’s insurance is one way to deal with this expense.

A highly qualified Los Angeles automobile accident lawyer

After you suffer injuries due to a car crash, you need someone on your side to figure out every possible claim you can make against the at-fault parties. Contact Los Angeles car accident attorney Scott J. Corwin at (310) 683-2300 as soon as possible, so he can begin the process of assessing your needs and pursuing the compensation you deserve.