If you have been injured in a car accident in San Diego you probably have many questions about your legal rights. Injury Trial Lawyers, APC is here to answer your questions and get you the compensation you deserve.
We have over 20 years of combined experience fighting insurance companies to make sure our clients receive a fair settlement. If the insurance company won’t offer a reasonable settlement that includes medical expenses and lost wages, then our skilled San Diego car accident attorneys are prepared to fight in court on your behalf. Your top priority after an auto collision should be taking care of yourself and your family – leave the rest to us.
Call us today to discuss your case. The initial consultation is free and we get nothing unless we win your case. We are available to meet in our downtown office or can make arrangements to come to you.
Car Accidents In San Diego
According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, over 20,000 victims were injured or killed in car crashes in San Diego County in 2017, over 8,600 of which occurred within the City of San Diego limits.
Although no one plans on being involved in a car crash, statistics show that thousands of people in San Diego County alone will be injured or killed every year in an auto collision. After such an incident, hiring a qualified personal injury lawyer should be a priority.
Why Retain An Experienced Legal Team
Recent findings from the Insurance Research Council’s Auto Insurance Claims Study suggest that medical expenses reported by car injury victims nationwide continue to increase faster than the rate of inflation. According to ISO (a Verisk Analytics company), in 2013 the average car liability claims for property damage was $3,231.00 and the average bodily injury claim was $15,443.00. Simply put, you are likely to incur costly medical expenses and car repairs after an auto collision.
No injury victim needs to suffer alone and expect the “at fault” party’s insurance company to compensate him or her fairly. That is not how insurance companies make money. Insurance companies make money when premiums are paid to them and they, in turn, deny claims. Even when insurance companies admit their insured is at fault, they work hard to pay as little as possible on claims. Retaining an experienced San Diego injury attorney after an accident can ensure a victim maximizes the compensation available to him or her.
Personal injury attorneys take such cases on a contingent fee basis. This means the attorney gets paid a percentage of the victim’s recovery. If there is no recovery, the attorney receives no fee. This fee arrangement creates an incentive for the attorney to maximize the recovery for the victim.
We have spent the last decade in San Diego successfully negotiating with insurance companies on behalf of our clients. We will do the same for you.
Our experienced lawyers can:
- Obtain available police reports,
- Utilize a network of investigators and experts to reconstruct the collision,
- Help prove who is at fault, and
- Help explain how injuries occurred
Such experts include accident reconstruction experts, engineers, and bio-mechanical experts, among others.
Our experienced trial attorneys also have a network of healthcare treatment providers throughout San Diego that are willing to provide medical treatment to accident victims without upfront costs. These treatment providers include board-certified physicians who agree to wait to be paid until after a case settles or a verdict and award is paid. This is especially important for victims who do not carry health insurance or who do not have the resources to pay for needed treatment.
A personal injury lawyer at ITL will evaluate the insurance coverage available and help victims obtain all the coverage available to them—this could include not only coverage from the “at fault” party (such as med pay, property damage, and bodily injury liability coverage), but also any available coverage from their own insurance (such as med pay, uninsured, or underinsured coverage).
We will also develop theories of liability based on the evidence obtained and will negotiate on your behalf to try to settle without having to file suit (or even after filing suit). Insurance companies have their own legal team representing their interests and accident victims should have the same as well.
Once the suit is filed, it is critical for the injured party to have an experienced attorney familiar with the San Diego courts representing their interests. Insurance companies quickly recognize attorneys that do not try cases and will keep settlement offers unreasonably low knowing that such attorneys will ultimately settle for less because they either do not want to, or cannot, take a case to trial.
Experienced trial attorneys, however, will not recommend a victim to take less simply because they are afraid to try the case. While there may be other reasons cases should settle before trial, our San Diego car wreck lawyers can and do try cases when needed. Because they actually try cases, they will develop the case from the beginning focusing on exactly what is needed to present to a judge and jury to maximize recovery.
Establishing Fault After a Car Accident
California law requires that people use “reasonable care” when driving. This means that:
- “Drivers must keep a lookout for pedestrians, obstacles, and other vehicles. They must also control the speed and movement of their vehicles. The failure to use reasonable care in driving a vehicle is negligence.” (Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instruction 700).
This “reasonable care” standard of care is also required of minors. (Prichard v. Veterans Cab Co. (1965) 63 Cal.2d 727, 732) (the age of a minor will not excuse him from liability for driving in a negligent manner—he will be required to meet an adult standard.) Even drivers with mental disabilities are required to meet this standard. (Fox v. City and County of San Francisco (1975) 47 Cal.App.3d 164, 173)(drivers with mental disabilities are required to use the same amount of care required of adults without such disability.)
Serious collisions will often be summarized in a police report, which can provide strong evidence of fault. Although a police officer’s conclusion in a report of who is at fault in an accident can help convince an insurance company that its insured is at fault, the report itself is inadmissible evidence in any trial under California Vehicle Code § 20013.
A traffic collision report (TCR), however, provides a wealth of information to help injured parties prove who is at fault in a collision and provides a template to identifying critical evidence of fault. Although not every collision will involve a police investigation or generate a TCR, the information an investigating officer seeks as outlined in the TCR highlights critical evidence needed to establish fault and recover damages:
- Date, time, location, and parties involved
- Insurance information
- Vehicle information, including nature, severity, and location of vehicle damage
- Witness information
- Initial injury information
- Weather condition, lighting conditions, road conditions
- Traffic control devises involved
- Other factors contributing to the cause of the accident
- Summaries of statements of parties and witnesses
- An expert opinion regarding who was at fault in the accident
- Depending on the severity of the collision and/or injuries involved, the TCR may also include photographs taken by police at the scene
Typically, the following people can be liable in a car crash:
- Driver or Vehicle Owner
- Negligent drivers can be directly liable, as can vehicle owners.
- In the event of a rear end collision, the driver who hit the other vehicle from behind is almost always liable.
- Negligent drivers that are in the course and scope of employment at the time of the accident can lead to the liability of their employer. Such employers could include public or governmental agencies like school districts and public transit agencies (e.g. Metropolitan Transit System, etc.). Such employers could also include private companies operating work trucks, service vans, etc.
- To the extent an accident may be caused by defective parts or negligent repairs on vehicles, manufacturers and repair businesses can also be liable.
Compensation for Auto Accident Victims
Generally speaking, insurance companies will both defend their negligent insured and pay compensation when necessary. Insurance companies may agree to pay compensation as part of a settlement without admitting fault on the part of their insured or may be forced to pay after a trial or binding arbitration.
Other sources of compensation could come from a company’s “self-insured retention,” meaning the company itself is self-insured up to a certain amount of money before its insurance company becomes responsible for paying.
In the event that the “at fault” party does not have liability insurance, compensation would have to come from that party directly which could include any assets that party has such as real estate or valuable personal property.
Uncovering potential sources for financial recovery can be difficult. Fortunately, our San Diego auto injury lawyers have a combined 35 years experience doing just that. We will explore every avenue to maximize your compensation.
The amount accident victims or their families can recover depends on many factors. Generally speaking, there are two kinds of damages victims can recover from “at fault” parties: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic Damages includes:
- Property damage,
- Medical expenses, and
- Lost income.
Non-economic damages include what is typically thought of as “pain and suffering” which encompasses many characteristics such as:
- Physical pain,
- Mental anguish,
- Loss of enjoyment of quality of life,
- Physical impairment,
- Disfigurement and scarring
This is not a comprehensive list but merely shows the sort of non-economic damages victims can recover. Assessing and collecting damages is perhaps the most complex area of a personal injury claim. Having an experienced San Diego car accident lawyer can greatly increase the chances that you will receive a proper award.
Compensation for Future Damages
When accident victims are permanently injured or have injuries that will continue into the future at the time of settlement, arbitration, or trial such victims can recover both past and future economic and non-economic damages—i.e. past and future income loss, past and future medical expenses, and past and future “pain and suffering.”
The amount accident victims can recover also depends on the amount of insurance the “at fault” party has. For example, in California drivers are required to have a minimum of $15,000.00 in liability coverage for injury/death to one person in an accident (which becomes $30,000.00 total when more than one person is injured or dies that would be apportioned among the victims).
California also requires a minimum of $5,000.00 in property damage liability coverage. Often, people who carry such minimum coverage are people with little or no assets which means regardless of the severity of the accident and injuries involved, victims may only be able to recover these policy limits.
Many people realize, however, that they need more than minimum coverage to fully protect themselves and their assets and often there is much more liability coverage from which to compensate victims.
Many accident victims also carry their own uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage on their own vehicles. The victim’s own UM/UIM coverage can also be a source of compensation when the “at fault” party has no insurance or inadequate insurance to fully compensate victims.
In addition, many insurance policies can include “med pay” coverage. This is coverage for medical expenses only and does not depend on proving fault. If the accident victim or other driver has such coverage, it is available to help pay for medical expenses regardless of fault. The policy limits for such “med pay” coverage is typically $5,000.00 to $10,000.00.
When companies are liable to accident victims, they typically carry commercial policies with limits of a million or more dollars and often carry excess coverage for catastrophic situations.
California law permits motor vehicle accident victims to recover non-economic damages—i.e. “pain and suffering”—only when the victim carries liability insurance. This began in 1996 through Prop 213, or “The Personal Responsibility Act of 1996.” Civil Code § 3333.4 embodies this Act.
Despite being uninsured, however, motor vehicle accident victims are still entitled to economic damages such as medical expenses and lost income. Especially if an accident victim incurs substantial medical expenses and/or loses income due to someone else’s negligent driving, that victim can recover such economic damages.
Common Car Accident Injuries
- Broken bones,
- Burns, and
- Internal trauma
Back and neck injuries are very common because of the tremendous force involved in vehicle impacts. Such injuries range from sprains and strains requiring chiropractic or physical therapy treatment to more serious cervical and/or lumbar disc herniation or fracture injuries. Such injuries may or may not include pain radiating down arms or legs and may or may not require surgical intervention.
Aside from the symptoms complained of, the severity of neck and back injuries usually need imaging studies ranging from X-Rays, to CT Scans, to MRI’s in order to be accurately diagnosed and treated.
Car accident victims should understand that symptoms from neck and back injuries suffered in a crash may not occur immediately after the crash—often such symptoms take days to develop. In addition, a victim’s age, health, and relevant pre-existing condition all impact the severity of neck and back injuries suffered in a crash.
Internal injuries and brain trauma are also common, particularly in serious accidents. While internal injuries most often occur from direct impact to the body, it is now well-known that traumatic brain injuries can occur without direct impact to the head. Studies have shown that traumatic brain lesions (i.e. damaged brain tissue) can occur in whiplash injuries, but typically will not occur without a high magnitude of acceleration-deceleration and are unlikely to occur without a significant loss of consciousness. (British Columbia Medical Journal, Vol. 44, No. 6., August 2002, Pages 303-306: Purports of brain damage following presumed whiplash injury).
Causes of Auto Crashes
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, in 2016 an estimated 94% of the time the critical reason for crashes can be assigned to the driver, while the remaining 6% of the time the critical reason for a crash is split among the vehicle, environmental, and unknown conditions.
When the reason for a crash was assigned to the driver, about 41% of the time the NHTSA classified the reason as a recognition error, 33% decision error, and 11% performance error with remainder as non-performance error or other error.
- Recognition errors include:
- driver inattention,
- internal and external distractions, and
- inadequate surveillance.
- Decision errors include:
- driving too fast for conditions,
- driving too fast for a curve,
- false assumption of others’ actions,
- illegal maneuvers, and
- misjudgment of gap or others’ speed.
- Performance errors include:
- overcompensation and poor directional control.
- Falling asleep was the most common non-performance error.
In 2013, the NHTSA estimates that “distraction-affected” crashes accounted for 10% of all fatal crashes and 18% of all injury crashes. Of those “distraction-affected” crashes, 14% of the fatalities involved cell phone use (an increase of 6.7% since 2012) and 8% of the injuries involved cell phone use (an increase of 21% since 2012).
In 2013, the NHTSA also estimated that an average of one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality occurred every 52 minutes and accounted for 31% of motor vehicle fatalities nationwide.
Statistics on Likely Causes of San Diego Auto Crashes
According to the latest data, speeding was the number one cause of car accidents in San Diego, accounting for more than 5,782 injuries. The most dangerous time of the day to drive is between 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., based on the amount of accidents and fatalities during that window. Lastly, men between the ages of 20 – 24 were responsible for the largest amount of fatal car wrecks.
Do’s and Don’ts After a Car Accident
If you have been involved in an auto collision, remember the following tips:
- Stop: California law requires that you stop after a car crash. Failing to do so is a hit and run and carries severe penalties.
- Exchange Info: Make sure you exchange drivers licenses, insurance and contact information.
- Give Reasonable Assistance: California law requires you to give “reasonable” assistance. Reasonable is defined as what a reasonable person would do under those circumstances.
- Report the Accident: Make sure you call the California Highway Patrol or the San Diego police to inform them of the accident.
- Do Not Admit Fault: After an accident, you may be disoriented and think it was your fault. Before making statements against interest, it’s best to wait until your attorney conducts an independent investigation so you can understand what really happened.
- Sign the Ticket: If you get a ticket at the scene of the accident, make sure you sign it. You are not admitting guilt by signing the ticket.
- Seek Legal Advice: Discussing your case with our qualified car crash lawyers can greatly increase your chance of receiving a fair settlement. Remember, the insurance company has a team of lawyers whose sole goal is to minimize your compensation. Let us fight them for you.
Injury Trial Lawyers, APC has included the following infographic of the points covered above of your convenience. You can print this out and keep it in your car.
Contact An Experienced San Diego Car Accident Attorney Today
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, you may have lifelong injuries and you deserve to be fully compensated. The insurance companies will attempt to settle the claim with you directly, to avoid fairly compensating you.
Call San Diego car accident attorney Richard Morse today to discuss your case. Our legal team is available 24/7 to take your call and you pay nothing unless we win. We have helped many San Diego residents get the money they need after a car accident and will put our experience to work for you.
Do I need an attorney to file an insurance claim?
There is no law in the United States that requires that anyone hires an attorney for any legal process, but although there is no requirement it is highly recommended that you do so. Most, if not all, legal processes in the United States are complicated for a variety of different reasons, starting with the complexity of the filing process and the basic procedures to get a legal action going.
Before you will be required to navigate these steps, you will then need to work through a series of negotiations with the insurance company after they complete their claim investigation. It is a near-certainty that the offer the insurance company will make you are not going to be anywhere near the amount that you deserve, and you will have to use substantial evidence to support your counter-offers during negotiations. An attorney can be a major help when you are going through this process, since they have a history of experience with the legal processes, as well as gathering information for determining settlement amounts and managing the negotiation processes.
Should I accept the offer an insurance company gives me?
Under no circumstance should you ever accept the first offer than an insurance company makes you, even if you think that it seems fair and reasonable. Insurance companies do not focus on giving victims the money that they rightfully deserve; instead, their top priority is to limit the amount of money that they pay for any given accident while also limiting the chances of any future legal actions against them or their client for the claim in question.
When you accept a settlement from the insurance company, you will also need to waive your rights for any future legal actions against them or their clients for your injuries or anything else relating to the accident in question. Make sure that you go through your entire case with an attorney before accepting any offers so that you can be certain that you have the compensation that you need and deserve.
Injury expenses can continue to accrue months and years after the accident, so having a professional explain what you can expect going forward will be a significant help to make a sound decision about what to do with your offer. In addition, an attorney helping you negotiate for a truly fair settlement is a very important way to get the help and compensation that you deserve.
How much is my car accident worth?
Unfortunately, there is no simple way to calculate exactly how much a victim deserves following an accident, which is why the claims, negotiation, and settlement process is so complicated. In order to understand the amount that a victim truly deserves after an accident, they need to go through every detail of their situation and calculate each of these details before adding them all together to reach a final amount.
In addition to needing to compile each measurable expense and financial loss, such as medical bills and lost wages, a victim will also need to calculate the amount of money that they deserve for the non-economic damages of their accident. These include things like the actual pain and suffering that they were forced to endure as a result of their injuries, as well as a variety of other “intangible” damages. Since these damages are so abstract and difficult to quantify in terms of a dollar amount, they are the most likely the be contested by an insurance company. This does not make them any less important, and working with an attorney is the most effective way to get the money you deserve.
Will I need to go to court to get the money I deserve after an accident?
There are a lot of steps between initiating your claim after an accident and deciding to file a lawsuit in the California court system. After the insurance company completes their claims investigation and the claims adjuster determines an amount to offer you, there will be a series of negotiations between you (and your attorney) and the insurance company in order to come to an agreement about a final settlement amount. In most cases, an attorney will want to reach a settlement before a court case, unless there are specific issues like the realistic possibility of punitive damages awarded by a judge.
If negotiations are unsuccessful, or if your attorney has other reasons for pursuing a lawsuit, the next step will be to file the lawsuit with the courts and go from there. It is important that you communicate with your attorney about your own expectations and needs, and understand the decisions that they are making in regards to your case.
Will I be awarded punitive damages if the other driver was drunk?
The standard damages that you and your attorney will be fighting for are known as “compensatory damages,” and are intended to compensate a victim for the actual losses and expenses that they suffered as a result of the accident. In some cases, a judge or jury may determine that the actions of the defendant were reckless or negligent enough to warrant an additional amount that they must pay, known as punitive damages. An example of a situation where a victim may be awarded punitive damages is if they were injured by a drunk driver who had significant financial resources, and the judge determined that additional compensation will adequately punish the drunk driver for their behavior.
Your legal counsel will not be in charge of requesting these damages, nor will they have any influence on whether or not they are ultimately awarded to you at the conclusion of your case, so they will never be factored into the damage amount that you are fighting for. In certain situations, you and your attorney may opt for a full lawsuit in order to increase your chances of getting these types of damages included in your case, but it may be equally possible that the defendant wants to settle before their actions are made public.
Auto Accident Case Results
- Verdict: $850,000
- Verdict: $250,000
Blog for Car Accidents
- What To Do After A Car Accident
- California Traffic Safety Info
- Car Accident Do’s and Don’ts
- California Courts Statute of Limitations Info
- Daily Updates on San Diego Car Accidents
- AAA Southern California Auto Accident Tips
- California Code of Civil Procedure 335.1
- Car Accident Statistics
- Chest Injuries
- Red and Yellow Light Accidents
- Uninsured Motorcyclist
- Car Accident Types
- Distracted Driving Accidents
- Aggresive Car Accident
- Head-on Collisions Accidents
- Highway Car Accidents
- Hit and Run Accidents
- Intersection Accidents
- Lane-Change Accidents
- Reckless Driving
- Rear-End Collision
A Review of Injury Trial Lawyers, APC, a Personal Injury Law Firm
San Diego personal injury lawyer Richard Morse can help if you have been injured in an accident. Richard has a proven track record of success both in the courtroom and in settlement negotiations.
At ITL we understand that after being injured you will have many questions regarding your rights and possible compensation. We have assisted many people throughout the years to get the compensation they deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation. We are conveniently located in downtown San Diego or can make arrangements to come to you.