Category: California Personal Injury

Car Accident with an Uninsured Motorists in California

Have you been involved in a California car accident with an uninsured driver? You may be entitled to compensation. However, it can be difficult to recover the full amount of money to which you are entitled. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your case will help to ensure you are properly compensated for your accident-related injuries. See our guide on how to find a good personal injury lawyer in California for more information.

Minimally-Acceptable Car Insurance Coverage in California

California law requires all drivers to purchase and maintain minimally-acceptable car insurance coverage for all vehicles registered with the state. Minimally-acceptable coverage requires:

  • $15,000 (death or injury of one person)
  • $30,000 (death or injury of multiple people), and
  • $5,000 (property damage).

When a driver is involved in an accident, their car insurance policy can be used to cover the cost of bodily injury and property damage, up the amount of their policy limit. Drivers who do not carry 15/30/5 coverage are in violation of the law.

Uninsured vs. Underinsured Drivers

Even though all California drivers are required to purchase and maintain minimally-acceptable car insurance coverage, not everyone does. In fact, approximately 13 percent of all drivers on the road are “uninsured.” This means that they have no car insurance coverage to protect them or others in the event of an accident.

Other drivers have some insurance, but not enough to satisfy California’s legal requirement for what is acceptable. These drivers are considered “underinsured.”

When you are involved in an accident with an underinsured or uninsured driver, things can be complicated.

What Can I Do If I’m Injured By an Uninsured Driver?

If you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, there are two main options for recovering damages. First, if you have uninsured motorist coverage, you can file a claim with your own insurer for benefits. Second, you have the right to file a personal injury claim for damages.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UMC)

California state law requires all insurance companies to offer uninsured motorist coverage (UMC) to all policyholders. The purpose of UMC is to cover the cost of your injuries and property damage if you happen to be in a crash with an underinsured or uninsured driver.

While you are not legally obligated to purchase UMC, it can be incredibly beneficial if you are in a crash and subsequently faced with expensive medical bills, lost wages, and costly car repairs.

How does UMC work? It depends on whether the at-fault driver was uninsured or underinsured:

Uninsured: If the at-fault driver is uninsured, your UMC benefits will essentially take the place of the insurance policy that the other driver should have had. The UMC benefits will be capped at whatever your standard policy coverage amount is. So, if you carry minimally-acceptable 15/30/5 coverage, your UMC will be capped at 15/30/5.

Underinsured: If the at-fault driver is underinsured, your UMC benefits will be used to supplement the at-fault driver’s policy. If the driver only had $10,000 in bodily injury coverage, your UMC would kick in to cover the $5,000 the other driver did not have.

It is important to understand that even though you have UMC, your insurance company will want to limit any benefits that you are awarded. They will try to undervalue your claim and pay out as little as possible. You do have the right to contest their decision by requesting an arbitration hearing. Hiring an attorney to help you navigate your uninsured motorist claim will help you get the money you deserve.

Personal Injury Lawsuit

If you do not have uninsured motorist coverage, or if you do not think your UMC benefits will cover the full extent of your damages, you have the right to pursue a civil legal claim. However,  if the uninsured driver could not afford insurance, they may not have the assets or resources to pay monetary damages awarded in a lawsuit.

Does this mean you should not consider a personal injury lawsuit? No. Other at-fault parties with deeper pocket may be able to get you the money you need. In California, more than one person can be liable for an accident. Each person is simply held accountable to the degree they contributed to the accident and/or injury.

Potentially liable parties, in addition to the uninsured driver, include:

It is important to thoroughly investigate your accident to determine all potentially liable parties.

I’ve Been Injured By an Uninsured Driver. What Should I Do?

It is important to treat an accident involving an uninsured driver as you would any other type of crash. The things you do immediately after your accident will affect any future legal claims you decide to pursue.

Report the Accident: Reporting the accident is crucial. Make sure that police are dispatched to the scene and complete a Traffic Collision Report. This report may not be admissible as evidence in court, but it can be incredibly helpful to your attorney. It will contain information about your accident that will likely be lost or forgotten over time (e.g., weather conditions, traffic, eye-witnesses).

Seek Medical Treatment: Your health and safety should be your first priority. A doctor will make sure that all of your injuries are properly diagnosed and treated, reducing the risk of life-threatening complications. The medical report will be useful in establishing a link between your accident and injuries.

Notify Your Insurance Company: Make sure that you tell your insurance company that you have been involved in an accident right away. They will do everything they can to minimize the benefits you recover. Hesitating to report the accident may negatively affect your recovery.

Hire an Attorney: While you should notify your insurance company about the crash, it is important to limit any further communication. The insurance company will try to get you to accept an early offer to prevent you from retaining an attorney. They know that your chances of maximizing the benefits you receive are greatest when you have an attorney at your side.

Find a Personal Injury Attorney in Your Area

Have you been involved in a California car accident? Was the other driver underinsured or uninsured? The sooner you act, the better your chances of getting the money you deserve. Call an attorney in your jurisdiction today to request a free consultation.

Understanding Pedestrian Accidents in California

Walking is one of the healthiest and most enjoyable ways to see the beautiful state of California. Over the past few decades, the number of people who choose to walk in California has steadily risen. Unfortunately, pedestrians are not always safe on the road and are at risk of suffering serious and fatal injuries. Pedestrians who are injured in a California traffic accident may have the right to receive compensation for their injuries. With the assistance of an experienced California personal injury attorney, these pedestrians can recover the money they need and deserve in the aftermath of an accident. See our guide on how to find a good personal injury attorney in California for more help.

Pedestrian Accidents in California

With more pedestrians and cars sharing the road than ever before, serious and deadly accidents are inevitable. Over the past decade, the total number of fatal pedestrian accidents in California has increased. At the same time, the number of injury-causing pedestrian accidents in California has actually decreased slightly. This means that while the overall number of pedestrian accidents are declining, the harm caused by the accidents that do occur is much greater.

Causes of Pedestrian Accidents

Accidents involving pedestrians in California can be caused for a variety of reasons. Some of the most frequently cited causes of pedestrian accidents include:

  • Walking at night
  • Drinking and walking
  • Failing to wear reflective materials
  • Jaywalking
  • Distracted drivers
  • Drunk drivers
  • Failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks
  • Speeding
  • Dangerous road and/or sidewalk conditions, and
  • Defective vehicles.

Common Pedestrian Accident Injuries

Unlike motorists on the road, pedestrians have nothing to protect themselves in the event of a crash. This puts pedestrians at an extremely increased risk of suffering a catastrophic injury and/or death. Pedestrians who are injured in a California traffic accident may be entitled to recover compensation for injuries including:

  • Fractures and broken bones
  • Burn injury
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Concussion
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Paralysis
  • Amputation, and/or
  • Wrongful death.

Liability for California Pedestrian Accidents

Injured pedestrians may be able to recover compensation for their injuries, but who is responsible for paying these damages? In California, any person whose negligence contributes to the cause of an injury-causing accident can be held financially responsible for harms that result. Each responsible party will be held liable to the degree they contributed to the crash. If the injured pedestrian contributed to the accident, his or her ability to recover compensation will be limited. Potentially liable parties for pedestrian accident injuries include:

  • Pedestrians
  • Drivers of vehicles on the road
  • Motorcyclists
  • Bicyclists
  • Government entity responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the road and sidewalks, and
  • Manufacturers of defective vehicles and equipment.

Damages for Pedestrian Accident Injuries

What kind of damages can an injured pedestrian accident victim recover? California generally allows injured accident victims to recover economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages help to compensate victims for the financial out-of-pocket losses they have because of an unexpected accident. These damages can compensate for medical expenses, lost wages, and/or a reduced earning capacity. Non-economic damages help to compensate victims for the subject and hard-to-value losses they suffer as the result of an accident. These damages can compensate for emotional distress, pain and suffering, and the loss of enjoyment of life. The specific amount(s) they can receive will depend on the extent and seriousness of their injuries.

Hiring an Attorney Will Maximize Your Recovery

If you have been injured in a California pedestrian accident you may be entitled to compensation from the person responsible for your accident. The two-year statute of limitations began to run the moment you were injured, so it is important to speak with an experienced California personal injury attorney as soon as you can. Hiring an attorney will not only make sure that your claim is filed on time, but also help to ensure that you will be fairly compensated for your injuries. Insurance companies may be quick to offer you a settlement, but this money will not be enough to cover the full extent and cost of your injuries. An attorney will know how to leverage insurers and at-fault parties into fully compensating you for the unexpected harms you have suffered.

Motorcycles and Lane Splitting: Liability After a Crash

California is home to some of the country’s most beautiful thoroughfares and scenery. This makes it very attractive to motorcycle riders from across the country. California also has relatively relaxed motorcycle laws. It is the only state in the country that does not expressly forbid and prohibit lane-splitting. Rather, lane-splitting is more of a gray area and discretion is left in the hands of California Highway Patrol (CHP).

Earlier this year attempts to adopt lane-splitting regulations was unsuccessful. This was thanks in large part to pushback from the motorcycle community. The ambiguity about lane-splitting causes confusion about liability if a motorcycle accident occurs. When is lane-splitting permissible? When is lane-splitting dangerous? Should the driver of the car(s) and/or truck(s) involved in the accident be held liable if a motorcycle was riding between two lanes of traffic? Should riders have an extra responsibility if they choose to navigate through traffic between lanes?

Lane-Splitting: Safe Alternative for Motorcyclists?

It may be helpful to understand why California does not formally prohibit lane-splitting. In states where lane-splitting is prohibited liability is more easily determined. If a motorcyclist breaks the law and splits lane – he or she is likely to be held accountable for that decision in the event of an accident. In California, however, the lack of formal guidelines makes an allocation of liability less clear.

A UC Berkeley study, as reported by the American Motorcyclist Association, found that “motorcyclists who split lanes in heavy traffic are significantly less likely to be struck from behind by other motorists and are less likely to suffer head or torso injuries.”  The study, which reviewed data from 6,000 motorcycle-related traffic accidents between 2012 and 2013, found that the injuries to the 997 motorcyclists involved in those accidents were significantly less severe than to motorcyclists who were not engaged in lane-splitting at the time of the crash. The study found that traffic congestion was one of the leading causes of motorcycle accidents. Engaging in the practice of lane-splitting – when done safely – can help to reduce the chances of being involved in or seriously injured in an accident.

When Is Lane Splitting Safe?

According the UC Berkeley study, lane-splitting can reduce the likelihood of being involved in a motorcycle crash. However, lane-splitting must be done safely. Lane-splitting may be safe when:

  • Congested traffic is not exceeding 50 MPH; and
  • Motorcyclists do not exceed the speed of other vehicles on the road by more than 15 MPH.

Liability After a Lane-Splitting Crash

California follows the concept of pure comparative negligence. This means that after an accident anyone who is at least partly at fault may be held liable for resulting damages. The fact that California uses comparative negligence may also be another reason for their hesitance to prohibit lane-splitting.

Rather than outlaw a measure that may give motorcyclists an added layer of protection on the road, California may have decided that pure comparative negligence will help to divvy up and assign liability if accidents occur. Motorcyclists who take the risk of splitting lanes must do so in a safe manner – failure to do so properly may result in liability they may not have incurred had they stayed put in a designated lane.

When lane-splitting is the cause or one of the causes of an accident it is likely that most – if not all – of the liability will rest with the motorcyclist. If you are a motorcycle rider who in an accident while splitting lanes you must be able to prove that the other driver(s) involved are also partly to blame. Proving that other drivers were at-fault will require showing that the rider exercised extreme care and precautions while lane splitting. Indications of safe lane-splitting include:

  • Riding at a low rate of speed;
  • Riding in a straight line between lanes;
  • Not weaving between other vehicles in traffic;
  • Wearing reflective gear; and
  • Using the horn and lights to warn other vehicles of your presence.

Completing the California Motorcyclist Safety Program is also helpful. Proving that other drivers were at-fault will also require evidence that the other drivers were negligent. Negligence may include:

  • Speeding;
  • Abrupt lane changes;
  • Using a cell phone or other mobile device;
  • Distracted driving; or
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Experienced Motorcycle Crash Attorneys

Motorcycle accidents often inflict significant, life-altering injuries on riders. An experienced motorcycle crash attorney may be able to help injured riders to recover compensation. This can help to cover the costs for medical expenses, rehabilitation, nursing care, lost wages, and more. If a motorcyclist was injured while lane splitting it is important to begin an investigation into other possible causes of the crash. An attorney understands the information that will help a crash victim and has access to specialists who can help to shed light on other causes.

To learn about how you may be able to recover compensation after a motorcycle crash – even if you were splitting lanes – contact a personal injury attorney in your area today. Even though lane splitting is not illegal, it does carry with it a burden if something goes wrong. The right attorney may be able to help you shift some of this burden to other parties who were involved.