Personal care and assistance with household chores
In addition to compensatory damages, a person could receive punitive damages (exemplary damages) for a rear-end accident if they can prove the other driver acted with malice, fraud, or oppression. Punitive damages are rarely awarded, however.
How Do You Prove Fault for a Rear-End Accident in California?
Fault for a rear-end crash is determined by negligence. To hold a driver liable for damages, you must prove the elements of negligence:
All drivers have a duty to use reasonable care when operating a motor vehicle, including following California traffic laws. Drivers must control their speed and movement of the vehicle, and they must keep a lookout for other vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, and other obstacles.
Many rear-end accidents are caused by the rear driver failing to maintain a safe distance or failing to keep a proper lookout. Numerous factors could contribute to the cause of the accident, including:
Proving liability requires you to prove that the rear driver caused the crash. Evidence could include video of the collision, eyewitness testimony, vehicle damage, physical evidence, statements by the drivers, and evidence from expert witnesses.
There is no law stating a specific safe following distance. Therefore, drivers have the duty of judging the following distance needed to be able to stop if the car in front of them suddenly slows or stops.
Typically, it is presumed that the rear driver is at fault unless evidence proves the lead driver was negligent. The driver in the rear failed to keep a safe distance and a proper lookout.
Can the Lead Driver in a Rear-end Crash Be at Fault?
Yes, in some circumstances, the lead driver could be responsible for causing the crash. Negligent conduct that could result in liability for the lead driver includes:
The lead driver also has a duty to use reasonable care when driving. If the lead driver fails to use reasonable care, they could be liable for damages.
In some cases, the lead driver could be partially to blame. California’s contributory negligence laws state that an injured party’s compensation for damages is reduced by the party’s percentage of fault.
Therefore, if a jury finds the lead driver in a rear-end crash was 50% at fault for the cause of the crash, the lead driver would only receive one-half of their damages. For example, if the jury awarded the lead driver $200,000 in damages, the amount received would be $100,000.
Who Is at Fault for a Chain Reaction Rear-End Crash?
Rear-end accidents might involve several vehicles. A rear-end crash begins a chain reaction with each vehicle colliding with the vehicle in front of it. Liability for a multi-vehicle rear-end accident can be challenging to determine.
Multiple drivers could share liability for the car accident. As a result, an accident reconstructionist and other experts may be required to sort out fault.
What Should I Do if I Am Involved in a Rear-end Crash in California?
The insurance company may try to shift blame to the other driver to avoid paying a claim. You might need an experienced accident attorney to investigate the crash to gather evidence proving you did not cause the accident.
A personal injury claim arises from tort law. A tort is an omission or act that causes harm or injury to a person. The claim is a civil action seeking compensation for injuries and damages caused by another party.
Personal injury cases are based on claims of negligence, strict liability, or intentional wrongdoing. Examples of situations that can give rise to a personal injury claim include, but are not limited to:
Wrongful death claims fall under personal injury claims. A wrongful death occurs when an accident or injury causes the death of a person. For example, a person dies from the injuries they sustain in a car crash.
Legal Elements of a Personal Injury Claim
Some product liability claims, dog bites, and activities involving abnormally dangerous activities are based on strict liability. You do not need to prove the party intended to harm you or was negligent. You only need to prove the other party was responsible for causing your injury.
However, most personal injury claims are based on negligence. You must prove the legal elements of negligence to recover compensation for damages. You must have evidence proving each of the following elements by a preponderance of the evidence:
Duty of Care
A legal duty of care in tort law requires a person to take steps to protect others from injury.
For example, property owners have a duty of care to protect invitees from dangerous conditions on the property. Motorists have a duty of care to follow traffic laws to avoid accidents. Doctors owe a duty of care to their patients to provide medical care that meets the accepted standard of care.
Generally, everyone has a duty to act with a reasonable level of care to avoid harming or injuring another person.
Breach of Duty
A person breaches their duty of care when their conduct falls short of the reasonable person standard. The jury determines what level of care a reasonably prudent person would have used in similar situations. If the defendant failed to meet that level of care, the jury might find the defendant was negligent.
The breach of duty must have been the direct and proximate cause of the person’s injury.
For example, a driver ran a red light and hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk. The driver’s breach of duty (failure to obey traffic laws) was the direct cause of the pedestrian’s injuries. Had it not been for the driver running the red light, the pedestrian would not have been injured.
Generally, a person is not held liable unless they could reasonably foresee that their actions could place another person in harm (proximate cause).
The victim must suffer damages to recover compensation for a personal injury claim. The person could prove that the other party was negligent in breaching their duty of care. However, if the breach of duty did not cause any damages, the at-fault party is not required to pay any money to the victim.
What Damages Can You Receive for a Personal Injury Claim?
Damages in a personal injury claim can include economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
Economic damages are the financial losses incurred by the victim. Examples include:
Past and future medical bills
Household chores and personal care
Past and future lost wages and benefits
In-home and long-term nursing care
Diminished earning potential
Non-economic damages are the intangible losses the person experienced because of the accident and injuries. Examples include:
Physical pain and suffering caused by injuries
Disfigurement and scarring
Permanent impairments and disabilities
Emotional suffering and mental anguish
Diminished quality of life and loss of enjoyment of life
Punitive damages are not compensatory in nature, even though the injured party receives the damages. Instead, these damages “punish” the at-fault party for acting with malice, fraud, or oppression. Punitive damages are only awarded in a small number of personal injury cases.
Is There a Deadline for Filing a Personal Injury Claim?
The California statute of limitations provides the deadlines for filing lawsuits. Allowing the statute of limitations to expire means you lose the right to pursue a legal action to recover compensation for damages.
The statute of limitations varies depending on the type of personal injury case. Most personal injury cases in California have a two-year statute of limitations. However, claims against government agencies must be filed within six months of the injury date.
Because exceptions and special circumstances could accelerate or pause the statute of limitations, it is always best to seek legal advice as soon as possible after an accident or other personal injury.
Have you been hurt in an accident? If so, there’s a good chance that you’ll have to deal with an insurance company as you seek compensation. Whether you’re seeking benefits from your provider or the at-fault party’s insurer, the company and its defense attorneys won’t be eager to cut you a check.
They’ll try to either deny your claim or drive down its value.
So, how can you know that you’re really getting a fair settlement deal?
Below, personal injury lawyers from across the country have provided their top tips for making sure that victims like you get a fair deal during negotiations. Check them out and keep them in mind if you’re in an accident.
25 Tips You Can Use to Get the Best Settlement for Your Personal Injury Claim
Law Offices of Jay S. Knispel Personal Injury Lawyers
Report the accident immediately. A written record of the accident is essential when filing a personal injury claim. Without a written record, the other party could deny their involvement in the accident. Additionally, the insurance company may not treat the claim as seriously if you don’t have any evidence that an accident occurred.
Tip 2 From A Los Angeles Attorney
Aleksey Katmissky – Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer
KJ Injury & Accident Lawyers, PC
Don’t lie to the police. When you report an accident or injury to the police, don’t lie or embellish. Instead, tell the police officer what happened without going into unnecessary details. Saying more than is necessary – or stretching the truth – can have serious consequences for you and hurt your ability to file a successful lawsuit.
Document the accident scene. If possible, take photographs and make a video of the entire accident scene. It is crucial to preserve the scene just as it appears after the accident. For example, if you are injured in a slip and fall accident, the property owner could remove the hazard and claim it was your fault that you fell.
Also, try to get the names and telephone numbers of eyewitnesses. Eyewitness testimony can be very compelling in an injury case.
Tip 4 From A Tampa Attorney
Peter F. Catania – Tampa Personal Injury Lawyer
Catania & Catania, PA
Seek prompt medical attention for your injuries. It is always a good idea to be checked by a physician immediately after an accident or injury. Even if you feel “okay,” you could have injuries you are unaware of immediately after the accident.
If you don’t go to the emergency room from the accident scene, don’t say that you are fine or you are not injured. Instead, merely say that you intend to see your doctor about your injuries.
Delays in medical care could hurt your case. The insurance company may use a delay in seeing a doctor to argue that the accident did not cause your injury.
Report all symptoms to your physicians immediately. Regardless of how you feel or how minor you might believe a symptom is, report all symptoms to your doctors immediately. You could have sustained a severe injury, and the doctor needs to follow up.
Also, your symptoms are noted in your medical records. If your symptoms worsen, there is a record of when the symptoms began after the accident. That information can help fight against claims that the accident did not cause your injuries.
Tip 6 From A Fort Worth Attorney
Jason Stephens – Fort Worth Personal Injury Lawyer
Follow your doctor’s treatment plan. Don’t stop your doctor’s treatment plan. If you don’t follow up with your doctor and complete treatment, the insurance company may allege that you failed to mitigate your damages. You would not be entitled to compensation for injuries and damages that could have been avoided had you followed your doctor’s orders.
Tip 7 From An Attorney
Keep careful notes about your claim. Throughout your case, document each conversation or interaction you have with the insurance company or other individuals involved in your claim. Note the date, time, and topic of discussion. Make notes about the statements made during the conversation.
Don’t agree to a recorded or written statement without a lawyer. Claims adjusters may tell you that you need to provide a written or recorded statement to process your claim. Providing a statement is generally not in your best interest. Claims adjusters are trained to ask leading questions that elicit responses that can be intentionally misinterpreted.
Anything you say could be used in court. Therefore, it is best to seek legal counsel before giving any statements about the accident or your injury.
Don’t discuss the accident or your injuries with other people. If you discuss the accident with another person, they could be called as a witness at your trial. It is best not to discuss your accident or injuries with anyone other than your physicians and lawyer. Keep in mind: a spouse cannot be forced to testify against the other spouse.
Avoid using social media during your case. Posting online or using social media during an accident case can hurt your chance of recovering a fair settlement. The things that you post online are not private, even if your security settings are set for the highest levels of privacy.
There have been cases where a judge permits defense attorneys to access the accident victim’s social media accounts. Therefore, it is best not to use social media while your claim is pending.
Wait for a complete investigation. Either you or an attorney needs to conduct a thorough investigation to determine how you were injured, who is responsible, and what evidence is available. There could be more than one party responsible for your injuries. It is crucial to identify each liable party to maximize compensation.
Tip 13 From An Oklahoma Attorney
Kent McGuire – Oklahoma City Personal Injury Lawyer
Document your recovery with photos and a journal. You are entitled to non-economic damages as part of your injury claim. However, these damages are not proven through medical records or bills. Instead, you need a detailed narrative about how your injuries impacted your daily life.
Taking pictures of your injuries as you heal gives the insurance company evidence of how long it took for you to recover. Keeping a pain and suffering journal detailing your recovery provides information about how your injuries negatively impacted your daily life and enjoyment of life.
Don’t accept a settlement offer or sign documents without talking to a lawyer. If you sign a settlement agreement, your case will be over. The insurance company inserts language in the agreement that releases ALL parties from ALL future claims. You cannot try to collect more money in the future, even if you discover more damages or other injuries. So, while accepting a settlement check right away might make life easier now, it could ultimately do more harm than good. Discuss settlement options with your lawyer or, better yet, have your attorney handle negotiations on your behalf.
Tip 15 From A Clearwater and St. Petersburg Attorney
Mark H. Perenich – Clearwater and St. Petersburg Personal Injury Lawyers
Never release your medical records to an insurance company. You may be asked for your medical records or to sign a release for medical records. Don’t! The insurance company is searching for pre-existing conditions and prior injuries.
The company will try to blame your current injuries on pre-existing conditions to avoid paying the claim. Don’t hide or lie about a prior injury or pre-existing condition. Let your attorney handle disclosing that information.
Tip 16 From A New York City Attorney
Craig D. Rosenbaum – New York City Personal Injury Lawyer
Don’t plead guilty to a traffic offense without legal counsel. Pleading guilty to a traffic ticket could make it easier for the other party to avoid liability and even point the finger at you. Establishing that you’ve violated a safety law could give them grounds to base a claim on negligence per se. That would effectively pave the way for them to hold you accountable for their injuries. But, don’t ignore the ticket. Instead, seek legal advice to help you decide what you should do about the traffic ticket.
Document damages and financial losses with records. To recover compensation for damages, you must document the damages with direct evidence.
Evidence may include:
Copies of medical records
Medical bills and invoices
Receipts for payment of out-of-pocket expenses
Statements from your employer
Copies of tax returns and pay stubs
Invoices, bills, and receipts for payment
The more evidence you have of your damages, the greater chance you receive maximum compensation for your injury claim.
Tip 18 From A Miami Attorney
Boris Lavent – Miami Personal Injury Lawyer
Lavent Law Personal Injury Lawyer
Check your insurance policy. Know what types of insurance you have and the limits for each type of insurance. You could recover compensation under your insurance policy for some damages. Once you’ve exhausted your policy limits, you can then discuss the possibility of filing a claim or lawsuit against a liable third party.
Never settle an injury claim while receiving medical treatment. You need to complete your medical treatment before settling your case. Until you complete your treatment and your doctor releases you, there is no way to know if you sustained a permanent impairment or disability, which could increase the value of your damages.
Tip 20 From A Gainesville Attorney
Steven A. Bagen – Gainesville Personal Injury Lawyer
Steven A. Bagen & Associates
Know when the deadline for filing a lawsuit expires. All states have statutes of limitations that set deadlines for filing personal injury claims. However, the deadline may differ for certain types of claims, such as medical malpractice, wrongful death, and product liability.
Make sure that you discuss the deadline for filing a lawsuit with an attorney. If you miss the deadline, the at-fault party nor the insurance company have to pay you for your damages.
Don’t forget future damages. If you sustain a disability or impairment, you could require ongoing personal and medical care. As a result, you may not be able to work, or your earning potential could be diminished.
These damages may be included in your settlement demand. You may need to consult with medical experts and financial professionals to calculate the correct value of future damages.
Tip 22 From A Boston Attorney
J. Tucker Merrigan – Boston Personal Injury Lawyer
Sweeney Merrigan Personal Injury Lawyers
Don’t accept the first offer from the insurance company. You are not required to accept a settlement offer from an insurance company, regardless of what the claims adjuster states. You have the right to counteroffer and negotiate a fair settlement. If the insurance company refuses to negotiate in good faith, you may want to proceed with a personal injury lawsuit.
Tip 23 From A Lexington Attorney
Matthew C. Minner – Lexington Personal Injury Lawyer
Ask for justifications for low settlement offers. Ask the claims adjuster to provide a written statement explaining the reasons for the settlement amount. Then, reply to each reason with an argument why the amount should be higher.
Tip 24 From A Fort Walton Beach Attorney
Paul Brannon – Fort Walton Beach Personal Injury Lawyer
Brannon & Brannon
Emphasize pain and suffering damages. You are entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering experienced because of the accident.
Don’t give in to pressure. Don’t allow the insurance company or another party to pressure you into accepting a settlement offer. If you are unsure about a settlement offer, seek legal counsel. You have the right to talk with a lawyer before accepting an offer to settle a personal injury case like a car accident.
One Last Tip – Know When to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer
Some individuals can settle a personal injury claim without a lawyer. However, it is wise to talk with a lawyer, even if you don’t hire an attorney.
Knowing when to hire a personal injury attorney to handle your case is essential. There are things that you may not be able to do to investigate your claim. If you have any doubts about the value of your damages, the damages you can recover, deadlines, fault, or liability, think about reaching out to a personal injury lawyer for help.