The Facts About Auto Accident Litigation
While safety measures and technological advances have made traffic collisions less deadly, more than 30,000 Americans are still killed every year in auto accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, two million more people suffer injuries in traffic accidents. Sadly, many of these deaths and injuries are completely avoidable.
California — and more specifically, Los Angeles — is home to a substantial number of these traffic injuries and deaths. With heavy traffic density and a large population, the potential for such accidents is high. Los Angeles alone has more than 50,000 serious traffic accidents each year.
Additionally, traffic collisions often lead to lost wages, high medical bills, and other financial problems. A traffic collision may also lead to debilitating mental/emotional effects, like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and other psychological issues.
These mental, physical and financial issues can be lifelong and result in a serious decline in quality of life. Given what is at stake, it is imperative that those involved in auto accidents understand the right steps to take after a collision, and be cognizant of their rights under the law.
If you’ve ever wondered which areas and times present the highest risk for auto collisions, read on.
If you want to avoid getting injured in a car crash, it pays to know where you’re most likely to find one. With that in mind, let’s review a list of the most common locations and times for serious auto collisions.
Close to Home is the Danger Zone
Roughly one-third of auto accidents occur between one and five miles from the victim’s home. This is primarily because we do a lot of our driving in this area. If you expand the radius to ten miles, it encompasses 70-percent of all collisions.
The moral of this story? Proceed with added caution when you’re traveling near your home.
Rush Hour Equals Accident Hour
Heavy traffic volume is one of the most common factors involved in serious collisions. This means that motorists need to be particularly vigilant when traveling during morning and evening rush hours. It’s estimated that 16-percent of all auto fatalities occur between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. — prime time for highway traffic.
Holiday Season is the Reason for More Collisions
Nobody wants to receive the unwanted gift of a serious injury during the holidays. The truth, however, is that auto accidents spike during the holidays. One reason for this is the extra traffic on the roads. On holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, people drive across the country to visit relatives. On Halloween, the number of pedestrians and kids roaming the streets skyrockets. On Memorial Day and Independence Day, drinking and driving arrests increase.
The bottom line? Drive with extra caution during the holiday season.
Rural Roadways Pose a Risk
While country roads may be a beautiful way to take yourself home, they also present risks. The fatality rate on rural highways is higher than that of urban roads. While they have much less volume, they are often less well-maintained. Additionally, rural roads often feature higher speed limits and more difficult terrain to navigate.
Intersections Can Be Dangerous
It’s natural that intersections pose a risk for motorists — after all, the flow of traffic is coming in multiple directions, and not everyone obeys traffic laws. As a result, roughly 15-percent of all car accidents occur at intersections. When you are coming and going, it’s important to slow down and remain situationally aware.
As traffic density increases, so does the potential for auto collisions. To help you stay safer by understanding the hazards to look out for as you travel, let’s take a closer look at some of the most common causes of serious auto accidents.
Auto accidents can be a shock to the system, so staying calm and focused is often difficult. Understanding the right steps to take ahead of time can help ensure that nothing important is overlooked and that everyone remains as safe as possible.
If the accident occurs in the middle of a busy road or in some other dangerous area, move everyone to a safer location. Render any first aid needed after checking everyone for injuries, and contact first responders.
Injuries sustained during serious traffic collisions may not be readily apparent. It’s possible that such injuries may not become obvious for days, weeks or even months later. Because of this, it makes sense to ask for a medical evaluation after a serious collision even if you otherwise look and feel fine. Internal damage — or injuries to the neck or spine — may only present themselves later. Also, auto accidents sometimes cause adrenaline surges which can mask the pain and extent of your injuries.
After contacting local authorities, you should exchange information with the other driver. This includes names, contact information, driver’s license and insurance information. It is important to not admit liability — this may be used against you in court should litigation ultimately ensue.
The next step is a thorough documentation of the crash scene with photos, videos and written notes. This can help provide critical context for winning a legal case, or strengthening your position in negotiations with an insurance company. This includes documenting the scene of the incident and where the cars were positioned upon impact. If witnesses are on hand, ask for their contact information as well.
A serious car collision can be a traumatic experience. In many cases, it leaves not only physical injuries, but lingering psychological scars and significant financial losses.
Fortunately, there are laws designed to protect victims of auto accidents. These laws, which vary state by state, define the type of compensation a victim can seek. Understanding how these laws work is the key to successful auto accident litigation.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how compensation for car accident victims works in California.
How California Law Treats Auto Accident Compensation
While some states cap the damages you can be awarded as the result of an auto accident, California law does not introduce such restrictions. This is a positive for people who have sustained significant injuries or losses after a serious collision.
Determining the value of any compensation depends on a variety of different factors, however. Some of the most important of these factors include the following:
Typically, plaintiffs in a collision injury case can pursue economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages can usually be pegged to actual costs and may involve things such as medical expenses, physical therapy or rehabilitation expenses, lost wages or income and lost earning capacity and costs for replacing or repairing a vehicle.
Non-economic expenses are not a closely pegged to actual costs and may include things such as pain and suffering, lower quality of life, loss of enjoyment, disfigurement, mental anguish or loss of companionship.
The Challenge of Establishing Appropriate Compensation
When pursuing litigation related to injuries from a car collision, liability questions (who is at fault, and to what degree) must be answered. Additionally, once you establish the other party bears liability, whether full or in part, it is necessary to demonstrate the degree of losses suffered and the appropriate compensation for those losses.
For economic losses, this process is aided by the presence of actual costs. For example, your ambulance fees, surgical costs, diagnostic test costs, hospital stay and medication costs are all combined to arrive at a final figure for medical expenses.
Non-economic damages are not as easy to peg, as pain and suffering or mental anguish can be more relative or subjective than something like a physical injury.
Given that issues of liability and compensation can be quite complex to address, it is critically important to consult an attorney who is deeply familiar with the laws governing auto accident compensation in California. The right attorney can help ensure that understand how the process works, and that you do not get taken advantage of by an insurance company pushing an unreasonably low settlement offer.
An experienced legal advocate can help you negotiate the sometimes confusing process of dealing with an insurance company. Insurers employ people who are trained negotiators. Their job is to minimize the costs for the insurer, which can ultimately mean, minimizing your damages.
This puts auto accident victims at a significant disadvantage, as they are not typically skilled negotiators and may not understand the intricacies and nuances of the laws involved. Ultimately, this means victims of negligence sometimes settle for far less than what they are owed and entitled to.
The right auto accident attorney can help ensure this scenario does not occur. It is important to find a lawyer who specializes in auto accident litigation. The complexity of these cases requires an experienced practitioner. This is the best way to even the playing field with insurers and will help ensure that you receive fair compensation for any losses you have suffered.
If you’ve been involved in an auto accident, we urge you to contact Mansell Mansell Ayala + Villaneda today for a fast, and free, consultation.
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