Vehicle Accident Attorneys
“What Should I Do If I've Been In A Vehicle Accident?”
California is a driver's paradise. If you want to get somewhere in this state, there's a pretty good chance our roads will get you there. But there's a downside to our great roadway access. Vehicle accidents kill thousands of Californians, and cost more than $4 billion each year, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control report. If you're in a car accident, you could lose income, face enormous medical bills, and be made to pay for your own car repairs. It is not the time to go without legal representation.
The Kann California Law Group now pursues claims for vehicle accident victims. Unlike criminal law, which is concerned primarily with incarceration, accident law focuses on compensation for your injuries and remuneration for your lost earnings. Below you'll find information on vehicle accidents, damage awards, and vehicle accident law. Please feel free to contact the Kann California Law Group in Santa Clarita, Ventura, Encino, Pasadena or Los Angeles/Los Angeles County with further questions. Your call will go directly to a lawyer. It's guaranteed.
Deciding Fault In California Courts
Fault, which is normally the basis for awarding money or other relief to a person injured in a car accident, requires deciding that a defendant had a duty of care which he or she breached, resulting in injury to the plaintiff. This is also known as “simple negligence.” If you've been injured because of the negligence of another driver, therefore, the other driver is at fault and may be made to pay your costs.
Negligence, in fact, exists in multiple forms. Simple negligence – being careless when driving, or driving while distracted, for example - is thus very different from negligent infliction of emotional distress. But the concept of negligence is particularly important for people who've been in vehicle accidents, since they're usually hurt by unintentional acts when injured by other drivers. Thus, when a negligent driver causes injury, California law declares that the negligent driver is liable for monetary damages.
As alluded to previously, deciding whether another driver was at fault in a vehicle accident requires making a legal conclusion. The analysis involves determining:
- Negligence: The defendant was negligent; AND,
- Harm: The plaintiff was harmed; AND,
- Substantial Factor: The defendant's negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff's harm.
These elements, in turn, require pleading the existence of duty, breach, and causation of damage, as we'll see below.
1. The Duty of Care
First of all, analyzing the duty of care is essential in establishing fault. “Negligence,” state personal injury law says, “is the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or to others.” California law also says that people “must use reasonable care in driving [their] vehicle[s]. 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.” These statements establish the vehicular duty of care, a standard of conduct which, if unmet, forms the basis for finding a defendant at fault owing to his or her negligence in an accident.
Example: Defendant Dennis, driving with one hand and sipping milky cereal from a bowl with the other, hits Plaintiff Penny's car. Claiming that he violated his duty of care and should be liable for the damage to her car, Penny sues Dennis. Dennis objects that he didn't have to know about a “duty of care” to get a driver's license; thus, he says, no “duty” exists. Is he correct?
Conclusion: California allows judges or juries to decide that a person is negligent owing only to the failure to exercise reasonable care in driving. The rules of driving are the most immediate form of control over driving. But the duty of care extends implicitly to all acts of driving, whether stated or otherwise. Drivers must exercise reasonable care under relevant circumstances, no matter whether the rules of the road make specific provisions for the situation. In other words, Dennis is wrong. He doesn't need to be taught the California driver's duty of care for it to exist.
Breach – the next fact to establish in vehicular accident faultfinding - involves the defendant doing, or failing to do, something that resulted in injury to another person. California says that a “person can be negligent by acting or by failing to act. A person is [also] negligent if he or she does something that a reasonably careful person would not do in the same situation or fails to do something that a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation.” Negligence in acting (or inaction) thus establishes the driver's breach of a duty of care in accident lawsuits.
A breach must involve an actual duty the defendant had before the injury was caused. It does not matter whether the duty is attributed by law, contract, or by the situation itself. If the defendant fails to abide by such a duty, however, juries or judges should conclude that the defendant was in legal breach and can be liable for vehicular injuries sustained by the plaintiff.
Example: Defendant Donnie happens one afternoon upon Plaintiff Penelope, who's thrashing about in a public pond, drowning. Penelope pleads for help. Donnie yells, “I didn't start this, shorty!” and walks away. Penelope is soon rescued by someone else. She learns later that Donnie is a renowned Olympic swimmer with several medals to his credit. Furious with him, Penelope sues Donnie for breaching a duty to save her. Should Penelope recover an award?
Conclusion: Donnie is an outstanding swimmer who would no doubt have been capable of rescuing Penelope from her predicament. But Donnie was not under a duty to do anything when he encountered her. Since he didn't put her in the situation, he was under no obligation to do anything to save her. He didn't contract to protect her; this would make him something more like a paid lifeguard, which he was not. The facts also reference no law requiring him to act as a sort of “Good Samaritan” in that situation. Donnie, therefore, was under no legal duty – and, it follows, committed no breach by refusing to rescue Penelope. She should not recover from him.
Determining the defendant caused the plaintiff's alleged injuries is the next step in finding fault in a vehicle accident. This is known as “causation.” Causation requires finding that the defendant was a “substantial factor” in any claimed injury. “A substantial factor in causing harm is a factor that a reasonable person would consider to have contributed to the harm. It must be more than a remote or trivial factor. [But] [i]t does not have to be the only cause of the harm.” California law also says “[c]onduct is not a substantial factor in causing harm if the same harm would have occurred without that conduct.” Thus, if a defendant is at fault, negligence may be said to have caused the plaintiff's alleged costs.
Multiple parties may cause an injury, furthermore. Jurors in negligence lawsuits are told that “[a] person's negligence may combine with another factor to cause harm.” However, if a judge or jury ﬁnds that the defendant's negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff's harm, the defendant is responsible for the harm.” Although a defendant may be one of several causes, therefore, the defendant may still be responsible for injuries sustained by the plaintiff.
Example: Plaintiff Patrick gets immediately into a car accident after slipping a disc in his lower back while exercising at his local gym. He sues Defendant Davie, the driver of the other car, claiming that she was negligent and injured him. Patrick claims the pain in his lower back as one of the injuries caused by Davie. Should Patrick be allowed to collect from Davie for that injury?
Conclusion: The facts make it clear that Patrick was already injured when he got into the accident. Thus Davie was not a substantial factor in the injury to Patrick's lower back. After all, the accident followed the injury, not the reverse, making the injury a remote factor in the harm. Patrick shouldn't collect because the accident was not a substantial factor in causing the injury.
4. Comparative Fault
California allows parties involved in an accident to collect award amounts from each other based on percentage of fault as well.  You needn't be entirely without fault to recover money for your injuries in this state, unlike jurisdictions which use the contributory negligence system. When drivers injure each other, however, their respective awards may be reduced because the state allows finding that they were comparatively negligent.
Example: Defendant Dina and Plaintiff Paula, two drivers, get into an accident. Each suffers $1000 in injury. Paula sues Dina, Dina cross-complains (countersues), and each seeks $1000 from the other. The jury concludes that Dina is 55% at fault for Paula's injuries and Paula was 45% at fault for Dina's injuries. How much should the parties pay each other, if anything?
Conclusion: Dina, since she was 55% liable, owes $550 to Paula ($1000 x .55 = $550). However, Paula was 45% liable for Dina's injuries. Thus, Paula owes Dina $450 ($1000 x .45 = $450). The result is that Dina must pay $100 dollars to Paula. (The difference between $550 - $450 = $100.) Dina and Paula have their awards reduced because each was at fault comparatively for injury suffered by the other.
Note: California embraces the “pure” comparative fault system. This differs from the “modified” form, in which a party may recover an award only if the party was less than 51% at fault.
Damage Awards Available to People Injured in California Vehicle Accidents
Damages in car accidents are broken down into two categories: economic and non-economic. Economic damages refer to lost wages, vehicle repair costs, medical bills and other expenses that are typically quantified with some certainty. Non-economic damages tend to be abstract, on the other hand, since they compensate injured persons for pain and suffering. There are several kinds of damage award available to people injured in California vehicle accidents, including awards to compensate for:
1. Pain and suffering:
An award compensating you for “the physical and mental anguish suffered from an injury, including broken bones and torn ligaments, etc., but also the aches, pain, temporary and permanent limitations on activity, potential shortening of life, depression and embarrassment from disfigurement and scarring.”
2. Lost future earning capacity:
Allowing you to recover damages for the loss of the ability to earn money as a result of your injuries. It is necessary to prove the reasonable value of the loss in order to recover. It is not necessary, however, to have a work history.
3. Lost income (past and future):
Permitting you to recover for past lost earnings if you can prove the amount you've lost. To recover damages for future lost earnings, you'll have to prove the amounts that you'll be reasonably certain to lose.
4. Vehicle repair or replacement costs:
Awarding damages for harm to your vehicle if you can prove the reduction in the automobile's value or the reasonable cost of repairing it. You are entitled to the lesser of the amounts. To recover damages for the destruction of your car, you must prove its fair market value just before the harm occurred.
5. Medical expenses:
Permitting recovery for past medical expenses if you prove the reasonable cost of reasonably necessary medical care that you've received. To recover for future expenses, you must prove the reasonable cost of reasonably necessary medical care that you're reasonably certain to need. This includes the cost of medication, the cost of physical or occupational therapy, and medical supplies. For more information on various types of injuries that can be grounds for awards and settlements please see our page on catastrophic injuries.
6. Loss of consortium for a spouse or partner:
A noneconomic damage that compensates for the loss of your husband or wife's companionship. This includes loss of love, loss of companionship, loss of care and loss of enjoyment of sexual relations or the ability to have children.
7. Lost profits:
A damage award calculated by taking gross profits you would've received and subtracting expenses you would've had to pay if the defendant hadn't done what she or he did.
8. Wrongful death:
Family members, including spouses, children, and grandchildren, can file a claim for damages when a family member is killed by another's wrongful act(s). Recoverable costs include burial and funeral expenses, the value of lost earnings the victim would've realized, and compensation for loss companionship and support. Recovery is separately available for the death of a minor child.
Note: While most drivers carry insurance sufficient to pay at least some of these damages, California law creates an additional source of compensation by requiring insurance companies to offer both Uninsured Motorist (UM) and Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage. While optional, an injured driver who has UM or UIM coverage should seek compensation from his or her insurance company for damages caused by an uninsured driver (up to the liability limit only). If the damages exceed the injured driver's liability coverage, additionally, underinsured motorist insurance should be relied on to pay her or his costs.
What Does A Lawyer Do in A Vehicle Accident Case?
Although lawyers in accident cases are usually thought of as courtroom advocates, the role of a good personal injury attorney is actually a great deal broader. When you retain an attorney from the Kann California Law Group, you'll retain a professional who's prepared to help you with: getting medical care; investigating your claim; gathering needed evidence; writing a demand letter to the opposing party; negotiating with insurance companies; and, if necessary, representing you in court.
Let's examine briefly each of these aspects of the personal injury vehicle accident lawyer's role.
1. Getting Medical Care
Your attorney will help you to get a proper medical diagnosis and treatment in the fastest possible manner from a doctor who'll work with you in paying your medical costs. You shouldn't have to pay for damage caused to you by another driver in an accident.
The first step in making the other driver pay is seeking the right treatment. Remember, injuries arising from accidents can take weeks to materialize. An attorney from the Kann California Law Group will take the steps that'll assist you in getting medical care.
2. Investigating Your Claim
Police investigating an auto accident will usually create a sketch of the scene, talk to the parties to get their statements regarding what happened, and talk to witnesses. Insurance companies will, in turn, rely on these statements - or, if police didn't respond to the accident, they'll talk to their own policyholders to get a sense of the facts. Thus, as you can see, the process can be skewed in favor of the other driver, making it very difficult to say truthfully who was at fault.
An attorney with the Kann California Law Group can investigate your car accident on your behalf. Our accident attorneys can: review the original police report; evaluate the insurance company's report; conduct separate witness interviews; obtain expert record review (including medical record analysis); inspect the scene of the accident; subpoena records of video or audio recordings made at the scene; review records of past problems, if any, at the location of the accident; and investigate the backgrounds of relevant persons or parties. Clearly, one of the most important reasons you should retain a lawyer from the Kann California Law Group is to investigate your claim.
4. Gathering Needed Evidence
An attorney from the Kann California Law Group will go beyond making photographic records, conducting interviews, and securing medical facts. Your attorney will also ensure that all relevant evidence is produced by the other party. Sadly, in the absence of a thorough attorney, an opposing party can be allowed to tamper with its records of an accident – or do even worse than simply alter facts. As soon as hired, a Kann California Law Group attorney will begin gathering needed evidence so that it is found, preserved, and presented in your case.
5. Writing A Demand Letter to The Opposing Party
A key obligation of Kann California Law Group attorneys working on car accident cases is writing and issuing demand letters. In a demand letter, your claim and the basis of the other party's liability is stated in brief. You should expect a demand letter to include facts like the names and circumstances necessary to the accident, as well the damages suffered, any sort of losses or costs, and a concluding demand for compensation. Thereafter it becomes possible to negotiate with the opposing party and the insurance adjuster, or even to go to trial. When you retain a Kann California Law Group lawyer, you can rest easy knowing that we will handle writing the demand letter to the opposing party.
6. Negotiating With Insurance Companies
One of the most important responsibilities of a Kann California Group lawyer is negotiating with insurance companies to get damage payments. Negotiating with insurance companies isn't for the faint of heart. If you don't have a lawyer, you shouldn't be surprised to find that the company – which certainly has legal representation – tries to induce you to admit liability, directly or indirectly, in the interest of lessening (or denying) your claim. Your attorney should be prepared for this strategy and to deal with the insurance company on your behalf. You make the decisions; we'll handle the rest. Having a Kann California Law Group attorney means that your lawyer will handle negotiating with insurance companies.
7. Representing You In Court
If you need an attorney to represent you in court, contact the Kann California Law Group. It's a little-known fact that most civil cases settle before going to trial. But not all. If pretrial settlement talks don't result in an adequate resolution of your complaints, we can file a personal injury lawsuit in California civil court on your behalf. If it's necessary to go to trial, furthermore, our attorneys can represent you by examining witnesses, presenting evidence, and making winning legal arguments. You make a wise choice by having a Kann California Law Group attorney representing you in court.
Choosing an Accident Attorney in California
When it comes to protecting your rights and getting the help you need, which attorney to retain might be the most important choice you'll have to make after an accident. Thus, when you choose a lawyer after an accident, make certain you consider factors like: the number of years an attorney has practiced; the attorney's area(s) of specialization, such as specialization in dealing with insurance companies; the lawyer's education in the area of law; what other clients and other attorneys think of that lawyer; and the attorney's reputation among judges.
Remember, however, that your attorney is your representative, so nothing can substitute for having a good relationship with your lawyer. Therefore, the first piece of advice the attorneys at the Kann California Law Group can offer if you've been in an accident is to talk with prospective attorneys. Get to know them. Look for someone open about the law and your case. And, above all, make certain the attorney is available to answer your questions on an ongoing basis. (It's part of an actual ethical duty that lawyers owe to their clients, after all.) You need all the relevant information in order to make the best possible choices.
The personal injury attorneys at the Kann California Law Group demonstrate the characteristics you should seek in an attorney. Give us a call and learn about our services, if you need a car accident lawyer. We will take the time to listen, educate you on the important issues, and get the help you need. Get to know us.
Examples of Vehicle Accidents in California
There are a number of common types of vehicle accidents that occur in this state. The kind of vehicle or the sort of accident in question can impact issues like the severity of the accident and the question of fault. Below are fifteen examples of vehicle accidents in California. This list, while far from exhaustive, illustrates some of the legal issues the attorneys at the Kann California Law Group will investigate and pursue on your behalf.
1. Collision: Head On
Head on collisions involve two moving vehicles striking each other from the front. The resulting crash is often very serious, as are accompanying injuries. Frequent causes include drunk driving, distraction, and the failure to yield to oncoming traffic.
2. Collision: Rear-End
A rear-end collision involves a car accidentally striking another car's back bumper with its front bumper. Rear-end accidents are not, contrary to popular belief, automatically considered the fault of the driver in the rear vehicle. In fact, the lead driver can be liable for the injuries to the rear driver and for the damage to the rear driver's vehicle. Nonetheless, rear-end collisions often result in the lead driver suffering neck or back injuries.
3. Collision: Bus
Being struck by a public or private bus can result in serious injury and major damage to your vehicle. It's possible to file a lawsuit against a negligent driver, a negligent bus company, or even a negligent city agency in order to recover your costs and compensate you if you endure any pain and suffering.
4. Collision: Trucks
As with bus collisions (see above), collisions involving trucks can produce serious injuries and significant damage to your vehicle. Both individual truck drivers and truck companies may be sued for negligence in car accidents. Companies may even be liable for negligently hiring, training, or retaining drivers who get into accidents.
5. Collision: Bicycles
When an automobile strikes a bicycle, the bicyclist may be seriously hurt or even killed. The bicycle may also be destroyed. Personal injury law allows you to file a lawsuit against a driver who strikes you while you're riding a bicycle, whether the damage is intentional or results from negligence.
6. Collision: Motorcycles
Motorcyclists, like bicyclists (see above), are unusually exposed when on their vehicles. If they're struck by a car, therefore, they can be badly hurt and their motorcycles can be wrecked. Lawsuits may be filed against a driver who negligently causes damage to you and/or your motorcycle. The same is true of suing negligent pedestrians or suing negligent legally obligated city agencies.
7. Collision: Pedestrians
Pedestrian collision can easily be the most serious form of automobile accident. A pedestrian doesn't even have to be struck by a car at high speed to suffer significant injuries, including broken bones, lacerations, or even death. California law allows pedestrians to file suit against negligent drivers who strike them while they walk, permitting compensation for a range of different losses.
8. Collision: “T-Bone”
“T-bone” collisions - in which one car's front bumper strikes another car's side - are fairly common in California. As with other types of accident, “T-bone” collisions can produce serious injury and major damage to your car. Liability can be established by filing suit against the other driver, under state law. Car passengers may also sue negligent drivers for injuries resulting from a “T-bone” collision.
9. Collision: Uber/Lyft/Hired Drivers
While having the ability to hire drivers from Uber, Lyft, and similar companies, may be convenient, accidents involving these can be complicated. Claims can conceivably be filed against the driver, the company itself, or other liable drivers. Further complicating the matter is involvement of the driver's insurance company, which will try to determine its own liability by examining issues like whether the driver had the employer company's business application (“app”) running at the time of the injury.
10. Collision: Police Cars
Police cars are often called upon to drive at a high speed. Unfortunately, this can result in serious crashes. Lawsuits may be filed if you are in a collision with a police car but liability will depend on issues like whether the officer was responding to an emergency at the time and whether the car's lights and sirens were being used.
11. Drunk or Intoxicated Drivers
California law gives you the right to sue a drunk or intoxicated driver for costs including your personal injuries and damage to your vehicle. While it may be quite helpful, the other driver doesn't need a subsequent DUI conviction for you to file a lawsuit. You can file a lawsuit before the drunk or intoxicated driver has even gone to criminal trial, in fact, if you so choose.
12. Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) Rollovers
For a number of reasons, SUVs have a high potential for serious injury - and even death - when they roll over in an accident. Liability can attach to the acts of the other driver. However, there are also cases in which the car company should be sued (a products liability claim) for selling a vehicle which is dangerous without sufficiently warning drivers of a foreseeable risk of rollover or another flaw.
13. Road Conditions Affecting Travel
Road conditions always affect travel, whether for better or worse. Debris on the road can cause an accident. Debris can also increase the severity of injury and affect large groups of drivers at once.
14. Defective Tires
Defective tires are a very serious concern. Even a slight defect can cause a driver to lose control of a car. Serious injury can follow - or even death. Lawsuits may be filed against the tire sellers or the tire manufacturers when defects in tires cause personal injury or damage to property.
15. Guardrail Injuries
California public road guardrails are struck with more frequency than you might expect. Defective guardrails can shred tires, tear through the metal of a car, and injure drivers or passengers. A guardrail injury lawsuit, if necessary, may be filed against the installation contractor, the guardrail designer, and/or any responsible government entity.
Contact the Kann California Law Group
The State of California regards vehicle accidents as an area of serious concern. If you're involved in a vehicle accident it's essential you retain a skilled, dedicated attorney as soon as possible. Your rights and livelihood may be at stake.
Remember, a professional vehicle accident attorney may be able to:
- Negotiate an award;
- Win your case at trial;
- Or get other legal relief for you, as appropriate.
The attorneys at the Kann California Law Group have an excellent understanding of the local courts and an extensive knowledge of California's personal injury legal system. We can represent you in Ventura, Santa Clarita, Los Angeles, Encino, Pasadena, Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County and many other Southern California cities and counties.
If you or someone you know is involved in a vehicle accident, our attorneys will analyze the facts of the case and plan a strategy that will help to obtain the best possible outcome.
Contact the attorneys at the Kann California Law Group today to schedule a free and confidential consultation either through our online contact form or call us at 888-744-7730.
 See “Cost of Deaths from Motor Vehicle Accidents by State: California,” at CDC.gov.
 See California Civil Jury Instructions 700 (CACI) (2017). [Emphasis added.]
 See “Comparative and Contributory Negligence” at Justia.com.
 See Li v. Yellow Cab Co., 13 Cal.3rd 804 (1975). (Establishing, inter alia, that comparative negligence should be applied in its ‘pure' in California.)
 See “Modified Comparative Negligence Doctrine Law and Legal Definition” at USLegal.com.
 See “Pain and Suffering Law and Legal Definition” at USLegal.com. See also “Physical Pain, Mental Suffering, and Emotional Distress (Noneconomic Damage),” California Civil Jury Instructions 3905A (CACI) (2017).