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Car Accidents: The Importance of Seeking Legal Help
One minute you're driving safely in your own car, and the next, you're involved in a violent car accident. The physical and emotional trauma that follows can be overwhelming, especially when you're unsure of what to do next.
At Phillips & Associates, we understand the challenges you face after a car accident and we are here to help you through this difficult time. As your car accident attorneys, we will communicate with insurance companies, law enforcement, and medical professionals on your behalf, so that you can focus on recovering from your injuries. We will analyze your own insurance policy and that of the negligent parties to determine the available coverage and your best course of action. We will also act swiftly to gather evidence supporting liability in your case, as such evidence is often destroyed shortly after an accident. Most importantly, we will stay in close contact with you through this entire process so that you understand what is happening and what to expect.
With millions of vehicles on the highways and public roads every day, automobile accidents are bound to happen. California reports about 200,000 injury-related accidents each year. Of them, roughly 3,000 are fatal accidents, making California the state with the second most fatal accidents in the country (second only to Texas). With these kinds of statistics, it's no surprise if you eventually have some sort of involvement in a motor-vehicle accident yourself.
Causes of Car Accidents
Distracted driving is the leading cause of accidents each year. Distracted driving consists mainly of taking one’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel and mind off of driving altogether. Distraction can occur due to texting, talking on the phone, being drowsy, or looking for something in the car. Distracted driving causes over 420,000 non-injury related accidents and over 3,000 deaths every year. The largest group of distracted drivers are teenagers. They often use cell phones for texting while driving. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “Teen drivers have crash rates nearly 4 times those of drivers 20 and older per mile driven.” Additionally, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control reported in 2020 that over 2,500 teenagers died in the United States from automobile accidents. Distracted driving accidents were the leading cause of death for ages 13-19 year olds.
Drunk driving is another common cause of automobile crashes, often with devastating consequences. The National Highway Safety Administration reports almost 12,000 people die in automobile accidents in the United States in which drunk driving alone is involved. These types of accidents are preventable.
Mechanical failures are another frequent cause of car accidents throughout the state of California. Mechanical failures include things such as tire blowouts, break failures and car stall-outs. Mechanical failures also include errors in self-driving technology, which seems to be occurring with increased frequency as we see more self-driving and computer assisted-driving vehicles on the road.
Common Defenses in Car Accident Cases
Perhaps the most common is a defense called "comparative negligence." This is simply the legal term for saying that the plaintiff was partially at fault for causing their own injury. For instance, in an auto accident case where the Plaintiff was struck by a defendant who failed to yield while making a left-hand turn, the defendant might argue that the plaintiff was speeding and, therefore, that even if the defendant was negligent in failing to yield, the plaintiff's own negligence in driving at an excessive rate of speed also contributed to the accident.
When a plaintiff is found to be comparatively at fault in causing a car accident, the plaintiff's damages will be reduced by their share of fault for the accident. So, for instance, if a jury finds that a plaintiff has one million dollars in damages but that they were 30% at fault for the accident, the plaintiff's award will be reduced down to $700,000.
All car accident cases require the plaintiff to establish that they suffered injury as a direct consequence of the the accident. In law, we refer to this cause and effect connection as "causation." A common defense that is asserted by insurance companies in car accident cases is that even if the defendant was negligent in causing the accident, the accident did not cause the plaintiff's injury and that the plaintiff's injury was pre-existing. We see this defense most often asserted in car accident cases where the impact was not that substantial, or where the plaintiff previously received medical treatment in the same area of their body injured in the accident. Often times, it is necessary to retain medical experts who review the plaintiff's medical records to determine whether and to what extent their physical condition changed as a result of the accident.
Statute of Limitations
Someone who suffers a car accident does not have an indefinite period of time to take legal action. Rather, the injured party must initiate a lawsuit within a certain pre-determined period after their cause of action accrues or else their right to sue is lost forever. This time frame for pursuing a legal action is called a "statute of limitations."
In most California car accident cases, there is a two year statute of limitations. This means that, for example, if you are in a car accident on January 1, 2023, you must file your personal injury lawsuit by no later than January 2025. In some cases, the statute of limitations will be shorter (for instance, in claims against the government), and in others it can even be longer. But in any case, if the defendant can establish that the plaintiff did not initiate their lawsuit before the statute of limitations expired, the plaintiff's case may be dismissed.
Will My Case Go to Trial?
If you've been involved in an accident that resulted in personal injury, you may be wondering whether your case will go to trial. The truth is, the likelihood of your case going to trial depends on a variety of factors, including the severity of your injuries, the evidence available, and the willingness of the parties involved to negotiate a settlement.
In most cases, personal injury cases are settled out of court through negotiations between the parties involved. This is often the preferred outcome, as it allows the injured party to receive compensation more quickly and avoid the time and expense of a trial. Settlements can be reached through mediation, where a neutral third party facilitates negotiations between the parties, or through direct negotiations between the parties and their lawyers.
However, if negotiations fail or the parties are unable to reach a satisfactory settlement, the case may proceed to trial. In this case, a judge or jury will hear evidence and arguments from both sides and ultimately decide the outcome of the case.
Patrick DiFilippo Discusses the Odds of Your Case Going to Trial
Do you Need a Lawyer If You've Been in an Accident?
Some people wonder if it's really necessary to hire a lawyer after a car accident. In the vast majority of cases, it absolutely is. Decades ago the California Supreme Court ruled that the insurance company of another driver owes you no duty of good faith and fair dealing. The insurance company business model is to pay out less on claims than they accept in premiums. So quite literally, their goal on each and every case is to pay as little money as they possibly can. The interests of the insurance company are directly adverse to the interests of the injured party.
Often times, insurance companies will act very friendly at the beginning of your case. They may even tell you they have accepted liability on behalf of their insured. However, these are tactics designed to lull you into a false sense of security so that you ultimately provide them with information that hurts your case, or to get you to settle your claim before the full extent of your injuries can yet be known.. A lawyer will know your rights and what the insurance company is actually entitled to get from you. Your lawyer will communicate with the insurance companies on your behalf so that nothing you say is misconstrued or used against you later on in your case.
Perhaps the biggest reason you need a lawyer in your personal injury case is because your leverage to negotiate a settlement is the threat of a judgment at trial. If you are handling your own case, the insurance company knows that you are not able to litigate and will never offer full value on your case.
Tips to Avoid Rear-End Collisions
Rear-end collisions are a common type of car accident that can result in serious injuries or even fatalities. Here are some tips to help reduce your chances of being involved in a rear-end collision:
Drive in the Right Lane on the Freeway
Statistically, the number four lane (the slow lane) is the most likely lane to have a rear-end collision, while the number one lane is the least likely. If you have a choice, try to stick to the right-hand lane when driving on the freeway.
Choose a Highly Visible Car Color
The color of your car can also affect your chances of being involved in a rear-end collision. According to studies, white cars are the least likely to be involved in an accident, while black cars are the most likely. Choosing a highly visible color like yellow or red can help increase your visibility and reduce your risk of being hit from behind.
Avoid Heavily Tinted Rear Windows
Heavily tinted rear windows can make it difficult for the driver behind you to see the car ahead of yours, which can increase their reaction time and make it more likely for them to hit you from behind. To reduce this risk, avoid heavily tinted rear windows.
Check Your Brake Lights Regularly
One of the most common causes of rear-end collisions is a driver failing to notice that the car in front of them has stopped or slowed down. To help prevent this from happening, make sure to check your brake lights regularly. Set a reminder to check them on the first day of each month to ensure they are working properly.
Tap Your Brakes When Slowing Down on the Freeway
When you first notice traffic ahead of you braking on the freeway, tap your brakes lightly to activate your brake lights. This alerts the driver behind you that traffic is slowing down and gives them time to react. Even a momentary delay in their reaction time can help reduce your risk of being hit from behind.
Maintain a Safe Following Distance
Maintaining a safe following distance can help give you more time to react if the car in front of you stops suddenly. As a general rule, you should maintain at least one car-length distance for every ten miles per hour you are traveling. If the road is wet, downhill, or gravelly, add another half car-length to ensure you have enough space to stop safely.
By following these tips, you can help reduce your chances of being involved in a rear-end collision. Remember to stay alert, be aware of your surroundings, and always practice safe driving habits.
If you are involved in a car accident, here are the steps you should take:
Check for injuries: First and foremost, check yourself and others for injuries. Call for emergency medical assistance if necessary.
Move to a safe area: If possible, move your vehicle to a safe area off the road. Turn on your hazard lights to warn other drivers.
Call the police: Even if the accident seems minor, it's important to call the police and report the accident. They will file an accident report, which will be helpful in insurance and legal proceedings.
Exchange information: Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver(s) involved in the accident. Be sure to get their name, phone number, driver's license number, and insurance information.
Gather evidence: Take photos of the damage to your vehicle and any other vehicles involved in the accident. If there are any witnesses, get their contact information as well.
Notify your insurance company: Contact your insurance company and report the accident as soon as possible. They will guide you through the process of filing a claim.
Seek medical attention: Even if you don't think you are injured, it's a good idea to get checked out by a medical professional. Some injuries, like whiplash or concussions, may not be immediately apparent.
Consult a lawyer: If you have been injured in the accident, it may be in your best interest to consult with a personal injury lawyer. They can help you understand your legal rights and navigate the insurance and legal process.
Hiring Phillips & Associates for Your Car Accident Case
Phillips & Associates has vast experience in challenging insurance companies and and their armies of defense lawyers to ensure that all of our car accident clients are compensated fairly for your damages. There is no cost to you unless you win. Contact Phillips & Associates today for a free consultation. We will listen to your concerns and help you to understand your rights and options.
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Looking for a personal injury law firm that puts clients first? Look no further than Phillips & Associates - Injury and Accident Attorneys. We're not the kind of firm you'll see advertising on bus benches or billboards - we're the kind you hear about through word of mouth. Our long history of dedication to client service and a track record for producing results has earned us a reputation as one of the most trusted law firms in southern California. We offer free and immediate consultations, so there's no reason not to give us a call and see how we can help you with your personal injury case. Contact us today and let us show you what we can do for you.
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