Laws vary from state to state. Federal laws are applicable in all 50 states. Laws on employment discrimination and immigration can be both from the federal and state. States are responsible for creating the rules of conduct within the state. These usually include laws about civil conduct and criminal offenses.

A person involved in a car accident in California should understand the state’s car accident laws. Some states’ laws are very similar to California’s and others are wildly different. Familiarize yourself with the Golden State’s car accident laws. Then, you’ll know what to do if a driver injures you in an accident.

auto accident laws california

California is an at Fault State for Car Accident Claims

A victim can seek compensation for any resulting damages from a car accident. They do this through a personal injury claim against the negligent party. In some states, this is not the case. The victim must use personal injury protection (PIP) coverage for these expenses.

When a California driver is negligent, he or she is liable for any damages that result from his or her negligence. In a car accident situation, the victim must be able to prove that the crash was the other driver’s fault. It must be a direct result of another party’s failure to take reasonable care to prevent the accident. Reasonable care to prevent an accident can be as simple as driving the speed limit or coming to a full stop at a red light or to traffic. Negligence can also mean simply acting in an unsafe manner while driving. This includes things such as failure to yield, following too closely, unsafe left-hand turn, text messaging, or driving drunk.

Through a personal injury claim, you can seek compensation for the following damages:

  • Your medical bills;
  • Your lost wages; and
  • Your pain and suffering damages. Including all noneconomic damages like emotional distress and reduced quality of life.

California Automobile Insurance Requirements

In California, drivers are required to carry at least the following in car insurance:

  1. $15,000 in liability coverage for injury or death to one person;
  2. $30,000 in liability coverage for injury or death to multiple people in one incident; and
  3. $5,000 in liability coverage for property damage.

Drivers can also insure themselves. When a driver shows proof of self-insurance, they can receive a self-insurance certificate. You can find this at the California Department of Motor Vehicles. You can comply with California’s insurance requirements in one of two ways. Either buy a $35,000 surety bond from a party licensed to operate in California or make a $35,000 cash deposit with the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

The Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims in California

The statute of limitations for personal injury claims is usually two years from the date of the accident. This applies to private parties only, however. An insurance claim is not a lawsuit. Generally, the preferred course of action is to file a claim and reach a settlement privately. When this does not result in an appropriate settlement for the victim, he or she can file a lawsuit to have the case heard in court. The victim must file this lawsuit within two years of the accident that caused the injury. For this reason, most lawyers advise victims to be proactive. It’s important to start moving on your claim as soon as possible.

When the Government is Responsible for your Accident, the Rules are Different

The above statute of limitations only applies to claims against private parties. If a government entity’s negligence caused your accident, the statute of limitations for your case is six months.

There are a few different ways the government can be the negligent party in your accident. A few examples include:

  • An accident caused by a pothole or another hazard on a public road that the municipal, county, or state government should have removed or repaired;
  • A collision with a public transportation vehicle, such as a bus; and
  • A collision that resulted from a confusing or poorly planned roadway. A road might have an acceleration ramp that is too short or bends in a way that drivers cannot see oncoming traffic.
  • When a roadway’s design makes it dangerous, the government entity charged with maintaining that area of roadway is liable for damages victims suffer as a result.

If someone is facing injury because of a government entity’s negligence, he or she needs to file a claim under the California Tort Claims Act (CTCA). The victim must file the claim against the various government agencies that may be negligent.

California is a Pure Comparative Negligence State

You can still recover compensation for your damages even if you were partially at fault for the collision. If you are negligent and the negligence was a substantial factor to the harm caused to you, then the damages are reduced by the percentage of your responsibility.

For example, if you are 10 percent at fault and you received a $100,000 in a jury trial, the amount of compensation you can recover is reduced by 10 percent. In this scenario, you can only recover up to $90,000.

If You Do Not Have Auto Insurance You Cannot Recover Compensation for Non-Economic Damages

California Law prevents those who do not have insurance from recovering non-economic damages, which are basically your pain and suffering damages. If you are driving a vehicle on California roadways, you want to have automobile insurance.

Remember auto insurance gives you the opportunity to collect both economic and non-economic damages. This means you will be able to recover compensation for the entirety of your injuries. While non-economic damages are for your pain and suffering, economic damage includes lost wages and medical bills, in addition to any loss of earnings.

No auto insurance means you will be severely limited in your recovery. You will be only able to recover for just economic damages, basically, items that you can prove with a receipt.

Work with an Experienced Long Beach Car Accident Lawyer

After an injury accident, the person who caused the crash may owe you compensation. Get treatment for any injuries right away. Waiting only complicates the issue. You want a prompt diagnosis and thorough treatment. After that, contact an experienced car accident lawyer to discuss your case and your right to seek compensation for your damages. Contact The Beliz Law Firm today to schedule your free case evaluation in our office. Call us at 562-452-3772.

Author Photo

Michael Beliz

Michael A. Beliz, Esq., established The Beliz Law Firm in the spring of 2011.  Michael has been a practicing attorney since 2006 and worked for two of the most prominent plaintiff’s personal injury law firms in Southern California.  He has worked on and handled hundreds of cases as an attorney in all types of personal injury cases, including vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents and dog bites, and successfully recovered millions of dollars for his clients.

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