Attorney Portrait Car Accidents

Can an Auto Accident Settlement Exceed the Policy Limit in California?

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Even though, as a whole, people drove less in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, auto accidents were unfortunately widespread. Distracted driving accounted for approximately 14% of all car accidents resulting in injuries in 2020, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration (NHTSA). Also in 2020, over 1,100 people lost their lives due to alcohol-related car accidents in California. NHTSA estimates that in 2021, over 4,000 lost their lives in a traffic accident. Car insurance serves to help make sure that a crash victim receives a minimum amount of compensation for their injuries and damages. But what if the damages are more than the insurance policy limit? Can an auto accident settlement exceed the policy limit in California?  California Insurance Policies and Limits California has special laws when it comes to car insurance. By law, individuals can carry traditional motor vehicle insurance or provide proof of financial responsibility in lieu of insurance. This allows individuals flexibility to choose how they would like to cover car accident liability. Additionally, it protects the public by requiring individuals to secure a method to compensate car accident victims for losses.  Types of California Insurance Policies California allows drivers to carry the following types of liability policies:  Some individuals may qualify for a low-cost insurance program. This program improves access to insurance coverage to individuals who can’t afford traditional car insurance. In return, however, the policy limits and coverage are less than those of traditional insurance.  California Insurance Policy Limits California’s drivers must provide evidence of the following minimum amounts of financial responsibility in case of an accident: If the individual carries a low-cost automobile insurance policy, the following limits apply: These are the minimum amounts of coverage that California’s drivers must carry or bear responsibility for. But drivers can opt to take out policies with higher coverage amounts.  Can an Auto Accident Settlement Exceed the Policy Limit in California? It depends. Part of the insurance contract is that the driver agrees to pay the insurance company X amount in exchange for the insurance covering losses totaling X amount or less.  Typically, insurance policies and limits represent the highest amounts that the insurance company may agree to pay if there’s an accident.  In California, you have to give the at-fault insurance company one opportunity to resolve the claim within their limits by sending over enough information to show the limit amount should be tendered. If the insurance company disagrees and does not pay, then the insurance policy limit is open.    You can still negotiate with the insurance company and at-fault parties to reach a settlement agreement that works for everyone. Additionally, if you have underinsured motorist coverage, your insurance company may cover some of your damages.  Having an experienced auto accident lawyer to help you increases your chances of recovering. The Beliz Law Firm helps people like you negotiate with the insurance company. We’re not afraid to go to court to help victims and their families get the compensation they need and deserve.  What Are My Options If My Damages Exceed the Insurance Policy Limits? Some car accident injuries like traumatic brain injury can incur a lifetime cost for medical treatment of thousands to over $1 million dollars. Aside from medical costs, you or your loved one may be missing out on wages, enduring pain and suffering, and going through other hardships because of the accident. Do you have options?  If you’re unable to negotiate a suitable settlement outside of court, filing a lawsuit may be your best option. If you go to court, the money award you receive isn’t limited by the insurance policy limits. California’s personal injury damages laws set how much you can receive from the at-fault party or parties.  Under California law, you may be entitled to full, fair, and reasonable compensation for the damages that the at-fault party caused. This includes direct damages, like to your car and your body during the accident. Additionally, you may receive compensation for the harm to you, your life, and your family because of the accident. In other words, compensation for your pain and suffering and lost wages. Unfortunately, just because a court may award you damages does not mean you will be able to collect them. Underinsured drivers often lack the resources to pay a judgment. Your attorney can investigate to help you determine whether filing a lawsuit will be worthwhile. If you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on your own insurance policy, you can make a claim with your own insurance company up to the limits of that policy. A lawyer can help you navigate claims with both the at-fault driver’s insurance company and your own insurance company. Hiring a knowledgeable and trustworthy auto accident lawyer helps you maximize the recovery you receive.  The Beliz Law Firm—Trusted By Southern California Since 2011 Car accident victims need someone they can trust on their side. After all, insurance companies want to save money and at-fault parties aim to pay as little as possible. Meanwhile, car accident victims and their families must pay the price of an accident that wasn’t their fault.  Without an attorney in their corner fighting for them, victims may unknowingly sign away their rights to compensation and accept a car accident settlement that’s far less than what their claim is worth. For nearly 20 years, Attorney Michael Beliz has helped numerous victims recover for their losses. We take on faceless insurance companies and hold at-fault parties responsible. We offer free case reviews and don’t charge you a dime in upfront legal fees. Contact us today.

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Attorney Portrait Car Accidents

What Is the Average Settlement for a Drunk Driving Accident in California?

| Read Time: 4 minutes

Overview of Drunk Driving Accident Settlements in California Drunk driving remains a serious public safety problem in California. According to the most recent data from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), more than 1,000 people were killed in DUI crashes in the state in 2017. Many thousands more innocent victims suffered severe, even life-changing injuries in wholly avoidable DUI accidents. When a drunk driver hits you, it is a trying experience, especially if there are serious injuries. As you recover from injuries, it is natural to think about recovering compensation from the drunk driver who hit you. You have to consider medical bills, rehabilitation costs, missed work, and more. This raises an important question: How much can you expect to recover and what is the average drunk driving accident settlement in California? The truth is, there is no true ‘average’ drunk driving accident settlement amount because each claim is different and unique. If you were injured by an intoxicated driver, your potential settlement will vary based on the severity of your injuries and circumstances surrounding your case. Your DUI accident settlement can include compensation for pain and suffering, lost earning capacity, and reimbursement for medical bills. At The Beliz Law Firm, our top-rated Long Beach, CA drunk driving accident lawyer is standing by, ready to fight for your rights. Car accident lawyer Michael Beliz can help you understand what your case is worth. Consultations are always free – reach out today. Average Settlement for Drunk Driving Accidents in California After an injury in a car accident, the driver at fault for the accident may be liable for your injuries. In some cases, the person that caused the accident was driving under the influence. If that happens to you, there is a good chance the other driver owes you compensation. An accident involving a drunk driver can often yield a higher settlement or judgment than a case in which the driver at fault was not impaired. However, the value of any personal injury or wrongful death claim depends on the case. Is There a Normal Drunk Driving Personal Injury Settlement? There is no “normal” settlement for car accident injuries caused by a drunk driver. In California, some personal injury awards are more than a million dollars. Other cases settle for under $10,000. The compensation owed in your personal injury case depends on many factors. They include the severity and permanence of your injuries, the economic loss you suffered, and the degree of comparative fault. The defendant’s insurance coverage and ability to pay will also play a large role in the value of a settlement. How Do We Calculate Damages in Drunk Driving Accident Cases There are two kinds of damages in personal injury cases: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages compensate an injured person for his loss. We categorize these into economic (special) and non-economic (general) damages. Punitive damages (also called exemplary damages) punish the defendant for extreme neglect or bad behavior. To award punitive damages, California law requires the defendant must have “willfully and deliberately failed” to avoid the known consequences of his negligence. Not every drunk driving personal injury case will include punitive damages. In some cases, however, juries have awarded millions of dollars in punitive damages to the families of those killed by an intoxicated driver. How to Maximize Your Compensation After a DUI Accident in California Whether you are seeking compensation for direct economic losses — such as medical bills, lost wages, etc — or you are seeking compensation for non-economic damages — such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, or emotional distress — it is crucial that your damages are properly documented and effectively presented. Ultimately, compensatory damages must be tied to your losses. To obtain compensation through a settlement or personal injury verdict, your claim should be carefully documented with strong supporting evidence either through receipts, bills, photos, etc. Indeed, the key to obtaining successful results in the personal injury settlement process often lies in the evidence. Notably, the large insurance companies that typically defend DUI accident claims have a well-established reputation for being highly aggressive. It is rare that these insurers will lead with their best and final settlement offer at the beginning of the negotiation process. Their fundamental goal is to settle drunk driving accident claims for the lowest amount possible and as quickly as possible. Insurers train their representatives to look for any information that they can use against plaintiffs in order to reduce a personal injury settlement. For this and other reasons, it is highly recommended that you deal with the insurance company through your attorney. Your attorney will make sure that your interests are protected. When Can You Recover Punitive Damages in a California DUI Accident Case? Punitive damages will only be awarded in cases where there was gross negligence or extraordinarily reckless misconduct by the defendant. In DUI accident cases, California courts are instructed to look to the state’s statutes on punitive/exemplary damages (Civil Code § 3294). What is notable is that California requires plaintiffs to present ‘clear and compelling’ evidence in seeking punitive damages. This is a significantly higher legal threshold than the ‘preponderance of evidence’ standard that is used for compensatory damages. In order to recover punitive damages for a drunk driving accident, you must be able to clearly demonstrate that the defendant (the intoxicated driver) was grossly negligent or willfully reckless. The worse the behavior of the defendant, the more likely punitive damages are to be awarded. An example of willfully reckless behavior is a prior DUI conviction. If you are considering seeking punitive damages in your case, it is imperative that you seek guidance from an experienced Long Beach drunk driving accident lawyer who can help you prepare the strongest possible legal claim. Need Help Receiving a DUI Accident Settlement in California? Contact The Beliz Law Firm If you or a loved one is in a car accident, and you suspect the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, speak with an attorney right away....

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Attorney Portrait Car Accidents

What Is the Average Settlement for a Rear-End Collision in California?

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Key Takeaway: Rear-end collisions in California can result in significant injuries and property damage, prompting victims to pursue personal injury claims. However, there’s no average settlement amount for rear-end collisions due to the unique nature of each case. Factors such as the extent of injuries, economic losses, and non-economic damages influence the settlement. By seeking legal guidance, you can maximize your chances of receiving adequate compensation for your losses. Rear-end collisions are typically unexpected and can result in serious injuries and major property damage. California allows the victim of a rear-end crash to file a personal injury claim when the collision occurred due to someone else’s negligent or wrongful act. Every rear-end collision is different, so every rear-end crash settlement is different. Thus, there is no average rear-end collision settlement in California. The settlement for a rear-end crash will depend on a variety of different factors, like the extent of the victim’s injuries and their chances of a full recovery. Contact a California car accident attorney at Beliz Law today to discuss a fair rear-end collision settlement amount for your case. What Losses Count Toward a Rear-End Collision Settlement? In California, a personal injury judgment is designed to compensate you for the losses you suffered as a result of the at-fault party’s negligence. Therefore, it is impossible to calculate the average payout for a rear-end collision without reviewing the details of a case. After a rear-end crash, common economic losses include:  Proving economic damages is relatively straightforward as long as you keep a record of the costs you incur due to the accident. Medical expenses can make up a large chunk of your economic losses. Thus, someone who suffers a more serious injury in a rear-end collision will likely incur more losses stemming from medical costs alone. In addition to economic damages, plaintiffs can recover non-economic damages in a personal injury claim. Non-economic damages represent a more abstract form of damages that aim to compensate you for things like: The abstract nature of non-economic damages makes them more confusing to understand and harder to calculate. Our team can consult with economic experts who can give an accurate market value for your losses to help calculate a fair settlement offer. What Is Considered a Rear-End Collision? A rear-end car accident occurs when a car collides with the vehicle in front of it.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 5,250,837 police-reported car accidents occurred throughout the United States in 2020, resulting in 2,282,015 injuries. Inevitably, some of these accidents are rear-end collisions. In the United States, there are more than eight million car accidents annually, with rear-end collisions accounting for about 41.6% of all accidents between two vehicles. Causes of Rear-End Collisions in California Though avoiding a rear-end crash may seem easy, they occur with alarming regularity. In many cases, rear-end collisions happen when one car is stopped or moving very slowly, and a second vehicle strikes it from behind. This scenario frequently occurs in high-traffic areas when drivers need to stop with little notice. Factors that may cause a rear-end collision include: The cause of the rear-end collision will help determine whether you can successfully recover through a personal injury claim.  Even if you share some blame for the accident, you may still be able to recover. California applies the rule of pure comparative negligence to personal injury claims. That means even if you were partially responsible for the collision, you can still bring a personal injury claim against the other party and collect compensation. However, your recovery is reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if the judge finds you 30% at fault for the accident and awards you $200,000, you will recover $140,000. How Can I Maximize My Rear-End Collision Settlement? No one anticipates a rear-end collision. As a result, many people think their hands are tied until they contact an attorney to review their case. However, there are a few steps you can take to maximize the amount of information you can provide your lawyer to build a case. Report Your Collision to Authorities You should contact law enforcement and request that an officer come to the accident scene as soon as possible. Someone else may contact law enforcement for you upon seeing the collision, but you should call 9-1-1 just in case. The police officer who responds to the scene will create an accident report that contains basic information about the crash and the officer’s impression of who caused the accident. Seek Treatment for Your Injuries If you suffer an injury in your rear-end accident, you should seek medical treatment immediately.  Rear-end collisions can cause whiplash, which can result in injuries to your neck and spinal cord. In some cases, spinal cord injuries do not present themselves immediately. Thus, even if you do not see apparent injuries, you should still seek a medical evaluation to verify that you did not suffer a hidden injury.  Additionally, you can start preserving documentation of your medical expenses with your first doctor visit.  Collect Evidence from the Accident Scene The strength of your rear-end accident case will depend on what evidence your attorney can present to prove the opposing party’s fault. You can collect some of this evidence at the accident scene immediately after the collision. You may be able to collect the following information at the scene: Your attorney cannot recreate the accident scene once it gets cleaned up. That means the information you collect at the scene may be the best picture they get of the accident.  Contact The Beliz Law Firm to Discuss Your Potential Rear-End Settlement Amount in California A car accident lawyer can help you recover a rear-end collision settlement that fairly compensates you for your financial losses. Our team of attorneys has years of experience handling car accident cases. Whether you are seeking a minor rear-end collision settlement or suffered a significant injury, the Beliz Law Firm is here for you. Contact us today.

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Attorney Portrait Car Accidents

How Long Does It Take to Get a Settlement from a Car Accident in California?

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One of the most common questions we receive from prospective clients is, How long does it take to get a settlement from a car accident in California? Unfortunately, there’s not a specific timeline or average that we can share with you. Every case differs, and so does the claim timeline. If you have questions about how long a car accident claim takes to settle, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the legal team at Beliz Law Firm.  How Long Does It Take to Settle a Car Accident Claim? The timeline to resolve a car accident claim varies from person to person. Individual factors mean your case could settle in two months or two years. Read on to learn more.  Factors Impacting the Duration of a California Car Accident Settlement Some of the most influential factors in your case include the severity of your injuries, liability disputes, and insurance company negotiations. Here’s how each of these impacts your settlement timeline.  Injury Type and Severity Your injuries play a significant role in how quickly your case might resolve. The more severe your injuries, the longer you are likely under a physician’s care. Severe injuries often involve lengthy recovery periods. Trying to resolve your case too early could result in missed compensation. Consider an example where you settle your claim but your doctor says you need additional surgery. If you have already settled and signed a release, you can’t go back and try to negotiate for more money.  Severe injuries also translate to a greater amount of damages. The insurance adjuster will scrutinize your damages even more when your case could be worth a significant amount. Some adjusters prefer to take their chances with a jury rather than settle for a fair amount.  Gathering Evidence  Before negotiations begin, your attorney must gather evidence and documentation to support your claim. This evidence includes medical records, photographs, witness statements, and police reports. The time it takes to collect and review all necessary evidence will vary depending on the case’s complexity and the parties’ availability. A delay in obtaining essential evidence means negotiations will start later.   Disputes Over Liability Liability disputes are a big hangup in most California car accident cases because California is a comparative negligence state. Your compensation will be reduced if you are partially at fault for the accident. The reduction correlates to your percentage of fault. That means the insurance company can save money for any additional liability they can attribute to you.  In some cases, the parties involved in a car accident may dispute who is at fault. You’ll need additional investigation and evidence collection when the insurance company contests liability. Your attorney might need to hire an accident constructionist to confirm the mechanics of the accident. All this can extend the time it takes to negotiate a settlement.  Insurance Company Negotiations In general, negotiations with insurance companies can be a lengthy process. Some insurance companies will use delay tactics or offer a lowball figure in hopes you walk away. Your attorney may need to present additional evidence, argue for a higher compensation amount, and engage in multiple rounds of negotiation before reaching an agreement. Litigation  If you cannot reach an agreement on a fair settlement through negotiations, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit. Litigation can be time-consuming and may extend the duration of your case by several months or even years. Usually you have two (2) years from the date of the accident to resolve your case or file a lawsuit. There are incidents involving governmental entities that may shorten the time to six (6) months or accidents involving a minor child that could lengthen the statutory time to two (2) years past the age of 18 years old. Once in litigation with the courts, the time may take another year or more to resolve the conflict between you and the other’s insurance company.      Once You Settle: Receiving the Check  Receiving payment will still take a few weeks or more. First, you have to receive and sign the release of all claims. The insurance company will process it and then issue the final settlement check.  If you have an attorney representing you, the settlement check will be sent to your attorney. Before you receive your portion of the settlement, your attorney will deduct their fees, any liens, and other case-related expenses. Your attorney should provide you with a detailed statement outlining these deductions. Once all costs and liens are satisfied, your attorney will send you the remaining proceeds.  What to Do If It’s Taking Too Long to Receive Your Settlement? If you’re asking, Why is my car accident settlement taking so long? you aren’t alone. Even once you settle, insurance companies can delay the process. That’s one of the many reasons we recommend hiring a California car accident lawyer. If you feel that your case is taking an unreasonably long time to resolve, remember to:  If you still need to find an attorney, start researching now. You have only limited time to file a lawsuit in California.  Contact Beliz Law Firm  When you’re injured in a car accident, consider hiring a skilled lawyer that handles car accidents. If you’re researching answers to questions like, How long does it take to get a settlement from a car accident in California? contact Beliz Law Firm. Attorney Michael Beliz has nearly two decades of experience assisting injured victims in California. He knows insurance companies’ tactics to delay settlement and undervalue your case. Let our firm protect your rights and help you obtain fair compensation as quickly as possible. Schedule an initial consultation to learn more. 

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Attorney Portrait Car Accidents

Average Herniated Disc Settlement From a Car Accident in California

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What is the average herniated disc settlement from a car accident in California? Experiencing a herniated disc due to a car accident can bring a wave of challenges, and determining the average settlement adds another layer of complexity. You’ll find a wide range of median and average estimates for a herniated disc settlement. Yet, your unique case factors, such as the severity of injuries, might tilt the scale differently. It’s not just about numbers; it’s about recognizing the intricate nature of your situation and the potential lifelong impact on your well-being. Herniated disc pain from a car accident can be life-altering. While some herniations are minor, others involve excruciating pain and undergoing expensive medical treatments. Understandably, you want to know the average car accident settlement for a herniated disc. Unfortunately, there’s no set amount or average because every herniation differs. But there are a number of factors that can affect the value of your claim. What Is the Average Payout for Herniated Disc Injuries in California? It’s important to note that there’s no specific amount or average car accident settlement for a herniated disc. Each case is unique, and a variety of factors influence your compensation. While it may be tempting to compare your case to others or look for a general figure, it’s better to concentrate on calculating your potential case value. That’s where an experienced California car accident lawyer’s knowledge becomes invaluable.  Instead of focusing on average settlement amounts, learn more about the factors that affect your case. Work with an experienced accident attorney to negotiate the best possible settlement. Factors That Impact a Potential Settlement for a Herniated Disc in a Car Accident The main factors that impact your claim include the severity of your herniation and expected outcome, your total damages, who’s liable, and the available insurance coverage. Let’s look more at how these factors impact your coverage.  The Severity of Your Herniation As with other types of car accident injuries, the severity of your herniation impacts your potential case value. That’s because the more severe your injury is, the more your case is likely worth. A more severe herniation may require extensive medical treatment, including surgery, physical therapy, and medication. You might be unable to return to work for a few months and have residual pain and reduced mobility.   Sometimes, a severe herniation may also lead to a permanent disability. To negotiate a higher settlement, you must provide documentation of your injuries, medical treatments, and any limitations you face due to your herniated disc. Liability Establishing liability in a car accident is critical in determining the settlement amount. California follows a pure comparative negligence standard. Your settlement will be less if you share any percentage of fault for the accident. For example, if you’re 20% at fault, you will receive only 80% of your damages. If you’re 80% at fault, you’ll only receive 20%.   It’s crucial to gather and present evidence that proves the other party’s negligence, such as accident reports, witness statements, and photographs of the accident scene. Working with an attorney can be invaluable in building a solid case that establishes the other party’s liability. Otherwise, you could be missing out on the valuable compensation you deserve.  Total Damages The total damages you have incurred significantly affect your settlement amount. Damages typically fall under one of two main categories—economic and non-economic.  Economic damages include medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage, while non-economic damages cover pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. Keep detailed records of all damages and work with an attorney to ensure the other driver’s insurance adjuster considers all related expenses. Available Insurance Coverage The amount of insurance coverage available can also impact your settlement. In California, drivers must carry a minimum amount of liability coverage. However, this might not be enough to cover all your damages. It won’t matter if you have $100,000 in damages if the other driver has only $25,000 in liability limits.  If the at-fault party has limited coverage, you may need to explore other options, such as filing a claim with your insurance company under your underinsured motorist (UIM) policy. In some cases, you may also need to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver to recover additional compensation. However, this is not typically recommended as most people won’t have personal assets that could satisfy a court judgment.  How Much of a Settlement to Expect for a Herniated Disc? Calculating damages is a tricky part of any car accident settlement, which is why we strongly suggest hiring an experienced lawyer. Non-economic damages are subjective, leading to wildly different calculations between insurance adjusters and injured victims. One of the best ways to anticipate what the insurance company might offer is to understand the settlement calculators most companies use.  Per Diem Method The per diem method can determine a settlement amount for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. Under this method, adjusters assign a specific dollar amount to each day you experience pain and suffering due to your herniated disc. This daily rate, or “per diem,” is multiplied by the total number of days you suffered to arrive at a value. The per diem rate is often your daily salary.  Multiplier Method Another standard method is the multiplier method. Economic damages (such as medical expenses and lost wages) are multiplied by a factor, typically ranging from 1.5 to 5, to account for non-economic damages like pain and suffering. The specific multiplier correlates to the severity of your herniation and the impact on your quality of life, with five being the most serious.  Contact Beliz Law Firm For Help With Your Herniated Disc Settlement in California If you have questions about your car accident settlement for a herniated disc, please get in touch with the experienced legal team at Beliz Law Firm. Attorney Michael Beliz has years of experience successfully helping clients get the compensation they deserve for car accident injuries. We understand the serious nature of herniations and potential problems...

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Attorney Portrait Car Accidents

California Distracted Driving Laws

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Key Takeaway: California’s laws prohibit drivers from using handheld devices while operating a vehicle, with strict regulations on texting and talking on cell phones. Victims of distracted driving accidents may pursue compensation for economic and noneconomic damages, including punitive damages if clear evidence of malice, oppression, or fraud is present. Traffic accidents account for a substantial number of severe injuries and deaths in California and the rest of the country. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that distracted driving is responsible for nearly 10% of fatal accidents nationwide. Despite the well-known risks, distracted driving continues to be a widespread problem. Those who suffer injuries in a car accident should consult with an attorney to understand how California’s distracted driving laws might affect their compensation claim. What Is Distracted Driving?  While there is no uniform definition for distracted driving, the California Office of Traffic Safety defines distracted driving as anytime a driver’s eyes or attention are not on the road or when a driver’s hands are off the steering wheel. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies three primary types of distractions. Visual Anything that takes the driver’s eyes off of the roadway is a distraction. These distractions include looking at a cell phone, changing music, operating a GPS, putting makeup on, or browsing social media.  Manual Anytime a driver takes their hands off the wheel, they are driving while distracted. Manual distractions often overlap with visual distractions and include eating and drinking, turning knobs, tending to a child, or searching through a bag.  Cognitive Anything that takes the driver’s mind off of driving is a distraction. Examples include daydreaming, thinking about arguments, reading texts, or talking on the phone.  Distracted driving is preventable, and drivers should avoid multitasking while driving. Further, occupants in a car with a distracted driver should voice their concerns if they observe this behavior. California’s Distracted Driving Statutes  In California, it is illegal for a driver to hold a cell phone in their hand when driving. Under the law, drivers can only use hands-free devices mounted in a specific way. The rule applies when the driver is actively driving or stopped at a light. The law applies to both texting and talking while driving.  California Texting and Driving Distracted Driving Laws Under California’s distracted driving law, drivers cannot use handheld wireless devices while driving unless they operate their devices in a voice-operated, hands-free way. The most recent version of the law expanded the restriction to all wireless device functions. That means texting and using other phone features is prohibited while you are behind the wheel.   Exceptions to Texting and Driving Law in California There are a few exceptions to California’s texting and driving ban. These exceptions include the following:  Emergency service providers are exempt from the ban while using an authorized vehicle.  Talking on a Cell Phone Laws in California  In addition to texting and driving, California prohibits drivers from using a cell phone to talk while driving if the phone is not in hands-free mode. The state’s cell phone ban does not apply when a driver uses a phone while driving on private property or places a call for emergency purposes.  New California Driving Laws California law imposes additional penalties on motorists who violate California’s hands-free law. Drivers who violate the law will be responsible for a fine and receive a point on their driving records.  California’s Distracted Driving Laws for Minors In light of the high number of young distracted drivers, California maintains strict distracted driving laws for drivers under 18. The law completely prohibits underage motorists from using any wireless device while driving, even in hands-free mode. The only exception to this rule is if the driver needs to place a call for emergency purposes.  Damages for Distracted Driving Lawsuit  California’s personal injury laws govern distracted driving claims. Like any other type of negligence lawsuit, the liable distracted driver may be responsible for economic, such as medical expenses, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. These compensatory damages are designed to make the victim whole again. Punitive Damages Distracted Driving California Laws Under California Civil Code 3294, a jury may award punitive damages in a personal injury case. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages serve to punish the wrongdoer and deter others from engaging in similar conduct.  California treats distracted driving as negligence per se, meaning a driver is presumed negligent because they were breaking the law at the time of the accident. However, securing punitive damages requires more than establishing the other driver was negligent. To be awarded punitive damages, the victim must establish by “clear and convincing evidence” that the distracted driver’s actions amounted to malice, oppression, or fraud. In distracted driving accident cases, that means the victim must be able to show that the at-fault driver showed a conscious disregard for the victim’s safety.  Are You Looking for Justice After a Distracted Driving Accident? If you or a loved one was recently involved in a car accident with a distracted driver, Beliz Law Firm is here to help. Attorney Michael Beliz started the firm over a decade ago to help accident victims and their loved ones recover meaningful compensation after suffering serious injuries or losses. Prior to that, he worked with two of the leading plaintiff’s personal injury law firms in Southern California, where he handled hundreds of cases. Throughout his more than 15 years in practice, Michael has helped countless families obtain fair compensation for their injuries. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us to schedule a free consultation.

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Who Is at Fault in a Self-Driving Car Accident in California?

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In recent years, autonomous or self-driving vehicles have generated significant interest and discussion. Vehicle manufacturers promote these cars as having the potential to reduce traffic fatalities. However, research indicates that these vehicles are more likely to be involved in serious car accidents than conventional vehicles. Despite safety officials’ acknowledgment that self-driving vehicles create many technical and legal issues, widespread adoption of self-driving cars might be inevitable. That’s why California accident victims must understand their rights and remedies if they suffer injuries in a collision with a self-driving car.  Levels of Self-Driving Vehicle Automation Currently, the majority of self-driving vehicles on the road are not fully autonomous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration classifies automation into six levels:  Level 3 to 5 vehicles are not currently available for consumer purchase in the United States.  Self-driving vehicles might provide transformative safety opportunities in the future. However, currently, even the highest level of self-driving technology available to the public requires a driver’s full engagement and undivided attention.  Self-Driving Car Accident Who Is Responsible  Establishing fault in a self-driving vehicle accident is crucial to securing compensation for injuries and damages. While self-driving car accident driver negligence is a leading cause of accidents involving these types of vehicles, other parties might also be responsible for an accident. Some potentially liable parties in these cases are discussed below.  Driver of Vehicle Under California’s Civil Code §1714, a driver who failed to exercise ordinary care on the road might be liable for damages caused by their negligence. Currently, drivers operating self-driving cars must remain actively engaged and aware while on the road. If a driver causes an accident because they aren’t actively engaged in operating their self-driving vehicle, they might have been negligent.  Owner of Vehicle Under California Civil Code § 17150, if the at-fault driver was operating the vehicle with the owner’s permission, the owner might be liable for the accident. That means that even if the car’s owner was not driving the vehicle when your accident occurred, they might still be responsible for paying you compensation for your injuries. Governmental Entity  In cases where an accident results from unsafe or defective roadways, the injury victim might have a claim against a governmental entity. These cases fall under the California Tort Claims Act (CTCA). Because of sovereign immunity principles, CTCA claims are challenging to pursue. However, an attorney can review your case to determine if your claim would fall under an exception to the CTCA.  Product Liability for Self-Driving Accidents  In some cases, the self-driving vehicle operator might claim the accident resulted from a design or manufacturing defect. In that case, you might consider pursuing a claim against the car’s manufacturer or seller by filing a product liability claim. Product liability claims typically involve the following: When it comes to accidents involving self-driving cars, these claims often encompass allegations of defects such as the following: Most driverless vehicle systems use a combination of radars, cameras, and computers to control speed, braking, and lane departures.  Under California’s product liability laws, the company that designs, manufactures, or sells a defective vehicle or vehicle part might be strictly liable for injuries the defective product causes. Because these are strict liability claims, the victim does not need to establish that the company was negligent. Instead, the car accident victim must prove that the self-driving car or system part was dangerous and caused the accident.  Learn More About Who Is at Fault in a Self-Driving Car Accident in California by Speaking with an Experienced Attorney  If you or a loved one was recently injured in a car accident involving a self-driving car, you might be entitled to financial compensation for your accident-related expenses. However, because self-driving car accident cases involve the intersection of technology and the law, they can be highly complex. At Beliz Law Firm, we have over a decade of hands-on experience aggressively pursuing fair compensation on behalf of our clients. We recognize that serious accidents add stress and anxiety to your life that you shouldn’t have to deal with—and we will do everything we can to make the recovery process as easy on you and your family as possible. To learn more about how Beliz Law Firm can help you, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.  

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Attorney Portrait Car Accidents

What Happens If You Get in a Car Accident in a Leased Car?

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Car accidents can happen in any vehicle. While most people understand what to do if they were involved in an accident with a car they own, many of us have no idea what happens when a leased car is in an accident. Many people need help understanding what makes a leased car different from an owned car and what they should do after being in an accident. Read on to learn more about what happens if you get in an accident with a leased car.   How Is a Leased Car Different?  Instead of owning a leased car, you make a down payment and negotiate payment terms to use the vehicle for a period of time. Generally, leases are for between two and five years. Monthly payments are typically based on the lease length and down payment.  Since you don’t own a leased vehicle, you can’t trade one in to purchase a newer car. Additionally, at the end of your lease term, you can turn your leased car back into the dealership or buy the vehicle at a reduced price.  Who Insures a Leased Car? Just as with owned vehicles, the lessee—which is what the person leasing a car is called—must obtain all necessary insurance. All drivers must comply with the following California liability insurance requirements for a private passenger vehicle:  While these are minimum liability insurance requirements, many California drivers opt for higher coverage limits. If an accident loss exceeds your policy’s limits, you may be required to pay the difference out of pocket. Accidents often exceed the minimum coverage amounts, so while premiums may be higher, increasing coverage limits could save you a lot of money.  What Do I Do After Getting in an Accident in a Leased Car?  The initial steps to take after getting into an accident in a leased car are the same ones you should take if you own the vehicle. A car accident is a shocking experience, and it’s important to always prioritize your health and safety. Even if you are physically able, it may understandably be difficult to remember all the following steps. However, taking any of the following measures will help your attorney develop a strong case on your behalf so that you can recover the compensation you deserve.  Check For Injuries  Always seek medical attention immediately following a car accident. Even if you don’t think you’ve suffered an injury, it’s important to seek medical care because many serious injuries appear hours, days, or weeks after an accident. Obtaining a complete medical evaluation and diagnosis of your injuries will also help your attorney establish the necessary connection between the accident and your injuries required to recover damages.  Call 911 Reporting emergency personnel can make immediate assessments of the physical condition of all the parties involved in an accident. Police officers called to the scene of an accident create accident reports. These reports provide unbiased observations regarding relevant details of an accident and important information, such as the names of all the drivers involved in the accident.  Gather Contact Information and Evidence  If physically able, get the names, contact details, and insurance information of all parties involved in your accident. You should also get contact information from any witnesses. If possible, you should also take photographs of the damage to your car and a photograph showing all the vehicles involved so that their position relative to each other can be seen. Suppose no police officer reports to the scene of your accident, and you don’t get an accident report. In that case, getting this information is especially vital to your claim.  Contact Your Leasing Company If you are wondering, “what if I have an accident in a leased car,” your lease contract may provide an answer. Most leasing contracts provide specific instructions for what the lessee has to do in the unfortunate event of an accident.  Contact Your Insurance Company If you were involved in an accident in a car you own or lease, you must report your accident to your insurance company. Most insurers require drivers to report accidents within 24 hours. However, review your policy or contact your insurance provider to determine the time limit that applies to your situation.  Get a Lawyer  Contact an attorney immediately after a car accident. Your attorney can streamline the claim process and improve your chances of recovering the damages you deserve by negotiating with insurance companies and the other parties. An attorney can also help you file a lawsuit if needed.  What Happens to My Lease After an Accident?   Even if your leased car is totaled, you are still responsible for making your lease payments until the claim has been settled. Many people mistakenly believe that lease payments are no longer required if the car is inoperable. Additionally, if the accident causes the car’s market value to fall lower than what is still owed on the lease, you are still responsible for that difference.  Contact Us  The Beliz Law Firm has been helping injured clients since 2006. Whether we are advocating for you at the negotiating table or in the courtroom, we will always make sure your rights and best interests are protected. The Beliz Law Firm has an impeccable reputation in the community for helping our clients obtain the best possible results. We operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning we don’t get paid unless we recover compensation for you. If you suffered injuries in a car accident with a leased car, contact the legal team at the Beliz Law Firm to find out how we can assist you.

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Attorney Portrait Car Accidents

How to Know If I Have an Uber/Lyft Claim

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For many, the convenience of Uber and Lyft ridesharing services is unbeatable. As many people’s primary mode of transportation, ridesharing may feel safe. However, ridesharing drivers are just as likely to get into accidents as other drivers on the road. Unfortunately, after an accident, Uber and Lyft may try to deny personal injury claims. So how do you know if you have a claim against Uber or a claim against Lyft? Read on to learn more about accidents involving Uber and Lyft drivers and what steps you should take to protect yourself.   How Is Liability Determined in an Uber/Lyft Accident?  If you suffered injuries in an accident, your attorney might pursue compensation from the driver, the ridesharing company, or a third party or parties. Uber and Lyft both provide insurance coverage that is available when the driver has the app on and is either waiting for a ride or completing a ride.  App Turned On  People injured in rideshare accidents often ask, “Do I have a case against Uber?” or “Do I have a case against Lyft?” The ridesharing company’s insurance coverage will apply if the driver had the app turned on at the time of the accident. Uber and Lyft are responsible in the following scenarios:  Uber and Lyft both provide the following insurance coverage levels:  Without an attorney, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by these details and miss out on well-deserved compensatory relief.  App Turned Off If the ridesharing driver had the app turned off at the time of the accident and is deemed at fault, they must use their personal auto insurance to cover your damages.  Third-Party Liability  A third party may be liable when a ridesharing driver is transporting a passenger with the app on or driving with the app off. Third parties may include anyone else who was involved in the accident, such as other drivers or pedestrians.  How Can a Lawyer Help Me?  One of the most important steps you can take after an accident involving an Uber or Lyft driver is to contact an attorney. Experienced personal injury attorneys understand all the tactics insurance companies, opposing attorneys, and at-fault parties use to protect their interests, and they can help you more effectively fight for the compensation you deserve.  Negotiate  When asking, “Do I have an Uber claim?” or “Do I have a Lyft Claim?” it’s important to remember that insurance companies are not on your side. Some insurers may refuse to approve your claim without an investigation. Other insurance companies may make a quick initial offer without knowing the actual value of your claim. While the offer may be enticing, once you accept it, you lose your ability to file a claim at a later date. These offers usually don’t accurately reflect all of your damages.  Determine Liability Your attorney works to establish liability to strengthen your claim against Lyft or Uber for damages. An experienced personal injury attorney knows how to investigate the circumstances of your case to determine why it happened and who is at fault. Being able to clearly establish fault and liability will help strengthen your claim.  Calculate Your Case Value  In your claim against Uber or Lyft, your attorney will know how to accurately calculate your damages so that you can be sure you’re pursuing all of the compensation you’re eligible to receive. Injured victims in California are entitled to both economic and noneconomic damages. These damages encompass a wide variety of losses, including the following:  While some damages may be easy to calculate by looking at receipts and invoices, other more subjective losses, such as pain and suffering, require the assistance of a qualified personal injury attorney to be accurately calculated.  Contact Us  Serious injuries add stress and anxiety to your life that you shouldn’t have to deal with. At the Beliz Law Firm, we are passionate about pursuing justice on your behalf and providing you with a voice in your time of need. Our legal team will help you maximize your compensation by aggressively negotiating with insurance companies. We never hesitate to bring your case to trial if that’s what’s required. Contact us today for a free case review.

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Attorney Portrait Car Accidents

Can I Receive Compensation If I’m Partially At-Fault for an Accident in Caifornia?

| Read Time: 6 minutes

If you suffered injuries in a car accident, you might be wondering who will pay for your damages. Pursuing a claim for compensation can be challenging. You can expect the other driver’s insurance to say you’re at fault for the collision. But what happens if you are both partially responsible? Can you get any money if you’re partially at fault for the accident? Your ability to collect money for your injuries depends on which state the accident occurred in.  If you have questions about compensation when you’re partially at fault for a car accident, contact the experienced car accident lawyers at Beliz Law Firm as soon as possible. Can You Still File a Car Accident Claim If You Were Found Partially At Fault? In California, yes, you can still file a car accident claim when you’re partially at fault. Since California is a pure comparative negligence state, you can still recover damages from an accident even if you were partially at fault. This means you can file a claim even if you are primarily at fault for the accident. In California, you can be up to 99% liable and still collect compensation. However, your recovery is limited by your own percentage of fault. For example, if you are 60% responsible, you would only receive 40% of your damages. It’s important to note the other driver can also collect compensation from your insurance company. For example, when you’re 60% at fault, the other driver can pursue 60% of their damages from you. That’s why working with an experienced personal injury lawyer to build a strong case is crucial. You need a legal advocate on your side. Otherwise, the defendant’s insurance company will allege you were primarily or solely at fault and prevent you from getting all of the compensation you are eligible to receive.    Determining Fault Initially In A Car Crash In California California is what is known as a “fault” state when it comes to auto accidents and claims. Some states are “no-fault” states, while other states are “fault” states. In a “fault” state, the police will typically assign fault to one (or more) of the drivers in a motor vehicle collision, and an injury victim can be eligible to file a claim against the responsible driver. When the police are called to the scene of an accident and write out a police report that identifies one of the drivers as the driver at fault, the police report becomes an important document in proving fault. When a driver files an auto insurance claim in a fault-based car insurance state, the driver typically has two options for property damages: There are benefits and limitations to each type of claim. When a driver files a 1st-party claim, she or he is responsible for paying the deductible even if she is not at fault. Then, that driver’s own insurance company attempts to recoup the deductible from the liable driver’s insurance company. A 1st-party claim can sometimes be quicker than a 3rd-party claim. When a driver files a 3rd-party claim, she does not have to pay a deductible, but the process can take longer. In addition, if the driver at fault has limits on the policy, the injury victim may be unable to obtain full compensation for her losses. In such a scenario, the injury victim may be able to file a lawsuit to seek damages for additional losses. For bodily injuries, the driver has to go through a 3rd-party claim first before doing a 1st-party claim. How to Prove Fault Based on Evidence After a crash, you probably want to know how to determine fault in a car accident. In addition to a police report, injury victims should gather the following evidence at the scene of a crash: In addition, the injury victim should seek medical attention. Medical records can also be used as evidence to prove that the other driver was at fault. Even if you believe you may have been partially to blame, never admit fault after a car accident. Comparative Fault and California Auto Crash Claims What happens if both drivers—the plaintiff and the defendant—are responsible in some capacity for the car accident? This is known as comparative fault, or contributory negligence. Under California law, a plaintiff’s comparative fault reduces her damages award by the portion of her fault, but it does not prevent her from recovering damages. For example, if a plaintiff (the personal injury victim who filed a claim) is found to be 10 percent at fault, her damages award will be reduced by 10 percent. Even if a plaintiff is found to be 90 percent at fault, she can still recover, but her damages award will be reduced by 90 percent. If the payout in a given case is $100,000, a plaintiff who is 10 percent at fault will have her award reduced by $10,000 and she will receive $90,000. If the plaintiff is 90 percent at fault, her award will be reduced by $90,000 and she will receive $10,000. Some states bar a plaintiff from recovery if they are 50 percent or more at fault, while others bar plaintiffs who are 51 percent or more at fault. There is no bar to recovery like this under California law. If I am Partially At Fault, Can I Sue for an Injury? Yes, you can file a personal injury lawsuit if you’re partially at fault for an accident. There are several scenarios where filing a lawsuit might be a good option in California: While most lawsuits settle before trial, taking your case to a jury may be necessary to decide fault percentages. Your attorney will explain whether filing a lawsuit is best for you based on the facts of your case. How to Strengthen Your Case To be eligible for compensation, you must have adequate proof demonstrating the other driver’s fault. One of the best ways to do this is by hiring a California car accident lawyer early on. When you retain Beliz Law Firm, we will conduct a...

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