FAQ: What Rights Do You Have If You Are in a Car Accident in California?

Manning Law, APC

Being involved in a car accident can result in severe and life-altering injuries. However, it is essential to remember what your rights are in this situation before deciding how to proceed. California’s car accident laws can impact any claims you make, making it crucial to understand what to do if you are involved in an accident.

In this guide, our Newport Beach personal injury lawyers explain what to do after you are involved in an accident and relevant laws regarding car accidents in California.

Steps to Take Following a Car Accident

To ensure your safety and avoid making costly mistakes, you should take these steps when you are involved in an automobile accident:

  • Examine yourself and any other passengers in the vehicle for injuries. If there is any kind of injury, call 911 immediately. An emergency medical technician (EMT) will determine the state of your injuries and advise you on what to do next.

  • Following a car crash, your adrenaline is probably running high, which can decrease your ability to feel pain. You might notice after the accident that you are injured. In this case, make sure you see a doctor as soon as possible. A doctor will be able to document your injuries.

  • Call the police and let them know where the accident is located and the severity of the crash. A police report documenting the scene of the crash is crucial when building your personal injury case.

  • Ask any driver that is involved in the accident for their information, including their name, phone number, driver’s license number, and insurance information.

  • Gather information for evidence purposes. Take photos of the accident from several angles, write down the other vehicle’s license plate number, and make and model of the car. Additionally, you should ask any witnesses for their contact information.

  • File a report with your insurance company or insurance agent even if the other party is at fault.

  • In California, you must notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) about a car accident if there was property damage of more than $1,000, anyone was injured (regardless of how minor it is), or anyone was killed.

California’s Insurance Requirements

When you get in a car accident, you are entitled to compensation for any injuries or property damage you sustain.

In California, any car registered in the state must show evidence of financial responsibility, which essentially means it needs to be covered by insurance. The minimum requirement for an insurance policy must cover any costs related to an accident, personal injury, or property damage. Under California Vehicle Code §16056, drivers will need at minimum the following coverage:

  • $15,000 for injury or death to an individual

  • $30,000 for injury or death to more than one individual

  • $5,000 for property damage

Who is at Fault in a Car Accident in California?

Personal injury cases are based on determining fault in a car accident. The two most common ways of proving fault in California is through negligence or by a violation of a statute.

When proving negligence in a car accident, the injured party must prove that the other party did not properly operate their vehicle, or use reasonable caution while driving. They must also show that the other driver’s negligence was the cause of the accident. If the injured driver successfully proves that the other driver wasn’t careful when operating their vehicle, meaning they were negligent and that negligence was the cause of their injuries, they will be entitled to compensation for any injuries or damage sustained.

In some cases, it is clear who caused the accident, but in others, it can be harder to determine. In these situations, the case can be judged as a shared fault injury case in accordance with the comparative negligence rule. Comparative negligence means there is shared fault in the accident. Essentially, an injured party can be compensated even if they are partially at fault for the accident.

Another way fault can be determined is to see if either drive broke a law that resulted in the accident, making the driver technically at fault. When a car accident is a result of violating the California Vehicle Code, the driver is presumed to have been negligent, or they failed to be careful and cautious while operating their vehicle. Typically, the police report will state whether a driver was driving negligently.

Statute of Limitation in California Car Accidents

If you are the victim of a car accident in California, there are limits on the amount of time you have to file a legal claim for any damages you suffered. If you want to claim property damage, you have three years from the date of your car accident. However, depending on when the damages to your vehicle are discovered, the time limit might vary. In cases of personal injuries or wrongful death, you will need to file a claim within two years from the date of the accident.

Because personal injury and property damage claims have different statutes of limitations, it is vital to keep track of when you make your claim. A Newport Beach personal injury attorney can help you build your case, and verify the exact deadline you have to file a claim. It is better to file your car accident case sooner, rather than later, to ensure you are adequately compensated.

A Newport Beach Personal Injury Attorney Can Help

If you are injured due to the negligence of another driver, it is in your best interest to contact a personal injury attorney immediately after a car accident in Newport Beach. Consulting with a lawyer will ensure you receive fair compensation for your injuries. At Manning Law, we will fight to protect your rights.

Call Manning Law today at (800) 783-5006 if you have been injured in a car accident and need help building your case.