Sacramento Car Accident Lawyer
If you have been injured after a car accident in Sacramento, it is never easy dealing with towing fees, vehicle repairs, mounting medical bills, and insurance companies on your own. Taking time off work to recover from your injuries may put a significant strain on your finances, especially if you are the primary provider of your family. You may have questions concerning what to do next if your injuries affect your quality of life. When this happens, you should contact an experienced Sacramento car accident lawyer for legal assistance. An attorney can help protect you from insurance companies who may take advantage of your situation, collect evidence to build a strong case, and present your case in court, if necessary.What Do You Do After a Car Accident in Sacramento?
A motor vehicle accident may be traumatizing for all parties involved. The emotional and physical effects often leave people not being able to think clearly after the incident. When and if the time comes, a person should know what steps should be followed to protect themselves and their loved ones. These include:
- Call Police to Take a Report: If you get into a car accident in Sacramento or elsewhere in California, contact the police and request a traffic collision report to be taken at the scene. Having a police report is essential for a car accident claim. These reports include contact and insurance information for all parties involved, witness statements, details regarding who was at fault for the crash, and traffic violations applicable to the negligent driver.
- Move Your Vehicle: After a car crash, stop immediately and move onto the side of the road if it is safe to do so. Your car should be close to the accident scene, where it will not cause a hazard to oncoming traffic. If your vehicle is not drivable, request roadside assistance for a tow truck.
- Check for Injuries: If you or anyone else was injured in the accident, call an ambulance to the scene. Do not decline treatment, even if you do not believe your injuries are serious. You may have an injury that is not visible, such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or spinal cord injury.
- Exchange Information: While awaiting the arrival of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) or local law enforcement, collect information from other drivers involved in the collision, if possible. You should take down their contact information, vehicle year, make and model, license plate number, and insurance company and policy number. To save time, use your phone or camera to gather this vital information.
- Gather Evidence: After an auto accident, it is essential to collect as much evidence as possible. This should consist of photos of the accident scene, damage to vehicles involved, and physical injuries. Evidence is what provides leverage in negotiating a fair settlement with insurance companies. Without it, it may be challenging to prove fault on the part of the other driver and resulting losses.
- Witnesses: Track down anyone who may have witnessed the car wreck and take down their contact information, if possible. A witness statement is invaluable in a car accident case as it provides a personal account of the incident. This can help confirm what one driver claims happened and disprove what the other said.
- Report the Auto Accident: California law requires drivers to report a traffic accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 10 days if there were injuries, death, or property damage exceeding $1,000. This can be done by completing an SR-1 form.
- Call Your Insurance Company: Some insurance companies require you to report a collision within a specific time limit, which is usually 24 hours, depending on the language of the policy contract. If you wait too long to let your insurer know about the incident, you may run the risk of being denied the coverage that is available to you through your auto insurance policy.
- Request Police Report: A traffic collision report may be released by police to authorized parties such as the injured individual, the injured person’s legal representative, or others listed under California Vehicle Code Section 20012. These reports usually take one to two weeks to be processed, or up to 21 days if the investigation is being handled by the Sacramento Police Department (Sac PD).
- Decline Early Settlement Offers: Insurance claims adjusters may take advantage of your emotional, physical, and financial hardship after a car wreck. They may convince you to accept a lowball settlement offer for your personal injury claim. If the insurance company asks you for a recorded statement or to sign documents, politely decline, and direct any communication regarding your personal injury case to your Sacramento auto accident attorney.
Compensatory damages in a personal injury case are intended to make an injured person whole after an auto accident. They come in two types, economic and noneconomic. Economic damages, or special damages, are expenses that are paid out of pocket and can be calculated based on estimates, receipts, and bills. General damages, or noneconomic damages, take into account the intangible harms an injured person has suffered. A fair settlement offer from an insurance company will consider current and projected losses for all accident-related damages, such as:
- Costs of past and future medical treatment that is deemed reasonable and necessary. A life care planner may be needed to calculate and prove future medical expenses for primary care visits, therapy, diagnostic testing, surgeries, medical supplies, prescription medications, mobility equipment, and attendant care
- Loss of consortium for the inability to conceive children and the loss of affection, assistance, companionship, and love between an injured spouse and an uninjured spouse
- Loss of earning capacity for an injured person's reduced ability to make a living in the future due to permanent disability
- Lost wages for the time an employee misses work to recover from a personal injury or attend a medical appointment
- Out of pocket expenses related to altering a vehicle or home to accommodate a permanent injury or disability suffered in a car wreck
- Pain and suffering for the emotional and psychological harms caused by an accident-related injury
- Property damage for the repair or replacement of personal belongings damaged in an auto accident
- Social isolation, humiliation, or embarrassment associated with a personal injury resulting in disfigurement or scarring
Punitive damages, or exemplary damages, may be awarded in some personal injury claims under specific circumstances. Punitive damages are not intended to compensate those injured in a car crash. Instead, they are designed to punish the negligent party for their wrongdoing and to discourage similar behavior from them and others in the future. To recover exemplary damages for a motor vehicle accident under California Civil Code 3294, it must be proven with clear and convincing evidence that the negligent driver acted egregiously, such as driving under the influence (DUI) or excessive speeding.Is California a Comparative Fault State?
California follows a system of pure comparative negligence. This means courts within the state may allow injured people to collect damages even if they are found partially at fault for a motor vehicle accident. The amount of compensation awarded in a car accident claim would be reduced by the percentage of negligence assigned to the injured person. When liability is being disputed among insurance companies in a car accident case, it is best to hire an experienced Sacramento car accident lawyer to prevent insurers from apportioning fault unfairly. Your attorney will conduct an independent investigation of the crash, collect evidence, hire accident reconstruction experts, and work diligently to prove that the other driver was at fault for the collision.Sacramento Car Accident FAQs
Sacramento, CA, is a diverse city located at the confluence of the American River and Sacramento River. The state capital has a population of roughly 502,000, making it the sixth most populous city in California. The Sacramento area has expanded in recent years, attracting students and workers alike for academic and employment opportunities offered within the community. From opportunities with California State University, Sacramento (Sac State), and McGeorge School of Law, to Dignity Health and UC Davis Medical Center (UCD Health), the possibilities for individual growth are endless. However, such success may be put at stake when a resident is injured after a car accident in Sacramento. Our Sacramento car accident lawyers understand how challenging an auto accident can be and have created an FAQ section below to provide you with invaluable information on how to handle your situation.What Happens if the Other Driver Has No Insurance?
After a car crash, you may be wondering if the other driver has auto insurance to cover your personal injury damages. An SR-19C form for a financial responsibility information request will need to be filed with the DMV to determine whether the driver responsible for the collision has a valid car insurance policy or not. If this DMV form concludes that the other driver has no insurance, then your uninsured motorist coverage may come into play and cover your damages, up to the limits of your policy.What Happens if You Get into a Car Accident Without Insurance in California?
Proposition 213, or the Personal Responsibility Act of 1996, was passed by California voters to limit the right of uninsured motorists to claim compensation for noneconomic damages. This means that Prop 213 prohibits drivers who were not insured at the time of a traffic accident from recovering damages for pain and suffering. Should you find yourself injured in an accident with no insurance, talk to an experienced car accident lawyer from Sacramento about this situation.How Long Do You Have to File for Personal Injury?
Under the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1, an injured person has two years from the date of a motor vehicle accident to file a personal injury claim. In a fatal car accident, the same statutory deadline also applies to the wrongful death claims process under CCP 335.1. When a serious traffic accident is caused by a defective roadway design, a claim may be filed against the government entity responsible for the maintenance of the road. A notice of claim must be filed with the appropriate government agency within 180 days or six months from the time of the incident. This is by California Government Code 911.2. Depending on whether the accident happened on a local street or state highway, a claim may need to be filed with a local agency such as Sacramento County or with the state like Caltrans. If you are unsure how much time you have to file a claim for damages, reach out to an experienced car accident lawyer in Sacramento for a free case evaluation. For suggestions on what to look for in a reputable injury lawyer in Sacramento, watch the video below.What to Do if You Can’t Afford a Sacramento Car Accident Injury Lawyer?
Many injured people are under the impression that hiring a lawyer may come with high hourly rates and retainer fees. However, that is not always the case. Most personal injury lawyers handle car accident cases under a contingency fee agreement. Through a contingent fee arrangement, an injured person can retain legal representation without having to pay any fees upfront. An attorneys’ fee will only be due if the lawyer obtains a successful outcome in the personal injury case.Is There Legal Assistance Available for Veterans?
I served in the United States Air Force (U.S. Air Force) in the airborne division in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. It would be my honor to help a fellow veteran who has suffered injuries in an auto accident. I offer veterans a 25% attorney fee for cases that are settled without litigation. If you would like to discuss your car accident injury case, contact me anytime for a free consultation.
AutoAccident.com is dedicated to providing each person and family we represent with the compassionate and experienced legal representation they need when dealing with the most challenging times of their lives. At our personal injury law firm in Sacramento, our goal is to help injured people of car accidents in Northern California obtain the fair compensation and justice they need and deserve.
Image Source: By "kennedysfotos" and "claimaccident" via Pixabay
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Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 2.18.20]
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