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A Guide to Car Accidents in California

When a car accident takes place in California, it is important to know the laws of the road. You may be liable if not, and it could compromise your insurance policy and payout. Besides, if you are hoping to start a personal injury case, this will be crucial information to have. Karns & Karns Personal Injury and Accident Attorneys have put together this guide to show you the facts.

Are Car Accidents Common in California?

Just like any other state, California has significant rates of vehicle accidents. They take place every day, and a high number of these incidents prove to be fatal. There were over 3,000 fatalities in 2017, and this has only increased in the last six years.

Reporting a Crash

If you are involved in a vehicle collision, you are required to report it to the appropriate body. In CA, this is the DMV and your insurance company. A report must be filed no later than 24 hours after the crash takes place, especially in cases where someone is injured or there is a death. You are also obligated to report the incident to the DMV no later than ten days after the crash.

Insurance Companies

The law in California only determines that a crash should be reported to the bodies mentioned above. However, if you want your insurance policy to cover the damages and remain valid, you should also let them know what has happened. Most companies expect you to update them about any collision within 48 hours of it taking place. Doing so is fairly straightforward, and there are usually online portals where you can upload details and write an account of the event. Make sure you consult with a vehicle accident lawyer before submitting anything, as writing or saying the wrong thing can void your claim or even make you liable for damage payments to the other parties involved.

It Is Important to Report an Accident

Sometimes, an accident takes place and it is a minor one. However, if you fail to update your insurance company you are completely exposed to whatever might happen next. It leaves you vulnerable to the other party who may seem reasonable at the time, but turn around and change their mind later on. You never know exactly what damage has taken place until a proper assessment has been carried out. By filing a report, you are covering your own back and ensuring you are kept safe from repercussions in the future. It also allows you to start a claim more easily if you decide to go down this route.

How Does California State Determine Liability?

Our personal injury law firm has a wealth of experience regarding car accidents in California state. There are a few different ways that the law determines who is liable for the damages and physical injuries of those involved.

Comparative Fault

The most important piece of information to take on board here is that California is a comparative fault state. Therefore, if you experience a car crash, you could be held accountable for some of the damages regardless of whether you believe it is fair. The process of assigning culpability is observed from all angles. If you file a claim but are found to be partly to blame for what happened, your compensation will be reduced accordingly.

Determining Damages

There are two categories that help a car accident injury lawyer figure out what the compensation figure should be. These are known as economic and non-economic damages.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are the factors that have ascribed value to them. For example, medical bills or lost wages. These are easy to represent and can be supported with key pieces of evidence. The only thing to keep in mind here is that any economic damages being claimed for must also be directly linked to the accident.

Medical Treatment

Regardless of whether you have minor injuries or major ones, medical expenses will happen. It is essential that you go to a hospital and let a doctor make sure you are okay. This will be an expense in its own right. Some people may suffer from bigger physical consequences as a result of an accident, like a catastrophic injury. This means ongoing treatment is necessary, and the adjacent costs will soon soar. It can be difficult to keep on top of these bills, and your quality of life will be impacted as a direct result.


A side effect of being in the hospital or suffering from any kind of injury is time off work. This means, you may not have a sufficient financial safety net in place and your wages will be lost while you are at home recovering. This can, and will, be added up and put forward to the insurance company or during a personal injury lawsuit.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are defined as things that have no tangible monetary value. Although it is easy to say how much a repair job costs because you can look at things like replacement part prices, it is harder to say what pain and suffering are worth. Everyone has a different experience, regardless of how traumatic the accident might be.

Pain and Suffering

The most common type of non-economic damage is pain and suffering. Your attorney will take a look at how the accident has impacted your life, and assign a value after absorbing all of the facts. Things like increased anxiety, depression, time off work, and so on are all relevant and will be accounted for.

You Must Have Insurance to Drive Legally

This point is non-negotiable. If you don’t have a valid insurance policy, and you are involved in a crash, then you are completely liable for whatever happens next. You won’t have protection against damage claims and you could make it harder for yourself to drive in the future as well. California state requires all drivers to have a minimum coverage, but there are policies that take further factors into account as well.

Being involved in a car accident is always going to cause trauma. These are major life events, and we are here to help you through this troubling time. Contact Karns & Karns Personal Injury and Accident Attorneys to find a way forward.