Being involved in a car accident in California can be overwhelming and stressful, especially if your actions contributed to the wreck. Even if you are at fault for a crash, you may have the right to pursue compensation for injuries you sustained.
However, seeking a fair settlement on your own can be challenging. Understanding your rights and how a skilled California car accident lawyer can help you navigate partial liability can improve your chances of receiving compensation.
Your Rights After a Car Crash in California
Even if you were at fault after a car crash in California, you still have specific rights. Four of the most important ones are the right to avoid admitting fault, the right to make an insurance claim, the right to seek compensation, and the right to seek legal representation.
- Remain factual without admitting fault: Even if you are responsible for the crash, whether partially or totally, you should never admit fault to the other parties that were involved or witnessed the accident. Statements you make can be used against you during the insurance claims process or in court, reducing your chances of recovering damages. For example, statements or words of sympathy such as, “I’m sorry,” “It was my fault,” or “I apologize for what happened” can be misinterpreted as admitting fault. While you must cooperate with police and insurance adjusters regarding your case, avoid speaking to anyone other than your attorney about the details and circumstances of the accident.
- Contact your insurance provider: If you have collision coverage, you can contact your auto insurance company after an accident and file a claim under your policy. Contact your provider’s claims department and provide them with as much information as possible regarding the accident. Depending on the specifics of your policy, you may be able to recover damages, as fault is typically irrelevant under collision coverage.
- Pursue compensation: California is a pure comparative fault state, meaning liability in a car accident is based on the degree of fault for each party involved. Damages awarded are reduced proportionally based on the assigned fault percentage. In this state, even if a driver is 99% at fault, they still have the right to seek a settlement. Under pure comparative fault, you can recover damages even if you are partially at fault. For instance, if you were involved in a car accident where you were 30% at fault, you can still claim compensation for the 70% of damages caused by the other party.
- Seek legal representation: Regardless of your percentage of fault, you have the right to contact a car accident lawyer to represent your case and help you understand your legal options. Your California auto collision attorney can review your case to determine liability and help you file an insurance claim based on your damages. They can also help you navigate an uninsured motorist’s claim if the other driver does not have coverage. This may allow you to receive a settlement for your injuries partially caused by an uninsured motorist.
Potential Damages You Can Receive
Damages you can receive include economic, non-economic, and, in rare cases, punitive damages.
- Economic damages: An attorney can help you recover economic damages, including measurable financial losses from the car accident. Economic damages include hospital bills, surgery, therapy, or prescriptions. They also cover vehicle repair and replacement costs, towing and storage fees, or repairs and lost income, which you did not earn due to your injuries.
- Non-economic damages: Skilled legal representation can also secure non-economic damages, which are intangible losses stemming from the accident. These include pain and suffering, such as physical discomfort and emotional distress, emotional anguish, disfigurement, scarring, loss of companionship or consortium, and diminished quality of life.
- Punitive damages: In exceptional cases, a court may award punitive or exemplary damages to the accident victim. They are intended to punish the at-fault party for their egregious behavior and serve as a deterrent against similar conduct in the future. Winning punitive damages requires proving that the defendant acted with willful misconduct, malice, or reckless indifference to others’ safety.
Why it’s Worth it to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer
Working with a qualified car accident lawyer after a crash, especially if you are partially at fault, can ensure you understand your legal options and protect your rights. Your attorney with The Shirvanian Law Firm can help you with the following elements of your car accident claim:
- Investigating your case: A thorough investigation is crucial for building a strong car accident claim, especially when partial fault is involved. A skilled attorney will gather evidence, such as accident reports, photographs, and witness testimonies, to challenge attempts by the insurance company to downplay your claim based on comparative fault and win you fair compensation.
- Navigating insurance regulations: Dealing with insurance companies can be overwhelming, especially when you share partial fault for the accident. An experienced attorney knows the intricacies of California’s insurance laws and can effectively communicate with insurance adjusters to ensure you are not taken advantage of or pressured into accepting a low settlement offer.
- Calculating fair compensation: Determining the appropriate value of your claim ensures you seek a settlement that covers your economic and non-economic losses after a crash. A knowledgeable attorney can assess your damages, including lost wages, medical expenses, pain, and suffering, and pursue the maximum compensation you are entitled to under California law.
- Statute of limitations: California has a two-year statute of limitations that limits when you can file a personal injury claim. Failure to act within this deadline can legally bar you from seeking compensation. A car accident attorney will ensure all necessary paperwork and legal procedures are followed promptly and within the statute of limitations.
- Courtroom experience: If negotiations with insurance companies are unsuccessful, your case might go to trial. Having a seasoned attorney with courtroom experience is critical. They can build a strong case, present compelling evidence, and skillfully argue on your behalf in front of a jury to secure a favorable verdict.
- Handling comparative fault arguments: Insurance companies may shift more blame onto you to minimize their liability. A proficient attorney will anticipate and counter these arguments, relying on evidence and witness testimonies to protect your interests and ensure a fair allocation of fault.
What if You Can’t Afford an Attorney?
In the aftermath of a car accident in California, the financial burden of hiring legal representation might prevent you from speaking with an attorney for your case.
Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This arrangement does not require you to pay upfront fees or retainers. Instead, the attorney’s payment is contingent upon the successful resolution of your case, typically through a settlement or favorable court verdict.
California does not currently cap contingency fees for personal injury attorneys, but most do not charge more than 33% to 40% of your settlement award. Your attorney will discuss this fee during your consultation, so understand your rights and responsibilities if you win your case.
The Shirvanian Law Firm offers legal services to car accident victims on a contingency fee basis. We ensure you can access adequate legal representation and pursue a fair settlement for your car accident claim regardless of your financial means after a crash.
Protect Your Rights After a California Car Crash
Working with an experienced car accident attorney may be crucial to protecting your interests if you’re involved in a car accident in California. Our legal team at The Shirvanian Law Firm understands the complexities of California’s pure comparative fault laws and will protect your rights when filing a claim.
Our legal team will thoroughly investigate the crash, determine the appropriate liability, and work to reduce your responsibility so you can win a fair settlement for your injuries. Contact us today to schedule a case review, or use our live chat feature for 24/7 real-time assistance.