Understanding California Car Accident Laws: Your Rights and Responsibilities
Posted on July 19, 2023
Car accidents happen every day in California, but they do not happen to you every day. According to their most recent statistics, California Highway Patrol reported that over 269,000 people were injured in car accidents. If you have been injured in the Oxnard area, contact us at the King Law Firm to discuss your case.
What Are California Car Accident Laws?
There are a variety of California accident laws that can affect each aspect of motor vehicle crashes. These laws determine when and how you can file a lawsuit to receive compensation after a car crash, how insurance claims are to be handled, and how much money you can recover for lost income, medical bills, pain and suffering, and property damage. It is imperative that drivers who are involved in a crash in California understand these laws and the impact on their case.
Drivers in California are required to carry auto insurance. California insurance code requires that every vehicle be covered with a minimum of 15/30/5 insurance, which provides maximum coverage of:
- $15,000 for the medical payments of an injury victim or the death of one person
- $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person
- $5,000 for personal property damage
Drivers must carry proof of insurance in case they are involved in an automobile accident. Proof of insurance must be shown when:
- Law-enforcement requests it
- The driver is involved in a car accident
- Drivers are obtaining or renewing a vehicle registration
Failure to provide proof of car insurance can result in being issued fines or the possible revocation of your license or loss of driving privileges. Under California law, your car insurance provider is legally required to offer underinsured motorist and uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage. You are not legally obligated to purchase either of these policies. However, they must be declined in writing.
Who Is Liable for a Car Accident in California?
Liability is determined using a pure comparative negligence system when multiple parties may be liable for the accident. In California, each person found to be at fault for the accident is held responsible for their portion of the fault. This system makes certain that car accident victims can recover a portion of the damages they suffer. In addition, if the injured party contributed to the accident, it excludes them from receiving excessive compensation.
For example, one driver may have run a stop and the other may be going well over the speed limit. The first driver could be found 70% at fault, and the second driver could be found 30% at fault. If the injured driver sustained damage totaling $100,000, their damages would get deducted by 30% to $70,000. In addition, 30% of the first driver’s losses would be covered by the second driver.
California law states that more than one party may be at fault and that more than one individual can be held financially responsible for the damages that occur from a motor vehicle accident. Each individual is financially responsible for the degree of the accident that was their fault.
Many states only allow the victim to recover compensation if they are under 50% at fault for the accident. In California, however, the “pure” portion of this system allows an accident victim to recover damages, despite the victim’s own degree of fault. So if the driver was responsible for 90% of the accident, they could still file a claim on the other individual for 10% of the remaining damages.
How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident in California?
Insurance companies send adjusters to review several documents to determine fault in a motor vehicle accident. Insurance adjusters will check the following in their investigation:
- Eyewitness testimony
- Official law enforcement officer reports
- Medical records and bills
- Statements from any drivers involved in the accident
To legally prove your claim, you must show that the other person acted negligently and that the accident was caused due to that negligence. Negligence means the other driver had a duty to act in a reasonable manner and failed to do this.
How Long Does an Insurance Company Have to Settle a Car Accident Claim in California?
There may be several factors that can affect how long insurance companies have to settle a claim. In California, insurance companies have 85 days after a claim is filed to reach a settlement. Additionally, there are specific time frames in which insurance companies must acknowledge the claim and decide if they will accept or deny it, prior to paying the final settlement. The timeline is as follows:
- 15 days to acknowledge the claim and forward the policyholder paperwork and instructions. This paperwork includes proof of loss forms and serves as a sworn statement on behalf of the policyholder that consists of a scope of the injuries or damage.
- 40 days after receiving the completed proof of loss forms, a decision must be made on the claim.
- 30 days after the claim is approved, the final payment must be made.
Several factors can slow the claims process and affect how long an insurance company may take to settle a claim. Situations such as:
- Claims that involve multiple or severe injuries
- A lack of communication between the at-fault driver, insurance adjuster, and insurance company
You are entitled to a fair and efficient settlement. If you feel that your insurance company is operating unethically or unlawfully, you have the right to file a “bad faith” lawsuit, which could award you the original settlement in addition to penalties and added interest.
We Are Experienced California Motor Vehicle Accident Attorneys You Can Count On
If you have been in a car accident, our personal injury lawyer can help you build a solid case to receive the compensation you deserve. The King Law Firm proudly serves many locations throughout California. Call our California car accident lawyer to get started on your personal injury lawsuit, or fill out our convenient contact form today for a free consultation.