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What Does California Law Say About Traffic Accident Injuries?

If you injure someone in a car accident or if you’re injured in a traffic accident, what does California law say about liability and limitations? Here’s what you need to know.

As a responsible driver, your top priority when you get behind the wheel is avoiding an accident.

Sometimes, though, things happen that are out of our control. Someone might pull in front of you, leaving you no room to maneuver. Or someone might hit your car from the side or from behind.

This is why 2.35 million people are injured or disabled in traffic accidents every year!

Have you recently been injured in a traffic accident? Are you curious what the law says about a California car accident?

Read on to learn more about automobile accident laws in California.

Who Should Report the Accident?

California car accident law states that any accident (even minor ones) must be reported to the authorities within 24 hours. This must be in the form of a written statement to the local police department or the Highway Patrol.

Keep in mind that if law enforcement shows up at the scene of the accident, the officer will prepare this written report on your behalf. It is not necessary for you to submit a separate report.

However, you will need to notify the California DMV within 10 days if:

  • Someone was injured (including cyclists, pedestrians, passengers, etc.)
  • Someone was killed
  • Property damage to the vehicle (or other property) is more than $750

What about your auto insurance company? There’s no law specifically stating you must report the incident.

However, all insurance companies require policyholders to report any accidents within a reasonable amount of time. Doing this ensures they’re prepared to provide coverage and defend the claim, if necessary.

What’s the Statute of Limitations?

In simple terms, the statute of limitations is the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit over injury or loss.
In the State of California, if you are making a claim against a private individual for personal injuries, the Statute of Limitations is generally 2 years.
This means you have two years to either resolve your claim or file a lawsuit.  However, there are situations where the Statute of Limitations can be much shorter.
This is true for example, if the party you are making the claim against is a Governmental Entity or an Indian Reservation, or if your claim involves medical malpractice.
For this reason, it is very important that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible following an accident, so you can determine the correct time line that applies to your situation.

Who Pays for the Damage?

This is where automobile accident laws start to get tricky.

If you (or your attorney) can prove that the other driver was 100% at fault, their insurance should become responsible for covering damages. If the accident was your fault, bad news–the financial responsibility will fall on you.

In many cases, though, both drivers share a portion of responsibility for the accident. For this reason, California is a “pure comparative negligence state.”

What does this mean? Let’s say you’re side-swiped when another driver makes an unsafe lane change–but you were speeding at the time. The court could determine that the other drive is 80% responsible for the accident, while you were 20% responsible.

In this scenario, the other driver would pay 80% of the damages, while you would cover the remaining 20%.

California Traffic Accident Laws: Final Thoughts

After reading this, you now have a basic understanding of traffic accident laws in California.

If you were injured in a recent accident (or you injured someone else), it’s vital to seek legal advice. Auto injury law is complicated, and you can only navigate it with the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer.

Click here to learn more about the team of professionals at Dalby Wyant.

You may also contact us directly for a consultation.