California Car Accident Laws

Posted on: June 21, 2019

In 2017, the state of California was found to have the second highest number of fatal car accidents in the country with over 3,600 reported incidents. Driving Under the Influence or DUI, distracted driving, and speeding were among the top causes of deadly crashes. If you have been involved in a car accident, you may be entitled to claim damages in the form of monetary compensation. However, your case is greatly affected by California car accident laws, as well as the nature of the collision. Listed below are some of the major laws you need to know before pursuing a car accident lawsuit.

Laws on Financial Responsibility

California law, specifically the California Insurance Code §11580.1b, requires car owners to prove financial responsibility by having their vehicle insured. The minimum insurance coverage is dictated by the California Vehicle Code §16056 and is set to at least $15,000 if the accident resulted in the death or injury of one person. Additionally, an insurance of not less than $30,000 is demanded in the case of death or injury of two or more people, and coverage of least $5,000 in the event of property damage.

Alternatively, financial responsibility may be shown in the following ways:

  • Paying a cash deposit of $35,000 to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
  • Possessing a self-insurance certificate provided by the DMV
  • Owning a surety bond worth at least $35,000 issued by a state-licensed company

Resident and nonresident drivers need to carry any valid proof of insurance with them at all times when passing through California’s roads. Failure to present necessary documents when requested by law enforcement is a cause for fines, while license revocation may occur if you get involved in a car accident.

Driving Obligations

Drivers are expected to follow California traffic rules set by the California Vehicle Code (CVC) intently, especially when driving on highways where most traffic collisions occur. Under the section 21650 of the CVC, all vehicles on the highway must be driven on the right half of the road except when overtaking, making a left turn, or when the roadway is restricted to one-way traffic.

Meanwhile, section 21800 strictly enforces that drivers entering a highway must give way to oncoming cars and pedestrians, proceeding only when there is sufficient time to enter without disrupting the flow of traffic. Additional driving rules include observing speed limits, exhibiting proper road etiquette, and abiding by your vehicle’s load capacity.

Reporting a Car Accident in California

Any car accident resulting in injuries, death, or property damage exceeding $1,000 must be reported to the California Highway Patrol or police department within 24 hours. This is in accordance with section 20008 of the California Vehicle Code, which officially states that the driver or any representative of any of the vehicles involved must make a written report to open an investigation formally.

Section 16000 of the same code also requires you to report the incident to the DMV by filling out an SR-1 form within 10 days of the accident. The said document will ask for the following information:

  • Exact date and location of the accident
  • Personal information of everyone involved
  • Insurance information
  • Description of bodily injuries and damages to property

Accomplishing the SR-1 is required whether or not you are at fault, and even if police officers responded on the day of the crash. This may also be done by your attorney or insurance provider.

Car Accident Liability Laws

Car accident liability laws in California are grounded heavily on the theory of pure comparative negligence. This means the state recognizes that there could be multiple people responsible for a car crash, holding all of them financially accountable for the incident (under California Civil Code §1431.2). Liability charges are determined through apportionment of fault, wherein an investigation evaluates the degree to which an individual is responsible for the collision and uses that as a basis for the amount payable. Pure comparative fault also allows partially responsible victims to recover compensation, albeit reduced.

Claims to Damages

California law stipulates that car accident victims have the right to claim economic and non-economic damages given that they meet the state’s requirements for compensation. Section 1431.2(b)(1) of the California Civil Code legally defines economic damages as those pertaining to verifiable monetary losses, including but not limited to:

  • Medical expenses
  • Profit loss
  • Burial costs
  • Damaged properties
  • Cost of repairs or replacement
  • Loss of employment

On the other hand, non-economic damages refer to subjective, non-monetary losses like the following:

  • Pain
  • Suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of companionship
  • Humiliation
  • Mental turmoil

The amount of claimable compensation will depend on who was at fault for the accident, as determined by an official investigation. Furthermore, drivers who fail to show proof of responsibility and are convicted of a DUI cannot recover claims for non-economic damages.

Statute of Limitations

Those involved in traffic collisions have up to three years to file for a car accident lawsuit if damages are limited to destruction of property. In contrast, accidents which have resulted in bodily injuries and death must be filed within two years from the crash.

Hire an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer in California

Car accidents impact the lives of its victims well beyond the date of the actual collision. Filing a lawsuit is a stressful task that could even leave you shorthanded without proper legal guidance. To get the most out of your claims to damages, hire an expert car accident attorney to build your case from Mesriani Law Group (MLG). Our Los Angeles-based law firm houses experienced and compassionate lawyers who will help you get the justice you deserve. Avail of our free legal consultation today and enjoy our No Win No Fee Policy should you avail of our legal service.