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Understanding California Car Accident Laws

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If you get into a car accident in California, there are some rules you’ll need to follow. You may also be wondering about the law if you are considering a personal injury lawsuit.

No matter your situation, our team at The Law Offices of Caroline J. Nasseri would be happy to discuss your case with you during a free consultation. Before you come in, you may want to page through our quick guide to car accident laws in California (below).

Reporting Your Accident

Whenever a car accident results in injuries or death, you must report it to the California Highway Patrol or the police department where the accident occurred within 24 hours. Nevertheless, if local law enforcement responds to your accident, they will report the crash on your behalf. For this reason, calling 911 or summoning the police to the scene of your accident is the safest way to adhere to California Vehicle Code § 20008.

If your accident results in injuries (major or minor), death, or property damage of more than $1,000, you must also report it to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 10 days.

You can do so using the Traffic Accident Report SR1 form, which is available on the DMV website. For more information about reporting your accident, consult Chapter 1 of the California Vehicle Code and/or an attorney from The Law Offices of Caroline J. Nasseri.

Dealing with Car Insurance

Your car insurance policy should outline when and how you should report your accident to your insurance company. If you fail to adhere to your contract, you can lose your right to coverage – even if you always pay your premiums.

If you are confused by anything in your policy, our firm can help clarify. To stay on the safe side, however, tell your insurer about your accident within 24 hours. You should do this regardless of the severity of the accident and whether or not you plan to file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.

Filing a Lawsuit

Should you wish to file a lawsuit, you will need to adhere to California’s statute of limitations. For injuries sustained in the accident, you have 2 years from the date of the crash to file suit. For cases of wrongful death, the 2-year clock starts ticking as soon as the decedent succumbs to their injuries.

If you are only pursuing compensation for damages to your vehicle, California’s Code of Civil Procedure allows you 3 years from the date of your accident to file a claim.

Failing to adhere to the deadlines above can jeopardize your right to pursue legal action and lead to your case being dismissed.

Another law you should be aware of if you are planning to file a lawsuit is the rule of comparative negligence. In California, if you are at-fault for your own accident in any way, the amount you can recover will be reduced accordingly. For example, consider an accident where another driver ran a red light. If you were speeding at the time of the collision, you could be found partially at-fault, even though the accident would not have happened if the other driver did not run the light. As a result, you could be deemed 10% at fault for the crash. If your total damages add up to $20,000, you would only be eligible to receive $18,000 due to your 10% liability. This theory of law is called “pure comparative negligence,” and it has the potential to affect your recovery.

Don’t Do It Alone!

As you can see, California car accident laws can be complex. Don’t try to navigate the law by yourself. Instead, discuss your potential case with an experienced car accident attorney at our firm.

The Law Offices of Caroline J. Nasseri can be reached by phone at (408) 912-2217 or online, here.

We offer free case evaluations and can handle your case virtually until restrictions related to COVID-19 have been lifted.