Can Someone Sue You for a Car Accident in California?

Can Someone Sue You for a Car Accident in California?

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Most vehicle collisions in California are handled through the parties’ auto insurance companies. Typically, the insurer of the at-fault person would have to pay the damages to the other party, whether it involves personal injury, property damage, or both. However, it is possible for a car accident victim to file a lawsuit against the responsible party instead of simply filing an insurance claim. Here’s how car accident lawsuits work in California.

When Can a Car Accident Victim Sue in California?

A person may file suit against you in California if they have suffered losses from a car crash and they believe you are at fault. This is because California is a “fault state” or “fault-based state,” which means the party who caused the accident is liable to pay for the damages. By contrast, some other states are “no-fault states,” where injured motorists are covered by their own insurance regardless of who caused the crash.

Most car accident lawsuits in California are personal injury cases, and some are for the wrongful death of a loved one. Rarely do people sue for property damage, as these are often resolved through insurance negotiations.

There is a time limit for filing a lawsuit. Under California’s statute of limitations, a person has two years to sue for personal injury, starting from the date of injury. Likewise, there is also a two-year window to sue for wrongful death, starting from the date of death. Once this time limit has passed, the claimant will no longer be able to file suit, except in a few unique situations where the court may extend the deadline.

What Makes a Successful Car Accident Lawsuit in California?

The plaintiff (the person filing suit) must prove that the defendant was negligent in causing the collision. To prove negligence, the plaintiff has to establish all of the following elements:

  • Duty. The defendant had a duty of care towards other motorists on the road.
  • Breach of duty. The defendant failed their duty of care through their actions or inaction.
  • Causation. This breach of duty directly caused harm to the plaintiff.
  • Damages. The plaintiff suffered actual losses because of the accident.

How Much Compensation Will a Car Accident Victim Get in California?

There is no standard amount of auto collision verdict or settlement in CA, but in general, an injured person may claim compensation for the following:

  • Medical bills, including hospital fees, doctor’s fees, treatment procedures, and long-term care
  • Rehabilitation/therapy costs
  • Lost income
  • Lost potential to earn
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disfigurement
  • Decreased quality of life
  • Mental/psychological distress.

Some people ask, “Can a person claim compensation if they suffered mental/emotional trauma without physical injuries?” In California, the answer is yes, a person may sue for mental/emotional distress from a car crash, even if they weren’t physically injured. The challenge for them would be proving their actual damages and establishing that the defendant is responsible for it.

Who Pays If the Plaintiff Wins Their Auto Collision Lawsuit?

When it comes to personal injury, victims usually file a lawsuit if their damages are greater than what the insurance company can cover, or if the at-fault party is underinsured. If the victim wins their lawsuit, the defendant’s insurance company may pay the verdict up to policy limit. But if the verdict is greater than the insurance limit, the at-fault person will need to find another source to pay the remaining amount.

What If the Injured Victim is Partly to Blame?

An important part of California car accident lawsuits is the state’s “pure comparative negligence” principle. Under this rule, the court divides the fault among all the parties who contributed to the crash. If the injured plaintiff had some share of fault in the accident, their compensation will be reduced accordingly.

For example, if Plaintiff wins $100,000 but the jury finds that he is 10 percent at fault in his own crash, the award will be reduced by 10 percent so Plaintiff can receive only $90,000.

Call a Temecula Car Accident Lawyer Today

California’s auto insurance system and personal injury law can get complex quickly. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a traffic accident in southwestern California, don’t hesitate to call The Zucker Law Firm. We provide experienced legal advice and representation, which have resulted in many high-value outcomes for our clients.

Your consultation with us is free. Call (951) 699-2100 today.

The accident lawyers at The Zucker Law Firm in Temecula offer legal services exclusively in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death.

Can Someone Sue You for a Car Accident in California?
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