If you’ve lived in other places, you may be familiar with the basic car accident laws, but San Jose, California is a unique city when it comes to automotive accidents.
In this article, you’ll learn everything that you need to know about San Jose’s car accident laws and how they may pertain to your circumstances.
Like many other states, the Golden State requires drivers to carry car insurance. Drivers must have liability insurance with the following minimum amounts:
- $15,000 for injury or death to an individual
- $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person
- $5,000 for property damage
In some instances, drivers may provide other forms of financial responsibility, including cash deposits or surety bonds.
California has a “fault” system. Drivers are responsible for paying any costs due to fault, even if it is not covered by their insurance. For instance, if an individual’s car insurance only covered 80% of a victim’s expenses, the at-fault driver would be expected to make up the additional 20% out of pocket.
As a result, Californians oftentimes choose higher coverage options that will help them pay for any additional damages.
If caught, uninsured drivers may face fines, license suspension of up to four years and an impounded car. Additionally, underinsured and uninsured drivers are still responsible for paying all lawsuit damages and cannot receive non-economic damages themselves, even if they were not at fault.
Reporting a California Car Accident
Anyone involved in a car accident involving injuries, death or damage estimated to cost over $1,000 in repairs must report the incident to the police. Failure to do so can lead to fines, hit-and-run charges, and license suspension.
Additionally, drivers should report the incident to the DMV within 10 days if someone is killed, property damage exceeds $1,000 or an individual is injured. Not doing so can lead to your license being suspended or revoked.
Regardless of how minor an accident may have been, it is always recommended drivers file a police report in case future issues arise.
If you have insurance, drivers will also have to report the incident to a claims representative. However, it is advisable to avoid giving a recorded or written statement until you’ve discussed the accident with an attorney.
Before an insurance company will pay for any damages, California requires the policyholder must be found responsible for the accident. Because of this rule, California is considered a “fault” state, also referred to as a tort state.
In no-fault states, claims are encouraged to remain out of court by going through the insurance companies. Regardless of blame, the insurance company will compensate the policyholder for minor damages accrued.
In fault states, the person at fault for the accident bears all liability. If multiple people are responsible for the accident, liability is split.
If individuals wish to sue in California, they can take one of the following actions:
- File a claim through their personal car insurance company
- File a claim through the other driver’s insurance company
- Pursue a personal injury lawsuit
The restrictions inherent in no-fault states are limited in California, and citizens can choose several avenues through which to receive compensation. Many choose to file a lawsuit because insurance companies may attempt to undercut those seeking damages.
The Statute of Limitations
Each state has different statute of limitations, a deadline by which an individual must file a claim if he or she wishes to sue. Because California is a “fault” state, many victims of accidents may have to sue for personal injury in order to receive full compensation.
Once the statute of limitations has passed, very rarely will an individual be able to pursue a case.
If you’ve been in a car accident, Californians have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim. If the accident resulted in a death, plaintiffs will have two years from the date of the death to file.
However, if you would like to file a lawsuit concerning only vehicular damages, California Code of Civil Procedure section 338 provides three years to pursue the claim.
If you choose to pursue a lawsuit, it is integral to the case’s success you prove the other driver was at fault.
Keep any photos and documents associated with the accident. Write down in detail what occurred and keep a list of contact information for officials, eyewitnesses, and drivers.
In a car accident case, proving fault will require demonstrating four things:
- The other driver had a duty toward you. In this case, that duty would be to drive safely.
- The other driver breached that duty.
- The breach resulted in an injury to the plaintiff.
- The plaintiff suffered real injuries.
Mostly, the fault is proven through documentation or even recreations of the accident.
Pure Comparative Negligence
Californians can sue for personal injury or other damages even if they were partially responsible for the crash. However, there is a catch.
Florida follows a comparative fault system. Individuals can claim compensation from at-fault parties, but if they were also at fault, they will not receive the full finances awarded. This procedure is called comparative negligence.
For example, if a driver was found to be 10% at fault and received recompensation of $10,000, he or she would only obtain $9,000.
Fault is determined based on police reports, eyewitnesses and any other evidence demonstrated during the trial.
This regulation is only in place for when a lawsuit is settled in court, which happens rarely. Many times, tort cases are solved before ever reaching a judge.
Hire an Attorney
Navigating the after-effects of a California car accident can be difficult, especially concerning the many laws unique to The Golden State. That’s why Californians should consider hiring an attorney.
Car accidents are frightening experiences, but the stress afterward doesn’t have to pull you under.
Whether it’s a car accident or another form of personal injury, Mova Law Group is here to help. Contact us to schedule a free consultation, where we will discuss the specifics of your case and determine the best steps for your situation.