Every day, thousands of people are involved in automobile accidents. Some are minor “fender benders” and don’t cause any injuries, but others can cause catastrophic and life-altering effects to everyone involved. If you or a loved one has suffered an automobile accident, it is important that you choose an attorney who thoroughly understands California’s laws and statutes regarding automobile accidents. California Automobile Accident Lawyer Fernando D. Vargas is an experienced trial lawyer who, since 1987, has effectively litigated thousands of personal injury cases throughout the Inland Empire and the counties of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino with an emphasis in the cities of Pomona, Rancho Cucamonga, Claremont, Montclair, Upland, Ontario, Chino, Fontana, Riverside, and San Bernardino. The Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas, which is located in the city of Rancho Cucamonga, has recovered millions of dollars in personal injury verdicts and settlements for their clients.
Automobile Accident Statistics
According to the United States Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA), 32,719 people died in motor vehicle accidents in the United States in 2013 and another estimated 2.3 million people were injured. This averages out to 4 people injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident every minute! Of those fatalities, 3,000 were in California, which was an increase of 34 deaths over 2012. This averages out to just over 8 automobile fatalities in California every day!
Most automobile accidents are preventable, caused by reckless or negligent driver behavior. The NHSTA reports that most drivers engage in activities that take their attention away from the road. These activities can include talking with other passengers, playing with the radio, eating or drinking, using a cell phone, texting, emailing, etc.
Alcohol-impaired driving is also a serious problem. Although fatalities related to driving with a BAC of 0.08 or greater decreased 2.5 percent from 2012 to 2013, this still left us with 10,076 fatalities in 2013. This shows that alcohol was a factor in roughly one third of all traffic fatalities in 2013. Figures in California were a bit better, with 867 of 3,000 fatalities (29 percent) involving drivers with BACs over the legal limit.
What you should do if you are involved in an automobile accident?
If you are involved in an automobile accident, there are several things you must do, including the following:
- Stop. The first thing you should do is stop immediately at the scene of the accident. Failure to stop at the scene of the accident may be viewed as a hit and run and constitute a felony.
- Your first priority should always be the health and safety of you and everyone else involved in the accident. If you are physically able to do so, check on the condition of all the parties involved. If anyone is injured and requires medical attention, call 911 immediately.
- Call the Police if anyone has been hurt or if there has been substantial property damage over $500.
- If possible, use your cell phone to take pictures or video of the scene, the parties and the vehicles involved in the collision, and do so before moving the vehicles to a safer location. If you do not have a camera, ask a witness to take photographs and have them text or email them to you.
- If your car is drivable, move it out of the lanes of traffic and out of danger, either off to the side of the road or to a nearby parking lot.
- Obtain the license plate and vehicle identification number of every vehicle involved in the accident.
- Obtain the name, address, telephone number, driver’s license number, and automobile insurance information of every person involved in the accident.
- Locate and obtain the name, telephone number and address of any potential witnesses to the accident.
- Notice information about the accident, including the location, time of day, number of vehicles involved, weather conditions, road conditions, the direction of travel of any vehicles involved, any posted traffic signs, the speed limit, the visibility and/or invisibility of any posted traffic signs, any unusual traffic conditions such as lane closures or construction, etc. As time passes, memories fade. Therefore, it is important to note this information as close to the time of the accident as possible.
- If you think you may have been injured in the accident, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Explain to your doctor the symptoms you are experiencing and explain exactly how you suffered your injuries.
Protect your rights and immediately call the California Automobile Accident Trial Lawyer Fernando D. Vargas at 909 / 982-0707 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
What you should NOT do if you are involved in an automobile accident.
In addition to the things you should do, there are things you should NOT do if you are involved in an automobile accident, including:
- Do NOT admit fault for the accident to anyone, especially any police officer or insurance adjuster. This also includes any person riding in your vehicle. If your case goes to litigation, witnesses, including those riding in your vehicle, will be questioned about everything you said immediately before, during, and after the accident. The other side will use any statements of fault against you.
- Do NOT argue with any of the other drivers or passengers involved in the accident.
- Do NOT sign any statements regarding fault or promises to pay for any injuries or damages.
- Do NOT sign any documents with the other party, especially if the other party offers to pay you any compensation including your insurance deductible, as doing so may limit or entirely eliminate the responsible party’s obligation to pay for all of your remaining damages.
- Do NOT notify or report your accident to any insurance company, including your own, as insurance adjusters will ask to record your statement and they will ask questions that seek to lessen the value of your claim, or to defeat your claim entirely. The insurance companies know that if you speak with their adjusters, you will make mistakes that complicate your case; and if you make enough mistakes, it may be very difficult if not impossible, to get an attorney to accept your case.
- Do NOT attempt to settle any case without legal representation. Remember, insurance companies, even your own, care only about saving themselves as much money as possible. The insurance adjuster works for the insurance company, not you. The insurance company’s main goal is to settle the case as quickly as possible for as little as possible. Therefore, it is extremely important that you not accept any settlement offers before speaking with an attorney.
Automobile Repair Shops
Under California law, you have the right to take your vehicle to any automobile repair shop for repairs for damages to your car. California Insurance Code §758.5 prevents an insurance company from requiring that your vehicle be repaired at a specific repair shop. That being said, the insurance company can suggest or recommend that your vehicle be repaired at a particular automotive repair shop under the following conditions:
- You have expressly requested a referral from the insurance company; or
- You have been informed in writing of the right to select a repair shop of your choice.
If your vehicle is repaired at an automobile repair shop chosen by you, the insurance company is required to pay all reasonable costs to repair the vehicle in a workmanlike manner. The insurance company is prevented from limiting or discounting reasonable repair costs based on charges that would have occurred had your vehicle been repaired at the recommended automotive repair shop.