Car accidents fall under the umbrella of personal injury law in California. Therefore, car accident attorneys practice the laws that govern personal injury and help victims recover their losses. Since every car accident has unique situational circumstances, the tasks a car accident lawyer performs for each case can vary. However, there are some commonalities in the legal process for all auto accident cases.
What Are Common Cases Handled by a Car Accident Lawyer?
Car accident lawyers handle more than just collisions involving two standard passenger vehicles. Auto accidents can occur under various circumstances, sometimes relating to different applicable laws. For example, some typical cases for a car accident lawyer may include the following:
- Commercial truck accidents. Collisions involving semi trucks are among the most deadly and often have complex liability terms. Car accident lawyers must determine whether the truck driver, trucking company, truck manufacturer or a third-party mechanic or cargo loader is liable for their client's losses.
- Accidents involving pedestrians. These cases typically involve accidents where a vehicle collides with a pedestrian. The damages are often severe and require an understanding of the laws applying to pedestrians and vehicles.
- Accidents involving motorcycles. Motorcycle accident cases are also commonly severe. The victims face substantial losses and need legal representation to ensure they receive adequate compensation.
- Ridesharing accidents. Ridesharing vehicles are common in California, especially in urban areas. The road laws for these drivers are the same. However, cases can become more complex when determining which insurer is liable for damages.
- Multi-vehicle accidents. Accidents involving three or more vehicles can become increasingly complex when determining liability. A car accident attorney's nuanced understanding of tort law is often invaluable in these cases.
To better understand a car accident lawyer's value in collision cases, consider the tasks they perform and how they may relate to your case.
What Duties Does a Car Accident Lawyer Perform?
A car accident lawyer's duties can vary slightly depending on several factors, including the severity of the accident, the clarity of liability and the number of recoverable damages. Some commonalities among tasks performed in car accident cases include the following:
- Acting as the client's representative in all communications between the insurance companies and the defendant
- Investigating the accident to identify who is at fault
- Collecting evidence to support claims of negligence and damages
- Preparing the case for trial should attempts to negotiate a settlement not come to fruition
- Advising the client through the legal process and protecting their rights
Car accident lawyers are often a source of compassion and understanding during difficult times. They see clients in similar situations often and can sympathize with what you are going through. Sometimes they can recommend healthcare professionals to help you with physical and emotional struggles.
Proving negligence is arguably the most critical element of a car accident lawyer's job. You are responsible for proving negligence when you file a claim against the person liable for your accident. Your attorney will gather all the evidence needed through their investigation into your accident and support all three necessary components to prove negligence. Those three components include:
- Proof that the other driver owed you a duty of care at the time the accident occurred
- Proof that the other driver violated that responsibility by not upholding the laws of the road
- Proof that their violation caused your accident and the resulting injuries
Remember that damages are the foundation of a car accident claim. Without losses, you cannot recover compensation. For example, no personal injury claim exists if your accident was a minor collision that resulted in no bodily harm or property damage.
Most car accidents result in some form of compensatory damages, which is the term used in civil court to refer to your losses. These include the economic and non-economic damages available in your cases. Examples of both include the following:
- The cost of your medical care. This includes all outpatient and inpatient visits, medications, medical devices, emergency care and ongoing treatments, such as physical or occupational therapy.
- Wages lost during recovery. If you missed work due to your injuries, you could claim lost current and future wages, loss of earning capacity and loss of promotional opportunities.
- Damaged property. The at-fault driver from your accident must cover the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle and any other damaged property.
- Out-of-pocket expenses. If you need childcare or in-home service to help you get through your daily duties while you heal, you can also claim those expenses.
- Pain and suffering. Your psychological losses are valuable as well. You can claim physical and emotional pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment, consortium loss and emotional distress.
Identifying these losses is not as challenging as proving them. A car accident attorney gathers evidence, such as medical records and bills, pay stubs, testimonies from family and friends, statements from doctors and mental health professionals and any receipts or estimates for property damage.
Valuing Non-Economic Damages
Another critical component of car accident cases is valuing non-economic damages, which have no inherent monetary value. Most care accident attorneys will use the "multiplier method" to determine a reasonable financial demand for your psychological pain. This process entails totaling the value of your medical bills and multiplying them by a number that reflects the severity of your injuries. The number must be between 1.5 and 5.
A low number, such as 1.5 or two, would indicate injuries with less interference in your life and a shorter recovery period. However, more severe injuries would mean a higher value, such as four or five, representing a longer recovery time and more substantial pain and suffering. Choosing the correct multiplier is critical because it must reasonably reflect your losses.
When Do You Need a Car Accident Lawyer in California?
California law does not require you to hire a car accident lawyer to file a claim or lawsuit. However, suppose you have questions about the details of your case and what avenue of compensation you should pursue. In that case, car accident lawyers offer free consultations where you can ask all your questions and assess their ability to help you.
They also generally work on a contingency fee basis. Therefore, if you decide to work together after your initial meeting, they typically do not charge upfront fees for their services unless they can secure a settlement or award for your case.
If you feel you could be partially liable for the accident, you can still speak with an attorney about recovering your losses. California applies the pure comparative negligence rule to cases involving shared fault. This means you can still recover a portion of your damages equal to the other party's percentage of fault.
Should You Schedule a Consultation With a Car Accident Lawyer?
If you have questions about your auto accident, a car accident lawyer can help you understand the legal options available to you and what steps you should take next. These cases can result in devastating consequences for the victims, making it difficult to start rebuilding your life and healing from your injuries. Sometimes your best option is to hire a legal representative to take care of it for you. At Johnson Attorneys Group, we help auto accident victims get back on track financially more than any other personal injury victim. Contact us at (800) 208-3538 to schedule your free case evaluation today.