Establishing Fault:
Sorting Out Liability in
California Auto Accidents

California drivers log nearly 341 billion miles in their vehicles each year. With a population of approximately 40 million, 26 million of them are licensed drivers. That averages out to about 13,000 miles per driver each year. During those 341 billion miles on the state’s highways and byways, the chance that you’ll be involved in a collision once, twice, or even three times in your life is better than you think. So if you are involved in an accident and it’s the other driver’s fault, who pays for your injuries, damages, and losses?

If you’ve been involved in an accident in or around Fresno, California, or in the neighboring communities of Visalia, Clovis, Madera, or Merced, contact the car accident attorneys at the Winter Law Group. Our experienced legal team can represent you and press your claims for personal injury and other damages through negotiations or other legal avenues in an effort to obtain the compensation need and deserve.

California Insurance
and Liability Laws

California law states: "All drivers and all owners of a motor vehicle shall at all times be able to establish financial responsibility and shall at all times carry in the vehicle evidence of the form of financial responsibility in effect for the vehicle." This is essentially referring to the requirement of having and carrying proof of auto insurance. If you cannot provide proof, you can be fined, have your driving privileges suspended, and even have your vehicle impounded.

California law requires all drivers to obtain liability insurance to cover bodily and property damage. The minimum for personal injury liability is $15,000/$30,000 — meaning $15,000 for one person injured or killed, and $30,000 total if more than one person is involved. Liability coverage applies only to others you injure, not yourself. The minimum coverage for damage to the property of others is $5,000.

If damages from either total more than your coverage, you are personally liable and can be sued for the difference.

Fault and Comparative Negligence

California is considered an “at fault” state, meaning if you are found to be negligent in causing injury or property damage to others, you are at fault legally and will be held personally responsible for compensating the injured party. California is also a pure comparative negligence state, meaning that the victim can still hold you liable even if they are partially at fault for the accident.

In other words, if you are sued for injuries and damages and the case goes to trial, the jury will be asked to assign a percentage of fault to each party involved in the claim. If the victim is shown to be 20% at fault for driving with a broken taillight or some other violation, and the compensation awarded is $100,000, the award will be reduced by the 20% portion of the victim’s liability, to $80,000. Theoretically, pure comparative negligence can still allow claims by a victim who is up to 99 percent at fault for the accident.

Pursuing Your
Personal Injury Claim

If you’ve been injured or suffered other damages in an auto accident that you believe to be the other party’s fault, the first step is to notify your own insurance company. If it’s just a minor fender-bender with a scratch on your forearm, this may be all you need to do. 

Whatever the extent of injury or property damage, however, both your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company (who may be contacted by you, your insurer, or both during the claims process) will call on their insurance adjusters to investigate the claim.

Dealing with Insurance Adjusters

Insurance adjusters are highly trained professionals with a whole arsenal of trick questions and tactics to get you to say something that they can use to reduce the liability of their parent company, especially when it involves injury claims. They are paid to protect the insurance company’s bottom line. A common tactic is to call you and ask, “How are you today?” If you respond with “fine” or “good,” they can use that to assert that your injury isn’t as bad as you claim, and attempt to reduce the compensation you are owed.

They’ll also try to request access to your medical records to see if they can show you had a pre-existing condition that will mitigate your claim against them. They may also try to force a low-ball settlement on you, or even delay the settlement process for as long as possible in hopes that you just give up.

How an Attorney Can Help

You don’t have to deal with the adjusters. You should leave everything in the hands of an experienced personal injury and accident attorney who can protect your rights and negotiate on your behalf.

Remember, if the other driver truly is at fault, their insurance company and the at-fault party himself are responsible for paying for your injuries and damages. This includes all medical expenses, lost wages, and vehicle repair and replacement costs. If you sue under California’s personal injury laws and prevail, you can also obtain compensation for any additional pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.

Rely on Our Experienced
Car Accident Attorneys

While you recover from your injuries, the last thing you need is the aggravation of dealing with insurance adjusters who want to lowball your claim or deny you compensation altogether. Don’t face these challenges on your own. Here at the Winter Law Group, our experienced California personal injury attorneys will not only aggressively negotiate for you with the insurance companies, but we will also advise you of any further legal actions that may be necessary, including a personal injury lawsuit.

Our firm is proud to serve clients in Fresno and the Greater Central Valley area. If you or someone you know has been injured in an auto accident, contact the Winter Law Group today to schedule a free case consultation.


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