In recent years, new technologies have made our cars, trucks and SUVs safer than ever. Yet despite these upgrades, motor vehicle accidents continue to occur at a shocking rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 32,000 people die each year in auto accidents, and another 2 million people are injured.
A collision can lead to a range of serious injuries, from bruises and broken bones to spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, or even death. If you have been hurt in an accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. A skilled Santa Rosa personal injury lawyer can help, advocating for you throughout the process.
By filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, you may be able to recover damages for your medical bills, lost wages, scarring, emotional trauma, and more. The Kuvara Law Firm represents injury victims throughout Northern California, working hard to help you get the maximum compensation for your losses.
Can I File a Lawsuit for My Santa Rosa Car Accident?
In California, most personal injury cases are based on a theory of negligence, which is the failure to use the care that a reasonable person would in a similar situation. If you can prove that the other driver was negligent, then you will be able to recover money for your injuries.
Negligence has four basic elements:
- Duty: the other driver (defendant) owed you a duty of care;
- Breach: the defendant breached or violated that duty of care;
- Causation: this violation was the cause of the accident; and
- Damages: you suffered damages as a result.
All California drivers have a duty to use reasonable care when driving on public roads. They may violate this duty in any number of ways, such as:
- Drinking and driving (DUI)
- Distracted driving, including texting while driving
- Aggressive driving
- Running a stop sign or red light
- Not paying attention
If you can show that the other driver violated their duty of care, and that this violation caused the accident that hurt you, then you will be able to recover money for the injuries that you suffered.
In some cases, negligence or fault is clear. For example, if another driver runs a red light and hits your vehicle while you proceed through the intersection, then it will be relatively simple to prove that they were negligent. In some cases, if the other driver violated a law and caused an accident while doing so, they can be found “negligent per se” – which means that you won’t have to prove that they were negligent.
However, there may be situations where more than one driver shares fault for an accident. California law follows a principle known as comparative negligence. With comparative negligence, you can still recover for your losses in an accident, even if you were partially to blame. However, your total recovery will be reduced by the percentage that you were at fault.
For example, another driver hit your vehicle when they turned onto the road without looking both ways. At the time of the accident, you were driving in the middle of the road. You suffered $50,000 in damages, and a jury determines that you were 20% at fault. Your total recovery would be reduced by 20%, or $10,000, for a total of $40,000.
Cases involving comparative negligence can be incredibly complex. During a free consultation, a skilled Santa Rosa car accident attorney will listen to your story and offer you advice about your legal rights and options for pursuing a claim against the other driver and their insurance company.
What Damages Can I Recover in My Case?
In a personal injury lawsuit, there are two broad categories of damages that you may be entitled to: compensatory and non-compensatory damages. As the name suggests, compensatory damages are meant to compensate you for your losses. Non-compensatory damages – also known as punitive damages – are intended to punish a wrongdoer for their intentional or reckless conduct, and to deter others from engaging in similar conduct.
There are two types of compensatory damages. Economic damages are meant to address specific financial losses. They may include things like past and future medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and reduced earning capacity.
By contrast, non-economic damages are intended to compensate an accident victim for their intangible losses, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, and scarring or disfigurement. Non-economic damages can be harder to prove, but a seasoned personal injury attorney will use their knowledge of similar cases and input from experts to develop a demand for damages.
Punitive damages are rarely available in personal injury cases, as most car crashes involve negligence rather than intentional or reckless conduct. However, there may be situations where you can request punitive damages, such as a drunk driving accident. If the driver voluntarily consumed drugs and/or alcohol, knowing that they had to get behind the wheel afterwards, they may be required to pay punitive damages for any crash that results.
When Should I Hire an Attorney After a Car Accident?
After a motor vehicle accident, the last thing on your mind may be filing a legal claim. When you’re in physical pain, the last thing that you want to deal with is insurance forms and finding a lawyer. However, if you wait too long to pursue a claim, you could be barred from recovering any money.
With a few exceptions, you have just two years to file a personal injury lawsuit in California. If you fail to do so within this time period – known as the statute of limitations – then you cannot file a lawsuit at all. That is why it is critical that you hire a Santa Rosa car accident attorney as soon as possible after your collision.
Is It Worth Getting a Lawyer for a Minor Car Accident?
If you were in a relatively minor fender bender, you may not think that it is worth the time or expense of hiring a lawyer. While this may be true in situations where the only damage was to your vehicle, it is often a good idea to talk to a personal injury lawyer about your claim and ask them to review any settlement documents. Remember that the insurance company’s goal isn’t to make sure that you get the most money – it is to settle your claim as cheaply as possible.
Even if you think that your injuries are relatively minor, you should still reach out to an attorney for a free consultation about your claim. Too often, these types of injuries don’t improve immediately – and if you settle your case too early, you could be left on the hook for any ongoing medical expenses. Your lawyer can ensure that you get the full amount of compensation that you deserve for your injuries.
How Do I Choose an Attorney for a Car Accident?
Most people are fortunate to have limited dealings with the legal system. If you’re in an accident, this can make it hard to choose an attorney to represent you. In this situation, you can find a good lawyer by:
- Asking for recommendations from family and friends
- Reading online reviews
- Meeting with Santa Rosa car accident lawyers for free consultations
- Asking for references
- Looking for a lawyer who only handles personal injury claims, and who has a track record of success
In this way, you can be sure that you are hiring an attorney who will help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
Help for Accident Victims
After a car accident, both you and your loved ones may be dealing with a lot – physical pain from serious injuries, emotional trauma, and financial uncertainty. The thought of filing a personal injury claim may be overwhelming. Our law firm will take on the insurance company for you, fighting for your right to compensation.
The Kuvara Law Firm in Santa Rosa represents individuals throughout Sonoma County who have been injured in all types of accidents, including motor vehicle collisions, motorcycle accidents, slip and falls, and pedestrian accidents. With law offices throughout the Bay Area, including in Santa Rosa, we work hard to help our clients achieve the highest possible recovery for their injuries. To learn more or to schedule a free case evaluation, contact us at 415-479-7070 or fill out our online contact form.