Car accidents resulting in personal injury, particularly in back injuries, are very common in California. If you have been in a car accident or have suffered a personal injury in California, then you may be entitled to compensation. There are two main elements that must have been involved in the accident that caused your personal injury (and that must be proven in Court) for you to be able to claim compensation. The first is that you have suffered a personal injury. The second is that the cause of that injury (ie, the cause of the car accident), is, at least partially, due to the actions of someone else.
In California, a person is allowed two years from the time of injury to file a lawsuit against the person who they think is responsible. However, personal injury claims against a state government agency or a city or county in California, must be filed within 6 months from the date of injury.
There are many reasons why car accidents happen in California, including (but not limited to): speeding, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, distracted driving (eg, driving while: using a cell phone; eating or drinking; changing music; using a camera; applying makeup – and any number of other activities that can distract drivers)); carelessness, driving when tired, failure to obey traffic laws, poor weather or road conditions and low driving skill.
The California Office of Traffic Safety (“OTS”, www.ots.ca.gov) records data relating to traffic accidents in California.
For example, OTS records show that in San Francisco city in 2013 there were 2,571 deaths and injuries caused by traffic accidents. Of those traffic related deaths and injuries:
– 555 pedestrians were killed or injured:
– 203 motorcyclists were killed or injured:
– 430 bicyclists were killed or injured:
– 202 accidents involved alcohol;
– 417 accidents involved speeding;
– 242 accidents were hit and runs; and
– 346 accidents occurred during the nighttime hours of 9:00pm and 2:59am.
In the same year, OTS records show that in Los Angeles city there were 29,032 deaths and injuries caused by traffic accidents. Of those death and injuries:
– 2,863 pedestrians were killed or injured:
– 1,234 motorcyclists were killed or injured:
– 2,340 bicyclists were killed or injured:
– 2,382 accidents involved alcohol;
– 3,595 accidents involved speeding;
– 3,146 accidents were hit and runs; and
– 2,846 accidents occurred during the nighttime hours of 9:00pm and 2:59am.
OTS records also show that in 2013 in San Diego city there were 5,214 deaths and injuries caused by traffic accidents. Of these deaths and injuries:
– 594 pedestrians were killed or injured:
– 176 motorcyclists were killed or injured:
– 480 bicyclists were killed or injured:
– 709 accidents involved alcohol;
– 773 accidents involved speeding;
– 307 accidents were hit and runs; and
– 585 accidents occurred during the nighttime hours of 9:00pm and 2:59am.
While some injuries resulting from a car accident may have a very short term effect (eg, small cuts and bruises), other injuries can have a much longer lasting, or in some cases even permanent, effect. Two such examples are in the case of neck and back injuries. Common types of back injuries caused by car accidents occur because of the sudden jolt that happens when a person is thrown forward, backwards, or sideways after being hit. Typical neck and back injuries cause by accidents include:
– Whip lash;
– Fractures; and
– Soft tissue damage such as:
> Swelling and bruising;
> Torn muscles and ligaments; and more.
Whiplash, for example, is caused by a severe jerk or jolt to the neck/head. It can result in stretched and torn tendons and muscles in the back of the neck. Whiplash can cause severe, ongoing headaches, concussion, tenderness and can cause pain in, and limit the range of motion of, the head and neck.
In cases where severe damage has occurred to the spine (such as a broken neck or dislocated or crushed vertebrae), it can leave the person temporarily or permanently paralyzed (or with partial paralysis). Such back injuries that may cause full or partial paralysis result from damage to the spinal cord. In fact, motor vehicle accidents are one of the most common causes of spinal injuries in California.
The impact of these types of back injuries on a persons life is not just physical. Spinal cord injuries, in particular, can have a devastating on a persons life and livelihood. The cost of diagnosing these injuries is significant, especially as it is not easy to diagnose soft tissue damage. Then there are ongoing costs of treatment and rehabilitation, financial impacts from loss of work and the cost of special equipment to help with day to day living following the accident (ie, wheelchair, ramp or other modifications to assist you with moving around your house or to drive your car). Some estimates place the costs of having a spinal cord injury over a lifetime anywhere from $2 million to over $3 million.
There are different types of damages that can be awarded following a car accident in California including:
– medical expenses (past and future) relating to the accident:
– loss of income (past and future) resulting from the accident;
– suffering and pain caused by the accident;
– mental suffering; and
– loss of “consortium” (a person’s loss of companionship and association with their husband or wife).
However, California law states that damages for personal injury are awarded based on the contributory negligence of the person who is responsible, or partly responsible for he accident. This means that if the Court deems that both parties to a car accident shared equal responsibility for it, then the injured party will receive 50% of the damages that would have been awarded should full responsibility have lay with the other party. It is therefore, important to ensure that following a car accident no fault is admitted. This is because there are a number of factors that can contribute to a car accident, and until there is evidence to show what caused the accident, or what contributed to the accident, then it cannot accurately be known who is at fault, or how much fault can be attributable to each person.
If you have been involved in a car accident and you have received personal injury as a result, you are not alone. Car accidents are very common in the State of California and there are a number of agencies (including medical and legal) who are available to help you, should you have unfortunately been involved in one.