Driving at high speeds was the leading cause of traffic deaths in Los Angeles in 2017. When drivers drive at high speeds, their visual fields narrow. This makes it more difficult for drivers to see others in their peripheral vision. Driving at high speeds also makes it more difficult to stop in time to avoid an accident. When a car’s speed is doubled, its braking distance increases by four times. The combination of a reduced visual field and a longer distance for braking makes speeding the most common cause of fatal accidents.
Under Cal. Veh. Code § 22350, it is illegal for people to drive at speeds that are greater than what is reasonable for the weather, traffic conditions, visibility, or surface conditions. It is also illegal to drive at speeds that endanger other people. This law is known as the basic speed law in California.
California also has a prima facie speed law found in Cal. Veh. Code § 22352. Under this law, in areas where a speed limit is not posted, the prima facie speed is 15 miles per hour when crossing railroad tracks or driving in alleys and 25 miles per hour when driving in residential neighborhoods or business districts.
California’s maximum speed law is found in Cal. Veh. Code § 22349. Under this law, people cannot drive faster than 65 miles per hour on a highway or more than 55 mph on an undivided, two-lane highway. However, the Department of Transportation can post higher speed limits on highways under Cal. Veh. Code § 22356 after conducting an engineering study.
When someone is killed in an accident that was caused by a speeding driver, the family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit. They might pursue a negligence claim based on a violation of the basic or prima facie speed laws or a negligence per se claim based on a violation of the maximum posted speed limit. To prevail on a negligence claim, the family members will need to prove the elements of negligence, including that the driver had a duty of care that he or she violated. They will also need to prove that the driver’s breach of his or her duty of care proximately or directly caused the accident, their loved one’s death, and financial harm for the family members.
A negligence per se claim based on a violation of the maximum speed law may be more straightforward. Negligence per se based on the driver’s speeding at speeds greater than the posted speed limits means that the driver is presumed to be negligent because of his or her violation of the law.
2. Drunk driving
According to the safety study, 22% of the fatal accidents in Los Angeles involved a drunk driver. Drunk driving accidents account for 38% of the deaths of people who were killed in vehicles. Drivers who were under the influence of alcohol were two times as likely to be involved in accidents that result in fatalities than drivers who were not under the influence at the time of their collisions.
Under Cal. Veh. Code § 23152, it is illegal for people to drive a vehicle when they are under the influence of alcohol or when their blood alcohol concentrations are 0.08% or higher. Even if the person refuses an alcohol test, he or she may be convicted of driving under the influence if his or her driving ability was impaired by alcohol. Commercial drivers who drive large trucks have a BAC limit that is lower. They cannot drive with a BAC of 0.04% or higher.
When drunk drivers cause fatal accidents, the family members can pursue negligence per se claims against the drivers. The fact that the drivers drove after drinking alcohol and violated the law is enough to support a negligence per se claim. In some drunk driving wrongful death lawsuits, punitive damages might also be available.
3. Hit-and-run collisions
Hit-and-run accidents accounted for 18% of all of the fatalities or severe injuries in the study. They also were responsible for almost 25% of pedestrian fatalities. Fatal accidents in which the drivers flee the scene pose additional problems for family members. They are also especially traumatic because the victims may be left without needed medical care at the accident scenes. More than 20% of the fatal accidents involving pedestrians or cyclists were hit-and-run accidents.
Under Cal. Veh. Code § 20001, drivers who are involved in accidents that result in deaths or serious injuries to others are required to stop and remain at the scene until help arrives. It is a felony for a driver who is involved in an injury or fatality accident to flee the scene. Despite this law, many drivers flee the scene of accidents in Los Angeles each year, making it difficult for the victims or their families to recover compensation for their losses.
If the driver is found, the family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit against him or her. If the driver is not discovered, they might still be able to recover compensation from their loved one’s UM/UIM insurance policy. An attorney can help people to identify all of the potential sources of recovery to maximize the compensation amount that might be received.
4. Failing to yield
Failing to yield is another leading cause of fatal accidents in California. This type of fatality accident frequently involves pedestrians. Drivers are required to yield to pedestrians when they are within crosswalks or at intersections. Failing to yield is responsible for 26% of pedestrian traffic fatalities. This is especially true when drivers turn left and fail to see pedestrians crossing on the streets they are turning onto.
Failing to yield is a traffic violation that is included in Cal. Veh. Code §§ 21800 – 21809. These statutes describe different types of scenarios when drivers are expected to yield to other vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
When a driver causes a fatal accident by failing to yield, the victim’s family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit based on the driver’s negligence. This might allow them to recover compensation for the losses that they have suffered because of the loss of their loved ones.
5. T-bone accidents
Broadside collisions or T-bone accidents are a type of accident in which the vehicle’s front crashes into the side of another car, motorcycle, or bicycle. These types of accidents account for 29% of fatal collisions. T-bone accidents commonly occur when a driver runs a red light or stop sign and collides into a vehicle that is crossing through the intersection.
When people are killed in T-bone accidents, their family members are entitled to file wrongful death lawsuits against the drivers who caused their loved ones’ deaths. Like most other wrongful death claims involving motor vehicle collisions, the claims are generally based on theories of negligence.
Contact an experienced attorney at the Steven M. Sweat Personal Injury Lawyers
If you have lost a loved one in an automobile accident in Los Angeles, you may have the right to recover compensation through a wrongful death claim. Call the Steven M. Sweat Personal Injury Lawyers at 866.966.5240 to request a free consultation.