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Car Accidents FAQs - Part 2

What are the top 10 Rules of the Road in California?

What are the top 10 rules of the road in California? As a car accident attorney in California, if I had to name the top 10 car accident rules of the road under the California Vehicle Code (CVC), I would probably name the following:

  1. Speed Limits: Traveling at an unsafe speed is probably one of the most common causes of auto accidents especially freeway collisions. CVC Section 22350 provides the general duty of motorists to drive at a speed that is safe for all conditions including “weather, visibility, traffic, surface area and width of the highway”. The so-called “prima facie” speed limits depend upon the roadway and can be set by state and local authorities but, in general are as follows: 65 miles per hour on most highways and freeways per CVC 22349; highway intersections and surface streets generally have limits specified in California Vehicle Code 22352 as follows:Fifteen Miles Per Hour: In and around railroad crossings, when traversing the intersection of a highway, and in all alleyways. Twenty Five Miles Per Hour: On highways that are not designated as State highways and in all business and residential districts unless the local authorities mandate otherwise and when approaching or passing either a school during school hours or a senior care facility.In addition to prohibition of excessive speed, likewise driving at such a slow speed that it impedes the reasonable movement of traffic is also prohibited under CVC 22400(a).
  2. Driving on the Right Side of The Road and Passing of Vehicles: In head on collisions and cases where vehicles are run off the road or have to swerve, the primary factor is usually the failure to stay right and not pass in no passing zones. In general, all vehicles must drive on the right side of the roadway under CVC 21650 unless they are overtaking and passing (21650(a)), turning left (21650(b)) or when the right side of the road is closed to traffic because of construction or repair (21650(c)). Passing over double yellow lines is prohibited except when turning into to a driveway or in certain turn lanes. (CVC 21460(a)).
  3. The Duty to Signal An Intent to Turn: Many times, drivers who cause traffic collisions fail to properly communicate an intention to turn prior to the turning movement. CVC 22107 and 22018 require such a signal for a distance of 100 feet prior to the initiation of the deviation right or left.
  4. Intersection Traffic Safety Laws: There are many California Vehicle Code sections that apply to persons approaching, passing through or turning in and around roadway crossings. Section 21800 applies to intersections not controlled by lights or signs and states that a motor vehicle approaching an intersection must yield the right of way to vehicles approaching from a different highway, vehicles that have entered the intersection first, and, in general, requires that the vehicle on the left yield to the one on the right. Section 21452 states that a driver facing a yellow traffic light is being warned that a red light is imminent. Section 21453 requires all automobiles to come to a complete stop prior to the limit line when facing a red, steady circular traffic signal and prohibits entering or turning on a red turn signal prior to the light changing to a green arrow. Finally, CVC 21802 mandates that any vehicle approaching a stop sign should come to a complete stop and yield the right of way to other vehicles which are close enough to constitute an “immediate hazard” and should continue to yield until it is safe to proceed. The driver may then proceed and all other approaching vehicles must yield the right of way to the vehicle entering or crossing the intersection.
  5. Prohibition Against Following Too Closely : Following too close to the vehicle in front of you or “tailgating” is a major cause of freeway accidents and rear end collisions in or around intersections on surface streets. CVC 21703 states that persons should not follow behind each other “more closely than is reasonable and prudent” given the speed of the car in front and the traffic and roadway conditions.
  6. Left Hand Turns: In general the party intending to turn left across oncoming traffic or make a U-turn has a duty to not initiate the turn unless and until all approaching vehicles are a sufficient enough distance to not constitute a hazard. (See CVC 21802). This means that the party turning left must yield to persons coming from the opposite direction.
  7. Changing Lanes on A Highway or Surface Street: CVC 22107 states that no vehicle may turn a vehicle from a direct course either to the right or left until the movement can be made with reasonable safety and only after providing an appropriate signal. Making unsafe lane changes without checking both rear and side view mirrors and signaling is a major cause of “sideswipe” accidents that can result in vehicles (especially motorcycles) from being run off the road.
  8. Prohibited Stopping and Parking: In general vehicles cannot and should not be left attended or unattended in intersections (not adjacent to the curb), within a crosswalk, in a no parking zone as indicated by a red-painted curb, within 15 feet of a fire station, in front of a public or private driveway, on any portion of a sidewalk, alongside a street when it obstructs traffic, alongside another vehicle already parked (i.e. double parking), alongside curb space authorized for the loading and unloading of passengers of a bus or other common carrier, in a tube or tunnel, upon a bridge, or in front of any portion of a curb that has been constructed to provide handicap or wheelchair access. (CVC 22500) Section 22517 also provides that a parked vehicle may not open a door on the roadway side until safe to do so.
  9. Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs: Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is obviously prohibited for good reason as impairment due to these substances impedes the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. (See CVC 23152 and DUI Accident Claims in California blog post).
  10. Duty to Properly Maintain Equipment on Vehicles: All automobiles, trucks and SUVs are required to be maintained in safe working order which includes headlamps and rear brake lamps including turning signals, brakes and parking brakes (CVC 26451 and 26453). In the case of commercial trucks, there are additional requirements for maintenance and regular safety inspections as well. (CVC 2813).
What Effect Does a Violation of one of These Vehicle Code Sections Have on a Civil Claim for Damages for Bodily Injury and or Property Damage?

California tort law states that every person is responsible for both willful acts and acts or failures to act in a way that injures another person due to a lack of ordinary care or skill. (California Civil Code 1714). This is known as negligence. If a person violates a statute that is meant to protect a class of persons and in a manner intended to be protected by law, this can be “negligence per se” (i.e. the person is presumed to be negligent if their statutory violation was the cause of injury or wrongful death). It is always important to have an experienced California personal injury lawyer examine these issues in any motor vehicle accident claim so that the right assertions can be made to maximize the chances of finding the responsible parties to be liable for damages.

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Why You Should Never Hire Your Car Accident Lawyer From a TV Ad or Billboard?

People who live in Los Angeles or elsewhere in California are sometimes seriously injured in a variety of different types of accidents. Many people do not have prior experience working with an attorney, and they may not understand how a conventional relationship with a attorney works. Because of their lack of experience, many people simply call the first personal injury law firm that they see advertising on television or on billboards that seem to inundate L.A. and other parts of the Golden State. There are multiple reasons why choosing your attorney based on an advertisement is a poor choice.


Run-of-the-Mill Justice

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When Should I get a Car Accident Attorney?

After being involved in a car accident, it is common for people to feel overwhelmed and uncertain about what they should do. If you have been in a car accident, you might wonder whether you should hire a lawyer. If you think that you should, you might also wonder how soon you should schedule a consultation. There are a number of factors that you should consider in order to determine whether you might need a lawyer and when you should contact one.

Was the Accident Caused by Someone Else?

If your car accident was caused by the actions of another person or an entity, you might have the grounds to file a claim. You might have a claim if the accident was caused by another driver or resulted from a road defect. You might also have a claim if you believe that your accident was caused by a defective component in your vehicle. Finally, you might want to consult with a car accident lawyer if the fault in your accident is unclear.

Did You Suffer a Serious Injury?

The severity of your injury is important for determining whether or not you should talk to a personal injury lawyer, as we have previously noted in the National Law Review . If you were not injured or only suffered a very minor injury, you might not need to hire an attorney. In minor accidents, most people are able to handle the claims process on their own. If you were seriously injured and believe that someone else caused the accident and your injuries, it is important for you to talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer. If you had to go to the hospital and to undergo treatment for your injuries, a personal injury attorney may be able to help you to recover compensation.

Have You Been Contacted by an Insurance Adjuster?

After an insurance company has been notified that one of its insureds caused an accident, it is common for the company to have an insurance adjuster contact the victim. The insurance adjuster might ask you if you would be willing to give a recorded statement, and the insurance company might ask you to sign a medical authorization. You should never agree to give a recorded statement or to sign any documents that might be sent to you without consulting with a personal injury lawyer. Insurance companies try to get recorded statements and medical authorizations from injured victims in an effort to find something that they can use against the victims in their claims.

Did the Company Send You a Settlement Offer?

If the insurance company sent you a settlement offer, it is a good idea for you to talk to an attorney. At a minimum, a lawyer can evaluate the offer and value your claim so that you understand what your claim might be worth. It is also important to consult with a personal injury lawyer if you believe that your settlement offer is unreasonably low. In some cases, insurance companies will make low-ball offers in the hope that the injured victims will accept them or that the victims will believe that their claims are worth much less than they actually are. A personal injury lawyer may use his or her knowledge about case values to arrive at a reasonable amount. He or she can then negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf in an effort to secure a settlement offer that is fair.

Are You Comfortable with the Law and the Negotiations Process?

Car accident cases can be complex. If you are unfamiliar with tort law and do not have substantial experience in handling negotiations with insurance companies, you might benefit by getting the help of an experienced injury lawyer. Insurance companies have teams of experienced defense attorneys who are ready to defend them against accident claims. Unless you are prepared to go toe-to-toe with the insurance company's lawyers, it might be a good idea to hire a car accident lawyer who is experienced in negotiating with insurance companies and has the requisite legal knowledge to handle your claim.

How Much Time has Passed?

Like other states, California has a statute of limitations for personal injury claims, including car accident cases. You must file a lawsuit against the people who were responsible for your accident and injuries no later than two years from the date that it occurred. If you wait until after this time period has passed, you cannot file a lawsuit to recover damages. The best approach is for you to call a personal injury lawyer as soon after your injury accident as possible. Getting help quickly can help your attorney to gather the evidence to prove your claim before it is lost to time.

Is There Anything that You Should do Before You Hire a Lawyer?

Before you call a lawyer, it is a good idea for you to do a few things first. Immediately after your accident, try to get the names and contact information of all of the witnesses who saw what happened. If you are able to do so, take pictures of the vehicles that were involved, the damage to each vehicle, the location where the accident happened and of your injuries. If you can't take photographs yourself, ask a friend to take them for you. Pictures that are taken immediately after an accident can be invaluable for proving your claim.

If the officer wrote a report in your accident case, request a copy of it. You can do this by going to the police agency that investigated your accident and requesting the report. Many police agencies have instructions on their websites for how to get copies of accident reports. If you are unsure about which police agency investigated your case, start by calling the local police department where your accident happened. If the police department doesn't have a report, try the sheriff's department next.

Going to see a doctor as soon after your accident as possible is important. You should get a medical evaluation after an accident even if you are not certain that you were injured. Some injuries might not show symptoms for several hours or days after an accident. You also should not simply try to tough it out when you are in pain. Getting prompt medical attention can help you to recover faster. Being able to demonstrate that you received treatment for your injuries soon after your accident also makes it easier for you to prove that the accident caused your injuries.

Before you call the lawyer, make certain to gather all of your information together. It will be much easier for you to answer the attorney's questions if you have your documents in front of you. It will also be easier for the attorney to properly evaluate your case.

After thinking through these factors, you might have a better idea of when to contact a car accident lawyer. If you were seriously injured and your accident was caused by someone else, it is a good idea for you to get legal help. Contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Steven M. Sweat for a confidential and free evaluation of your claim at our toll free 24/7 injury helpline: 866-966-5240 or, for more information, visit our related page here: Car Accident Claims in California

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Can a Car Accident Lawyer Help With Claim Adjusters?

Car accidents in Los Angeles are very common, and they can range from minor fender benders to catastrophic accidents that leave people suffering from lifelong injuries. After an accident that was caused by another driver, there are several things that are important to do both at the scene and afterward. Part of the process will involve negotiating with an insurance adjuster who works for the at-fault driver's insurance company. There are several things that you should keep in mind when you are dealing with an insurance adjuster. If you suffered injuries in your accident, getting help from a car accident lawyer to deal with your claim and the adjuster may help you to recover a higher settlement amount and to make the process go more smoothly.

Steps to Take After an Accident

In the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident, people who were involved may experience a surge of adrenaline and be uncertain about what to do. The steps that you take immediately following your accident can help you later when you are negotiating with the insurance adjuster for your insurance claim. It might be helpful for you to keep a small checklist in your glove box of the steps to take after an accident so that you do not forget them.

The first thing that you should remember is that you should never leave the scene of an accident before help arrives. If you leave the scene of an accident without exchanging information or contacting law enforcement, you could face criminal charges.

Check yourself and others for injuries. If someone else is injured, give the person first aid until help arrives. Call the local law enforcement agency to report the accident, and wait for them.

Exchange your information with the other driver. Ask to see the driver's license, insurance card, and registration. You can either write down the information on each or take photographs of the documents with your smartphone. It is a good idea to ask the driver if the address on his or her license is correct. Make certain to check the name and address of the person on the registration to see if the person is listed as someone else.

Take photographs of your vehicle and the other vehicle. You should also take pictures of their relative positions, any skid marks, the damage to the vehicles, the weather, the road conditions, and any nearby intersections, traffic control devices, speed limit signs, or other relevant things that help to show what happened. If you can't take the pictures, try to ask someone else to take them for you with your smartphone.

Tell the responding officers what happened, but do not apologize or accept blame. You should also not say that you were not injured. Some types of injuries do not show symptoms for multiple hours or days after an accident. When the officer asks you if you were injured, you should simply tell him or her that you want to see your doctor for an examination. You should seek medical attention as soon as possible after your accident. This helps to show the link between any injuries that you might have suffered and the accident.

Notifying the Insurance Company

You will need to notify the insurance company of the other driver after the accident of your intent to file a claim. An insurance adjuster will then contact you within a short period of time. It is important for you to understand how to talk to an adjuster and the things that you should and should not do.

Understanding Insurance Adjusters and What You Should not Do

The first thing that you should remember is that the insurance adjuster who contacts you works for the other driver's insurance company. The adjuster's loyalty is to his or her employer first rather than to you, and a part of the adjuster's job is to keep the amount that the insurance company may be forced to pay you as minimal as possible.

In order to accomplish this goal, the adjuster may use several tactics to try to either get you to accept an offer that is too low or to help the insurance company to deny the liability of its insured. As we have previously detailed, insurance companies may use any number of arguments to dispute your claim. However, an insurance adjuster will not always employ these types of tactics especially if you only suffered property damage or injuries that were very minor.

When You Likely do not Need Help From a Car Accident Lawyer?

If your accident only caused damage to your property, your probably will not need to get help from a car accident lawyer. Instead, you can handle the negotiations with the adjuster on your own. The insurance company may ask you to take your car to a specific body shop in the area with which the company has contracted. You can choose to get your own estimate from a different body shop or send it to the recommended business.

Things that you can try to negotiate with the adjuster include getting a rental vehicle provided to you while your vehicle is being repaired and the total value of your settlement offer if your vehicle is totaled. If you also received very minor injuries such as bruising, you can also ask the insurance company to include any cost that you incurred to get treatment.

When Getting Help From an Experienced Lawyer is a Good Idea?

Dealing with an insurance adjuster is a whole different ball game when you have been seriously injured in a car accident that was caused by the other driver. In these types of cases, the insurance adjusters are likely to try to implement tactics to dispute or deny liability or the extent of your injuries.

Do not agree to sign any documents or to give a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster. If you are sent a medical release form by the insurance company, don't sign it. If you are sent a settlement offer, don't sign it until you have had it reviewed by a lawyer. If an adjuster asks you to give him or her a recorded statement, don't agree to do so. Simply tell the adjuster that you want to talk to a personal injury lawyer before you will sign anything or will give a statement.

Your car accident lawyer can take over your claim and handle the negotiations with the adjuster and with the insurance company for you. Experienced car accident lawyers understand how to properly value accident claims and can determine a range of reasonable amounts that you might expect to receive. They can then use the figures that they calculate to evaluate any settlement offer that is made to you. If the offer is unreasonably low, the attorney can negotiate on your behalf to secure a reasonable and fair settlement that compensates you for your losses.

If the insurance company denies your claim, getting help from an experienced lawyer is crucial. An attorney can evaluate what happened and give an honest assessment about the validity of your claim. If the lawyer agrees to accept your case, he or she can file a lawsuit on your behalf in the event that the insurance company is disputing or denying liability. To learn more about dealing with insurance adjusters, call the Law Offices of Steven M. Sweat today for a free consultation.

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What's Causing My Neck and Lower Back Pain After a Car Accident?
Back Pain

After a car accident, you may experience pain in your lower back and neck that can be severe and debilitating. The forces that are released in collisions can cause serious damage to your back and neck. These bodily areas are sensitive to sudden forces and movements and are vital to the proper functioning of your body.

When a vehicle collides with another, physical forces are released that cause everything, including the occupants, to move in the direction of the opposing force.

When your body is suddenly thrown in the direction of the opposing force in a collision, you may be stopped by a variety of different objects, including your seat belt, the dashboard, the car door, or something else that will suddenly stop your momentum. Often, the force released by the object that you strike will propel you backward in a violent motion. This can cause enormous pressure to be placed on your back and neck, resulting in injury.

There are a variety of different types of lower back and neck injuries that can be caused in car accidents. Some of the most common types of neck and back injuries that can happen in car accidents include the following:

  • Whiplash injuries
  • Lumbar sprains
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Herniated discs

We'll discuss each of these common types of injuries and then talk about the treatments that may be used for each.

Understanding the Spine

To understand why car accidents can cause severe back and neck pain, it is important to understand how the spine and vertebral column work. Your spinal cord is encased by individual vertebrae, which are bony structures that are separated by your spinal discs. The spinal discs are round and composed of cartilage to help to shield and cushion each vertebra so that your bones do not grind together. Spinal discs also aid in your ability to move. When you suffer an injury to one or more of your spinal discs, you may experience intense pain.

This type of pain can happen gradually due to deterioration that might happen over time. It can also be caused by sudden trauma, such as what might occur in a car accident. Most people who experience spinal disc pain experience it in the lower or lumbar region of their spinal columns. This type of pain can be caused by spinal stenosis, lumbar sprains, and disc herniation from car accidents. Whiplash injuries may also cause severe pain in the cervical or upper portion of the spine in the neck.


Whiplash injuries are among the most common types of injuries that can occur in car accidents. This type of injury is especially common in rear-end collisions, but whiplash can also occur in other types of accidents. Whiplash injuries are caused by a sudden and violent jerking back and forth of the head and neck. People who suffer from whiplash may suffer damage to all or to any of the following:

  • Cervical discs
  • Intervertebral joints
  • Ligaments
  • Tendons
  • Muscles
  • Nerve roots

People with whiplash injuries may not notice symptoms for 24 hours or more after their accidents. The symptoms may range in severity. Severe whiplash cases can cause chronic pain and ongoing issues that can last for a year or longer.

Treatment for whiplash injuries may include pain relievers, cold and heat therapy, physical therapy, injections, ultrasound therapy, and gentle exercise. People who suffer from mild whiplash may recover in as little as a few weeks while others may face chronic and debilitating pain.

Lumbar Sprains

In the lower back, lumbar sprains can occur in car accidents when excessive force is applied to the region. Trauma to the lower back can cause the tendons, muscles, and ligaments in your lower back to stretch too far. Often, lumbar sprains or strains are diagnosed based on a doctor's observations and consultations with the patients.

Most lumbar sprains will completely heal within a few weeks. Strains that are more severe may be treated with medication, ice applications during the first 24 hours, and heat applications following that. People may also benefit by undergoing chiropractic care to reduce the muscle spasms and to restore the proper functioning of the spine.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis occurs when you experience a narrowing of the bony channel that encases your spinal cord and spinal nerves. While spinal stenosis is primarily caused by the natural aging process, it can also occur because of car accident-related trauma. In spinal stenosis that happens as a result of a car accident, you might have a bone fragment or rupture disc that protrudes into the canal and places pressure on your spinal cord or nerves. Spinal stenosis can occur in your neck or in your lower back. When it occurs in your neck, you might experience the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty walking
  • Balance problems
  • Tingling or numbness in your hand, foot, arm, or leg
  • Weakness in an extremity
  • Bowel or bladder dysfunction in severe cases

When you suffer from spinal stenosis in your lumbar region, you might experience the following symptoms:

  • Back pain
  • Tingling or numbness in a leg or foot
  • Cramping or pain in your legs when you bend forward or when you walk
  • Weakness in a leg or foot

In rare cases, the Mayo Clinic reports that severe and untreated spinal stenosis may cause permanent weakness, numbness, incontinence, problems with balance, or paralysis.

The type of treatment that your doctor might recommend for spinal stenosis will depend on its location and its severity. You might receive injections, receive physical therapy, undergo a decompression procedure in which needles are used to remove a portion of a ligament to widen the space, or surgery to remove fragments that might be causing the narrowing or to enlarge the canal.

Herniated Discs

Disc herniations are injuries that occur to the spinal discs that separate the vertebrae of your spine. When this happens, it causes the gel-like inner filling of the herniated disc to protrude out through its outer casing. The protruding material may then contact nearby nerves and cause severe pain.

Treatment of herniated discs may vary depending on the severity of your injury. For mild to moderate disc herniations, your doctor may prescribe pain-relieving medications and recommend that you undergo physical therapy. If more conservative treatment options do not work, your doctor might recommend that you undergo surgery to repair the herniation.

Getting Diagnosed

Back pain has many causes, making it important for you to promptly see your doctor after a car accident to get a proper diagnosis. The doctors may use imaging technology to diagnose some types of injuries. Others will require that the doctor use other tests. The key is that you need to see your doctor for a thorough medical examination after a car accident even if you do not believe that you suffered any injuries. Some injuries such as whiplash and others might not show symptoms initially. Getting prompt medical attention may aid in your recovery and strengthen any legal claim that you might subsequently file.

Getting Legal Help for Car Accident-Related Back and Neck Injuries

If you are suffering severe pain in your back or neck following a recent accident, it is important for you to seek a prompt and accurate diagnosis. If the accident was caused by someone else, you may also have legal rights to recover damages. Contact the Law Offices of Steven M. Sweat today to schedule a free consultation.

Client Reviews
I have known Steven for some time now and when his services were required he jumped in and took control of my cases. I had two and they were handled with the utmost professionalism and courtesy. He went the extra mile regardless of the bumps in the road. I can not see me using any other attorney and I would recommend him to any of my family and friends. Josie A.
Steven was vital during our most trying time. He was referred by a friend after an accident that involved a family member. While he was critical and lying in the hospital, Steven was kind, patient and knowledgeable about what we were going through. Following our loss, Steven became a tough and aggressive negotiator and made sure that we receive a huge compensation. I would refer Steven in fact, this happened 2 years ago and I still speak highly of his service. Cheryl S.
Mr. Sweat is a pitbull in the courtroom as well as settlement negotiations - You can't have a better equipped attorney in your corner! It is a pleasure working as colleagues together on numerous cases. He can get the job done. Jonathan K.
Because of Steven Sweat, my medical support was taken care of. Plus, I had more money to spare for my other bills. Steven is not only an excellent personal injury lawyer, providing the best legal advice, but also a professional lawyer who goes beyond his call of duty just to help his clients! He stood up for me and helped me get through the process. I would definitely recommend. I couldn't think of any better lawyer than him. MiraJane C.
I must tell anyone, if you need a great attorney, Steve sweat is the guy! I had an awful car accident and had no idea where to turn. He had so much to deal with because my accident was a 4 car pile up. Not to mention all the other cars were behind me and they were not wanting to settle in any way! He never stopped working for me and had my best interest at heart! Audra W.