Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyers
As a Los Angeles car accident trial lawyer for over 25 years, I have seen many common car crash scenarios and types of injuries sustained in traffic collisions in the City of Los Angeles. I thought I would post some information about these common auto collision personal injury claims that I have seen and personally worked with as well as what you can do to protect yourself as a crash victim against having to be responsible for medical expenses, lost income and other consequences of being injured in a car accident in Los Angeles.
A Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer Analysis of the Greater L.A. Transportation Infrastructure and Potential for Auto Accidents
The greater Los Angeles area (or what many call the “Southland”) is comprised of the City and County of Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside and San Bernardino and Ventura Counties. According to the most recent census, it is the second largest metropolitan area in the U.S. with an estimated combined population of approximately 18 million people. The City of L.A. itself, which is comprised of downtown, south L.A., mid-city, the westside and the San Fernando Valley, is home to approximately 4 million persons. The main mode of transportation remains the automobile and mass transit is still secondary in the region. There are a dozen major freeways that criss-cross the L.A. Basin including the major east-west arteries of the 10 freeway, 60 freeway, and the 210 and the 110 freeways and the major north-south thoroughfares of the 5 freeway, the 101 freeway and the 405 freeway. Major arterial streets like Sunset Blvd., Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica Blvd., and Ventura Boulevard connect many thousands of surface streets through neighborhoods from Culver City to Santa Monica to West Hollywood and throughout “the Valley” from areas like Encino and Sherman Oaks to Chatsworth and Northridge. Connecting “the Valley” with “the City” are mainly the 101 the 405 and the 170 along with the various canyon roads like Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Coldwater Canyon Blvd. From downtown L.A. to Long Beach, the surface streets are laid out in a vertical pattern with east-west streets numbered from 1 to 266th Street and north-south streets with names including major arteries like Crenshaw Boulevard and Hawthorn Blvd. connecting municipalities in the South Bay like Torrance, CA. Because most Angelenos travel by car, traffic congestion in Los Angeles is among the worst in the nation. During the peak rush hour periods of 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of commuters are traveling the areas freeways and surface streets at any given time.
Traffic Collisions in Greater Los Angeles
It is estimated that there is motor vehicle accident approximately every minute and 30 seconds in the Greater Los Angeles area! While most of these incidents are minor fender benders, major traffic collisions causing serious personal injuries or even wrongful death can and do occur on a frequent basis. In fact, according to statistics from various agencies including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Los Angeles County consistently ranks number one in the State of California for both total numbers of traffic accidents and the highest number of fatal traffic collisions. In my experience as a long-term Los Angeles car accident lawyer, I have seen many common scenarios that seem to play out time and time again on our Southland roadways. While some of these are just bad luck mishaps, numerous studies based on many years of crash data in both the U.S. and elsewhere have concluded that 93 % of traffic collisions are caused by driver error of some type including intoxication or negligence. I would categorize these under freeway accidents and surface street accidents as follows:
Legal Cause of the Most Common Freeway Traffic Accidents
- Traveling At An Unsafe Speed:Speed is probably the number one contributor to traffic collisions on L.A. Freeways from my perspective as an Attorney At Law. California Vehicle Code 22350 mandates that all persons traveling at a reasonable pace given all roadway conditions including traffic congestion, weather, visibility and the width of the highway and other roadway layouts.
- Unsafe Lane Changes:Most freeways in Los Angeles have at least 3-4 or more lanes in both directions of travel. California Vehicle Code 21658 requires drivers to stay traveling within a single lane as much as practicable and only allows lane changes when and if it is safe to move left or right. Failure to check rearview and side mirrors or making hasty decisions to switch lanes can lead to both two-vehicle crashes and multiple vehicle piles-ups. This is an especially dangerous and common occurrence between passenger vehicles and trucks on the one hand and smaller vehicles like compacts and motorcycles on the other.
- Following Too Closely:Tailgating is a major cause of freeway rear-end collisions. When combined with unsafe speeding, it can be a deadly combination. California Vehicle Code 21703 prohibits following another motor vehicle more closely than is reasonable or prudent given the speed of the cars in front and in the back, traffic, and other roadway conditions.
- DUI:Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (prohibited by CVC 23152) is on the decline but, Los Angeles County consistently has some of the highest numbers of total accidents and fatal accidents caused by persons operating motor vehicles under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In fact, over the past 10 years, the number of injury-related crashes in L.A. County related to DUI have averaged approximately 5,000 per year and the number of fatal accidents where alcohol or drugs were involved has averaged about 275 annually.
Legal Cause of the Most Common Surface Street Crashes
- Failure to Stop or Yield the Right of Way At Intersections:In my experience as a Los Angeles car accident lawyer, intersections (whether controlled by lights or stop signs) are the number one place for traffic collisions in the Southland. Major surface street arteries like Wilshire or Ventura Boulevards have 2-3 lanes of travel in either direction at any given point and most L.A. intersections do NOT have left-hand arrow turn signals. California Vehicle Code (CVC) 21453 requires all drivers to come to a complete stop and remain stopped when faced with a steady read, circular signal prior to proceeding either straight (on a green) or making a right-hand turn and CVC 21452 requires drivers to heed warning of an impending red when facing a yellow traffic light but, many drivers give in to impatience and simply run red lights, gun it through yellow lights turning to red, try to jump the gun when making a left in front of oncoming traffic or fail to stop and yield to pedestrians or bicyclists when making right-hand turns.
- Speeding:Traffic collisions caused by unsafe speeds by motor vehicle operators are almost as prevalent on surface roads as they are on L.A. freeways. The same provision of the vehicle code cited above applies in these situations. Often speeding goes hand in hand with running red lights or blowing through stop signs as well.
- Driving Under the Influence:While no one maintains statistics broken down by the type of roadway (highways vs. smaller roads), I can tell you as an attorney that has represented hundreds of injury victims throughout the L.A. basin for many years that fatal and injury accidents seem to occur with as much or more frequency on smaller “neighborhood roads” as on major Southland freeways. My theory on this is that people think they can drink alcohol or consume drugs if they only have to drive little distance to get home. People also feel like the LAPD is less likely to stop them for drunk driving than the California Highway Patrol.
- Distracted Driving:A growing and consistent cause of motor vehicle collisions on our Los Angeles boulevards and avenues is distractions which cause drivers to take their focus off the road and crash. This includes cell phones, GPS devices, radios, driving with headphones, eating behind the wheel, putting on makeup in the rearview mirror, turning around to yell at your kids and any number of other distracted driving scenarios. Talking or texting on any mobile electronic device without a hands-free feature is prohibited by CA Veh. Code 23123.5 and any other type of distracted driving can be deemed negligence, thereby imposing civil liability for car accidents causing personal injury or death.
What Should I do at the Scene of the Accident?
No one wants to be involved in a motor vehicle collision. However, if you live in the Greater Los Angeles Basin, as discussed above, your chances of being in a crash are higher than many other cities or regions. Here are some helpful tips on what to do at the scene:
- Stop Your Vehicle and Ascertain if Anyone Is Injured:Coming to a complete stop and shutting the engine off can prevent fires and other hazards. See if you or any of your passengers are bleeding, have lost consciousness or appear to need immediate medical attention. Call 911 immediately if there are serious bodily injuries. If there are serious injuries, it is best to stay put and wait for emergency medical technicians to arrive at the scene and render aid.
- IF POSSIBLE Take Photographs of the Vehicles and Then Move Out of Harm's Way:Never get out of the vehicle and stand or go near oncoming traffic but, if possible, getting out of the car and taking a few quick photos with your smartphone of location of all vehicles involved and any accident debris may help prove liability at a later date. Taking pictures of the property damage to your vehicle and all other vehicles involved in the collision also helps to determine the points of impact which is sometimes crucial in determining legal fault for the accident. Oftentimes, in less severe accidents, you can move your vehicle to the emergency lane of the freeway or to the side of the road prior to taking these additional pictures. (Note: For further tips on documenting accident scene evidence with your cell phone camera, see our related post:Use Your Smartphone after A Los Angeles Auto Accident).
- Obtain Driver's License, Registration and Insurance Information From the Other Driver(s):California Vehicle Code section 16020 requires all drivers to show “financial responsibility” upon request by a peace officer or after an accident. This means you should always carry proof of auto insurance either on your person or in your vehicle. (Note: Many auto insurance carriers are now also issuing digital proof of financial responsibility that can be downloaded and saved on your smartphone). You should also exchange the name, address, phone number,insurancecompany, policy number, driver license number and license plate number for the driver and the owner of each vehicle involved in the motor vehicle collision. Note: Sometimes the registered owner is different from the driver (example: a teenage driver driving a vehicle registered to his parents). A very simple way to get all of this information is to put the other driver's license, registration and proof of insurance on a flat surface such as a car hood or seat and taking a photo of these with your phone.
- Do Not Make Any Admissions of Fault or Denials of Injuries at the Scene:Never admit fault to the other driver, to medical personnel or to law enforcement officials. Always be truthful but, do not try to analyze your own case and determine who is legally at fault. This is for determination at a later time and admissions can be used against you later. It is also important to note that, after the initial shock wears off, you may begin to experience pain that you were not aware of immediately following the incident. For this reason, it is always best to either state what injuries are clearly present but, to also state that you would like to seek medical evaluation to determine further injuries. If EMT or ambulance personnel advise that it would be best to be transported to a hospital for evaluation, thenfollow their advice! If you do not get transported via ambulance to an ER at a hospital, you should still go to an urgent care facility or your family doctor within a few days at the latest if you feel any pain, numbness, stiffness or any other indication of injury.
- Call the Police and Ask That A Report Be Made:If the accident occurs on a freeway, the California HIghway Patrol is usually the law enforcement agency that responds. They are the most likely agency to agree to prepare a report and their reports are usually available within 10 days of the incident. (For information on how to request a CHP Traffic Collision Report,click here). If the accident occurs on a surface street within the Los Angeles City Limits, then the Los Angeles Police Department, Traffic Division would be the agency in charge of the investigation and prepare a collision report. Unfortunately, the LAPD traffic division is understaffed and do not want to prepare reports in all cases but, must do so if there are any injuries involved. (For LAPD guidelines on report and instructions on how to obtain a police report from LAPD,click here). It is always better to request and obtain a police report if at all possible for later use in any civil claim for personal injuries. While the report is not admissible evidence in court, it does provide very valuable information regarding the responsible party that insurance claims adjusters and attorneys can use to prove liability and damages in a later civil claim.
- Consult with A Personal Injury Attorney If Anyone Was Hurt or Killed in the Accident!If you or anyone in your vehicle sustained any type of injury or there is a fatality, you/they should consult an injury lawyer immediately!California has strict time deadlines including statutes of limitations on filing auto accident claims. Auto insurance carriers start their investigations of insurance claims of car crashes within days (and sometimes even hours) of the claim being reported to them. Insurance adjusters have one goal in mind, which is to try to eliminate having to pay out on a claim or minimize their exposure. They do this in many ways but, one main tactic is to try to lock down evidence that favors their driver or insured as soon as possible. This includes obtaining written or recorded statements from all persons involved in the collision including you or your passengers, witnesses, their driver, etc. Another main tactic is to offer a low and quick settlement within a fairly short time frame after the incident and, oftentimes, before you are truly aware of the extent of your injuries or how serious the injury may be or the type of medical treatment needed.
- Consulting with and, if necessary, hiring a personal injury law office to be a buffer between you and the insurance company claims representatives can give you peace of mind and not sell yourself short. Hiring a personal injury attorney also provides you with your own legal representative that can obtain police traffic reports and medical records on your behalf, possibly provide assistance in getting needed medical attention (with or without health insurance), presenting the claim in a way that maximizes the settlement offer, and, if necessary, prosecuting any legal actions necessary to ensure that you are fully compensated for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering and emotional distress damages.
Most Common Car Accident Injuries
Various crash injuries including catastrophic injuries can result from motor vehicle crashes, ranging from minor cuts and bruises to severe, life-threatening conditions. Below is a list of common injuries.
Whiplash and Soft Tissue Injuries: Caused by the sudden movement of the head and neck, leading to strain in the neck muscles and ligaments. Soft tissue injuries can also occur in other parts of the body, such as the back.
Cuts and Scrapes: Shattered glass, metal fragments, and even contact with the vehicle interior can cause these injuries. While some may be minor, others might require stitches.
Head Injuries: Including concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). These can result from the head striking the steering wheel, dashboard, windows, or other hard surfaces, or even from the violent shaking of the head without direct impact.
Broken Bones: Common fractures occur in the arms, legs, ribs, and other parts of the body due to the force of impact. Some breaks are more severe and may require surgery to repair.
Internal Injuries: The force of a car accident can cause internal bleeding and damage to internal organs, such as the liver, spleen, lungs, or heart, which can be life-threatening if not treated promptly.
Spinal Cord Injuries and Paralysis: The impact of a car accident can damage the spine, potentially leading to temporary or permanent paralysis. These injuries can range from herniated discs to more severe spinal cord damage.
Psychological Injuries: Beyond physical injuries, car accidents can also lead to psychological issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and fear of driving.
- Fatalities: Fatal collisions are unfortunately too common.
The severity and type of injuries can vary widely depending on the specifics of the accident, including the speed at which it occurred, the use of seat belts, the point of impact, and whether the occupants were facing forward or were turned in a certain direction at the moment of impact. Immediate medical attention with competent medical professionals is crucial for diagnosing and treating any injuries sustained in a car accident.
What is My Los Angeles Car Accident Claim Worth?
What your personal injury claim is worth depends upon many factors. What is the severity of your injury and how much medical treatment did it require? What was the cost of this treatment? Did you miss time from work as a result of your injuries? What did it cost to repair your vehicle or how much is your car worth if it was a "total loss"?
In general, California law allows accident victims to recover "economic damages" against the fault driver (out of pocket costs like lost income, cost to repair your car, medical expenses, etc.) and "non-economic damages" (money to compensate you for physical pain and suffering, emotional distress and money to compensate you for the time and aggravation that a disruption to your life from an accident causes) in a personal injury lawsuit. There is no set formula for "non-economic damages" and an experienced car accident attorney is best qualified to hear your particular story and advocate for you with the insurance company to maximize what it awarded. If gross negligence was involved such as a DUI driver causing the accident, you may also be entitled to punitive damages.
How do I Choose a Los Angeles Car Accident Law Firm?
Choosing a car accident lawyer in Los Angeles to provide legal advice requires careful consideration to ensure you select the right attorney in Southern California to handle your case effectively. Here are some steps to help you in the selection process:
- Seek Recommendations: Ask friends, family, or colleagues if they have any recommendations for car accident lawyers in Los Angeles. Personal referrals can provide valuable insights and firsthand experiences.
- Research and Reviews: Conduct online research to find car accident lawyers in Los Angeles. Look for reputable law firms or individual attorneys with experience in personal injury and car accident cases. Read reviews and testimonials from past clients to gauge their satisfaction and success rates.
- Check Qualifications and Experience: Verify the attorney's qualifications, credentials, and their standing with the State Bar of California. Assess their experience specifically in car accident cases, their track record of settlements or trial verdicts, and their familiarity with the local courts and insurance companies.
- Schedule Consultations: Narrow down your list of potential attorneys and schedule initial consultations. Many lawyers offer free consultations to discuss your case and assess its merits. Use this opportunity to ask questions about their approach, experience, and fees.
- Assess Communication and Compatibility: During the consultation, pay attention to how the attorney communicates with you. They should be attentive, empathetic, and willing to listen to your concerns. Assess whether you feel comfortable working with them and if they have the necessary communication skills to effectively represent your interests.
- Evaluate Resources and Support: Consider the resources available to the attorney and their firm. Car accident cases can involve complex investigations, expert testimony, and the need for extensive legal support. Ensure that the lawyer has the necessary resources and support staff to handle your case effectively.
- Discuss Fee Structure: Inquire about the attorney's fee structure during the consultation. Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only receive payment if they successfully recover compensation for you. Understand the percentage they will charge as their contingency fee and any additional costs or expenses you may be responsible for.
- Trust Your Instincts: Ultimately, trust your instincts when selecting a car accident lawyer. Choose an attorney with whom you feel confident and comfortable, as this will be a crucial professional relationship during your legal proceedings.
How Long Does it Take to Resolve My Car Accident Case?
How long it will take to resolve any particular case by either fair settlement or verdict depends upon the facts. In most cases, the attorney will set up medical treatment and then open up a claim and communicate to the insurance companies that the client is represented by counsel. Treatment must be completed usually before a settlement demand can be made because the insurance company will need to know the total amount of treatment received and the total cost. Sometimes a reservation for the cost of future medical treatment can be made. How long it will take to complete medical treatment depends upon the level of injury and the type of medical care needed. Once a settlement demand is submitted and an offer is made, it is up to the client whether to settle the claim or file a lawsuit. If the client decides to settle, it is usually only a matter of a few weeks to finalize settlement, pay medical providers and disburse the net settlement funds to the client. If the client decides to reject the settlement offer and go to litigation (i.e. file a lawsuit in court), it could take a minimum of a few months to upwards of a few years to resolve just depending upon how much the insurance company is willing to fight. A quality Los Angeles injury lawyer should be willing to take the auto accident lawsuit all the way through trial if necessary but, most cases resolve at some point during the litigation process.
Why Choose Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyers, Steven M. Sweat Personal Injury Lawyers, APC?
Committed to Your Recovery and Legal Rights
If you or a loved one have been involved in a car accident due to someone else's negligence, we are here to provide you with the skilled legal representation you need. With our expertise, compassion, and unwavering dedication, our legal team of experienced car accident lawyers will fight for your rights and work tirelessly to secure the compensation you deserve.
At the Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer, we specialize in car accident cases and have a proven track record of success in obtaining favorable outcomes for our clients. With years of experience and in-depth knowledge of California's personal injury laws, our dedicated team of auto accident attorneys is well-prepared to handle even the most complex car accident claims. We understand the physical, emotional, and financial challenges that result from car accidents, and we are here to guide you through every step of the legal process including determining the fault party and seeking maximum financial compensation.
Our legal team provides comprehensive legal services to clients in a wide range of car accident cases, including:
- Rear-End Collisions: If you have been injured in a rear-end collision caused by a negligent driver, we will work diligently to hold them accountable and seek compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
- Intersection Accidents: Accidents that occur at intersections can result in serious injuries. Our experienced attorneys will thoroughly investigate the circumstances of your case and fight for your rights to ensure you receive fair compensation.
- Highway and Freeway Accidents: Collisions on highways and freeways often involve high speeds and severe injuries. We have the knowledge and resources to handle complex highway accident cases and will vigorously pursue your claim.
- Distracted Driving Accidents: When a driver's distraction leads to an accident, we will work tirelessly to prove their negligence and seek compensation for your injuries. Our attorneys understand the nuances of distracted driving cases and will fight for your rights.
- Drunk or Reckless Driving Accidents: If you have been injured by a drunk driver, we will vigorously pursue your case and seek maximum compensation. We believe in holding drunk drivers accountable for the harm they cause.
- Pedestrian Accidents: Accidents involving pedestrians including fatal crashes.
- Motorcycle Accidents and Bicycle Accidents: accident injury claims involving cars and motorcycles and/or bicycles.
- Hit and Run Accidents: Accidents where drivers flee the scene.
- Accidents Involving Unlicensed Drivers or Inexperienced Drivers
- Head On Collision Crashes
- Vehicle Defect Cases Where either defective car components or negligent repair cause mechanical issues that lead to accidents.
- Multi Vehicle Accidents Accidents involving three or more motor vehicles.
- Rollover Accidents Accidents where the vehicle loses control and rolls over.
Why Choose Us?
- Experience and Expertise: Our attorneys have extensive experience in car accident cases and possess the necessary expertise to navigate the complexities of personal injury law. Our combined experience spans decades. Our experienced team will leverage our knowledge and skills to build a strong case on your behalf. We will thoroughly investigate the claim including obtaining and reviewing police accident reports from the proper government agency, obtaining insurance policy information,
- Client-Centered Approach: We prioritize our clients' needs and interests. Our attorneys will listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and provide personalized attention throughout the legal process. We understand this is a difficult time and we're here to ease the burden.
- Aggressive Advocacy: We are dedicated advocates for our clients. We will fight relentlessly to protect your rights, engage in settlement negotiations with insurance providers, and, if needed, take your case to trial to pursue the compensation you deserve.
- Proven Results: Our track record of successful settlements and verdicts speaks for itself. We have helped numerous clients recover substantial compensation for their car accident injuries.
- No Upfront Fees: We understand the financial strain that car accidents can cause. That's why we work on a contingency basis, meaning you don't pay any fees unless we win your case.
- Confidential Consultations Free of Charge
Importance of Retaining a Los Angeles Car Accident Attorney Experienced with Traffic Collisions in and Around the Southland
Hiring a Los Angeles auto accident lawyer, or legal counsel who has had consistent results filing claims and litigating cases throughout Greater Los Angeles is essential to obtaining the maximum financial compensation on your accident claim. Our personal injury law firm works on a contingency fee basis, which means we charge no upfront fees and only collect attorney's fees when your claim is resolved. We also look to resolve claims in a way that maximizes the net recovery to you factoring the costs of filing a lawsuit versus and out of court settlement. If you live anywhere in Los Angeles County from the Antelope Valley in the North to South L.A. or from the west side the East L.A., the chances of being involved in a car accident are great no matter how good of a driver you are. Hiring experienced automobile accident attorneys who know the Los Angeles Superior Court system, regularly appear before judges and try cases in all of the L.A. County Court branches including Stanley Mosk Courthouse, Torrance, Norwalk, Pasadena, Chatsworth, Antelope Valley or Pomona could mean the difference between “settling for what you get” or getting the financial recovery that you deserve! Call Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC, the zealous legal advocates in L.A. for a free attorney consultation anywhere in Socal at 866-966-5240 or click on our contact form above.
- “Interactive Highway Safety Design Model: Accident Predictive Module”, Public Roads Magazine
- “Facts and Figures: Alcohol in Los Angeles County”, County of Los Angeles, Department of Public Health
- 2006 Named Freeways, Highways, Structures and Other Appurtenances in California–Retrieved 2008