According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), in 2008, there were over 3,400 traffic fatalities in California. The California Highway Patrol reported that in 2007, over 250,000 people were injured in traffic accidents. Traffic accidents include accidents involving cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians, and are often caused by the negligence of another driver.
Generally, each driver owes a duty to operate an automotive vehicle with ordinary and reasonable care. When a driver breaches that duty and causes death, the injured party or the deceased victim’s family may recover compensation for the other’s negligence.
When the accident results in injury, compensation usually includes economic damages such as medical expenses and loss of income, and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and emotional distress. In some cases, punitive damages may even be applicable. When an accident results in death, the victim’s family may be able to recover certain damages for their own losses. For more information about damages recoverable in wrongful death claims, please see our personal injury/wrongful death page.
California requires drivers to carry liability insurance to pay for the financial costs of an accident, such as medical bills. At a minimum, liability insurance must pay at least $15,000 for injury or death to one person, $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person, and $5,000 for property damage. Unfortunately, in a serious accident, these minimums will not adequately compensate the victim. If you are injured by an uninsured motorist, your insurance policy will generally compensate you in an amount that is within your policy limits.
As a result, recovering for a personal injury or wrongful death claim arising out of an automobile or traffic accident will generally involve dealing with insurance companies, including their claims investigators and lawyers. Unfortunately, insurance companies often undervalue claims, and even if you do not plan on bringing a lawsuit, it is a good idea to have experienced personal injury lawyers representing you when dealing with an insurance company to make sure you receive the maximum recovery to which you are entitled.