Long Beach Car Accident Lawyer
After a car accident, injured drivers and passengers often face unexpected recovery hurdles and associated financial drains. Even minor accidents can lead to property damage expenses, time off work, and pain and suffering. If you suffered an injury because of someone else’s recklessness, consider speaking with a Long Beach car accident lawyer as you are entitled to fair and full compensation for your expenses. He or she can provide you with a better understanding of your specific case and let you know what to expect at each step of the legal process.
At Harting Simkins & Ryan, LLP, we represent individuals injured in car accidents in and around Long Beach, CA. Our attorneys have personal and professional experience handling accidents and injuries. We understand that the aftermath of an accident is tough for anyone. The financial expenses and emotional tolls of an accident can catch up with you and turn your life upside down.
Our team is there when you need us most to offer simple answers, straightforward advice, and compassionate support. We can meet you in the hospital in the days after the accident to initiate a legal strategy. The sooner we start working, the more evidence we can secure and use to protect your rights. As your legal representatives, we will negotiate with insurers and bill collectors on your behalf, help you with documentation and paperwork, and use the law to hold the responsible party accountable.
Contact us today to learn more about our firm and schedule a free consultation. After car accidents involving road rage, drunk driving, texting, and other reckless acts, choose a Long Beach personal injury attorney you can count on to advocate for you and fight for a full financial recovery.
Car Accident Laws in California
California is one of the few states that does not have a cap on damages that may be sought following a car accident. There are, however, some significant limitations that may apply in your case. The lawyers at Harting Simkins & Ryan, LLP are here to help you understand the complexities of the law as they apply to your case.
California law provides for both economic damages and non-economic damages. The latter would include pain and suffering or the loss of companionship or affection suffered after the loss of a loved one. The damages are apportioned according to the comparative fault rules which reduce the amount of the damages in your claim by the percentage you are found to be at fault in the accident.
There are some limitations on claiming damages, however. The first, and strictest limitation is that a claim must be filed within the statute of limitations for your claim. This differs for personal injury lawsuits, property damage suits, and claims involving a government agency. A claim filed after the time prescribed by the statute of limitations may be dismissed, even if your claim otherwise has merit.
Additionally, California limits the damages that may be claimed by a driver without proof of financial responsibility. If you are in an accident and do not have evidence of auto liability insurance at the time of the accident, you may not claim any non-economic damages. Damages due to medical expenses, repairs to a vehicle, and lost wages may still be claimed, but you will be unable to claim damages due to pain and suffering or loss of companionship.
California Auto Insurance Minimums
California, like every state, requires drivers to maintain auto liability insurance. The minimum amounts that must be carried are different for each state and California has set their minimums to protect drivers whose property is damaged or who are injured in an auto accident. The minimum coverages mandated by California law are:
- $15,000 personal injury for one person.
- $30,000 personal injury to more than one person.
- $5,000 property damage.
These minimums are what the insurance company will pay if you are at fault in an accident. Should the property damage or injury claims exceed this amount, you can be held liable for the remaining compensation claims. Additionally, uninsured and underinsured coverage is not required in California but may protect you if you are in an accident with another driver who does not carry enough insurance to cover your damages.
California law does allow for alternative means of providing the coverage necessary. If you are able to make a cash deposit or get a $35,000 surety bond, you may post that instead of maintaining auto insurance.
Auto liability insurance is key in California, to protect the other drivers and passengers sharing the road with you, and to protect yourself from expensive compensation claims in the event of an accident. Additionally, there are limits in California law on what you may claim for damages if you do not have proof of auto liability insurance yourself.
Statute of Limitations in California
California law sets strict limits on how long you have to file a claim if you have been injured in an automobile accident. The following are the time limits for filing a claim:
- 2 years for personal injury lawsuits.
- 3 years for property damage lawsuits.
- 6 months for claims involving a government agency.
It is important to note that if you are filing a claim against a government agency you have only 6 months to begin the process. While 2 or 3 years may sound like a long time, if you are recovering from an injury and putting your life together after an accident, that time can pass quickly. The limit starts counting from the date of the accident.
If you have been injured in an accident, do not delay filing a claim. A skilled Long Beach car accident lawyer at Harting Simkins & Ryan, LLP can arrange a free consultation with you to advise you on whether filing a claim may be necessary in your case.
Compensation for Long Beach Car Accident Victims
California law on insurance claims is an “at fault” system. This means for Long Beach accident victims it will be necessary to show the other driver was at fault in the accident in order to receive damages for your injuries.
California law also applies comparative negligence in considering the fault of the drivers involved. When weighing the evidence of your accident, the insurance company will apportion the fault of the accident to the various drivers. If the other driver was completely at fault, you will be awarded 100% of your claim. In most cases, however, both drivers will be found partially at fault and apportion damages accordingly. As an example, if the other driver in the accident was found to be 75% at fault and you were found to be 25% at fault and the damage claim was $100,000, your damages would be reduced by your percentage of fault so you would only receive $75,000.
Damages may include medical expenses, lost wages due to missed time at work, and related expenses such as the cost of renting a vehicle while yours is repaired. Additionally, Long Beach accident victims may claim damages for pain and suffering, and, in some circumstances, loss of affection or companionship.
California is one of the few states with no cap on damages that can be claimed. However, the statute of limitations is very strict and if your claim is not filed within the appropriate time frame, your claim may be denied even if it would otherwise merit compensation.
At Harting Simkins & Ryan, LLP, one of our Long Beach car accident attorneys can help present all the evidence in your case so that damages are apportioned fairly and in a timely fashion. Don’t wait to get their help in your corner.
What to Do Following a Car Accident in Long Beach
What you say and to whom speak after a car accident can impact liability determinations, insurance claims, and lawsuits. While nothing can fully prepare you for dealing with the aftermath of an accident, knowing how to protect your rights can help. If you have the opportunity, take these actions after a car accident:
- California laws require drivers to stop after every minor and major accident. If you fail to stop, you could face criminal hit-and-run charges, even if the other driver caused the accident. Pull over or return to the accident location.
- Check yourself/others for injury. Before you leave your vehicle, take a few deep breaths and move different muscle groups to check for injuries. If you think you suffered a fracture or other severe injury, avoid moving until emergency services arrive. If you can reasonably leave the vehicle, see if anyone else involved needs assistance. Contact emergency services for anyone in need.
- Exchange information with others involved. You must provide your name, driver’s license number, VIN, vehicle owner name/address, and insurance policy number/company/address to all other drivers and passengers involved in the incident. Acquire the same information from all involved drivers and ask for contact information of any involved passengers.
- Collect information. Regardless of liability, the following information will help you protect your legal rights:
- Photo/video evidence. Take pictures or record video of the entire scene, including your own injuries, road conditions, weather conditions, vehicles and vehicle damage, skid marks, and any other potentially helpful information. Since road crews/towing companies clean up accident scenes quickly, this visual evidence may play a crucial role in insurance and legal claims later.
- Witness contact information. Ask for the names and contact information of anyone who saw the accident take place. If you have time, record a summary of what the witnesses saw/heard and ask them to stay and talk to police.
- Responder information. Record the name and badge numbers of any officers who respond to the scene and the names and employer of any emergency responders.
- Accident report information. Find out from where you can acquire a copy of the accident report. If a police officer does not respond to the scene, file an accident report with the Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days of the incident.
- Use your words carefully. California uses a pure comparative negligence rule to assign fault in car accident claims. Keep any opinion about the accident to yourself at this time. When you answer questions, stick to the facts and answer as concisely as possible. Do not say that you are injury-free at this time.
- Report the incident to your insurance company. Follow your policy’s guidelines for reporting the incident, but avoid mentioning fault or discussing your injuries at this time. Let all insurance representatives know that you can provide a more complete description after the completion of the accident investigation.
- Seek a medical evaluation. Allow any emergency responders at the scene to conduct a preliminary exam. If you choose not to go to the hospital for your injuries right away, schedule an appointment for an exam as soon as possible.
- Tell the physician everything you remember about the accident, including blunt force trauma or whiplash-like motions. Some brain injuries and spinal cord injuries do not immediately manifest after an accident. Symptoms may start to show days or weeks after the incident. A prompt medical evaluation creates a health baseline and can support any injury claim later.
- Start a file. Keep all paperwork, including receipts, property damage appraisals, contact information, and a summary of what happened. Over time, memories fade. This file will give you fast access to reliable information later.
- Consult an attorney. After any serious accident involving injuries or fatalities, talk to a lawyer about your legal options before you speak with insurance adjusters. During a free consultation with one of our Long Beach car accident attorneys, we will learn more about your situation and help you understand the legal process.
If we are the right fit for your case, we will begin working immediately to protect your rights. We can help you find qualified medical support, represent you in front of insurance adjustors, and fight for fair compensation on your behalf.
In the heat of the moment, you may not capture the ideal picture or record all recommended information, and that’s O.K. If you reach out to an attorney soon after the incident, he or she will guide you through the evidence-gathering process and help you fill in the gaps. Don’t assume that you can’t file a legal claim if you missed out on some information at the time. Car accident attorneys know exactly what to do to find crucial case evidence and protect your legal rights.
Top Causes of Car Accidents
At Harting Simkins & Ryan, LLP, our Long Beach car accident lawyers see common accident cases and unique accident cases on a routine basis. We fully understand how speeding, distractions, drunk driving, and other careless actions cause accidents. Most car accidents happen because of human error. Some of the most impactful car accident cases we see involve texting or drinking.
Texting and Driving
California enforces some of the toughest mobile device and driving laws in the nation. No one who drives in the state may read, write, or send a text while driving. Drivers older than 18 can use a hands-free device that allows for 100% voice-operated and hands-free usage. The state considers holding a mobile device while behind the wheel to be a traffic law infraction.
Texting and other acts of distracted driving are illegal, but they also represent acts of negligence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone texting while driving at 55 mph will take his or her eyes off the road long enough to cover the distance of a football field. Anything can happen in that time. When people suffer injuries and die because another driver could not resist picking up the phone, our attorneys use the full force of the law to hold those drivers accountable. Too many preventable tragedies begin with someone texting while driving.
According to data from the CDC, nine people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured daily in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. In 2015, across the nation, 3,477 people were killed in car accidents involving a distracted driver, while 391,000 people were injured.
Distracted Driving Deaths vs. All Motor Vehicle Deaths (2010-2015)
If you were harmed in a texting and driving accident, call Harting Simkins & Ryan, LLP, at (562) 981-1010 to schedule a case evaluation with an experienced car accident attorney in Long Beach, CA.
Drinking and Driving
Driving while intoxicated has been against the law in California since 1911, and the state has passed increasingly stringent measures over the years. Unfortunately, drivers continue to get behind the wheel after one too many and risk the lives of others. In fact, 28 people in the United States die in car accidents involving an alcohol-impaired driver every day, according to the CDC. With one death every 51 minutes, the annual cost of alcohol-related accidents exceeds $44 billion. Drinking impairs motor function, reaction times, and judgment capabilities. Behind the wheel, those impairments can lead to swerving, failure to follow traffic signals, loss of control, and an inability to properly brake and accelerate.
The impacts of drunk driving accidents often resound into the future, leaving accident victims incapable of leading normal lives. They account for some of the most serious injuries we see in our office. You can count on our firm to take action alongside criminal prosecutors to hold these criminals civilly liable for the accident and resulting injuries.
Drunk Driving Deaths in the U.S. (2010-2015)
Don’t wait to reach out to us if a drunk driver has impacted your life. We’re here to help you find answers, a sense of closure, and justice.
Common Car Accident Injuries
When a heavy vehicle traveling at highway speeds collides with another object, damage is sure to result. Despite improvements over the past decades in automobile safety, injuries often result from auto accidents as well. Here are some common injuries resulting from car accidents.
- Back injuries. Back injuries can result in debilitating pain or even paralysis.
- Head injuries. Among the most serious auto accident injuries, head injuries can range from mild concussions leading to weeks or months of serious headaches to permanent brain damage leaving victims unable to care for themselves for years or even the rest of their lives.
- Neck injuries. The sudden snapping motion of the head and neck in an accident creates the injury called whiplash. This leaves the victim with neck pain and difficulty moving their neck for weeks. More serious trauma to the neck can result in paralysis.
- Fractured bones. It is not uncommon after an auto accident for victims to have broken bones in the legs, feet, arms, or hands. Crushed bones can require multiple surgeries and years of rehabilitation to regain the use of limbs. More seriously, limbs may be amputated in an accident resulting in life-long struggles.
- Chest injuries. Bruised and broken ribs may take weeks to heal. A broken rib may puncture a lung or damage other internal organs resulting in life-threatening and often fatal injuries.
Whatever injury you have suffered, the trauma and medical expenses deserve compensation. The Long Beach car accident lawyers at Harting Simkins & Ryan, LLP are here to help you get justice.
How Can a Long Beach Car Accident Attorney Help?
When you contact us for a free case evaluation, one of our attorneys will discuss the details of your case with you. We can meet you at home or in the hospital if needed. If possible, bring all paperwork and notes about the accident to the consultation. Our Long Beach car accident lawyers will help you understand your legal rights, the potential value of a claim, and the next steps if you choose to retain our firm as your representatives.
We help car accident clients in a number of ways, including:
- Finding qualified medical support. Our clients often need specialized support after a serious car accident. Your attorney will help you receive prompt and qualified medical support while you focus on recovery. We can also help you find care on a lien basis to avoid bill collection actions until after resolution of the case.
- Representing you in front of insurance representatives. Whether we’re helping you report your accident or negotiating an unfair settlement offer, we provide complete insurance support. Before we file a formal lawsuit, we often help our clients protect their rights during investigations, negotiate during the claims process, and hold insurance agents accountable for their actions.
- Representing you in an accident lawsuit. If we can’t successfully resolve a claim through negotiation, our attorneys are not afraid of pursuing a trial. Our team will pursue cases involving serious injuries and death to help you obtain a fair verdict.
- Offering no-nonsense legal advice. Our attorneys work on a select number of cases to ensure we meet the strictest legal quality standards. We will provide honest and straightforward legal advice about your injuries so you can make informed decisions.
- Providing free insurance policy reviews. Call us anytime, client or not, for a free review of your auto insurance policy. We’ll help you uncover loopholes in coverage and wording issues that could decrease the ultimate value of the policy.
You’ll find numerous personal injury attorneys in the Long Beach area, but you’ll only find one Harting Simkins & Ryan, LLP. If you’re looking for a compassionate, dedicated, and proven law firm to handle your claim, consider us as your go-to car accident representatives. We know the California state and local laws that govern car accident claims and we take the time to understand our clients’ needs.
How to Choose the Right Long Beach Car Accident Lawyer
After an accident, billboards, radio advertisements, digital display ads, and television commercials featuring personal injury attorneys may stand out. Before you contact an attorney for help, consider the magnitude of your case. If you’re suffering from a serious injury, Joe Attorney from the phone book may not provide the legal support you need to obtain a fair settlement.
To find the right lawyer, ask around for recommendations, do your research, and always consult more than one attorney before making a hiring decision. People typically won’t retain car accident attorneys for minor injuries. They work with attorneys because the accident impacted their health, earning capabilities, and/or quality of life. Who you choose to represent you will impact your ability to achieve maximum recovery after an accident.
Your attorney should demonstrate practice experience in both the field of law and in the relevant legal jurisdictions. The attorney should also offer clear information about:
- Beyond a license to practice, look for professional ratings, settlement records, and any state bar complaints. A complaint does not necessarily translate to case-handling ability, but it can provide you with a deeper insight into the attorney’s practice history.
- Fee structures. The majority of personal injury attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning their clients do not pay attorney fees unless the firm obtains a settlement. This fee structure does not include case operating costs. Attorneys structure payments for added fees in different ways. Ask questions to better understand the costs of a case, and avoid attorneys who can’t provide a clear and reasonable answer.
- Trial capabilities. Most personal injury cases settle successfully outside the courtroom. Choose an attorney who is unafraid to pursue a trial if an insurance company or other defendant fails to meet reasonable demands. Sometimes, looking over an attorney’s settlement and verdict history provides insight into the individual’s willingness to take cases to court.
- Firm resources. Individual lawyers need access to modern legal resources to meet case potential. Case management, investigations, and expert witness networks set good law firms apart from great ones. Look for an attorney willing to work collaboratively to provide the best results possible for every client.
The right attorney for you will also feel like a good fit. You should feel comfortable sharing information with your lawyer, reaching out as needed, and receiving support from your attorney. If you can’t trust your attorney, the case may not achieve its full potential.
Pursuing a Car Accident Case with Harting Simkins & Ryan, LLP
When a preventable car accident causes a serious injury or wrongful death, begin your search for a qualified legal representative. Whether a distracted teenager swerved out of a lane to cause a head-on collision, or a case of road rage turned into a serious rear-ending accident, Harting Simkins & Ryan, LLP, is here to help. Contact us today in Long Beach, CA, to schedule a free, no-obligation legal consultation.