AUTO ACCIDENTS: DO I HAVE A CASE?
As with all questions posed to an attorney, it depends!!! The following is provided for informational purposes, and shall not be construed as providing legal advice and/or opinion or the formation of an attorney-client relationship.
TIME LIMITS TO BRING THE CLAIM
California imposes strict time limitations in bringing cases related to automobile accidents. These time limitations are known as statute of limitations, and fall into several types of categories depending upon who is bringing the claim and against whom the case is being brought. For this discussion, the assumption is that an adult is pursuing the claim, as minors have special rules not discussed below.
- Against a government entity, such as a school district, city, county, or state, an individual has six months to file a claim against the appropriate entity. Going back to English common law, the source of most non-statutory laws in the United States, and dating back as far as the Magna Carta (1215), the king was sovereign and quite literally above the law. If the king caused you harm you were without a remedy or recourse, unless the king allowed for a remedy or recourse. This sovereign tradition has carried over to the United States. In California, the state has authorized claims and lawsuits to be filed against it or any junior governmental entity through the Government Tort Claims Act. There are very specific time periods and procedures that must be strictly followed to pursue such a claim. For instance, failure to file a claim against the proper government entity within six months of suffering a personal injury or one year for property damage, may bar you from pursuing the claim. The Government Tort Claims Act is riddled with traps for the wary and a person choosing to represent his or her self does so at their own peril!
- For personal injury (meaning a claim for physical/mental injuries suffered in an automobile accident) claims, an individual has two years from the date of the accident to either settle his or her claim or file a lawsuit.
- For property damage (meaning a claim to recover for damage done to property such as a vehicle or items in the vehicle that were damaged), an individual has three years from the date of the accident to either settle his or her claim or file a lawsuit.
- CAN I BE PARTIALLY AT FAULT AND THE OTHER DRIVER STILL BE LIABLE ?
- CALIFORNIA CIVIL JURY INSTRUCTIONS (CACI) RELATED TO AUTOMOBILE NEGLIGENCE
No. 400 Negligence- Essential Factual Elements
“Although it is true that some exceptions have been made to the general principle that a person is liable for injuries caused by his failure to exercise reasonable care in the circumstances, it is clear that in the absence of statutory provision declaring an exception to the fundamental principle enunciated by section 1714 of the Civil Code, no such exception should be made unless clearlysupported by public policy.” (Rowland v. Christian (1968) 69 Cal.2d 108, 112.)• “ ‘The elements of a cause of action for negligence are well established. They are “(a) a legal duty to use due care; (b) a breach of such legal duty; [and] (c) the breach as the proximate or legal cause of the resulting injury.” ’ ” (Ladd v. County of San Mateo (1996) 12 Cal.4th 913, 917 .)
- “Aside from the mandate of the statute, the driver of a motor vehicle is bound to use reasonable care to anticipate the presence on the streets of other persons having equal rights with himself to be there.” (Zarzana v. Neve Drug Co. (1919) 180 Cal.32, 37 .)
- “[A driver is] under a duty, both by statute and common law, to operate his vehicle without negligence so as to abstain from injuring any other person or his property.” (Bewley v. Riggs (1968) 262 Cal.App.2d 188, 194.)
- The standard of care is that of a reasonably careful person under the circumstances: “[The driver] was required to act as a reasonably prudent personunder the same or similar circumstances . . . .” (Watkins v. Ohman (1967) 251 Cal.App.2d 501, 502-503 .)
- “The operator of a vehicle must keep a proper lookout for other vehicles or persons on the highway and must keep his car under such control as will enable him to avoid a collision; failure to keep such a lookout constitutes negligence.”(Downing v. Barrett Mobile Home Transport, Inc. (1974) 38 Cal.App.3d 519,524.)
- “The age of a minor who operates a motor vehicle will not excuse him from liability for driving it in a negligent manner, and he will be required to meet the standard established primarily for adults.” (Prichard v. Veterans Cab Co. (1965) 63 Cal.2d 727, 732.) Drivers with mental disabilities are required to exercise the ordinary care required of an adult without such disability. (Fox v. City and County of San Francisco (1975) 47 Cal.App.3d 164, 173.)
- VIOLATIONS OF VEHICLE CODES:
There are a number of accidents caused by the violation of Californi Vehicle code sections. These violations may form the basis for a negligence claim. Among these vehicle code sections that are often violated are:
- “Failure to Yield the Right of Way” including intersection right of way (Vehicle Code section 21800), left turn right of way (Vehicle Code section 21801), left turn right of way (Vehicle Code section 21801), and entry onto the highway (Vehicle Code section 21804).
- Basic Speed Law violation (Vehicle Code section 22350).
- Speed Limit and Maximum Speed Limit violations (Vehicle Code sections 22349, 22352, and 22356).
If you can establish liability, you may recover damages. Damages fall into two broad categories in personal injury cases. These are economic damages and non-economic damages.
- Economic Damages: