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California Car Accident Law: Answers To FAQs

UPDATED: February 17, 2020

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What are the requirements for a car accident victim to sue in California, how do courts treat soft tissue injuries, what limitations might you face and how does California’s compulsory financial responsibility law affect you? Those are questions that Matthew Nezhad, a California attorney whose practice is dedicated to handling personal injury claims and cases for injury victims throughout California, gets asked frequently. In this interview, he provides answers to those questions.

Question: Are there any requirements for a victim of an auto accident to sue in California?

Answer: No, once you’re involved in an auto accident, you present a claim and if the claim is not honored and you believe that you were not at fault – whether by way of witnesses or the facts of the accident – then you could bring an action against the other party and sue them. It doesn’t matter whether that action is in small claims court or superior court; anyone can sue so long as you can establish that the other person was negligent and you can prove that there were damages that were the a result or the other person’s negligence – which means that someone acted carelessly or in an unsafe manner.

Question: Are there any limitations to the process?

Answer: Yes. Generally speaking, there’s a certain amount of time that you have in order to bring this lawsuit or file a lawsuit against the other individual called the statute of limitations. For injury claimants in California, you would have approximately two years, from the date of the accident, in which you need to file a lawsuit. If it passes that two year mark, you may not be able to file a lawsuit against that person or recover anything. So, you want to make sure that you immediately look into it or contact an attorney and figure out what needs to be done to secure your interest because once that time lapses, you really will not be able to recover anything from the other side. That same two year limitation applies to wrongful death as well.

Question: What is California’s compulsory financial responsibility law?

Answer: California’s financial responsibility law says that you need to have a minimum amount of insurance. It’s called a 15/30 policy which means that you must have a minimum of $15,000 worth of coverage for each person and $30,000 worth of coverage total in order to hold a driver’s license and registration card in California.

If you’re caught without the insurance coverage, you’re driver’s license could be suspended and there may be fines associated with that as well. You definitely want to have the minimal policy limits to make sure that you keep your driver’s license.

Question: How do California courts treat soft tissue injuries?

Answer: The system is basically set up in a way where if the case is not settled, then you would have to go to court and try the case. A jury would have to determine what the damages are and what they think the case is worth based on the information that’s provided. In the case of a soft tissue injury that’s not documented properly, the jury may not believe that the injury is serious, or even worse, that you’re making it up.

We all know how serious soft tissue injuries can be. They stay with you for years and years, so you definitely want to make sure that it’s documented properly. Once it’s documented properly by way of doctor reports, evaluations and treatment, the court system or jury will know that this was legitimate, this was significant and you went in and you got treated for it. At that point, they’re likely to give it more of a value than just by looking and saying, “Yeah, everyone says they’ve got a back ache or a neck pain.”

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