Every year, dozens of people are killed and countless more are seriously injured in motor vehicle accidents in San Francisco. Sadly, the vast majority of these accidents are entirely preventable.
If you were injured or if someone you love died due to the negligence of another motorist, you could be entitled to compensation. At Ayala, Morgan & Buzzard, we understand just how difficult it can be to move forward after a devastating automobile crash. Our San Francisco car accident attorneys are here to guide you through the legal process and fight for the maximum compensation you are owed.
When you have been injured, you don't just need an attorney. You need an advocate.
Filing a Car Accident Insurance Claim
California is one of several states to follow a traditional fault-based, or “tort,” system when it comes to car accidents. This means that, after an accident, you will typically need to file an insurance claim with the at-fault party’s provider. While you could be entitled to compensation from your own auto insurance company depending on the type of policy you have, most people will need to go through the other person’s insurance company to receive compensation for their damages.
Because of this, you will need to prove that another person or party was at fault for the accident that left you injured. All motorists owe an implied duty of care to others on the road, meaning they have a legal responsibility to follow traffic laws and drive cautiously so as to avoid causing injury to others. If you can prove that the other driver (or another party) was careless, reckless, or negligent, you can likely file a claim with their insurance company.
However, it is important that you remember the insurance company is not on your side. In fact, they will often do everything they can to dispute, devalue, or deny your claim. The insurance adjuster may question the validity of your injuries or argue that you had a preexisting condition. They may assign you a high degree of blame, or they may deny your claim altogether. It is important that you work with an experienced personal injury lawyer, like those at Ayala, Morgan & Buzzard. Our San Francisco car accident attorneys know how to advocate for you against the interests of the insurance company, and we are prepared to fight for every penny you deserve.
Common Causes of Car Accidents
One of the key elements of proving your car accident claim is establishing the fault of the other party. Most often, this involves determining the cause of the accident.
Some of the most common causes of car accidents in San Francisco include:
- Driver distraction
- Cell phone use
- Unfamiliarity with the area
- Inexperienced or teen drivers
- Fatigued driving
- Drunk driving
- Driving while high
- Failure to yield the right of way
- Failure to yield to pedestrians or bicyclists
- Running red lights or stop signs
- Following too closely
- Dangerous or unlawful turns
- Illegal passing
- Sudden stops, turns, and other driving maneuvers
- Unsafe merging
- Driving the wrong way down one-way streets
These and other negligent driving behaviors can have devastating consequences. At Ayala, Morgan & Buzzard, we conduct exhaustive investigations and work alongside accident reconstruction specialists, expert witnesses, and others who help us build strong, evidence-based cases for our clients. We know how to prove the other party’s negligence and seek the maximum compensation you are owed.
How California’s Comparative Negligence Rule May Affect Your Claim
California is one of several states to follow a rule of pure comparative negligence. Under this rule, you are allowed to file a claim and seek compensation if you were partly at fault for the accident. This is true even if you were mostly at fault. However, the amount you can recover will be reduced by your degree of fault.
For example, if you were hit by someone who was speeding to make a yellow light, but you were on your cell phone sending a text when the accident occurred, you may be assigned 20 percent of the blame. If you suffered $100,000 in damages, you would only be able to recover 80 percent of that amount, or $80,000.
Because insurance adjusters are the ones responsible for assigning fault after an accident, you may find that they unfairly assign you a significant percentage of blame. In fact, some insurance adjusters will do this intentionally to limit the amount they have to pay out for your claim. When you work with an experienced attorney, like those at Ayala, Morgan & Buzzard, you send a message to the insurance company that you are not willing to settle for anything less than what you are owed. Our San Francisco car accident lawyers bring decades of collective experience to their practice and are prepared to aggressively fight back against unjust insurance company tactics. We can even represent you at trial if necessary.
Seeking Maximum Compensation After Serious Car Accidents
Our firm represents victims of all types of motor vehicle accidents, including those involving multiple passenger vehicles, motorcycles, large trucks, buses, pedestrians, bicyclists, rear-end collisions, side-impact crashes, head-on collisions, drunk drivers, hit-and-runs, and more. We are well-versed in the complex challenges these cases present, and we have what it takes to effectively advocate for you.
Types of Compensation You May Receive
There are a few different types of damages you can recover in a car accident lawsuit in California:
- Medical expenses (past and future) - Recovering medical expenses is fairly standard in car accident lawsuits.
- Pain and suffering - Pain and suffering can refer to physical or mental afflictions, including scarring/disfigurement, depression, limitations on activity, loss of companionship, and many more.
- Property damages - You can get compensated for the damage to your vehicle.
- Loss of earning/earning potential - This applies when you've been harmed in a way that affects your ability to do you job
At Ayala, Morgan & Buzzard, we genuinely care about our clients. We make it our mission to provide personalized legal services based on empathy, honesty, and communication. As a client, you can rely on your attorney to be accessible and available to answer your questions throughout the legal process.
What happens if I’m at fault in a car accident in California?
If you are entirely at fault, meaning you are 100 percent to blame for the accident, you will not be able to file a claim for compensation. However, if the other driver (or another party) is also partly at fault, you may seek compensation from their insurance provider under California’s pure comparative negligence rule. However, your total recovery will be reduced by your at-fault percentage. Additionally, you may face certain penalties if you were partly to blame. Your insurance premiums may increase, and you could face personal injury litigation from the other involved party if they were injured or sustained damages due to the crash.
How is fault determined in a car accident?
Fault is determined in several ways. Anyone who violates any traffic law will be considered at least partly at fault for a crash. In instances in which no laws were violated, fault is typically determined based on negligence. This typically involves proving that the other party was careless or acted recklessly, thereby causing the accident.
What is the average settlement for a car accident in California?
Because every case is different, there is no “average” settlement for a car accident in California. In reality, car accident settlements vary greatly, ranging from several hundred or thousand dollars to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. In some cases, victims may be awarded million- or multimillion-dollar settlements or verdicts. The value of your claim depends on numerous factors, including but not limited to the severity of your injuries, the cost of your medical care, whether you suffered permanent disabilities, your degree of fault (if any), the available insurance coverage, and more.
Do I need a car accident attorney?
You are not required to hire a car accident attorney, but it is a very good idea to do so. Study after study shows that people who hire personal injury lawyers after car accidents tend to receive significantly higher settlements in less time than those who try to handle their cases on their own. An attorney can not only protect your rights against the interests of the insurance company but can also represent you at trial if the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement.
How much does a car accident attorney cost?
Most car accident attorneys, including ours at Ayala, Morgan & Buzzard, provide their services on a contingency fee basis. This means that, rather than collecting fees upfront, they are paid via a percentage of the plaintiff’s settlement or verdict. In other words, there are no out-of-pocket costs for you, and you only owe legal fees if your lawyer recovers compensation for you.
Who is at fault when rear-ended?
In California, fault is usually put on the rear driver, but not always. Exceptions may be when the front driver changed lanes unpredictably or had a broken taillight. Fault can also be split between the front and rear driver.
When should you call a lawyer after a bicycle accident?
If someone was negligent and hit you on a bike, you may be wondering if you would benefit from having an attorney. If you sustained major injuries such as a head injury, bone fracture, or an injury that resulted in surgery, it’s a good idea to get in touch with a lawyer. It’s also a good idea to seek legal help if your insurance company is trying to underpay you or deny your claim, the fault of the accident is in question, or you are unsure about details of your claim.