San Francisco Auto Accident Attorney
Car accident lawyers, how can they help? In San Francisco and throughout the country, we place a high value on personal freedom. Having the ability to go anywhere we want, at any time, is a privilege all drivers enjoy. While we enjoy the independence that comes with driving, we do not enjoy the aggravation of sitting in traffic tie ups, which make driving through and around the Bay Area so frustrating for many drivers. It is clear from the number of congested freeways and interstates that traffic in San Francisco is only increasing. Unfortunately, increases in traffic and drivers often results in an increase in car crashes and collisions, resulting in serious and potentially life-threatening injuries. Whether you are driving down the block, on Interstate 80, or headed clear across the country, there are steps you can take today, both to decrease your likelihood of being involved in an accident, as well as to decrease your chances of suffering damages as the result of these accidents. By understanding the risks drivers face today and the types of behaviors that contribute to driving accidents, as well as knowing what to do in the event you are injured in an
accident, you can help to ensure the safety and well-being of both yourself as well as those you love.
The Facts About San Francisco Car Accident Injuries and Fatalities
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which operates under the United States Department of Transportation, is charged with the task of reducing highway accidents and fatalities. The NHTSA works aggressively to raise public awareness regarding traffic safety by releasing yearly reports and fact sheets outlining current causes and conditions surrounding highway accidents throughout the country, as well as the number of people injured in these accidents. According to the recently released NHTSA 2013 fact sheet on traffic safety, there were approximately 5,687,000 traffic accidents in the U.S. These accidents resulted in over 2,300,000 injuries, and approximately 32,719 fatalities. Nationwide, that is an average of 90 fatalities a day, or one every 16 minutes.
Locally, the California Highway Patrol collects facts and figures on the number of people injured each year on the state level. Their 2013 report indicates over 200,000 people were injured as the result of motor vehicle accidents throughout the Golden State, with another 3,000 killed in these accidents. Unfortunately, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety, San Francisco has consistently ranked as one of the worst cities in the state in terms of motor vehicle safety, with more than 4,500 car accident injuries and fatalities each year.
Car Accident Causes
Car accidents can be caused by vehicle malfunction, such as brake failures or tire blow outs, and dangerous road conditions, such as wet, slippery roads and fog, are often a contributing factor in these accidents. However, according to research by the NHTSA, the most common reason most car crashes and collisions occur is due to driver errors and unsafe practices. Driving behaviors which contribute to car accidents include the following:
- Speeding: Key findings from the NHTSA on speed-related accidents indicate that as many as 29 percent of all traffic accidents are the result of speeding. While failure to obey the speed limit is dangerous and a violation of the state vehicle code, obeying the limit but driving too fast for conditions can also result in a ticket, as well as increase your likelihood of being involved in an accident. Research on speeding conducted by the NHTSA shows that failing to slow down during dangerous road conditions can increase your odds of being in an accident by as much as 40 percent.
- Impaired Driving: According to a 2013 NHTSA Fact Sheet on Alcohol Impaired Driving, approximately one person dies as the result of a drunk driving accident every 52 minutes. In addition to loss of life, alcohol-related accidents result in over $49 million in damages each year. Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152, it is against the law to drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or greater. Under the state code, it is also illegal to drive while under the influence of any type of drug, regardless of whether the drug is an illegal or ‘street’ drug, or whether it was prescribed by a physician. Many prescription drugs have side effects which could impair a driver’s judgment, and even over the counter medicines could potentially cause enough impairment to make you at risk for an accident.
- Distracted Driving: Distracted driving can include texting, talking on cell phones, resetting GPS systems, changing the dials on the radio, eating, drinking or any other type of behavior behind the wheel which can distract you and divert your attention away from the road. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), distracted driving is a contributing factor in roughly 80 percent of all car accidents. The OTS warns drivers that while texting may only divert your attention from the road for five seconds or so, that is enough time to travel the length of a football field if you are driving at 55 mph. The majority of accidents happen with two seconds or less of reaction time, and those few seconds spent texting or changing the dial on the radio could cost you your life.
- Aggressive Driving: The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) defines aggressive driving as unsafe driving practices that are hostile towards other drivers. When drivers commit two or more of these practices, such as competitively racing other drivers, tailgating, improper passing, failing to yield right of way, or failing to signal turns, they endanger themselves and others on the road, and increase their likelihood of being involved in a serious car accident. The GHSA points out that 15 states have addressed this issue in their state legislatures, and while our state does not have specific statutes against aggressive driving, California’s reckless driving law has been amended to include drivers who cause injuries to others or engage in speed competitions with other drivers.
- Drowsy Driving: In today’s society, many of us fail to get enough sleep. Lack of sleep may be due to health conditions such as sleep apnea, as the result of working overtime or swing swifts at our jobs, or by the occasional demands of family, school, or social life. It is not uncommon for drivers to be tired, drowsy, and inattentive behind the wheel. According to NHTSA research on drowsy driving, approximately 72,000 car accidents in 2013 were linked to groggy, tired drivers, resulting in 44,000 injuries and over 800 fatalities. Drivers who lack sleep are less aware of other drivers, traffic cues, and road conditions, show a decreased response time, and have a greater likelihood of becoming distracted and actually dozing off behind the wheel.
Car Accident Injuries
Injuries suffered as the result of car crashes and collisions can be serious and even catastrophic, depending on the severity of the crash and the amount of damage. People injured in these accidents often require ongoing treatment, such as repeated surgeries and physical rehabilitation, in order to make a full recovery. In some cases, a total recovery is not possible, and victims are left with permanent, life altering disabilities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these injuries often result in lengthy hospital stays and heavy medical costs. Each year the American public spends a total of one million days being hospitalized as the result of car accident injuries, with an estimated lifetime cost of $18 billion. According to the CDC, over 75 percent of medical costs for people injured in car accident are incurred in the first 18 months after the accident.
In research conducted with those injured as the result of automobile crashes and collisions, the NHTSA identified the following most common types of car accident injuries.
- Whiplash: One of the most common types of car accident injuries, whiplash occurs when the head and neck are violently whipped or shaken. Injuries affecting the neck can end up causing lingering, long term pain and difficulty in movement. In severe cases, paralysis could occur as the result.
- Concussions: Similar to whiplash, a concussion can result from violent whipping or shaking, as well as any type of bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Concussions range in severity from mild injuries causing temporary lightheadedness and headaches, to traumatic brain injuries (TBI), which the CDC claims is a major cause of death and disability in the United States. TBI can impact the sufferer’s personality, reasoning and memory skills, as well as their ability to function on a day to day basis.
- Fractures: Bone fractures are common in car accident, and according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), the severity of the fracture depends on the amount of force causing the break. In car accidents, the legs, arms, wrists, shoulders, and pelvis areas are generally most vulnerable to fractures, and damage can range from hairpin breaks that eventually heal on their own to major fractures requiring the need for surgery and traction, while impeding the person’s ability to perform even simple tasks such as walking or standing for potentially long periods of time.
- Sprains, Strains, And Tears: According to the AAOS, soft tissue injuries affect muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which are susceptible to strain, tears, and bruising as the result of motor vehicle accidents. The AAOS states that even with the proper medical care and treatment, these injuries can take a long time to heal, require extended periods of rest, and limit the sufferer’s activities during recovery.
In addition to the above injuries, car accidents can result in major cuts and lacerations, burn injuries, dislocated joints, and even limb amputation. Injuries resulting in extreme loss of blood and crushing injuries that damage internal organs often prove fatal for victims in these accidents.
Damages Resulting From Car Accidents
Car accident injuries can have a devastating impact on accident victims, both physically as well as financially. If you have been injured in an accident, you are likely dealing with medical expenses such as doctor and hospital bills, costs for ongoing care and treatment, and expenses associated with rehabilitating after your injury. Depending on the type and severity of the injuries you sustained, you may also be suffering from lost wages or the prospect of facing temporary or permanent disability, not to mention the damage to your property and the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle.
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), California Insurance Code requires all drivers to carry minimum amounts of liability insurance in the event of an accident to cover damages to the other drivers’ property as well as injuries to the driver or their passenger. Often times, the amount of liability coverage is not nearly enough to cover any damages resulting from an accident. In this case, your own insurance may cover your other costs. Unfortunately, insurance companies often attempt to either deny a claim completely, or undervalue the total amount of compensation you are entitled to receive.
If you have been involved in a car accident resulting from the negligent or wrongful acts of another, you may wish to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver. Under California Civil Code Section 3333, you may be entitled to damages, which are monetary amounts meant to compensate you for both the actual economic losses you suffered, as well as non-economic losses caused by the accident. Types of damages include the following:
- Reimbursement for medical expenses resulting from your accident;
- Reimbursement for lost wages as the result of your injuries;
- Compensation for property damages, and the cost to either repair or replace your vehicle;
- Compensation for temporary or permanent injuries, and the potential effect they will have on your future income;
- Compensation for pain, suffering, and mental anguish resulting for the accident or injuries; and
- Compensation for your loss of quality of life as the result of your injuries.
In addition to the above, you may be entitled under California Civil Code Section 3294 to punitive damages, meant to punish the other driver for conduct contributing to the accident which was grossly negligent, such as driving under the influence or driving at excessive speeds. These types of damages are awarded in addition to the compensatory damages listed above, and could end up being as much as two or three times the total amount of your claim.
In the event that injuries sustained in a car accident are fatal, under California Code Section 377, the family of the victim may be entitled to damages through a wrongful death suit. While no amount of compensation can bring back the loss of your loved one, the money from a wrongful death suit can help families recover financially in the aftermath of such a devastating tragedy.
Preventing Car Accidents
The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from car accident injuries is through prevention. The NHTSA recommends the following driver safety tips to decrease your chances of being involved in a car accident:
- Drive Carefully: Wear your seatbelt, plan trips in advance, avoid dangerous driving behaviors such as speeding, and always keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road in front of you.
- Maintain Your Car Properly: Have your mechanic perform routine maintenance on your vehicle, such as checking your brakes, making sure fluids are full, and that your battery is charged. Check your tires before long trips for signs of wear, and make sure your windshield wipers work and that you have plenty of wiper fluid.
- Know How to Find Other Means Of Transportation: In the event your vehicle is not working properly, if you are on medication, or if you plan on going out for drinks, familiarize yourself with San Francisco public transportation, have the number for your local cab company handy, and have a friend or two you can call on in an emergency.
In addition to the above, it is always a good idea to brush up on your driving skills by attending a driver safety course. There are plenty of safe driving classes in the San Francisco area to choose from, and aside from increasing your safety on the road, taking one may entitle you to an added benefit-a discount on your car insurance.