Every year, thousands of car accidents occur throughout California. Many of these incidents result in injuries, and some victims do not survive these experiences. California is notorious for heavy traffic, a high rate of underinsured and uninsured drivers, and busy highways. It’s natural to be concerned about the odds of dying in a car crash in California, but statistically, the fatality rate for vehicle accidents in California is relatively low.
According to available accident data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and other sources, California has a fatality rate of 9.1 per 100,000 people each year. This translates to a relatively low risk of experiencing a fatal accident every time you head out on the road. However, while this risk rate may seem low enough not to worry, it is always best to do everything you can to minimize your car accident risk.
Common Causes of Fatal Car Accidents in California
Vehicle accidents can happen for various reasons, including:
- Distracted driving. Across the US, distracted driving is the most commonly reported cause of accidents resulting in injuries and deaths. When drivers fail to pay adequate attention to the road, they put themselves and others at severe risk. Even a few seconds of inattentive driving can be enough to cause a devastating crash.
- Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs and alcohol. Intoxicated driving is hazardous and illegal. In addition, an impaired driver puts themselves and others at risk due to impaired judgment, slowed reaction time, blurred vision, and diminished hand-eye coordination.
- When drivers exceed speed limits, they have less time and distance to slow down or stop to avoid collisions. As a result, accidents at higher speeds are likely to cause severe injuries, and the fatality risk is much greater for high-speed accidents.
Accidents can also happen because of moving violations, such as running red lights or stop signs, illegal turns, and illegal U-turns. In addition, vehicular defects and mechanical failures may also result in serious accidents. While many people who experience car accidents survive these incidents, some are not so fortunate.
What Happens After a Fatal Car Accident?
California uses a fault-based system for resolving car accident disputes. If a driver causes an accident with another driver, the at-fault driver is liable for the resulting damages. When a driver causes a fatal accident, they are responsible for the death and all associated damages. Every driver in California must have auto insurance that meets the state’s minimum coverage requirements, but auto insurance is unlikely to fully cover the damages resulting from a fatal car accident.
When another party’s actions injure you, you can file a personal injury claim, but if your loved one died in an accident another party caused, you would need to file a wrongful death claim to hold them accountable. Wrongful death claims are similar to personal injury claims in that they seek compensation for losses caused by negligence and intentional misconduct. However, they are different regarding who is allowed to file these claims and the damages available.
In a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff is typically a family member of the deceased, and their claim will seek compensation for the losses they experience from the death in question. A survival action can be filed in tandem with a wrongful death claim. This suit seeks compensation for damages incurred by the deceased’s estate, such as medical treatment costs immediately preceding their death.
Q: What Is the Leading Cause of Car Accidents in California?
A: Distracted driving is the leading cause of all vehicle accidents in California. Cell phone use, eating while driving, and other distractions can easily result in devastating crashes. However, the most common factor in fatal accidents is speeding. Accidents that occur at high speeds involve stronger crash impact forces, typically resulting in more severe injuries to those involved and increasing the likelihood of fatal injuries.
Q: What Happens If a Driver Doesn’t Immediately Die From a Crash?
A: If your loved one died from injuries sustained in a car accident, but the death was not immediate, you would have the right to file a wrongful death claim and a survival action against the party responsible. The wrongful death claim can help you recover lost financial support, your pain and suffering, and the value of household services provided by the deceased. The survival action will seek compensation for economic losses incurred by the deceased’s estate.
Q: What Are the Most Common Fatal Injuries From Car Accidents?
A: The most common fatal injury reported from car accidents in the US is head injury. A traumatic brain injury can easily result in death depending on the severity and location of the injury. Additionally, a car accident victim can sustain a traumatic brain injury that does not result in immediate death but poses long-term adverse effects.
Q: How Long Does a Wrongful Death Claim Take to Resolve?
A: The time required to finalize your wrongful death claim in California largely depends on the strength of your evidence and whether the defendant’s liability is clear. If the defendant has little room to contest their liability for the death or the resulting damages, they will likely wish to settle the case as soon as possible. However, when a wrongful death claim proceeds to litigation, it can potentially take several months or even more than a year to conclude.
Experiencing a sudden death in your family due to a fatal car accident caused by a negligent driver can be incredibly distressing for you and your loved ones. It’s natural to feel troubled and uncertain about the best available legal responses to this kind of situation, and the right attorney can provide the guidance and support you need in this difficult time. The team at Chris and Frank has extensive experience representing clients in personal injury claims and wrongful death claims related to car accidents. If you believe you have grounds for legal action following a fatal car accident, contact us today to schedule a free consultation with our team.