Every year, thousands of people throughout California experience auto accidents, some of which have devastating consequences. Every driver needs to operate their vehicle attentively and responsibly at all times, but unfortunately, not all drivers uphold this duty of care. Recent data shows that distracted driving is the leading cause of all auto accidents in the United States. However, the leading cause of traffic fatalities in California is speeding.
All drivers must understand the risks that accompany speeding. While it’s relatively normal for traffic on some roads to flow at five to 10 miles an hour over the posted speed limit, drivers are expected to follow posted speed limits. Failure to do so can lead to devastating injuries and responsibility for other drivers’ damages.
Most Common Causes of Fatal Car Accidents in California
Every driver faces several risks every time they get behind the wheel. All drivers must acknowledge these risks and uphold their responsibilities when it comes to driving safely. The leading causes of traffic accidents in California entail some level of negligence or a failure to exercise reasonable care and caution. The most commonly reported causes of fatal accidents in California include:
- Speeding. Accidents that occur at higher speeds inherently carry a higher risk of causing injuries and fatalities due to the physics in play in these situations. When a driver exceeds posted speed limits, they have much less time and space to react to changing traffic patterns, easily resulting in severe accidents.
- Distracted driving. When drivers fail to pay attention to the road, they risk themselves and others. Distracted driving accounts for most accidents in the US, many of them fatal.
- Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and drugs. It is illegal and dangerous for anyone to operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Any driver who causes a fatal accident because of DUI will face criminal charges for vehicular manslaughter as well as civil liability for wrongful death.
- Aggressive driving, otherwise known as “road rage”. When drivers become frustrated, they may engage in risky or outright dangerous maneuvers, such as cutting other drivers off very closely, speeding, tailgating, and swerving to intimidate others. Any driver who causes a fatal accident with this type of behavior is likely to face criminal charges in addition to civil liability for victims’ damages.
These are just a few ways fatal accidents happen in California. If you recently lost a loved one in a fatal car accident that you believe occurred due to another driver’s negligence or intentional misconduct, you may have grounds to file a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful Death and Vehicular Manslaughter
A wrongful death claim functionally replaces a personal injury claim when a victim does not survive their experience. When a negligent driver causes a fatal traffic accident, the victim’s family can pursue a wrongful death claim to secure compensation for funeral expenses, lost financial support the deceased provided, and their pain and suffering. It’s also possible to file a survival action to collect compensation for damages to the deceased’s estate if they did not die immediately from the accident.
Whenever a negligent driver causes a fatal accident, they could face vehicular manslaughter charges. This offense may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony in California, depending on the nature of the defendant’s behavior. For example, if the driver was distracted, they may only face misdemeanor charges, which will lead to a one-year sentence in county jail, among other penalties. If they were drunk behind the wheel, they would likely qualify for felony prosecution, which carries a six-year prison sentence, loss of driver’s license privileges, and various other penalties.
If a defendant faces prosecution for vehicular manslaughter, they are still liable for civil damages. The victim’s family will likely file a wrongful death claim against them, and the successful criminal prosecution will work in the family’s favor. If you recently lost a loved one due to another driver’s negligence or intentional misconduct, it is crucial to speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
FAQs About Common Causes of California Fatal Car Accidents
What Is the Leading Cause of Traffic Fatalities in California?
Distracted driving is the leading cause of all motor vehicle accidents in California, but speeding is the leading cause of all fatal accidents. Fatalities are more likely to occur at higher speeds because of the severe physical forces in play when vehicles collide. Affected drivers may not only experience strong initial crash impacts but also secondary impacts from colliding with other vehicles or objects.
What Are the Odds of Dying in a Car Crash in California?
There are thousands of fatal accidents in California every year, and the state has one of the highest traffic fatality rates in the country. However, considering the sheer number of drivers in California, the risk of any particular driver dying in a car crash in California is statistically low. All drivers can limit their risk of experiencing a fatal accident by driving attentively and carefully at all times.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Car Accidents in California?
The leading causes of car accidents in California include distracted driving, speeding, and DUI. Moving violations, mechanical failures, poor visibility, and severe weather are more commonly reported causes of accidents throughout the US.
Ultimately, every driver has a responsibility to prevent accidents by operating their vehicle safely. Drivers must also address mechanical issues with their vehicles when they discover them and refrain from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. When drivers operate their vehicles defensively and responsibly, they significantly lower their risk of experiencing fatal accidents. However, it is not always possible to anticipate the behavior of other drivers.
Skilled California Accident Attorneys
If you have recently experienced a severe accident caused by someone else or believe a driver is responsible for a fatal accident involving a relative, contact our firm. Chris and Frank can offer the legal counsel you need in this challenging situation, so contact us today to schedule your consultation.