California’s Laws Governing Car Accident Claims

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Laws Governing Car Accident Claims in California

There are a number of laws that govern car accident claims in California. Which laws, statutes and legal precedents that come into play in your car accident case will depend on the specifics of your accident.

The ones that are applicable to most cases (good idea to become familiar with these) include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Vehicle Code § 20008 – An accident that results in injuries or death must be reported to law enforcement within 24 hours. All of California’s reporting requirements for a car accident can be found here. Generally you should, “call the police if there is physical contact.” The DMV requires you to report accidents under certain circumstances; more information (as well as the form that you’d need to use) can be found here.
  • California Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1 – Any claim of injury (personal or property) based on the wrongful or negligent conduct of someone else must be filed within 2 years. This statute of limitations applies to almost every car accident claim out there.
  • California Code of Civil Procedure § 338 – If you are ONLY looking to recover compensation for damage to your vehicle, you must file a claim within 3 years.
  • California Government Code § 911.2 – Administrative claims against the government must be filed within 180 days.
  • California Insurance Code § 11580.1(b) & 11580.2, and California Vehicle Code § 16056 – Drivers must have auto insurance in California and maintain, at the minimum, 15/30/5 coverage, which includes:
    – $15,000 for injury or death of one person
    – $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person
    – $5,000 for property damage
    Policies must also include uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.
  • California Civil Code § 1431.2(b)(1) – A plaintiff may recover economic damages (such as lost wages, medical expenses, etc.).
  • California Civil Code § 1431.2(b)(2) & 3333.4 – A plaintiff may recover non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, etc.) so long as they weren’t driving under the influence at the time of the accident (requires a conviction under Vehicle Code § 23152 or 23153) and they carried auto insurance.
  • California Vehicle Code (Generally) – The California Vehicle Code outlines the “rules of the road.” It dictates where you’re supposed to operate your vehicle (inside the lines, etc.), at what speed, and in what manner. The specific facts of your case will determine which Vehicle Code sections apply. If, for example, the at-fault party was driving on the wrong-side of the road, Vehicle Code section 21650 might apply.
  • The Comparative Fault Rule – California utilizes the comparative fault rule to determine how much compensation a plaintiff is entitled to based on each party’s contribution to the injuries. A plaintiff can only recover what percentage of the damages that they were not responsible for. For example, a plaintiff who was responsible for 40% of the seriousness of her injuries because she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt can still recover the other 60% of the damages.


Disclaimer: Information on this page is designed for general information purposes only and should not be interpreted as being legal advice or a legal opinion on specific facts or circumstances. You should always consult with an attorney before making a decision about your case. Pages are updated periodically but information provided on this page may not be up to date as circumstances may change over time. Please see our LEGAL DISCLAIMERS page for additional legal disclaimers.

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