California Car Accident Laws

Posted on 04/14/22

in News

A car accident in California can happen to anyone, at any time. Statistically, getting into a car accident is more likely to be a matter of when not if. It is important for all drivers in California to have a basic understanding of the state’s car accident laws to use in the event of a collision. Use this guide to learn more about the state laws that could affect your car accident case.

Car Accident Reporting Requirements

According to California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 20008, all drivers who get involved in car accidents that result in injuries, deaths or at least $1,000 in property damage are required to report the wreck to the local police department within 24 hours. In addition, drivers are typically required to report the accident to the California Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days.

As well as contacting the police, drivers involved in a car accident in California must also stop at the scene of the crash, check for injuries, render aid if necessary, and exchange information with any other drivers involved (CVC §20001). If a driver skips any of these steps after a vehicle collision, he or she could be guilty of a hit-and-run.

California Car Insurance Requirements

According to CVC §16056, all motor vehicle drivers in California are required to show evidence of financial responsibility, either by purchasing and maintaining minimum amounts of automobile insurance or through a bond. This ensures that a driver has the means to pay for an accident that he or she causes. As of 2022, California’s car insurance requirements are:

$15,000 in liability insurance for injuries or death per person
$30,000 in liability insurance for injuries or death per car accident
$5,000 in property damage liability insurance

Optional types of coverage in California include uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance, collision coverage, and comprehensive insurance. Drivers are required to show proof of financial responsibility when registering a vehicle, during traffic stops, and after car accidents. Failing to provide this proof can result in a ticket and the suspension of the driver’s license until he or she purchases insurance.

Fault-Based Car Accident Law

When it comes to determining liability, or financial responsibility, for a car accident, California is a fault-based insurance state. This means that the driver or person at fault for the car accident is who must pay for the damage. In a no-fault state, the fault for a car accident is irrelevant, as all drivers seek benefits from their own car insurance providers regardless of fault. In California, it is necessary to prove that someone else caused your car crash before you can recover benefits through that person’s insurance carrier. This may require evidence of negligence, or the driver’s failure to exercise proper care.

California’s Pure Comparative Negligence Law

If a car accident case involves the shared fault of multiple parties, California’s pure comparative negligence law (California Civil Code §1714) will be used to determine how much the plaintiff receives in financial compensation. This law states that if a claimant is found to be partially to blame for a car accident, the courts will reduce his or her financial recovery by the percentage of liability.

If you are found to be 15 percent responsible for a car crash, for example, you will receive 15 percent less in compensation from the defendant. Since California uses a pure version of this negligence law, you can be found up to 99 percent to blame and still be eligible for compensation.

Car Accident Statute of Limitations in California

California’s statute of limitations is a law that imposes a strict claims filing deadline. If you miss your statute of limitations, the courts will most likely dismiss your case and bar you from recovering compensation. Under California Civil Code §335.1, the time limit on a car accident case is two years from the date of the collision or of the discovery of injuries to file a related claim. Although there are some exceptions, they are rare. It is in your best interest to contact a car accident attorney in Walnut Creek as soon as possible for assistance with your car accident case.