Several personal injury cases have many parties who are to blame for an individual’s injuries. Even if an accident results in devastating injuries, the party who is determined to be the most responsible may not have enough insurance coverage to completely compensate an injured individual.
California’s minimum auto insurance liability limits are meager. A typical driver only needs to have $15,000 in coverage for a single injury victim and $30,000 for more than one injured person. However, the National Safety Council estimates the cost of vehicle accident-related injuries drastically exceed the minimum coverage. For an incapacitating injury, the prices are expected to total $72,200 and $23,400 for a non-incapacitating injury.
These estimates are calculated using lost wages, medical expenses and vehicle damage and disregard non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, lowered future earnings, adverse changes to lifestyle and other non-economic damages. If you experience a devastating brain injury, spinal cord injury or other critical injuries, the medical costs for the rest of your life can easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Due to the amount of uninsured or underinsured individuals, it’s recommended you speak with a knowledgeable attorney who can meticulously evaluate your case and find all potential defendants with insurance. Parties who could be at least partially responsible for injuries or damages as a result of an accident include:
- Drivers: If a motorist ignores traffic safety laws, refuses to pay conscious attention to the road or their environment or engages in other acts of negligence, this driver could be responsible for your injuries. Presumption of negligence is applied if the following is met:
- The defendant violated a statute, ordinance or regulation of a public entity;
- The violation was the proximate cause of injury or death of another person;
- The harm was the type that the law was enacted to prevent;
- The person injured was within the class of people that the statute was intended to protect.
- Important note: California courts have recognized speeding as negligence per se and have created a presumption of negligence driving. While it is possible for the assumption to be overruled, the burden of proving that the driver was not negligent rests on the defendant.
- Owners of Premises: Commercial, public, or residential property owners may be liable for injuries that happen on their property. When you are hurt by an unwarned hazard on the property of another person or entity, you could create a claim for damages through a premises liability law. Property owners usually have to put a warning on hazards that are on their property or make an effort to resolve the risk. This still applies to owners who didn’t create the hazard.
- Public Entities: Yes, a government entity can be liable for damages or injuries caused by public employees or conditions on the government owned property. However, personal injury suits against public entities are considerably more complicated than claims against private entities to individuals. The U.S. Constitution grants public entities sovereign immunity from civil lawsuits. Almost all public entities have enacted laws that waive this protection to some point. But, you are required to follow special procedures and notice requirements to start a claim against a government entity in California.
- Employers: When a business employee is conducting job-related duties or operating a company vehicle, the employer of a negligent driver could be at least partially responsible for injuries caused by a traffic accident involving their employee. The legal doctrine that permits negligence of an employee to be attributed to an employer is known as “respondeat superior,” which translated to “let the employer answer.”