blog home Car Accident What Factors Determine Liability in a Car Accident?

By Renee Nordstrand on June 28, 2019

driver turning the wheel before an accident

Was the driver who struck you intoxicated? Was he distracted by his phone? Did she try to speed up and make a yellow light, which had just turned red? Negligent actions that drivers take behind the wheel will determine if they are at fault for a crash. Here are the basics:

The Basic Rules of the Road

We’ve reiterated the general right-of-way rules for drivers, courtesy of the California Driver Handbook.

  • At an intersection: Be prepared to stop or yield to any pedestrians or bicyclists that are already in the intersection, and make eye contact with them. At a four-way stop, the car that arrived first should go first. If two cars arrived at the same time, the one to the right has the right-of way. At a T-intersection, wait until there is a break in traffic to cross or turn. Obey the instructions on all signs and traffic lights, and yield to moving vehicles, if you are slowed or stopped.
  • In a roundabout: Slow down as you approach, yield to bicyclist and pedestrians, and enter the roundabout when there is a gap in traffic to do so safely. Travel counterclockwise, and do not stop or pass inside the roundabout. Signal when you plan to exit, and if you miss your exit, continue around again.
  • On a mountain road: Since some hilly roads have very little room to pass, if two cars meet in opposite directions, the vehicle going downhill must back up until the vehicle going uphill can pass.

Drivers have to know these rules, and if they violate any one of them and cause a crash, they can be held liable for the victim’s medical bills, vehicle repairs, time out of work, and more. Disobeying a traffic law is considered negligent behavior, much like choosing to drink and drive, and if negligent behavior directly leads to another person’s injury, whether it be a pedestrian, bicyclist, or other driver, then the negligent party is responsible for paying the injury-related bills.

What If the Street Was Inherently Dangerous?

In those cases, it is best to speak with a local lawyer, because it could be that the municipality was to blame for your crash. The same is true if the city allowed foliage to obstruct signage, or failed to fix a known defect or design flaw that had already caused accidents in the area. NordstrandBlack PC can come to the scene and do a background investigation to see if other factors could make the city or state liable.

What About Uninsured Motorists?

California drivers must have liability insurance to cover their negligence in the event they cause an accident. The minimum policy limits are $15,000 to pay for another person’s bodily injury; $30,000 to pay for multiple people’s bodily injuries; and $5,000 to pay for another person’s damaged property. However, many residents disregard this law and travel in their vehicles (or a family member’s vehicle) without the benefit of insurance, which leaves victims in a vulnerable situation after a car crash. In these cases, if the victim has purchased uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage, his own insurance policy will cover his/her damages.

Closing Thoughts

California has many rules of the road, but one common-sense rule that reigns above the rest: yield the right-of-way when it helps to prevent collisions. There is a legal concept known as the “last clear chance” doctrine, which finds that the person who had the last chance to avoid the accident but did not take that opportunity bears some responsibility for the accident, even if he or she was not ultimately at fault.

Adverse claims adjusters determine who is liable for causing and accident, so don’t leave this important decision to the insurance company. Add your own professional to the mix by hiring a Santa Barbara car accident attorney at NordstrandBlack PC. We protect your rights and advocate for your best interests, and make sure the insurance company does not try to short-change you after a serious accident. Call (805) 962-2022 to schedule a free consultation today.

Posted in: Car Accident