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Written by: Portrait Photo Of Tyrone J. Maho Tyrone J. Maho

Car accidents occur all across the country every day. Many auto accidents are harmless fender-benders, but some of them can be far more serious. The very worst motor vehicle accidents can cause severe injuries that lead to expensive medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Many accidents have repercussions for the human spine and can cause head trauma: concussion, traumatic brain injury, etc. People who are already compromised due to prior medical conditions can experience an aggravation or exacerbation of a prior injury, leading to further therapy and possible surgery. An auto accident could even lead to a wrongful death. With this in mind, the damages resulting from a Santa Barbara car accident can be costly. If the negligence of another driver caused it, however, you’re entitled to compensation for your injuries and expenses.

Most auto insurance companies will try to downplay the significance of your claim to mitigate their expenses and bolster their bottom line. If you want the best chance of getting the compensation you’re entitled to, you will need the assistance of the Santa Barbara law firm of Maho Prentice, LLP. We are car accident attorneys who are highly experienced in the various practice areas of personal injury law. As car accident lawyers, we have decades of combined knowledge and experience that we will use to help any Santa Barbara resident with their auto accident case. As personal injury lawyers, we will fight to get our clients the compensation they need to take care of the expenses caused by the auto accident, such as medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and more.

So if you were in a Santa Barbara car accident, contact our law firm. We will give you a free consultation. As personal injury lawyers, we represent clients on a contingency basis, which means you don’t pay out of pocket for our legal representation. We receive payment from the proceeds of your settlement or court award.

Photo of a Car Crash Scene

What To Do After a Santa Barbara Car Accident

After an auto accident in Santa Barbara, there are some steps that you can take to ensure your safety and to increase your chances of getting the compensation you need:

Call 911 – The first thing you should do after an auto accident is to contact first responders. The paramedics will take care of any injuries suffered by the people involved in the crash, and the police will cordon off the scene to keep everyone from further harm. They will also document the accident on a police report which can discuss fault.

Take Pictures of the Accident Scene – While you are waiting for the first responders to arrive, you should take pictures of the accident scene if you’re able to safely do so. That includes the damage done to each vehicle as well as the surrounding area. Be sure to record important details like skid marks, as well. Pictures can help reconstruction specialists determine who was responsible for the crash, and they can use the pictures to figure out how the accident happened. Another reason to take pictures before the police arrive is that they will be focused on clearing up the scene, which means that pictures will show what the scene was like before they arrived. In other words, photos and video can preserve invaluable evidence that can be used to support your case.

Watch What You Say – You should be very careful not to purposefully or accidentally admit fault when talking to the police or anyone else. Even a simple apology might be construed as an admission. The reason why you want to avoid these kinds of statements is that insurance companies can use them to claim that you were completely or partially at fault for the crash, even if you were not. This kind of admission could allow the insurance companies to reduce or even deny your settlement amount.

Get Medical Attention – Even after the paramedics have checked you out, you should go to a doctor for a complete evaluation of your health if you feel that you may have been injured in the crash. Some injuries might not manifest immediately after a crash, and some get worse over time. Your health and wellbeing are your highest priority, so be sure to get a thorough check-up even if you do not believe that you were seriously injured.

Contact a Santa Barbara Car Accident Lawyer – If the accident was not your fault, then you are entitled to receive compensation from the at-fault driver, and a Santa Barbara auto accident attorney gives you the best chance of getting that compensation. In some cases, you may be partially at fault but are still entitled to compensation. Contact our law office to receive a free case evaluation.

The Causes of Auto Accidents in Santa Barbara County

The reasons why auto accidents happen in Santa Barbara County, CA are much the same as why auto accidents happen in the rest of the country:

Speeding – A speeding driver is far more likely to get into a crash than one who is driving at the posted speed limit. The reason is that a driver’s reaction time decreases the faster they are going, so they may not be able to react in time to an emergency situation. This is exacerbated by the fact that a car’s stopping increases the faster it is going. When you put both of those facts together, the chances of an accident are greatly increased with speed.

Driving Under The Influence – When a person drives while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, their judgment, behavior, and reaction times are severely impaired. That increases the chance of an accident since they will not be able to react in time to certain situations and may make the wrong decision when they do react.

Distracted Driving – This kind of behavior can come in many forms, such as texting while driving, eating or drinking, speaking to a passenger, fiddling with the dashboard, personal grooming, and more. Distractions come in three types: cognitive, which is when the driver takes their mind off the task of driving; manual, which is when they take one or both hands off the steering wheel to do something else; visual, which is when the driver takes their eyes off the road. The reason why texting while driving is so dangerous is that it combines all three types of distractions.

Reckless and Aggressive Driving – A reckless or aggressive driver is one who ignores traffic signs and signals, aggressively changes lanes, tailgates other drivers, and generally displays little care or concern for the safety of others. In addition to driving dangerously, these kinds of drivers are more likely to be involved in road rage incidents.

Poor Weather – Heavy rain can reduce visibility and make the roads slippery and dangerous. That is why drivers should be very careful when driving in bad weather. The reason is that even if the weather causes a driver to lose control and crash into another vehicle, they can still be held responsible for the accident if they were not cautious.

Is it Worth Getting a Santa Barbara Car Accident Attorney?

The answer is “yes” because there are many ways in which a car accident lawyer can help you. You will need compensation to take care of the expenses caused by the personal injuries you suffered in the crash, not to mention repair bills for vehicle damage, lost wages, and other expenses. If the accident was not your fault, then you are entitled to get compensation from the offending driver. A Santa Barbara personal injury lawyer will give you the best chance of receiving that compensation.

Once you retain an attorney, they will start by gathering information and evidence that proves the fault of the other driver. They will collect police reports of the accident, get testimony from any witnesses identified by you or the police, find surveillance footage if there is any, and more. They will also help to calculate all of the expenses caused by the car accident; that means your medical bills, the cost to repair or replace your vehicle, and so on. Your attorney will also help you to file your injury claim and will send a demand letter to the insurance company of the driver responsible for the accident.

Once the demand letter is sent, negotiations between the parties will begin. The insurance company will likely make an offer that is lower than you or your attorney would like, after which, negotiations can begin. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, then you may have to sue the at-fault driver. If that happens, then various legal proceedings will begin, such as filing the lawsuit, discovery, and so forth. The parties will usually attempt to resolve the case via settlement or mediation since a trial is usually not a desirable outcome. 

It should be noted that trials are rare in car accidents and other personal injury cases because it is a lengthy, expensive, and time-consuming process that each party would like to avoid. But no matter how the case goes, a Santa Barbara personal injury attorney is an invaluable ally throughout the whole process. That is why it is advisable to contact an attorney after a car accident. Not only will they give you a free consultation of your case, but they work on a contingency fee. A contingency fee means that the lawyer does not get paid unless your case is successful, in which case they receive an agreed-upon percentage of your settlement amount.

Photo of a Back Injured Person

What If I Was Partially at Fault for the Accident?

Even if you were deemed to be partially responsible for the auto accident, you might still receive some compensation. The reason is that California is a pure comparative negligence state. That means that a person can still be compensated for a car accident even when they bear some fault for that accident. What happens is that the compensation they receive will be reduced based on their percentage of fault for the accident.

So, for example, if they were deemed to be 20% responsible for the car crash, then they will receive 80% of the compensation that they would have received if they had no responsibility at all. That means it is worth filing an injury claim to seek compensation even if you bore some responsibility for your accident.

How Pain and Suffering are Calculated in Santa Barbara Car Accidents

In all types of accidents where a person suffers personal injuries, there is an element of pain and suffering involved. It can be any kind of accident, not just auto accidents, but also slip and fall accidents, workplace accidents, and more. These accidents all cause some pain and suffering, which are often referred to as “general damages.” The person who experiences the pain and suffering should be compensated for it under the law. The amount of non-economic damages depends on many factors. Contact our Santa Barbara law firm to discuss your case and learn about what types of non-economic damages you may be entitled to.

Santa Barbara, CA Auto Accident Laws: What You Need to Know

If you are ever involved in a traffic accident, you should be aware of the state laws that apply to your situation. These laws can affect your rights and responsibilities, as well as your chances of getting compensation for your injuries. Here are some of the most important laws to keep in mind:

Liability rules

If another driver on the road hit your vehicle, the question of liability comes up: who is at fault for the crash? California follows the “at-fault” system, which means the driver who causes an accident is responsible for paying for the personal injuries (and property damage) of the other parties involved, be it other drivers or pedestrians.

Fault can be determined in two ways in California:

  • By proving negligence
  • By violating a statute

Negligence means that the driver failed to act with reasonable care and caused the accident. If a driver was, for instance, speeding, texting, or drunk, they could be considered negligent. Violating a statute means that the driver broke a traffic law and caused the accident. If a driver ran a red light, made an illegal turn, or drove without insurance, they could be considered at fault by statute. 

In both scenarios, fault can be determined by using evidence such as police reports, witness statements, photos, videos, or expert opinions.

This also affects how much compensation you can recover from the other driver or their insurance company. California follows the “pure comparative negligence” rule, which means you can recover compensation from any other at-fault driver, regardless of your own degree of fault. However, your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if you were 30% at fault and your damages were $100,000, you can only recover $70,000 from the other driver or drivers.

If your accident was caused by a faulty car component: If a defective part or system in your car, such as faulty brakes, tires, or airbags led to the crash, you may be able to sue the manufacturer or seller of the vehicle or the component under the product liability law.

Product liability law holds that the manufacturer or seller of a defective product is liable for any harm caused by the product, regardless of their negligence or fault. To prove this kind of claim, you will need to show that the product was defective, that the defect existed when it left the manufacturer or seller’s control, that the defect caused your injury, and that you used the product as intended.

Photo of a Woman with Smartphone and Damaged Car

If your accident was caused by poor road conditions: If a hazardous road condition, like a pothole, debris, or construction zone led to your crash, you may be able to sue the government entity that is responsible for maintaining or designing the road under the dangerous condition of public property law.

This law states that the government body is accountable for any harm caused by a dangerous condition on its property, if it knew or should have known about the condition and failed to fix it or warn about it. To prove this claim, you will need to show that:

  • The property was in a dangerous condition
  • The condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of injury
  • The government entity knew or should have known about the condition
  • The government entity failed to take reasonable measures to protect against the condition
  • That condition caused your injury

At Maho Prentice, LLP, our Santa Barbara auto accident lawyer can investigate your accident thoroughly to determine who must be held liable for it, negotiate strongly with the defendant’s insurance company, and take your case to trial if necessary. 

Insurance requirements

Driving in California comes with certain responsibilities, one of which is having adequate auto insurance. This insurance protects you and others from the financial consequences of a motor vehicle accident, i.e., it allows you to pay for any damages you cause while driving.

According to California law, motorists must have at least $15,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person, $30,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per accident, and $5,000 in property damage liability coverage. These are the minimum amounts of coverage that will pay for the medical bills and car repairs of the other parties involved in a crash that you cause.

You may also want to consider adding other types of coverages to your policy for more protection. For example, you can get collision and comprehensive coverage to pay for your own car repairs or replacement if it is damaged or stolen. You can also get uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to pay for your own medical expenses and vehicle repairs if you are hit by a driver who has no insurance or not enough insurance. 

Santa Barbara Car Accident: Statute of Limitations

How long do I have to file a personal injury claim after an auto accident? 

You have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against the other driver or drivers involved. If you miss this deadline, you may lose your right to sue and recover compensation for your severe injuries and damages. If the at-fault party is a government entity, the statute is much shorter – six months. If you are a minor, the statute starts once you turn 18.

Photo of a Man Calling after a Car Accident

How long do I have to file a wrongful death claim after an auto accident?  

The surviving family members or personal representatives of the deceased person have two years from the date of the death to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver who caused the fatal crash. However, there are some exceptions to this rule as mentioned before, like when the defendant is a government entity or when the family member is a minor. 

Contact Maho Prentice, LLP When You Need a Santa Barbara Personal Injury Lawyer

If you need a car accident attorney in Santa Barbara, then you should contact us at Maho Prentice, LLP as soon as possible. We are car accident attorneys who are experienced in all practice areas of personal injury law, including auto accidents. We can help you to get the compensation that you need by guiding you through the entire injury claim process. Our law firm will fight on behalf of any Santa Barbara residents who were injured in a car crash that was caused by someone else. As experienced car accident lawyers, we will do everything in our power to help our clients get the compensation they need. And if the crash resulted in a wrongful death, then we will do all that we can to make sure that the surviving family members receive the compensation they need to remain financially stable. We are not afraid to take on the insurance companies to make sure that they offer you a fair settlement. So, if you were injured in a Santa Barbara car crash, then contact the car accident lawyers of Maho Prentice, LLP, to get a free consultation of your case.