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Vehicle Accidents

More people are injured as a result of motor vehicle related events than by any other causes. Motor vehicle accidents include private cars and vans, motorcycles and scooters, and buses and trucks including "big rigs".  Also included in this category are motor vehicle-pedestrian.

Statute of Limitations

The Statute of Limitations applicable to motor vehicle related claims varies depending on the nature and type of the accident, the age of the injured party and the nature and type of insurance present.

Generally, a 2 year statute of limitations applies to motor vehicle claims.  That is to say, within 2 years of the date of accident an injured party should have either settled his or her claims or have filed a lawsuit in the court of appropriate jurisdiction.

Exceptions to that general statement apply to:
(1)  A claim by a minor;
(2)  A claim against a public entity;
(3)  Certain uninsured and underinsured motorist claims;
(4)  An uninsured motorist claim brought by a minor.

Anatomy of a Motor Vehicle Claim

Every Claim includes 2 necessary items: Liability and Damages.

To establish legal liability you need to demonstrate that someone operated his or her motor vehicle negligently and that but for that negligence the harm caused would not have happened.  

Damages are the "harms" caused as a result of the negligent act.  Damages generally fall into 3 categories which are:
(1)  economic losses;
(2)  non-economic losses; and
(3)  punitive or exemplary damages.

Generally, only economic (or "special") damages and non-economic (or "general") damages are present in most claims.  Punitive or economic damages are money damages designed to punish an otherwise negligent operator if the conduct complained of is outrageous.  An example would be found in the case of a drunk driver, especially one with prior drunk driving convictions.

Economic losses include lost wages, sick time used and medical bills incurred and to be incurred in the future.

Non-economic losses include compensation for injury, pain, suffering, inconvenience and interruption of life-style.


All motorists are required by law to have automobile liability insurance in force and effect during the operation of their motor vehicles.  Unfortunately this is not always the case.

In California, the minimum liability coverage limits allowed by law are $15,000.00/$30,000.00.  Where such limits are present, the negligent operator's insurance company is limited to pay out no more than $15,000.00 to any one person injured in a single collision and no more than $30,000.00 to 2 or more people injured in a single collision regardless of the nature and severity of the injuries caused.  There is no limit to "maximum" coverage limits available for purchase.  An insurance policy may or may not include uninsured motorist coverage which by law includes "underinsured" motorist coverage.

Uninsured motorist claims arise when a negligent operator does not have insurance or in "hit and run" scenarios where "contact" can be demonstrated.  A 2 year statute applies to these claims, including claims of minors (who otherwise do not need to present a claim until majority is reached).

Underinsured motorist claims arise when damages exceed the available coverage limits of the negligent operator's underlying policy.  Once those limits are "exhausted" an injured person may present a claim to his or her own insurance company, under the uninsured motorist coverage, for additional damages if the injured person's uninsured motorist coverage limits are higher than the negligent operator's liability limits.

Injuries and Damages

The value of a personal injury claim is determined by the nature and extent of the injuries sustained, whether there are any permanent or residual injuries, and the amount of economic losses caused by the negligent motorist, including future economic losses.  Factored into the value of these claims is the overall negative impact the underlying event has had on the 
injured party.  

No claim should be resolved until damages are established or professional and medical opinions are obtained that can give a clear prognosis for the injuries and medical care, including future care, is established.

The size of the claim, the age of the injured party and the identity of the responsible defendant can determine how damages are paid out.  Lump sum settlements are available but pay-outs structured over a period of time may also be available.  Each case has its own considerations in this area.

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