Over 380,000 people call Bakersfield, home. What was once a sleepy town is now the 9th largest city in California and growing. While public transportation is available, most people rely on their cars to get around.
The city’s infrastructure hasn’t kept up with this massive growth. More traffic means more accidents. When these accidents are serious, that can even mean catastrophic injuries and even death. If you or a loved one were injured in a serious car accident in Bakersfield, you have the right to seek compensation. Call The Dominguez Firm at 800-818-1818 today for a free consultation. We’re available to visit you at your home or hospital at a moment’s notice.
What follows is a guide to Bakersfield car accidents, your rights if you were seriously injured and how The Dominguez Firm can put its 30+ years of experience to work for you.
Bakersfield Car Accident Statistics and Risk Factors
First, the good news; Bakersfield ranks near the bottom among similarly sized California cities for motor vehicle accidents involving bicycles or pedestrians over the age of 65. It also ranks near the bottom for speed-related accidents with 247 injuries and deaths.
Now the bad news. Bakersfield ranks 4th for alcohol-related crashes involving drivers of any age with 232 people injured and killed in 2018. It’s also 4th for DUI crashes of drivers between the ages of 21-34. 71 people were injured or killed in those types of accidents.
Another important factor to take into consideration when driving in Bakersfield is the large number of commercial trucks, including 18-wheelers and tanker trucks. The city’s importance as an energy and agricultural center makes these enormous vehicles a common sight not only on the area’s freeways but on surface streets too. They can be deadly in any sort of collision with a passenger vehicle. Giving them a healthy amount of space is always a good idea.
Another characteristic of Bakersfield’s roads is a lack of traffic or street lights in many intersections, especially in outlying areas. Some, like the intersection of Nord Avenue and Rosedale Highway, have been the scene of numerous fatalities in recent years, particularly at night.
And finally, Route 99, which runs right through Bakersfield has had the sad distinction of being named the most dangerous highway in the U.S. on several occasions.
Driving defensively and keeping these statistics and factors in mind can help you stay safe in Bakersfield.
Should I Try and Settle My Claim With the Insurance Company Before Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer?
No, you shouldn’t. The insurance company adjuster’s job is to settle your Bakersfield car accident claim quickly and for the least amount possible. Even worse, if they can deny your claim outright, they will. Don’t let the insurance industry’s constant commercials fool you. They are a business and their first priority is to make money, not hand out large settlements.
Many insurance adjusters use fear to get people to sign off on lowball offers. They may claim hiring an attorney will slow the process down or cost you more money. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you suffered a catastrophic or permanent injury, you will most likely be looking at medical bills in the thousands, hundreds of thousands, and even millions of dollars over a lifetime. And that isn’t even factoring in lost wages. That initial $100,000 offer may not even cover a year of your expenses. And once you accept the insurance company’s offer, there’s no going back and asking for more money.
Instead, let the experienced Bakersfield car accident lawyers at The Dominguez Firm deal with the insurance companies and their adjusters while you concentrate on feeling better.
What Should I Do if I’m Involved in a Car Accident in Bakersfield?
If you are ever involved in a serious car accident in Bakersfield, there are certain steps you should take immediately afterward to strengthen your case. Of course, your safety should be your main concern at all times.
Do the following right after your car accident:
- If it’s possible to do so without putting anyone in danger, move to safety. This is especially true if your accident was on a busy road or freeway.
- Check yourself and others for injuries if you can. Don’t move anyone who’s injured.
- Call 911 right away. If you can’t because you’re injured, have someone else do it for you.
- Seek immediate medical attention for your injuries. Even if you think you’re fine, go to an emergency room or see your doctor as soon as possible. You may have dangerous internal injuries and not know it. Plus, you could be in a state of shock or had an adrenaline rush and not realize you’re injured.
- Take photos of the accident site if you can. These include your injuries, damage to your vehicle, street signs and any other information you think is important, such as license plate numbers.
- Don’t apologize or talk about the particulars of the accident with anyone else involved. Apologizing can be seen as an admission of guilt and used against.
- Only exchange insurance and contact information with the other drivers. Of course, be polite, but don’t discuss the accident itself.
- Get the name and badge number of the police officers who respond to the scene of the accident.
- If anyone witnessed the accident, ask them for their contact information.
- Call The Dominguez Firm right away.
The last recommendation is very important. We’ll explain why in the following section.
How Long Do I Have to File My Bakersfield Car Accident Claim?
The statute of limitations gives you two years from the date of your Bakersfield car accident to file a claim. If your accident was with any sort of government vehicle, such as a postal service truck, you only have six months to file a claim. Either way, you shouldn’t delay doing so. There are several reasons why:
- Vital evidence will be lost if you wait weeks or months to hire an attorney and file a claim.
- You can lose contact with any witnesses to the car accident. Life happens. People move or change their phone numbers and email addresses all the time.
- Defense attorneys will question why you waited. They may even try to prove your injuries weren’t because of your accident if you wait.
The sooner you involve The Dominguez Firm, the better. There are certain vital steps we can take immediately, but only if you involve us from the start. We have our own team of in-house investigators who can go to the scene of the accident right away to gather crucial evidence. They can submit this evidence to our Bakersfield car accident attorneys, which will go a long way towards helping them present the strongest case possible on your behalf.
What Are Some Common Car Accident Injuries?
Being in a major car accident is one of the most traumatic experiences you can go through. If you’re seriously injured, it can be life-changing. Even a so-called minor injury like whiplash usually takes days to manifest itself. A whiplash injury occurs when the victim’s head is violently jerked forward then backward during a collision. In more serious accidents, it can cause long-term health problems like migraines and dizziness.
Some car accident injuries, such as broken bones are obvious while others aren’t. Common car accident injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Cuts and lacerations
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Crush injuries
- Soft tissue damage
Any of these injuries can completely upend you and your family’s lives. That’s why it’s important to make sure you receive the compensation you need to recover to the greatest extent possible.
What Compensation Could I Be Entitled to for My Bakersfield Car Accident?
Bakersfield car accident victims are entitled to two types of damages (the legal term for any compensation), economic and non-economic. Economic damages compensate you for all of the expenses and losses you’re enduring because of your injuries. These can include:
- Ambulance fees
- Emergency room bills
- Medical consultations for both primary care physicians and specialists
- All surgeries
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Mental health counseling
- In-home care
- Home modifications
- Lost income
- The cost to repair or replace your vehicle
Economic damages can easily be added up. Non-economic damages, however, don’t come with a list of prices. They are based on the emotional cost your accident is having on you and your family. Examples of non-economic damages are:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium (the legal term for loss of companionship, sexual relations and emotional support from severely injured victims)
- Emotional distress
Non-economic damages can’t be added up easily, however, an experienced personal injury lawyer will have a general sense of how much that figure should be. They can do that by comparing your case to similar cases they’ve recently handled.
Here in Bakersfield CA, there is no limit as to how much can be awarded in non-economic damages. For that reason, it usually makes up the largest part of the victim’s final settlement or verdict.
How Long Will My Bakersfield Car Accident Case Take?
It will take as long as needed to obtain the maximum compensation you’re legally entitled to for your injuries. We know that might sound like a vague answer, but it’s the truth. No two cases are the same, so we can’t give you a specific time frame of how long your case will take.
We can look at the facts of your case to get a rough estimate:
- The seriousness of your injuries – The more serious your injuries, the longer the case will likely take. You need to reach MMI or Maximum Medical Improvement for us to accurately be able to calculate your damages. MMI is when a doctor determines that the injured person has recovered as much as medically possible. The person is considered stable and further treatment won’t improve their condition. Reaching MMI can take weeks or months.
- The number of parties involved – If your accident involved multiple vehicles, that means more parties will be involved. For example, if the car accident was between your car, a truck and subsequently a pedestrian, the case becomes much more complex since multiple people will likely be injured and file claims. That will take longer to settle than a car accident between two cars.
- Whether there are questions around who was at fault – Sorting out who caused the accident can take time and also extend how long your case takes.
- Whether your case goes to trial – Most car accidents settle without going to trial mainly because doing so costs money. Nonetheless, sometimes they do. If the insurance company and their high-priced attorneys won’t make a fair offer for your injuries, the award-winning trial attorneys at The Dominguez Firm aren’t afraid to go to trial.
We have the resources, winning record and experience to seek justice on your behalf. Not every law firm can say the same. Defense attorneys and insurance companies know this, and it gives you, our client the sort of leverage other Bakersfield car accident lawyers can’t provide.
Know that an experienced car accident attorney will consult with you every step of the way and advise you as to the best course of action. Ultimately, we will only act with your consent.
I May Be Partially to Blame for My Accident. Can The Dominguez Firm Still Help Me?
Yes, because California is a comparative negligence state. That means you can share responsibility for your Bakersfield car accident and still file a claim. Your percentage of responsibility will be determined by the court. That percentage will then be subtracted from your final settlement or verdict. For example, if you are found to be 30% responsible for your accident and are awarded $500,000, your final compensation would be $350,000:
$500,000 – 30% ($150,000) = $350,000
One note; you may think you share some fault for your car accident when in fact, you don’t. As previously noted, you should not apologize at the scene of the accident, regardless of what you think happened.
Car accidents usually happen fast. You may not even be aware of the entire chain of events that led to it. Instead, contact The Dominguez Firm to go over the particulars of your case. Our investigators and attorneys will go over every aspect of your claim and piece your accident together. In the end, you may not share any responsibility for your Bakersfield car accident. Even if you do, you have the legal right to file a claim for your injuries against the other party involved.
I Had a Car Accident in Bakersfield, But I’m an Undocumented Immigrant. Can The Dominguez Firm Still Help Me?
Yes. Here in California, you can file a claim against the person or people responsible for your Bakersfield accident injuries without fear of deportation. Defense attorneys can’t bring up your immigration status at any point during your case, including if it goes to trial. You are protected by AB 2159 which was signed into law by then-Governor Jerry Brown in 2016 and became law in 2017.
Also, thanks to AB 2159 undocumented California accident victims now have their damages calculated based on their injury expenses here in California. Previously, it was calculated based on what their expenses would be in their home countries. That meant the person received considerably less than what they were entitled to, regardless of how long they had been in the U.S. That is no longer the case.
In short, you can safely file a claim for your Bakersfield car accident injuries without fear of deportation or any other type of negative action.
My Child was Injured in a Bakersfield Car Accident. Can They Sue for Their Injuries?
Yes, but because they’re not of legal age, which is 18 in California, they can’t file a claim themselves. That doesn’t mean they don’t have rights, they do. If you are their parent or legal guardian, you need to hire a lawyer to file a claim on their behalf.
In cases where the final settlement or verdict is expected to be above $5,000, the court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem. Since serious injury cases will exceed $5,000, expect this to happen. The person appointed can’t be a family member, however, the child’s parents or guardian will have final say as to who’s chosen. They’ll be presented with a list of candidates by their attorney and given feedback as to the best choices. This is all done in the best interest of the child.
The Guardian ad Litem has no right to any of the injured child’s final settlement or verdict amount. That amount will be placed in what’s known as a blocked account. The child can’t access it until they are of legal age. Their parents and attorney will decide whether that’s 18, 21 or 25 years of age. Parents can only request a release of funds for expenses related to the accident, such as medical bills. This is done to protect the child’s final compensation from being misused.
A Loved One Was Killed in a Fatal Accident in Bakersfield. Do I Have the Right to Sue the Driver Responsible?
Yes, if you are their legal next of kin. You can file a wrongful death claim against those responsible for your loved one’s untimely death. Losing a loved one is hard enough. Losing them suddenly due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness is even more devastating.
Not every person related to the deceased can file a wrongful death claim. There is a legal order of preference:
- Registered domestic partner
- If there are no children, grandchildren
- If the deceased had none of the above, other relatives such as aunts, uncles or cousins may be eligible.
At The Dominguez Firm, we understand that no amount of money can make up for your loss. However, holding those responsible accountable for their actions can bring a sense of closure. It can also provide some much-needed financial relief at a very difficult time, especially if the deceased left behind children.
As with a car accident injury claim, you would be entitled to certain economic and non-economic damages as the next of kin.
Some examples of economic damages include:
- Ambulance fees
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Any medical bills stemming from the deceased’s car accident
- The victim’s lost income from the date of their accident and all the lifetime income they were reasonably expected to earn had they lived.
Non-economic damages are meant to compensate the family of the deceased for their emotional loss. Unlike a personal injury car accident claim, they can’t collect damages for pain and suffering. However, they can collect the following damages which are exclusive to wrongful death claims:
- Loss of anticipated financial support the deceased would have provided.
- Loss of consortium (companionship). This is the legal term for the loss of love, community, affection, moral support, sexual relations, training and guidance, or other emotional losses related to the family member’s death. In effect, this is similar to pain and suffering.
Bakersfield CA imposes no limit on how much can be awarded in non-economic damages. For this reason, it usually makes up the largest part of the surviving family’s final settlement or verdict amount.
It’s rare, but if the circumstances of the defendant’s actions were particularly hateful, punitive damages may be awarded. This is done more to punish the defendant. By making an example of them, the court hopes to discourage others from acting in the same manner.
I was Seriously Injured in a Bakersfield Car Accident, But I Had No Car Insurance at the Time. Can Your Law Firm Help Me?
It depends. Generally, if you were driving your car without insurance, you’d be severely limited in what you could recover for your injuries in an accident. This is because of Proposition 213.
Drivers in Bakersfield must carry auto insurance on the vehicles they drive. Not doing so is considered reckless and illegal. Under Prop 213 these drivers can only collect economic damages for their injuries. Non-economic damages wouldn’t be available to them.
Prop 213 does allow for some exceptions:
- If the uninsured driver was killed in a Bakersfield car accident due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness, their family can sue the responsible driver for wrongful death.
- If the uninsured driver was injured or killed by a drunk or drugged driver.
- If the uninsured driver was injured in an accident due to a vehicle defect or dangerous road condition.
- If the person was uninsured but the accident occurred while driving a company vehicle.
These are just some of the exceptions to Prop 213. If you’re not sure whether Prop 213 applies to your particular situation, call the Bakersfield car accident lawyers at The Dominguez Firm for a free consultation. You can reach us at 800-818-1818.
One final note, Prop 213 doesn’t apply to most passengers. If you were riding in someone else’s car and suffered injuries in an accident, you can probably sue for damages. However, if you were a passenger in your own car and neither you nor the driver had auto insurance at the time of the accident, both of you would fall under Prop 213 and your damages would be limited. This is true regardless of the extent of your injuries or who caused the accident.
How Much Will The Dominguez Firm Charge to Represent Me?
The Dominguez Firm works on a contingency basis. That means we don’t charge you anything to represent you for your Bakersfield car accident injury claim. You don’t have to worry about retainer fees, hidden costs or any other out-of-pocket expenses. Instead, we receive a percentage of your final verdict or settlement amount as payment. That percentage won’t be a surprise, it’ll be clearly stated in your client representation agreement.
We’re frequently asked what happens if we can’t secure any compensation for you. If we take your case on, it’s because we believe in it. However, in the unlikely event we can’t obtain any compensation for you, you owe us nothing. In short, if there is no recovery, there is no fee.
You have nothing to lose and so much to gain by calling The Dominguez Firm for a free consultation at 800-818-1818. We’re a full-service law firm, not a referral service. Our firm has nationally recognized litigation attorneys ready to help you, so call us today!