With so much money often turning on court cases to decide how much compensation is paid to those injured in traffic accidents, it’s vital you get the right advice. The problems are how to find low-cost or free advice to evaluate your legal position, and how you can check out a car accident attorney before hiring him or her. The State Bar of California certifies individuals running a lawyer referral service. The staff will interview you, identify the nature of your legal problem, and match you to an attorney with the right skill set. It’s then up to you to go see this attorney or to have a telephone consultation. The initial consultation is either free or there’s a nominal fee to pay. Note this is not a service actually run by the State Bar but if you go to the State Bar site, there’s a list of the referral agencies by county.
California is an at-fault state. This means the law of tort applies to decide who is liable to pay out compensation. The person held at fault then uses his or her mandatory car insurance policy to begin paying what’s due. Since the mandatory minimum is 15/30/5, many people on the receiving end of a claim find themselves underinsured. It’s therefore a good idea to carry more than the minimum cover if you have assets or savings to protect. Remember, to enforce a court judgment, all your property can be seized and your pay can be garnished. This is not an experience you should want to go through. Whichever side of the claim you are on, you will benefit from the advice of an experienced car accident attorney.
If you pick up a ticket or face charges for a more serious offense, it always pays to know what your legal rights are. Many car insurance companies take the issue of a ticket as a signal your driving has become less safe and raise your annual rate. That can make it worth your while to pay a good lawyer to fight the charge. The small fee will be a saving against the long-term rate increase. It’s even more important if you are charged with a more serious moving violation, e.g. reckless driving or drunken driving. If you are convicted, you can find yourself labeled a high-risk driver and all the commercial auto insurance companies will refuse to cover you.
Driving while intoxicated
The National Highway Transportation Safety Board has recently proposed that all states reduce the blood alcohol concentration for noncommercial offenses from the current 0.08 to 0.05. This would match the BAC standard adopted in one-hundred countries around the world. Research shows people start thinking less clearly at 0.01. The point is that all alcohol-related deaths are preventable.
In California, the standard BAC limit for those aged 21 and over is 0.08. If the accused is driving a commercial vehicle, the limit is 0.04. It’s not quite a zero tolerance state with 0.01 for all drivers aged less than 21. There’s also a limit on drivers under 21 having alcohol in the vehicle. The offense is committed if there an open container. Even if the container is full and unopened, there will only be a defense if there’s a parent or legal guardian present, or the young person is working for an employer who holds an off-site liquor license. If you are convicted as someone under 21 years, your driver’s license is suspended for one year, there are substantial fines, and the vehicle can be impounded. When you add in the cost of car insurance when you are labeled high risk, it’s not worth drinking and driving as a young person. Although a good car accident attorney can sometimes find a defense, there are few guarantees you will be insurable. As a driver over the age of 21, there’s an immediate license suspension, up to six months jail time and fines. After release, there’s a compulsory driver’s education course and an ignition interlock device is fitted.