Irvine, California Car Accidents and Liability Laws
What you should know if you are involved in a crash in Orange County or elsewhere in Los Angeles
Irvine was developed as a master-planned city in Orange County, California, in the 1960s. The city is home to several large technology companies, along with the University of California’s Irvine campus (UCI), Concordia University, Irvine Valley College, the Orange County center of the University of Southern California (USC), the Fullerton campus of California State University (CSUF), University of La Verne, and Pepperdine University.
As part of Irvine’s planning, the city was divided into villages that are separated by 6-lane streets and surrounded by commercial districts. It seems that all that careful planning paid off — Irvine has been consistently ranked as one of the top U.S. cities in various publications over the past several years.
- 2019: 2nd happiest city in America (Business Insider)
- 2017: 3rd happiest place to live in the U.S. (Wallethub)
- 2014: Best-run city in the U.S. (24/7 Wall Street)
- 2012: 6th best place to live (CNNMoney.com)
- 2011: 5th best city in the U.S. (Businessweek)
- 2008: 4th best place to live (CNNMoney.com)
There are several international companies that have their North American headquarters in Irvine. These include Asics, Sega, Kia Motors, Mazda Motor Corp., Toshiba Corporation, Samsung Electronics IT and Printing Division, and others.
Since Irvine is such a thriving community, there are lots of people using its system of roads on a daily basis—from residents and students to international visitors. The official population of Irvine is about 307,000, but that’s only those who live within the 66-square-mile city limits… there’s also a significant number of people who commute to the city for work or school, or who enjoy the city’s tourism offerings.
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Major roads and highways in Irvine
If you’re passing through Irvine in Orange County, you’re likely taking the 405 north-south interstate; Interstate 5, which is also north-south but runs through the eastern half of the city; or state routes 133 or 261.
Within Irvine, the city is set up like a grid that separates each distinct neighborhood. Within the grid are smaller local roads.
Irvine traffic accident statistics
California’s Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) releases city-based statistics related to car accidents.
Here’s a look at vehicle-related accidents in Irvine in 2019:
|Type of crash||Number of injuries and fatalities|
|Total Fatal and Injury||734|
|Had Been Drinking Driver < 21||2|
|Had Been Drinking Driver 21 – 34||6|
|Pedestrians < 15||1|
|Bicyclists < 15||13|
|Number of crashes|
|Nighttime (9:00pm – 2:59am)||55|
|Hit and Run||14|
10 most common causes of car accidents in Irvine, CA
- Distracted driving. Distracted driving is a serious problem, not just in Irvine but California as a whole. As people become increasingly reliant on cell phones for maps, podcasts, music, traffic reports, and other functions, there is more and more reason why they feel that they “need” to check their phone. But you should never, ever handle your phone or any electronic device while driving. Also, distraction can include eating, passenger behavior, personal grooming, or any other behavior that takes your mind, eyes or hands off the task of driving.
- Drunk driving. You’re not allowed to drive in California if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or higher. If you’re under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or some medications, it can severely affect your driving and raises your risk of causing an accident.
- Aggressive driving. You’ve likely heard of “road rage,” which is when a person becomes so angry at another driver that they might bully or even physically harm someone on purpose because they’re annoyed at something about their driving. But there are other kinds of aggressive driving that don’t necessarily involve anger at a specific individual. Some drivers might be impatient and speed or swerve around cars they think are driving too slowly, make unsafe lane changes, or behave recklessly in some other way that could result in an accident.
- Speeding. Some speeding is aggressive, and some is carelessness. You might speed because you’re in a hurry or running late, but you shouldn’t. Speeding doesn’t get you to your destination any faster if you crash. And when you speed, you have less time to react to a traffic situation in front of you and less time to stop if necessary.
- Reckless driving. Similar to aggressive driving, reckless driving is any kind of action behind the wheel that’s unsafe. It might be speeding, weaving, dodging other cars, failure to stop at lights or stop signs, or any other number of aggressive driving practices that break road rules or are unsafe.
- Inexperience. Your teenager might be the most responsible kid around, and they might care a lot about following road rules, driving at the correct speed, heeding stop lights and signs, and doing everything “right.” But younger drivers are inexperienced. That lack of experience could cause even the most careful driver to misjudge the speed of an oncoming car, poorly execute a turn, or make other mistakes that result in an accident. And, some teenagers are more likely to take risks than an older driver would. Statistically, younger male drivers are most likely to make risky driving decisions.
Irvine is a true “college town” environment, which means there is a significant number of younger drivers and drivers who might be unfamiliar with the roads around the city. If you’re driving in Irvine, pay special attention to the drivers around you so that you can react quickly and defensively to avoid a collision if necessary.
- Tailgating. Tailgating is when a driver follows too closely behind the driver in front of them. Some tailating is aggressive, but sometimes it happens because someone isn’t paying attention or simply doesn’t see the practice as dangerous. When traveling 55 mph, you should leave 16 car lengths (which is about 243 feet) between your vehicle and the car in front of you. Tailgating is dangerous because when you’re too close to another vehicle, you don’t have enough time to stop if you need to do so quickly.
- Weather conditions. Fortunately, Irvine drivers rarely need to worry about snow or ice on the road. But bad weather can still affect driving, particularly if the sun is very bright, or there’s wind, rain, fog or other atmospheric effects.
- Failure to obey traffic laws. Traffic laws are more than just stopping at red lights. Following the speed limit, staying in your lane, passing bicyclists safely, and yielding to pedestrians are just some necessary aspects to driving responsibly. Be familiar with the traffic laws in your local area and state, and obey them to reduce your risk of a collision.
- Failure to stop at a red light or stop sign. Although stopping for stop signs and traffic lights are part of following traffic rules, they’re also among the ones drivers break most often. Even if you think you’re driving through a “quiet” intersection, you must stop completely at stop signs and lights.
It was later determined that Diaz had taken additional drugs after leaving the hospital, and that his altered state was responsible for his having caused the accident. He was charged with a felony count of murder for the crash and could be sentenced to up to 15 years to life in prison if convicted.
The California Highway Patrol Officer on the scene said that it’s possible that the driver was hydroplaning because they were driving too fast for the rainy weather, which is what caused them to lose control of the vehicle. The officer continued to remind drivers that when roads are wet, they must drive slower than the posted speed limit so that you leave more time and distance between your vehicle and others. (source)
How to determine liability (fault) for an Irvine car accident
Liability for a car accident is based on who was at fault, or negligent.
There are 5 elements that must be present in order to make a claim for negligence:
- Duty. Every driver has a duty not to cause harm to any other road user, whether it’s other motorists, pedestrians, or bicyclists.
- Breach. A driver might have been following road rules and driving cautiously, but still made an error (like misjudging speed, for example) that was negligent.
- Causation. A driver is only legally negligent if their action was the direct cause of your injuries.
- Injury. In order to have a valid claim, you must have suffered an injury. This would include personal injury, financial costs or property loss.
- Damages. Damages are the money you can recover for your losses. Economic damages are the value you can claim for objective expenses, and non-economic losses could be for subjective claims and are based on the severity of your injuries.
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California comparative fault laws
California is a comparative fault state. If a plaintiff bears any responsibility in an accident, their damage amount is reduced by their percentage of fault.
In other words, even if you didn’t cause an accident, you could be partially at fault if you could have acted in a way that would have prevented it, but you didn’t. For example, if the other driver swerved into your lane and caused a head-on collision, the court could find that if you’d acted a moment sooner to get out of the way, the accident could’ve been avoided.
Even though it’s clearly the defendant who caused the accident, you could be liable for that small responsibility you had to act faster. The court or insurance company would reduce the amount of your damages by that liability.
When do you need to hire an Irvine car accident lawyer?
If you’ve been involved in an Irvine car accident and believe you’re entitled to receive damages, you should start by consulting with an Irvine accident attorney.
If you were injured because of someone else’s negligence, you’re entitled to be made whole. In other words, you should be restored to the financial condition you would be in if the accident had never happened.
But there are several factors involved in making that happen:
- Determining liability. As we discussed above, many car accidents have more than one liable party — and that could even include you. Because liability affects how much you can recover in damages, each party is going to work hard to minimize their liability. If there’s any question about your percentage of liability, your lawyer will advocate on your behalf so that your liability is minimized and your compensation is maximized. Often, this involves working with experts and accident reconstruction professionals to discover exactly how the accident happened.
- Calculating your damages. Another crucial piece to the puzzle is determining how much you’re owed in damages. If you’ve already completed medical treatment, it could be fairly straightforward because you’ve already incurred whatever expenses there will be. However, if you were left with severe injuries that require ongoing or future treatment, if you’re unable to return to work, or if you have a permanent disability, then you might not be able to gauge the full amount of damages you can collect. Your lawyer will work with medical, financial, and actuarial experts to determine exactly the amount of money you should recover from the accident.
- Negotiating a settlement amount. Your attorney can assess the amount of damages owed, but that doesn’t mean the defendant or insurance company is going to agree to the sum right away. The defendant or insurance company wants to pay out as little as possible, so they may be resistant to entering into a settlement agreement.
Your lawyer is skilled and experienced at ensuring that you can get the best possible outcome for your claim. Particularly if you have a complex case, you need an attorney to navigate the process.
What damages are available to car crash survivors?
Typically, car accident survivors and their families can recover compensation (damages) for:
- Medical treatment, including hospital and doctor visits, surgery, medication, diagnostics like MRIs or CT scans, and other procedures
- Lost wages, both present and future earning capacity
- Ongoing rehabilitative therapy
- Daily activities, like housekeeping, child care, etc.
- Loss of companionship or consortium
- Emotional distress, mental anguish, or PTSD
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death, if you’ve lost a family member in an accident
Need a lawyer?
A personal injury lawyer helps individuals who have sustained injuries in accidents to recover financial compensation. These funds are often needed to pay for medical treatment, make up for lost wages and provide compensation for injuries suffered. Sometimes a case that seems simple at first may become more complicated. In these cases, consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer. Read more