San Diego Car Accident Lawyers



San Diego Car Accident Lawyers

What You Need to Know About Car Accidents in San Diego California and hiring a San Diego Car Accident Lawyer

On This Page:

  • Car Accident Facts & Statistics
  • San Diego Car Accident Data
  • Car Accident FAQs

Millions of vehicle collisions occur in the United States every year, and while most of them don’t result in serious injuries, car accidents remain one of the biggest causes of injuries, and in some cases, death in the U.S. and in San Diego California. If you are injured in a car accident and it is not your fault then you need to hire an experienced San Diego Car accident lawyer.

Even accidents that don’t cause death can result in injuries, both physical and emotional, that can last a lifetime. For those injured in car accidents caused by the negligence of another driver, it may be possible to receive financial compensation.

California had more fatal car accidents than any other state in 2018, according to federal data, and San Diego County had one of the highest numbers of injury-causing crashes among all counties in the state.

Let’s take a deep dive into traffic accidents in California and what drivers need to know about how common they are and what steps they should take if they are in the unfortunate position of being a victim in a car accident that involves an injury.

San Diego Car Accident Facts & Statistics

Unfortunately, many of us will experience a vehicle collision at some point in our lives, and some of them will result in serious injury or even death. In the U.S. and beyond, traffic accidents exact a huge toll, on both a human and economic level.

Traffic accidents are now the eighth-leading cause of death in the world, outpacing major global killers like tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, according to the most recent data from the World Health Organization. Today, car accidents are the No. 1 cause of death for people between the ages of 5 and 29.

In the U.S., more than 6.7 million traffic accidents were reported to police in 2018, the most recent year with available national data, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Vehicle accidents are the second-leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S., and they’re the leading cause of accidental deaths for Americans between the ages of 5 and 24, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Incidents & Trends

Of the 6.7 million traffic accidents that were reported to police in 2018, the vast majority involved only property damage. About 4.8 million, or 71.4% of police-reported crashes, were property damage-only incidents.

But that means that 1 in 4 car accidents in the U.S. involved injury to at least one person, and in 2018, more than 33,000 accidents resulted in at least one death, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, the percentage of crashes that resulted in at least one death has remained steady over the past few years, even as the overall number of collisions has risen.

Number of accidents and percentage involving at least one death, 2009-2018

Year Accidents % Fatal
2009 5,505,000 0.6%
2010 5,419,000 0.6%
2011 5,338,000 0.6%
2012 5,615,000 0.6%
2013 5,687,000 0.5%
2014 6,064,000 0.5%
2015 6,296,000 0.5%
2016 6,821,000 0.5%
2017 6,453,000 0.5%
2018 6,734,000 0.5%


The state of California had the highest number of traffic fatalities in 2018 (3,563), but the state is also the most populous. After adjusting for population and miles traveled, California drops to below the national average. Traffic fatalities in the U.S. occurred at a rate of 1.13 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2018; California’s rate was just 1.02.

Car accident fatalities per 100M vehicle miles traveled by state, 2018

South Carolina 1.83
Mississippi 1.63
Arizona 1.53
Louisiana 1.53
West Virginia 1.51
Alaska 1.46
Kentucky 1.46
Oklahoma 1.44
Montana 1.43
New Mexico 1.43
Arkansas 1.41
Florida 1.41
Oregon 1.37
Alabama 1.34
South Dakota 1.34
Idaho 1.3
Texas 1.29
Tennessee 1.28
Kansas 1.26
Missouri 1.2
North Carolina 1.19
Colorado 1.17
Nevada 1.17
Pennsylvania 1.17
Georgia 1.14
Nebraska 1.1
Delaware 1.09
Hawaii 1.07
New Hampshire 1.07
North Dakota 1.07
Wyoming 1.06
Indiana 1.05
California 1.02
Illinois 0.96
Iowa 0.96
Virginia 0.96
Michigan 0.95
Connecticut 0.93
Maine 0.93
Ohio 0.93
Vermont 0.93
Wisconsin 0.89
Washington 0.88
District of Columbia 0.84
Maryland 0.84
Utah 0.81
New York 0.76
Rhode Island 0.74
New Jersey 0.73
Minnesota 0.63
Massachusetts 0.54


The number of traffic fatalities in California has risen over the past several years, and the population-adjusted rate of these deaths has fluctuated considerably. The number of traffic fatalities in California increased by just over 30% between 2010 and 2018, but the fatality rate per 100 million VMT rose by a more modest 21%.

Causes & Contributing Factors

In many vehicle crashes, there’s no one single reason the accident happened, and most of the time, a series of decisions, issues or other factors create a chain reaction of events in which the accident is the outcome.

But an analysis a few years ago by NHTSA indicated that in crashes with a critical reason, which the agency defined as “The critical reason is the immediate reason for the critical pre-crash event and is often the last failure in the causal chain of events leading up to the crash,” drivers were identified as the critical reason for the crash in more than 90% of cases.

Critical reason for vehicle accident

Drivers 94%
Vehicles 2%
Environment 2%
Unknown/Other 2%


While NHTSA’s study was not designed to assign blame for crashes, it’s worth drilling down more deeply on the specific decisions and factors that lead to accidents, regardless of the critical reason that was the final cause of the crash. We know that more than 9 in 10 accidents were attributable to a decision or error a driver made. In most of these, the error was related to either recognition or performance.

In about 41% of crashes attributable to drivers, a recognition error was the final accident-causing event. This includes things like drivers being distracted or simply not paying close enough attention. In 33% of accidents, a decision error occurred, including things like driving too fast, making an illegal road maneuver or misjudging the speed of another vehicle.

About 11% of driver-attributable crashes occurred because of a performance error, such as overcompensation or poor directional control, while another 7% were caused by non-performance errors, such as falling asleep.

Other reasons for accidents, and the estimated number of crashes they caused, in the NHTSA analysis include:

  • Slick roads: 26,000
  • Tires/wheels: 15,000
  • Brakes: 10,000
  • Glare: 9,000
  • View obstruction: 6,000
  • Road design: 1,000
  • Signs/signals: 1,000

San Diego Car Accident Injuries & Lawsuits

About 3 million people in the U.S. are injured but not killed in car accidents and other motor vehicle collisions. In some particularly tragic cases, these individuals can experience lingering health problems or even be permanently disabled.

Statistically speaking, for every individual killed in a traffic accident, nine people are hospitalized and 88 are treated and released from emergency rooms, according to the CDC.

Despite advances in automotive safety and laws that enforce seat belt use, the human body remains vulnerable in the case of a car accident, and pretty much any part of the body could suffer an injury in a collision. These can range from minor scrapes and bruises to permanently disabling effects.

The most commonly reported injuries in car accidents include:

  • Scratches
  • Scrapes
  • Lacerations
  • Burns
  • Bruises
  • Neck strain
  • Whiplash
  • Fractures and broken bones
  • Sprained joints
  • Concussion
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Skull fracture

The cost of medical care and lost wages resulting from traffic fatalities and injuries was more than $75 billion in 2017 alone. Depending on the party or parties at fault in a car accident, it may be possible for victims to seek financial compensation for the accident. While it’s critical to contact a qualified San Diego car accident lawyer who can review your individual case, it may be possible to seek several types of compensation through a lawsuit, including:

  • Medical expenses: This usually includes the immediate cost of treatment, which can be expensive if emergency services were required. But this also generally extends to the future cost of additional medical treatment or physical therapy in the event that long-term therapies are necessary.
  • Lost income: This usually covers wages or income lost because of time spent away from work, such as during the crash itself or when the victim was undergoing necessary medical treatments. Compensation for lost income also can include potential lost future earnings potential, and this is common in cases where permanent or short-term disability resulted from the accident.
  • Pain and suffering: Traffic accidents typically happen suddenly, and they can be incredibly violent. It’s common for victims of car accidents to suffer emotional damage in addition to the physical pain they feel from the injuries that were a direct cause of the accident.
  • Punitive damages: Though somewhat less common, it may be possible for victims to receive compensation for especially egregious actions by the party or parties at fault in a car accident. This could be from the actions that caused the crash, or it could result from someone’s actions in the aftermath. In some cases, judges and juries will see fit to send a signal that certain behaviors are not acceptable.

Remember that every case is unique. The best way to ensure that you are fairly compensated for the trauma and injuries you suffered, or in the case of a loved one who was killed in a crash, the irreversible loss you have sustained, is to consult with a qualified San Diego car accident attorney who has experience in car accident cases.

San Diego Car Accident Data

Nearly 3,600 people in California were killed in car accidents in 2018 alone. While this represents an increase over the number who died in 2010, the number of fatal crashes has plummeted since the mid-1970s.

In fact, between 1975 and 2018, the number of people killed in auto collisions in California fell by about 13% despite the state’s population rising by more than 80% in that same time frame. But what do we know about how common car accidents are here in San Diego and San Diego County and how the community compares to others across the state?

Car Accident Fatalities in San Diego

According to the NHTSA’s most recent data, 255 people were killed in San Diego County from car accidents in 2018, which is the fourth-highest number in the state. That figure also represents a 6% increase from the number of traffic deaths reported in San Diego County in 2017. But after adjusting for differences in population (San Diego County is the second most-populous in the state), San Diego falls to near the bottom of the list in traffic fatalities per 100,000 people.

While San Diego has seen traffic fatalities rise between 2017 and 2018, the past couple of decades have also seen dramatic variations in the number of deaths from car accidents, and the two-decade low was recorded in 2010.

Traffic fatalities, San Diego County, 2008-2018

1999 285
2000 265
2001 289
2002 309
2003 295
2004 299
2005 309
2006 303
2007 292
2008 263
2009 232
2010 186
2011 203
2012 216
2013 198
2014 233
2015 246
2016 243
2017 239*
2018 255

* A slight discrepancy was reported between the number of fatalities reported by the state and the number reported by the NHTSA for 2017 (the federal data reported one additional fatality); we’ve used the California-reported data here.

December and June were the deadliest months on San Diego roads, combining to account for about one in five traffic fatalities in 2017. March had the fewest fatalities in 2017.

Traffic fatalities, San Diego County, by month, 2017

January 16
February 21
March 13
April 16
May 18
June 27
July 18
August 23
September 15
October 24
November 21
December 27


Car Accident Injuries in San Diego

The California Office of Traffic Safety, which maintains a database of traffic accident information, reported that in 2017, the most recent year for which it has made data available, 14,694 injury-causing car crashes occurred in San Diego County.

Injury-causing car accidents, San Diego County, 2008-2017

2008 13,527
2009 12,998
2010 12,637
2011 12,542
2012 12,863
2013 12,871
2014 13,633
2015 14,541
2016 15,273
2017 14,694


The city of San Diego, perhaps not surprisingly, accounted for a large percentage of injury-causing accidents, making up about two in five crashes with injury in 2017. But after adjusting for population differences between cities in San Diego County, the highest injury-causing traffic accident rate was in El Cajon, while Imperial Beach had the lowest population-adjusted rate.

Injury-causing car accidents per 10,000 people by city, 2017

El Cajon 70.3
National City 62.0
Escondido 58.8
La Mesa 57.9
Solana Beach 53.9
Unincorporated 51.1
San Diego 49.1
Coronado 47.5
Del Mar 45.2
Oceanside 44.8
Carlsbad 41.5
San Marcos 38.6
Lemon Grove 37.2
Encinitas 36.7
Vista 32.2
Chula Vista 31.3
Santee 21.3
Poway 19.8
Imperial Beach 14.3


Alcohol-Involved Car Accidents in San Diego

In 2017, alcohol was involved in more than 1,700 traffic fatalities and injuries in San Diego County; that equates to about 11.6% of all injury-causing and fatal car crashes in the county that year.

The city of San Diego had a slightly lower proportion of accidents caused by alcohol, while the rate was highest in Imperial Beach, where more than one in four accidents that caused injury or death involved alcohol.

Percentage of fatal and injury-causing accidents involving alcohol, 2017

Imperial Beach 28.9%
Santee 18.8%
Vista 17.1%
Del Mar 15.8%
Oceanside 14.2%
Encinitas 13.7%
Poway 13.3%
Coronado 12.6%
Unincorporated 12.2%
Chula Vista 12.0%
Escondido 11.9%
Carlsbad 11.8%
La Mesa 11.8%
Solana Beach 11.4%
National City 11.0%
San Diego 10.7%
San Marcos 10.2%
Lemon Grove 10.0%
El Cajon 8.7%


Pedestrian, Bicyclist & Motorcyclist Injuries in San Diego

Most people injured in car accidents are either passengers or drivers in vehicles, but when pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists are involved, the results are often particularly tragic, as these people have less protection in collisions.

In fact, 145 of the 222 fatal accidents that occurred in San Diego County in 2017 involved someone other than the driver or passenger of a car, truck or other motor vehicle. Of these people, motorcyclists were the most likely to be involved in a traffic collision, and about 11% of fatal and injury accidents in San Diego County involved a motorcyclist.

However, a higher percentage of fatal accidents involved pedestrians than motorcyclists.

San Diego County traffic fatalities involving non-vehicle occupant

Pedestrian 75
Bicyclist 5
Motorcyclist 65


Nearly one in four fatality- or injury-causing accidents in San Diego County involved a person other than the driver or passenger of a vehicle — 23.7%. But this figure varies depending on the area of the county in question. For example, while non-vehicle occupants accounted for only about 11.4% of injury-causing crashes in Solana Beach, they were 42.1% of these accidents in Del Mar.

Pedestrians were involved in 23.7% of fatal or injury-causing accidents in Imperial Beach, 26.3% of crashes in Del Mar involved bicyclists, and motorcyclists were involved in 15.7% of these accidents in unincorporated San Diego County.

Fatal and injury-causing car accidents involving non-vehicle occupants, 2017

City Pedestrians Bicyclists Motorcyclists All
Carlsbad 6.1% 7.7% 12.7% 26.5%
Chula Vista 10.0% 4.9% 9.1% 23.9%
Coronado 5.4% 15.3% 15.3% 36.0%
Del Mar 5.3% 26.3% 10.5% 42.1%
El Cajon 7.1% 5.3% 8.0% 20.4%
Encinitas 6.2% 6.2% 11.9% 24.3%
Escondido 6.6% 4.1% 9.4% 20.1%
Imperial Beach 23.7% 5.3% 5.3% 34.2%
La Mesa 2.9% 4.4% 11.5% 18.8%
Lemon Grove 6.0% 4.0% 12.0% 22.0%
National City 9.6% 4.8% 15.0% 29.4%
Oceanside 10.1% 6.2% 12.0% 28.2%
Poway 5.1% 9.2% 10.2% 24.5%
San Diego 8.8% 5.9% 9.4% 24.1%
San Marcos 6.4% 5.0% 11.1% 22.4%
Santee 7.7% 3.4% 8.5% 19.7%
Solana Beach 1.4% 0.0% 10.0% 11.4%
Vista 11.1% 4.8% 11.1% 27.0%
Unincorporated 3.9% 2.6% 15.7% 22.2%
San Diego County Total 7.6% 5.2% 11.0% 23.7%



Car Accident  in San Diego FAQs

Thousands of car accidents occur in San Diego and around California every year, and chances are good that every person will be involved in at least one in their lifetime. But how much do you know about what you should do after an accident, how insurance coverage works, or what steps you might need to take if you’re considering a lawsuit after a car accident?

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we get from clients and potential clients about car accidents:

What Should I Do After a Car Accident?

It can be difficult to keep your wits about you in the immediate aftermath of an accident, but there are a few things that you should do after you’ve been involved in a crash in which anybody has been hurt.

  1. The most important thing to do immediately after a traffic accident of any kind is to make sure that you are OK. Check for injuries, even if you aren’t in obvious pain or experiencing bleeding or an acute injury. Never drive away from the scene of an accident, even a minor one that causes no injuries.
  2. Not every car accident needs to be reported to police, but state law requires reporting of all accidents that result in injury or fatalities, and you must report the crash to police in at least 24 hours. In California, you’re also required to report any injury-causing (and many property damage) accidents to the state’s DMV.
  3. If it appears serious injuries are involved, call 911, and answer their questions to the best of your ability to ensure that the proper responders arrive on the scene.
  4. Turn on your car’s hazard lights, and if it’s safe to do so (and the vehicle is drivable), move the car out of the way of traffic. If it’s not safe or possible, or the vehicles aren’t in the way of other cars, wait for police and emergency responders.
  5. If you have road flares or warning triangles, particularly if the accident happens at night, set them out on the road if it’s safe to do so.
  6. Usually, police responding to the scene will facilitate the necessary exchange of insurance and driver information between the parties, but if this isn’t possible, or the police aren’t called, you should get the name, address and phone number of every person involved in the accident, even if they weren’t driving. Get the insurance information by asking to see the insurance card registered to every vehicle involved in the collision.
  7. If police respond to the accident, it’s typical to receive a number that corresponds to the police report that will be filed on the crash, and it may be necessary to request this report from local police, sheriff’s deputies or state troopers. If police don’t respond, it’s your responsibility to make a written report of the accident to either local police, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department or California Highway Patrol, depending on the location of the accident.
  8. Take pictures of the damage to your vehicle and other vehicles if there is any visible damage. Any injuries you or your passengers sustained should also be photographed, but be sure that you don’t interfere with the police if they are on the scene.
  9. When speaking with the police and other drivers, it can be difficult to remain calm and to give clear answers. This is because of the adrenaline rush your body experiences during an accident, but it also may be possible that you might not have seen all events that caused the crash or that you have sustained an injury that’s interfering with your recollection. Whenever you’re asked a question about what happened, whether by police or another party, answer to the best of your knowledge and avoid being definitive about things when you don’t have a clear memory.
  10. Contact your insurance company as soon as it’s feasible. Most car insurance carriers require immediate reporting of accidents, and all modern carriers today make it easy to report accidents and submit claims.
  11. Get medical attention. Assuming that you weren’t seriously injured in the accident, you probably won’t be taken by ambulance to the emergency room. If you don’t have any obvious signs of injury, it’s common to assume that you truly weren’t injured. But often, this isn’t the case, and injuries, particularly bruising and neck, head and spinal injuries, don’t reveal themselves for days.
  12. Save all documentation. All phone numbers, police reports, medical documents, insurance statements and any other documentation related to the accident should be stored in a safe place until all aspects of the crash and aftermath are resolved.

Should I Call the Police after a Minor Accident?

California law requires that all accidents that involve injuries or fatalities be reported to the police within at least 24 hours. The state also requires property damage accidents to be reported if the crash results in at least $1,000 in damage, but San Diego police respond only to injury and hit-and-run collisions.

Police in most communities are usually busy, and it may not always be necessary to dial 911, but remember that injuries from car accidents may not always be apparent in the immediate aftermath and that you may not be an expert in what’s considered urgent or not.

Should I Get a Lawyer After a Car Accident?

For most people involved in car accidents, allowing their insurance company to handle the claim and accepting the settlement is perfectly fine and will save time and hassle. While it’s true that insurance companies make less money if they pay out higher claims, insurance providers don’t usually go out of their way to abuse their customers. There are a few times when consulting with an attorney may be in your best interest, though, and it’s not only in cases that end in big lawsuits:

  • A grave injury or death occurred in the accident (even if you weren’t at fault).
  • The settlement amount offered by your insurance company won’t pay for long-term medical or other costs.
  • You had to take significant time off work.
  • You had a serious injury, like a broken bone or joint damage.

What Should I Do If I’m at Fault in a Traffic Accident?

If all or part of the blame falls to you for a car accident, including one in which someone was injured (this person could be you, too), your immediate actions after the crash should be exactly the same as everybody else. Remain calm, seek medical attention and be sure to provide insurance and other information at the scene. Do not leave the scene of an accident; doing so may lead to criminal charges.

California is a so-called “comparative negligence” state, which means that in a car accident lawsuit, a determination is made about who exactly is at fault. This may be only one party in the accident, it may be all parties involved, or it may be any other combination of possibilities.

What that means for someone who is partially at fault in a car accident in California is that you can get compensation for other at-fault parties, but the compensation you receive will be reduced by your percentage of responsibility for the accident.

For example, if you were in a traffic accident in which both you and the other driver were injured but where you were determined to have contributed more to the accident, any compensation you receive will be reduced proportionally. So, if you’re entitled to, say, $10,000 but are found to be 25% responsible for the accident, your judgment would be reduced by $2,500, or 25% of $10,000, so you would receive $7,500.

Experienced San Diego Car Accident Attorney

Most of us will experience the frustration that comes with being in a car accident at some point in our lives. At best, these are minor bumps in the road, but in some tragic cases, vehicle collisions can cause permanent injuries or even death.

In cases in which injuries or deaths were caused by the actions of another person, contacting a qualified san diego auto accident attorney can make the difference between receiving compensation for your loss — and not.

While most car accidents don’t result in lawsuits, for those who have been gravely injured or suffered the loss of a loved one, going it alone isn’t advisable. Even in cases where another person is clearly at fault, insurance companies don’t make it a habit of providing adequate compensation and accepting an insurance company’s offer means that you forfeit your right to seek further compensation.

But having an san diego auto accident lawyer on your side can help ensure that you receive all proper compensation for your injuries, long-term medical bills, lost wages and more.

The Law Offices of Melinda J. Helbock A.P.C. offers free case reviews, and our staff attorneys are experienced  in personal injury law, and we can help you understand everything you need to know about filing a car accident lawsuit in  San Diego or the state of California. We can explain to you and your family all your legal rights and options.

Call (760) 377-8570  today to schedule a free review of your case.


Additional Resources

National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts Annual Report Tables. (2020.) Retrieved from

World Health Organization, Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018. (2019.) Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Leading Causes of Unintentional Injury Death, United States, 2018, All Races, Both Sexes. (2020.) Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Motor Vehicle Safety. (2020.) Retrieved from

National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Critical Reasons for Crashes Investigated in the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey. (2015.) Retrieved from

National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, FARS Data Tables, 2018 Traffic Fatalities by State and Percentage Change. (2020.) Retrieved from

California Highway Patrol, Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, 2017 Report. (Undated.) Retrieved from