Every year, thousands of California drivers experience traffic accidents. While many of these incidents only result in minor injuries and vehicle damage, severe crashes are potentially fatal. Therefore, it’s crucial for all drivers to acknowledge the risks they face on the road and to know the most common causes of fatal accidents. When drivers are aware of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents, they are better prepared to avoid them.

What is the leading cause of traffic fatalities in California

Top-Cited Causes of Fatal Car Accidents

Various agencies across the country collect accident statistics at the state and national levels. For example, according to the most recent accident data in California, the most commonly reported causes of traffic fatalities in the Golden State include:

  • Distracted driving. The most commonly reported cause of all car accidents in the US is distracted driving. All drivers are expected to pay attention to their surroundings at all times while driving, and even a momentary distraction can be enough to cause a devastating accident. A distraction is anything that diverts a driver’s eyes, hands, or focus away from operating their vehicle attentively.
  • Speeding. Speed limits are not suggestions. All drivers need to adhere to posted speed limits to maintain a safe traffic flow. When drivers speed, they significantly reduce the time and space they have to slow down or stop if traffic patterns change suddenly. When traffic accidents happen at high speeds, catastrophic injuries and fatalities are more likely.
  • Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol. It is illegal and dangerous for anyone to get behind the wheel after consuming drugs or alcohol. Intoxication diminishes reaction time and impairs judgment. Impaired drivers are more likely to engage in risky maneuvers, putting themselves and others at significant risk. When a driver causes an accident because they were intoxicated while driving, they face criminal prosecution under California’s DUI laws as well as civil liability for victims’ damages.

Ultimately, fatal accidents happen in many ways. Unfortunately, when these incidents occur, the victims’ families are often left wondering how they can recover and hold the responsible drivers accountable for their actions.

What Happens When Someone Dies in a Car Accident?

California uses a fault system for resolving car accident claims. All drivers must have auto insurance that meets the state’s minimum coverage requirements. When a driver causes an accident, any other drivers injured by their actions have the right to file insurance claims against the at-fault driver’s auto policy.

California’s standard auto insurance policy covers bodily injury liability, total accident liability, and property damage liability. However, a minimum coverage policy may not fully cover the total cost of a fatal accident. Therefore, if a driver causes a fatal accident in California, the victim’s family will likely pursue a wrongful death claim against them. Additionally, the at-fault driver could face criminal prosecution depending on how the accident occurred.


Easton & Easton has years of experience representing clients in a wide range of car accident claims, including wrongful death claims originating from fatal accidents. The following are some of the most common questions we hear from prospective clients about the legal mechanisms for resolving fatal accident claims.

What Is the Most Common Reason for Traffic Fatalities?

Distracted driving has been the top-cited cause of fatal accidents throughout the US for several years. Distraction can take many forms and cause an accident in different ways. For example, distraction may not only cause a driver to miss sudden changes in the surrounding traffic patterns but may also cause them to overlook their vehicle’s speed. Speeding significantly increases the risk of fatality in an accident.

When Can I File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident?

It’s a good idea to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after a car accident. Your attorney will help you determine your best available legal options and guide you through the procedures necessary for holding the defendant accountable. In addition, California state law provides a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury and wrongful death claims. Therefore, the sooner you connect with an attorney, the better your chances of succeeding with your claim.

Is It Worth Hiring an Attorney After a Car Accident in California?

If you have recently suffered injuries in a car accident someone else caused or lost a loved one in a fatal car accident in California, hiring an experienced attorney can make a tremendous difference in the quality of your recovery. A good attorney can help you establish liability for your damages, provide ongoing support and guidance as your case unfolds, and ensure you maximize your recovery to the fullest extent possible under California state law.

How Much Is a Wrongful Death Claim Worth?

The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to compensate the family of the decedent for their loss of affection, care, and guidance provided by the deceased, the loss of the financial support the deceased provided, and the cost of funeral and burial expenses. The victim’s family may also qualify to file a survival action if the deceased did not die immediately in the accident and their estate incurred damages such as medical treatment costs and lost income. Your attorney can help you calculate the damages available from your claim.

Hopefully, these answers help you understand your legal options after losing a loved one in a fatal accident more clearly. In addition, the right attorney will make a significant impact on your experience with the legal proceedings likely to follow a fatal car accident in California.

Leading cause of California traffic fatalities

Find Compassionate Legal Care for Your Wrong Death Claim

The attorneys at Easton & Easton have extensive experience representing California clients in a wide range of motor vehicle accident claims, including those pertaining to fatalities. It’s natural to feel distressed, uncertain, and angry after losing a loved one due to another party’s negligence, and our goal is to help you hold them accountable for your family’s loss. A successful wrongful death claim cannot replace your loved one, but it can provide compensation that makes life a little easier for you and your family. If you are ready to discuss your legal options with an experienced Orange County wrongful death attorney, contact Easton & Easton today to schedule a consultation with our team.