LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Sebastian Gibson | May 24, 2010

Why California Vehicle Code 23104 Is Important To Accident Lawyers

California Vehicle Code Section 23104 is one of the key statutes for attorneys who practice in the areas of business, fraud, litigation and mediation, personal injury, However, due to how insurance companies treat individuals without an attorney, a person injured in an auto accident should always retain an attorney to represent them at the earliest possible date after an accident. Unless you haven't been injured and won't be needing medical treatment, an experienced and reputable personal injury lawyer will almost always be able to obtain a considerably larger settlement from an insurance company and a larger amount for you, even after the attorney's fees and costs are paid. California Vehicle Code Section 23104 provides: 23104. (a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), whenever reckless driving of a vehicle proximately causes bodily injury to a person other than the driver, the person driving the vehicle shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not less than 30 days nor more than six months or by a fine of not less than two hundred twenty dollars ($220) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment. (b) A person convicted of reckless driving that proximately causes great bodily injury, as defined in Section 12022.7 of the Penal Code, to a person other than the driver, who previously has been convicted of a violation of Section 23103, 23104, 23105, 23109, 23109.1, 23152, or 23153, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison, by imprisonment in the county jail for not less than 30 days nor more than six months or by a fine of not less than two hundred twenty dollars ($220) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by both the fine and imprisonment. When a Police or CHP Officer, or a Sheriff's Deputy states in his or her report either that the primary collision factor in an auto accident was one party's violation of a certain vehicle code section such as the one above, and that one of the parties is at fault for violating that code section, the Officer or Deputy is stating what he or she believes to be the underlying cause of the accident. The reason insurance companies treat the collision reports as if they are admissible evidence is that they know if put on the witness stand, the investigating officer or deputy will almost always testify in a manner consistent with the conclusions in his or her report. That testimony becomes evidence and will often sway a jury in their determination of fault for an accident. While an investigating officer's job is to determine if there was a violation of the law and not to determine who should be at fault in a civil dispute such as a car accident claim, insurance companies often view these two determinations as one and the same. A police officer assigned to investigate the scene of an accident does not have the role that a trier of fact does in a courtroom. The officer is not there to render a verdict and determine who is responsible for the damages. Rather, the officer is there to determine if any laws were broken. The officer makes such a determination based on his or her having seen the damage to the vehicles, and having spoken to the drivers and the witnesses when their memories are freshest. He or she is thus often in a position to make a well-educated determination of who caused the accident. Unfortunately, despite the experience of most investigating officers who are dispatched to the scene of an accident, sometimes mistakes are made by these officers. Quite often one or both parties to an accident will lie to them and an officer or deputy will not always be able to determine which of the parties is telling the truth. The evidence from the scene, while important, may also be misleading as to what actually occurred to cause the accident. Sometimes an Officer or Deputy cannot determine with any degree of certainty which party was at fault and will cite two possible Vehicle Code Sections, one for each party in a two-party collision, that may have been violated. In that case, the Police or CHP Officer or Deputy will often state that the primary collision factor is unknown. Even if there are witnesses to an accident, the Officer of Deputy may discount the statements of some or all of the witnesses if they were friends or relatives of one of the drivers. Although, as stated above, the conclusion of fault by an officer or deputy does not carry the same weight as a determination of fault by a judge or jury, the importance of the citation of this or any other California code section in the police report is that insurance companies treat the conclusions in these traffic collision reports in a great majority of cases as if the conclusions were written in stone and evaluate a party's claim based on the findings of fault in these reports. A traffic collision report may be amended by the police department or the CHP where it contains obvious mistakes, such as when the officer or deputy has mixed up the names of the parties. Supplemental reports are sometimes written when new evidence comes to light, such as when a hit and run party is located. But for the most part, most police departments, Sheriff's offices and the California Highway Patrol will not amend a report when a party complains and states why he or she doesn't feel they should have been found at fault for a collision. They will, however, in most cases allow a person to fill out a Counter Report, which, unfortunately simply does not carry much weight with an insurance company. If the Primary Collision Factor for an accident is unknown, one should look on the traffic collision report to see if the Police or California Highway Patrol Officer or Sheriff's Deputy cited any "Other Associated Factors" in the traffic collision report as having had a role to play in causing the collision. There may have been faulty equipment, as with some truck accidents, or the roadway itself may have been dangerous.

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