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Auto Accidents FAQs

Having the representation of an auto accident lawyer is definitely worth it, because you are going to have help with the following:

1. Representation in court. Litigation can be overwhelming and we see unrepresented people struggling every day in court with court rules and procedures. Even if a case ends up in small claims court, the system will eat up pro per (unrepresented) parties, because their cases are often dismissed for failure to comply with the rules. If your case involves any type of litigation, you need an attorney.

2. Having Court Costs and Expenses advanced. Most attorneys will advance costs for medical experts and the costs of litigation. Litigation is very expensive. Filing fees have more than doubled in the last few years. Most injured parties don’t have the financial means to pay the costs associated with obtaining a report from a medical expert which is often required to obtain a decent settlement.

3. Fighting big entities. It is impossible for unrepresented persons to handle claims against large companies on product defect cases. You must have attorney representation to prevail on a bad drug or bad product case.

4. Accident reconstruction. If you are involved in a multiple vehicle car accident where liability of multiple drivers is involved, an accident reconstruction may be necessary to sort out the various claims against the adverse drivers. You as a layperson do not have the means to hire and accident reconstruction expert. If the other side has one, you will probably need one on your side. Attorney representation is imperative for these types of accidents.

5. Advantage of experience. Each Insurance company has its own personality and they handle auto accident claims different from each other. Sometimes they are difficult and won’t settle cases. And, at other times, they may be more conciliatory. Companies that only write minimum liability policies ($15,000.00 per person and $30,000.00 per accident) are often the most difficult to deal with. You need an attorney on these claims, because these companies do not give their adjusters authority to pay out the minimum limits, even though your claim may be worth thousands of dollars more than their insured’s liability limits. If you don’t settle for the entire the policy limits of negligent party, you may not be eligible for benefits under your Underinsurance Coverage.

6. Insurance adjusters will take advantage of unrepresented claimants. Adjusters will offer unrepresented claimants small settlement amounts in exchange for a full release. Insurance adjusters want to get your signature on a release early on. They offer a nominal sum that you may accept knowing that you may be under financial pressures. If your injuries take a turn for the worse, you are stuck. Some injuries don’t heal. Some get worse with time. Most spinal injuries have some long term effects, which are reduced by proper treatment. One of the benefits of attorney representation is access to proper medical care on a lien basis. Don’t settle your injury until you have had proper medical evaluation and treatment.

7. Help in deciding when to settle, file suit, arbitrate or mediate. Alternative dispute resolution is often used in an attempt to settle insurance claims. This is a complicated process which can occur before or after litigation. Insurance companies won’t usually mediate or arbitrate your claim when you are not represented. You need an attorney to represent your interests if your case is to be resolved by alternative dispute resolution.

8. Access to medical care on a lien. This is one of the biggest benefits of attorney representation. Health care providers who deal with injury claims want some guaranty that, if the insurance company pays you money, that their interest in getting paid for their services will be protected. Unrepresented claimants have been known to go south with the settlement proceed and not pay their health care providers. Attorneys are bound by ethical rules concerning liens. We must satisfy liens (or negotiate liens if the settlement proceeds do not give the claimant adequate compensation) out of the proceeds of a settlement. This is the health care provider’s insurance that they will be paid. Generally, you cannot get treatment on a lien if you are not represented.

9. Federal laws. If Medicaid or Medicare is paying your accident-related medical bills complex state and federal laws apply. Reimbursement to Medicaid and Medicare is required. If these laws apply to your claim, you will have much difficulty negotiating and dealing with dealing these governmental entities. Financial penalties and civil litigation can arise against you if you do not reimburse these entities. If Medicaid or Medicare paid your medical bills, you need an attorney to get involved in your claim.

10. Underinsurance. Sometimes an adverse insurance carrier will pay you their insured’s liability limits before you have attorney representation. This will occur when you have catastrophic visible injuries and your claim is clearly above their insured’s limits. Under these circumstances, unrepresented claimants can’t handle the transition that occurs between an adverse claim and a first party underinsurance claim. The “stacking” of multiple underinsurance coverage may be involved. If underinsurance creeps into your claim under these circumstances, you should consult an attorney.

11. Education. If you have a concerned personal injury attorney on an accident claim, he will educate you, not only about your claim, but he will advise you about your auto insurance coverage and how you can better protect you and your family in the event of a future accident.

12. Prior or subsequent accidents or pre-existing conditions. If our claim involves these issues, you will need both an expert medical witness and an attorney. Treating physicians are not litigation experts. You will need an attorney to handle the apportionment issues that are involved with these claims. Your attorney will likely need to hire an expert medical witness. Insurance companies have databases, so if you were involved in a prior or subsequent accident they will know it at the beginning of your claim. Hire an attorney to deal with these issues.

13. Accident reporting to your own insurance company and DMV. Did you know that if the police are not involved with investigation of your accident that you must report it to DMV? You must report any non-investigated motor vehicle accidents involving property damage of $750.00 or more and all injury accidents to DMV. Underinsurance claims and uninsured motorists claims must be reported to your insurance company early on or your claim may be denied because you have taken away your insurance company’s ability to investigate your claim while the evidence is fresh. An attorney can protect your interests on these reporting matters.

14. Crossover areas bankruptcy, workers compensation and probate. If you or the adverse party files bankruptcy; or, if the adverse party dies; or, if you are injured at work, and there is third party liability, these claims are too complicated for you to handle on your own. They involve crossover areas of law. Hire an attorney immediately.

15. Worst possible scenario cases. If you have a lot of medical bills and there is minimum coverage for your auto accident, or if there are multiple claimants against minimum liability limits, you simply cannot handle these situations by yourself. An interpleader may be filed with you named as a party defendant. An interpleader action is where the insurance company deposits the policy limits proceeds with the court, and the parties must litigate to see who gets what amount out of the deposited proceeds. You will absolutely need an attorney if you are involved in this type of case.

The steps you take immediately following a personal injury accident will greatly affect the reimbursement that you get from your car insurance company if you file a claim, or compensation for your injuries from another driver’s insurance. You should see a doctor immediately, even if you think you’re fine. Although you may feel fine now or think your injuries aren’t very serious, symptoms such as pain, discomfort, dizziness, and numbness may soon appear in the days that follow. So, getting medical attention quickly isn’t just the best thing for your health and for helping you to make a faster recovery, it also gives greater credibility to your personal injury claim. If you wait several days or weeks after the accident to seek medical attention, it will be harder to prove that your injuries were caused by and are the result of a car accident.

There are many factors that the Court will consider in deciding the amount that you will be compensated for your auto accident. The Court will be influenced by considerations such as: the degree of fault attributable to the parties; whether the defendant’s conduct was simply negligent, grossly negligent, or implied to be intentional; the evidence presented on your property damage and medical bills; your loss of income or loss of earning capacity; and, your pain and suffering resulting from the auto accident.

Yes. If your case is accepted, the majority of attorneys that handle personal injury cases will take your case on a “contingency.” This means that you don’t pay anything upfront and the attorney only is paid fees if there is a recovery in the case.

Insurance companies are not inherently evil and they do serve a very important function. Insurance provide coverage in order to provide compensation when an event occurs. Imagine that you were injured, but the defendant had no insurance. In that case, how would you be compensated for your injuries? Your only recourse will be to collect directly from the defendant. But, what if the defendant has no cash or assets to pay you? What then would you do? You may be able to go to court and get a judge to order wage garnishment or to place a lien on the defendant’s properties. Of course, the success of these efforts greatly depends on the defendant having wages and having property to place a lien on. If a defendant no money or assets then you are in a really tough spot. Of course, insurance companies are businesses with motivation to maximize profits. So, it will do whatever is in its power to pay as little as possible to compensate you for your injuries. They have teams of adjusteers and attorneys whose job will be to make that happen. They will have experience and resources at their disposal, so you are at a great disadvantage if you try and take on the insurance company on your own. Having attorney representation will help you greatly to combat the insurance company and maximize your recovery.

In situations where you were to get into an accident and the other person does not have insurance, we would look for uninsured motorist coverage. If uninsured motorist coverage is unavailable, we would consider filing suit and obtaining a judgment against the defendant.

Even if you might have partly caused an accident yourself, you can still receive compensation from anyone else who partly caused the accident through carelessness (or recklessness). The amount of another person’s responsibility is determined by comparing his or her carelessness with your own. For example, if you were 25% at fault and the other person was 75% at fault, the other person (or that person’s insurance company) must pay 75% of the fair compensation for your injuries. This rule is called “comparative negligence.”

1. Leaving an Accident Scene. Under California law, a person has to stop, whether the accident involved a pedestrian, a moving vehicle, or even a parked vehicle, and if they leave the scene for any reason, they can be charged with a hit-and-run, even if the accident wasn’t their fault. The penalties can include jail, a fine, and the loss of their driver’s license. So, if you are involved in any type of accident, even if you only hit a parked car or some property and cannot find the owner or the driver, you would be well advised to leave behind your name, address, explanation of the accident and the name and address of the car’s owner in a conspicuous place, and then immediately contact the local police or the California Highway Patrol, or even call 911. You should try to make sure that there is documentation stating there was an accident, and one way to do that is to get a police report. Even if the police don’t come to the scene of the accident (since there was no injury or death) they would still write a report.

2. Privately Attempting to Resolve an Accident Claim. Sometimes, people forget or simply do not call the police because they believe they feel that they can reach an agreement with the other party without dealing with police, or they believe they can just let the insurance handle everything. However, this can quickly turn out to be a bad idea. People involved don’t really know each other. There is no way to know for you to know if the other party’s insurance is current or if such an accident is covered. In fact, you should consider that there are people out there that carry a fake or expired insurance card. Not calling police will expose you to a greater risk, which you won’t have after calling the police or insurance.

3. Losing Your Cool. At times, people forget to keep their cool; it is very easy to get into an argument with the other driver about who’s responsible for the accident and who’s at fault. However, it would be ill-advised for anyone to ever admit being at fault, even if they think they were, because that conclusion is possibly, and often is, wrong. Determining fault should be left to the insurance company and the attorneys, who will reconstruct the accident and come to a solid conclusion as to who was at fault.

4. Forgetting to Exchange and Gather Information. It is also important that everyone on the scene exchange information with the other driver or drivers, including their name, address and insurance information, especially policy number. They should also get the other car’s license and registration number and the vehicle Identification number, or VIN. If possible, they should also try to take pictures, and get the names and phone numbers of as many witnesses as they can or, if the witnesses decide not to stick around, get their license plate numbers, so that someone down the road can track them down to get some information, if necessary.

A picture is worth more than a thousand words. Photos leave a lasting impression. Seeing the photos of the vehicle damage, injuries, and accident scene makes the severity of the accident clear for everyone and eliminates the need for guesswork, interpretation, and imagination. Having photos will carry a great deal of weight with a jury.

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930 W. 17th Street
Suite B
Santa Ana, CA 92706
Tel: (714) 697-8600