Getting injured in an accident is a difficult experience. Not only can you be in a lot of pain, you may have to spend many hours getting treatment for your injuries, not to mention the pile of medical bills you’ll have.
If your injuries were caused by the negligence of another person, you may be able to get compensation. In some cases, you have to pursue a claim or file a lawsuit to get the money you need to pay your bills.
In general, you will be expected to produce documents such as medical records and bills to prove your accident-related expenses. It is important to keep track of each provider that you see and the costs of your medical treatment, surgeries, and physical therapy. You can also seek to recover wages you have lost and other accident-related expenses.
Learning how the personal injury process works in the Golden State can be helpful. The attorneys at Maho Prentice can guide you through the process. They can tell you what your case is worth and fight to get you the money you deserve.
When Is a Lawsuit Necessary?
When a third-party driver causes you injury, their insurance should pay for it. If they do not have liability insurance or adequate coverages, your auto policy is looked at as a back up to see if you have any available insurance coverages such Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage that can step in and pay.
Some people intentionally drive recklessly and may cause accidents. Others may intentionally use their car as a weapon. These drivers may receive criminal charges. You can still sue them as well.
If a driver causes the death of your family member, you can sue them for wrongful death. You are entitled to compensation for:
- Loss of future wages
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of household services
- Pain and suffering
There are multiple reasons why a case does not settle in the claims phase. Your personal injury attorney will talk you through the entire process and give you advice along the way regarding including when it is the best time to file a lawsuit, if necessary.
Before you sue, there are certain steps you must take. A personal injury lawyer can help you understand what you need to do and what evidence is needed.
What to Do At the Scene
When you are involved in a car accident, you should always pull over to the side of the road to see if anyone has suffered bodily injury or if there has been any significant property damage. If anyone is injured or if the cars are damaged, you should call the police and wait for them to arrive.
It is also helpful to collect evidence at the scene. Take pictures of both cars and the road conditions. Ask witnesses for their names and numbers. Exchange insurance information with the other drivers involved in the accident. Ask business owners in the area if they have security cameras. The more evidence you have, the easier it is to prove the other driver’s fault or negligence.
Ask the police officer who arrives at the scene for a copy of the accident report. Never admit to causing the accident at the scene.
If paramedics offer you medical treatment, let them treat you. If they tell you to go to the hospital with them, you should go.
Document All Accident Related Expenses
The at-fault driver is responsible for all of the expenses related to your accident. You can receive reimbursement for this.
Your medical expenses are among the most important pieces of evidence in court. Save a copy of every doctor bill that you get, including those for surgery, physical therapy, and alternative treatments such as massages and chiropractic care.
Save receipts from all the medications you take whether they are prescription or over-the-counter. Medications can add up to thousands of dollars over time.
If your injuries are severe, you may need ongoing treatments after your accident. In some cases, you may need treatment for the rest of your life. Your car accident lawyer can work with your doctor to write an estimate of what those treatments and expenses will be. Your car accident lawyer can use your doctor’s letter to argue for fair compensation for past and future care.
You will probably miss time from your job after an accident. Your car accident lawyer can work with your employer to write you a letter stating the number of hours you’ve missed. The letter should also state how much money you have lost as a result of the time you’ve been out.
If you are self-employed, your previous year’s tax returns can be used as evidence of the income that you have lost.
Additionally, you may not be able to clean the house, garden, or drive for yourself after an accident. You deserve compensation for these expenses, so save the receipts for maid, landscaping, and ride-sharing services.
If your injuries are permanent or disfiguring, you may be entitled to general damages for pain and suffering. Keep a journal of how your injuries have affected your daily life. You could also see a mental health professional for treatment and care. Your car accident lawyer can also have them write a report about your mental and emotional health as a result of the accident and/or injuries.
Physical deformities and disabilities can make major changes to your life. You might not be able to enjoy hobbies you participated in previously. A deformity may change your relationship with your family members, friends, and intimate partner. Your personal injury attorney can use this to fight for what you deserve.
Filing a Car Accident Claim
In California, the person who is responsible for an accident should pay for the damages. If more than one person is responsible, then each person should pay for the portion of the accident they caused.
The first step is typically to file a personal injury claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company and notify your own insurance company. For all car accident claims, an insurance adjuster will look at the evidence provided and internally evaluate the case for fault and potentially, valuation.
The insurance company may make you a settlement offer. In the majority of car accident cases, the initial settlement offer will not be sufficient. You should always talk to an attorney before accepting an offer.
What We Can Do For You
When you visit the law office of Maho Prentice, we will look at the evidence in your car accident case and let you know if we feel we can help.
We work on a contingency basis, so you will not be charged an hourly rate. You will only be charged a portion of any compensation we recover for you.
If the person who caused your accident does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance to pay for all of your medical bills, we look to your own auto policy to see if there is an avenue of recovery. We can also discuss whether suing the at-fault driver personally is worth it.
Steps to a Lawsuit
Before a lawsuit is filed, your car accident lawyer will typically send a demand letter to the insurance company asking to settle for a specific amount of money. We will then try to negotiate a settlement on your behalf.
Our attorneys have years of experience in negotiations and have the skills to determine how much your injuries are worth. They are well-versed in arguments that work when speaking to the insurance adjuster.
Professional injury attorneys keep up with the latest literature regarding insurance law. They have a knowledge of the applicable laws and relevant judicial decisions.
If you are considering suing the driver directly, the attorney will talk to you about whether this would be beneficial to you and whether there is a likelihood of recovery. If there is, the attorney will negotiate with that individual or their chosen legal team.
Most personal injury claims are settled out of court. If no settlement is reached, our attorneys will sit down with you and decide if you want to go through with a lawsuit. You generally must file a personal injury lawsuit within two years of the date of the accident.
Filing a Lawsuit
The lawsuit will then be filed in the appropriate court. The appropriate court will typically be determined by the location of the accident and the amount of money at issue. After filing suit, you, as the plaintiff, will have 30 days to have the insurance company or individual you are suing served with the required papers. After that, they will have 30 days to file an answer.
During the discovery phase of litigation, the two parties involved will request and share information. This does not simply involve handing over paperwork to one another. There are several different methods attorneys have of sharing information during this stage.
A deposition can take place during the discovery phase of a litigation. The deposition like testifying at a trial. The attorneys will have a chance to question the witnesses under oath and it can be videotaped.
The two sides will have a chance to send each other interrogatories. This is a list of questions that one side has for the other. The defense will likely ask you to undergo a medical exam with a doctor that they choose during this phase.
Your attorney and the defense attorney will likely negotiate with one another all through this phase of the trial. In most cases, the parties will settle before going to court.
If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the judge overseeing the case may order the parties to undergo mediation. Alternatively, all parties can agree to a private mediation with a mediator of their choice. Attorneys from each side will meet with a mediator to confidentially share their version of events and discuss possible resolutions.
In the unlikely event that a settlement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to trial.
Typically, each side will present an opening argument. Your personal injury attorney will question witnesses and experts who can talk about your accident, medical care and condition, lost wages, damaged property and future needs. The defense will have a turn to cross-examine witnesses presented by your attorney and present their own witnesses.
Typically, each side will give its closing arguments and the case will go to the judge or jury. If they rule in your favor, they will set a certain compensation amount for you based on the parameters and guidelines.
Average Car Accident Settlement in California
The amount of your award will be determined by a multitude of factors that can include your medical bills, expenses, and your level of pain and suffering. Because there are so many factors involved in auto accident cases, it is impossible to say how much your specific case will be worth as the specifics of your case will determine its value.
Car accident victims should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to learn what their case might be worth.
Why You Should Hire Us
Tyrone Maho and Chad Prentice each have been practicing law for over 25 years. They are dedicated to getting injured people the car accident settlement they need. Our attorneys are trained negotiators and litigators, and they’re prepared to take on any car insurance company.
Our firm has a team of talented paralegals and legal assistants who are committed to researching every aspect of each case that we take on. We know how important your car accident lawsuit is to you and we will fight to get the money you deserve. Give us a call today.