Frequently Asked Questions posed to our Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyers:
Should I hire the personal injury law firm with the 1-800 number, and all of the ads on TV or radio?
Television and radio advertisements are generally a bad way to find a professional. Many of the advertisements are by paid actors, spokespersons, or an employee in the office. Furthermore, many of the advertisements are done by referral agencies or co-ops, where the calls go to a general answering service who then routes them to an attorney that is paying for that advertisement, or a referral fee to a lawyer to send you to them. Likewise, many personal injury attorneys that advertise are not even from Sacramento, but have offices in San Francisco or Los Angeles, and only an office facade here in Sacramento.
There is an old adage: if you want someone good, find someone busy. Most television personal injury attorneys are trying to drum up business with expensive advertisements. The best way to find a lawyer is through referrals, and when that is not realistic then read consumer reviews from past clients.
Our personal injury lawyers are experienced in representing victims from a variety of situations. We regularly represent victims in claims arising out of auto accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, and bus accidents. We always have several dog bite cases in process, and major construction site accidents are a significant focus as well. Whether your accident resulted in a brain injury, spinal cord injury, orthopedic damage, soft tissue damage, or even the wrongful death of a loved one we are well versed in each of those areas.
Our results are the product of our hard work and experience. We believe in dealing from our strengths in preparation and diligence, and never from the weakness of just writing unsupported demand letters like many personal injury attorneys. We are always striving to be completely prepared to go to trial, even when we know that settlement is likely. We believe in being fully prepared to try a case if settlement discussions fail. Defense lawyers and insurance companies are well aware of our reputation, and that reputation helps us in dealing with new cases.
We understand that to represent our clients effectively we must act diligently, aggressively and ethically to thoroughly prepare our cases to make sure that we receive a just result for our clients in a timely manner. What sets us apart is the compassion, devotion, and experience of our personal injury lawyers and paralegal staff. In personal injury cases, we think it is important to maintain our focus by only representing people who are victimized and injured.
In the context of a personal injury action, negligence is generally defined as the failure to do something that a reasonable person would do or would not do in the same or similar circumstances.
This is one of the frequently asked questions of our personal injury attorneys. Unfortunately, there is no litmus test, or even a reasonable rule of thumb when measuring someone’s loss. Every person and every case is different. The value of a personal injury case depends on the nature and extent of the injuries as well as factors such as damage to your vehicle or other property, how the accident occurred, whether the other party was acting recklessly or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, whether there is applicable insurance coverage and to what extent medical treatment was needed and obtained. Hiring a personal injury law firm early can help maximize your compensation.
Often times we are able to resolve the property damage portion of a personal injury claim rather quickly: days or a few weeks. However, the length of time it takes to resolve a personal injury lawsuit or personal injury claim is more complicated. At a minimum, respectable personal injury lawyers and personal injury law firms will not attempt to settle your case until you are done receiving medical treatment. One of the worst injustices for a victim is to settle their case before the extent of their injuries is known.
Once a car accident or other personal injury victim’s injuries have resolved or reached a stable level, our personal injury lawyers begin the settlement process. We complete the collection of your medical records, wage loss information, and meet with you to discuss settlement prospects. We then typically make a written demand. Based on the response to our demand from the insurance company, we then discuss settling early, making a counter-offer, or filing a lawsuit. While some lawsuits settle quickly, the bulk of lawsuits filed tend to be settled approximately one year after filing.
Our personal injury fee agreements are up front, in writing, and a copy is given to you when you hire us. Our personal injury attorney fee is based on a contingency. A contingency fee agreement means that you only pay our personal injury law firm if you have a successful outcome. If we do not recover anything, you do not pay us anything.
Unlike some other personal injury law firms, we do not customarily charge for assisting you with the property damage portion of your case. Likewise, our contingency fees are typically taken from your net recovery, after deduction of court related costs, and not from the gross recovery. Our fee agreements are negotiable, so each one is different. Please ask to see our fee agreement before hiring us, as we want to make sure you are comfortable in all aspects.
Absolutely not. Hiring a personal attorney is an important decision. You are not obligated to hire an attorney that you met with, and even if you did hire that attorney you are free to change attorneys at any time.
If you previously hired a personal injury attorney, and you do not like what he/she is doing for your case, please give us a call. We would be happy to sit down with you and see if there is something we can do better for your case. If you want to fire your previous attorney and hire us, that is something that is within your rights. However, it is usually recommended that you have a new attorney in place before actually firing your prior one.
While your prior attorney is still entitled to compensation, that is a matter that will be handled by our office. You do not have to pay double. Rather we will work with your previous attorney to equitably split fees.
The value of a personal injury case is based primarily on the extent of your injuries. If you do not have any injuries, then you have very little to no personal injury case. While medical treatment is only one indicator of the extent of your injuries, it is probably the most important indicator. Simply saying something hurts is very difficult to prove. Everyone’s pain threshold is different.
While there are still subjective components of medical diagnosis, medical testing, and medical treatment, they provide a much more objective picture of the extent and nature of someone’s injuries. Consequently, it is important that if you need medical treatment, that you obtain that treatment.
In a typical car accident, bus accident, truck accident, or motorcycle accident in California your medical bills are first paid by your own health insurance company. If you do not have health insurance, or if your health insurance does not cover the bills, the hospitals or medical provider often take a lien in your case, or charge Medi-Cal or Medi-Care. Otherwise, you have to pay the bills initially yourself. However, when a personal injury case is resolved, those medical bills, or some negotiated portion thereof, are paid by the insurance company for the person that caused your injury. In the case of a work injury, Workers’ Compensation should pay your medical bills. If you have medical bills from a personal injury accident and have questions about how they will be paid, you should contact one of our personal injury attorneys.
What are some of the categories of damages that I can recover for my car accident or personal injury case?
In a personal injury or car accident case, there are many different categories of damages that you may be entitled to recover. Some of the more common types of damages are: medical bills; lost wages; loss of earning capacity; scarring or disfigurement; loss of enjoyment of life; as well as pain and suffering.
Pain and suffering is somewhat of a catch-all description intended to provide money for non-economic injuries to the body and mind such as scarring, discomfort, anxiety, depression, difficulty walking, sitting, or sleeping, as well as personal embarrassment.
In the personal injury context, economic damages are usually those out-of-pocket losses such as lost wages, medical bills, or the cost of life care. Economic damages include not only past damages, but future as well, and a good personal injury attorney will make sure you are compensated for all of these damages.
Punitive damages are a monetary judgment awarded by a judge or jury to punish the defendant and to deter future conduct. Although punitive damages generally must have a reasonable relationship to the damages suffered by a victim, they are not necessarily directly tied to the actual damages. Punitive damages are not typically permitted under the law for simple negligence. If you think you were the victim of an incident in which punitive damages should be awarded, please contact our personal injury law firm.
Personal injury lawsuits can be very expensive for the attorney, but should not cost the client anything until the case is resolved, if handled on a contingency basis. Hypothetically, if you were to pay on an hourly basis for a personal injury lawsuit, it would not be unusual to see attorney’s fees and costs exceed $20,000 in a personal injury case with moderate to serious injuries. A case with severe to catastrophic injuries could well exceed $100,000 if you were to pay on an hourly basis. This is why most clients are far better off hiring personal injury lawyers on a contingency basis.
Despite your best intentions, you are probably not the best person to figure out who is at fault. You are likely subjectively and emotionally attached. There are many possible causes for an accident and having an objective person investigate is best.
Even if you are partially at fault, you may still recover for your injures under the concept of comparative fault or comparative negligence. Under these theories, damages may be apportioned or allocated between the parties based on various evidentiary principles. You should speak with a personal injury attorney to see if these concepts apply to you, and if so, how damages may be allocated.
Now! Seriously, the sooner you hire a personal injury attorney, the better off you are. The number of occasions in which we have received a call from a prospective client who has seriously hurt their case is staggering: poor and uninformed statements are made to insurance companies; witnesses are lost or move; evidence is not saved properly; treatment is not correct or documented correctly; and even worse statutes of limitation have expired forever barring a potential claim. The quicker you involve one of our personal injury attorneys in your case, the better.
A good personal injury attorney approaches every case with the expectation that it will go to trial. As soon as you assume a case will settle, you are caught unprepared and not ready. However, the reality is that well over 90% of all personal injury cases settle without ever going to trial. The better the attorney you hire, typically, the better the chance the casewill not go to trial. A quality personal injury attorney will work-up the case and prepare it well enough that the insurance company will feel compelled to settle.
However, just because a case does not settle does not mean it was not prepared correctly. Some cases have to be tried to maximize their value. Likewise, some insurance carriers such as AIG are known for taking an aggressive anti-plaintiff position and forcing trials in cases, whether warranted or not.
The insurance company told me that if I hired a personal injury attorney, I would not get as much money. Is that true?
Insurance companies are in the business of collecting premiums, not paying claims. Paying claims directly impacts an insurance company’s profits, and they will tell you many things to reduce how much they have to pay you. Telling personal injury claimants not to hire an attorney is a perfect example of a tactic used by insurance companies to reduce what they have to pay. Just as you would not perform your own root canal, you should not try to represent yourself. A good personal injury attorney will give you good objective representation.
Should I wait and see what the insurance company offers me before I hire a personal injury attorney?
No. That is exactly what they want you to do. Insurance companies will encourage you to allow them to retrieve your medical records, obtaining all of your personal information whether good or bad. They will pressure you to give a recorded statement so that they can manipulate what you say and use it against you. Also, by delaying, insurance companies know that evidence that would help you disappears and becomes stale. Generally, the sooner you hire a personal injury lawyer, the better the settlement you will obtain.
There are time limits in which a personal injury lawsuit must be filed within the State of California. These time limits are generally referred to as the statutes of limitations. For most personal injury negligence actions, the time period to file is two years from the date of the incident giving rise to the injury. However, depending on the nature of the case, the type of defendant (e.g. government entities), the statute of limitations may be much shorter, and in some cases only six months. Likewise, in some cases the statute of limitations may be tolled for many years, such as some cases with injured children. Because cases not filed timely can be dismissed, it is important to consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an injury to see what statute of limitations is applicable to your case.
Do I have to give the insurance company a statement under oath, a recorded statement, or access to all of my personal medical and employment information?
Usually, you do not have to, and should not, give a statement under oath, recorded statement, or access to personal medical and employment information to the insurance company for someone that injured you. There are some different rules in situations when you are seeking to recover under your own insurance policy. You should always check with a personal injury attorney before giving any statements or personal information out.