Frequently Asked Questions About Personal Injury Recovery in California
Do I need to hire a lawyer? How long will it take to reach a settlement? How do I prove my loved one was abused in her nursing home? What if the driver who hit me does not have insurance? We tackle these questions and many more in our collection of frequently asked questions. If your question is not answered there, do not hesitate to call us.
- Page 1
How will I pay my medical bills after an accident?
If you were injured in a car accident, one of the most important first steps is to seek immediate medical care. Medical treatment for any injury can be expensive—leaving you with a stack of mounting medical bills to deal with. Unfortunately, the insurance company for the negligent driver will most likely not pay your ongoing medical bills while it is investigating and disputing your claim. Here, we discuss how to handle paying your medical bills while you are attempting to settle your claim.
How Can You Pay Your Medical Bills While Your Accident Claim Is Being Settled?
You are legally responsible for your medical bills, and your doctor and other healthcare providers do not have to wait until your claim with the insurance company is resolved to be paid. If you do not pay your bills, they could be turned over to a collection agency or you may be sued. Both options will hurt your credit, and you could face other legal consequences—such as having a judgment against you and garnishment of your wages.
How do you pay your medical bills until you receive your settlement proceeds? Here are some options you may have:
Health insurance. If you have health insurance, this should be the main source of payment for your medical treatments. Be certain to provide the hospital and your doctor with your insurance company information. They may try to say that they cannot bill your health insurance company due to your accident. However, this is not true, and you should insist that they send your bills to your health insurance company.
Med-pay. If you purchased med-pay coverage as part of your automobile insurance policy, you can file a claim to have your medical bills paid through this coverage. It will pay 100 percent of your medical bills up to the policy limits regardless of who was at fault in causing the accident. If you do not have this coverage, you may be able to purchase it to pay for future medical expenses.
Medi-Cal or Medi-Care. If you qualify for Medi-Cal or Medi-Care—which has strict income and asset requirements—this insurance could pay for your medical care. However, some doctors in California do not accept Medi-Cal or Medi-Care payments.
Lien. Some doctors will continue to treat you and take a lien against the settlement of your claim. They would receive a payment from your settlement proceeds for the amount that you owe before you receive any money.
Are you having problems paying your medical bills following an accident? Do you need to file a claim for compensation with the negligent driver’s insurance company? Our experienced accident attorneys are here to explain your legal options, help you handle paying your medical bills, and negotiate your settlement with the insurance company for you. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation.
What are the first steps I should take after an accident?
When you are involved in a car collision, it is important that you immediately or as soon as possible have your car examined for any defects in the car. There might be something wrong with your car that you don't know about because of this collision that could create greater danger, greater exposure to your own safety.
There are a couple different paths to take to get your car fixed. In any motor collision case, you have to inform your insurance company of the accident. It is easiest and cleanest to first go through your own insurance company, and they can do the heavy lifting of going after the other individual's insurance company to get reimbursed and to get your deductible reimbursed. Sometimes people have a problem paying their initial deductible. In that situation, we work very hard to try to get the other party to take responsibility and to pay the money as quickly as possible. So there are really two different routes depending on each individual potential client's situation and their desires.
Typically in an auto accident, the car repair costs are going to get covered by either your own insurance company or the other parties' insurance company. It is really going to be driven by which insurance companies are you dealing with and what kind of insurance do you have and what your deductible is.
If your car is totaled out, you end up being in a very difficult spot. You are never going to get full value for the value of your car when it gets totaled out. The insurance companies use blue book value, they will also pull some advertisements to show what different cars are selling, but it never properly reimburses you for the value of your car. You are not entitled to a jury trial over the value of your car, you are only entitled to arbitration. Arbitrations are very difficult to win. You just have an individual, one person making the decision on the value of your car and it is rarely worth the cost and time of fighting over that.
An individual who has been injured in an auto accident is entitled to receive damages for both non-economic and economic injuries. The economic injuries would be things like medical bills, both past and future, lost wages. Anything that you can put a hard number that is a loss, a damage. The non-economic damages are more difficult to quantify because there is not a hard number that attaches to each one. This is where it is important to know the individual's story. Know who they were before the accident and how the accident has changed them after. And the non-economic damages are one of those things that are very difficult for people to articulate and difficult for people to understand and appreciate who haven't been involved in an injury case. But it is one of the things we work really hard on in learning the client's story and learning how this accident has affected them and explaining to a jury or an adjuster or whoever we have to, why this case is different than the other hundred cases they are dealing with. Why this case's non-economic value so high.
When a person can get compensated after an auto accident is largely determined by how serious their injuries are. We don't want to resolve a case until we have a real good idea that the injuries someone has suffered are what we called permanent and stationary or at least we know what these injuries are going to look like when they are permanent and stationary. You can't properly evaluate a case until you know how bad the accident has affected the client. So it could be anywhere from four months to four years.
If you are hit by an uninsured driver, don't panic. We take a look at your insurance policy, and when you look at your insurance policy, most policies carry a section that says uninsured or underinsured coverage. The first place you look is there to make sure that you have underinsured or uninsured coverage and to see what the amount is, to see if it is something that is actually going to help you or something that is just barely going to get you by.
What happens when you take a case?
What we do when we initially take a case, we have the potential client bring in all of their documents. And hopefully if a client has signed a document that the other side, the defendants have given to the client, the client has it and we can take a look at it. By looking at all the documents, we can advise you as to whether we think you have a viable case. Just because you have signed a document doesn't mean the case goes away, that you have no case. It depends on what the document is and it depends if there is a way to explain it or not.
There is no benefit in talking to the insurance adjuster from the other side. They are trained to drive down the value of the case by taking advantage of the fact that you might be unrepresented early. Because one of the first things we are going to do when we take your case is we are going to go to those medical providers and get all your medical records to look at what you have been suffering through, what is the path of your recovery. And to show the insurance adjusters, show the defense attorneys that you have been doing everything possible to get better, but your body just won't let you because of the defendant's negligence.
It is important to be able to tell the story of how bad your suffering was. It is one thing to say "oh my back hurt". It is something else to say that for six years I have been going to my son's opening day baseball game, but because of this accident I wasn't able to go to the game. You forget things like that and it is important to journal those stories so they can be told later, either at your deposition or to a jury in order to get you full compensation.
You should not provide your medical records to the other side. It is something your attorney needs to go through and look at. Just because you are in a legal case, just because you are in a personal injury action doesn't open the door to everything you have had to go through your entire life. We all have things in our lives that affect who we are today. Just because you have been hurt by someone else's negligence doesn't open the door to that all of that other suffering.
If your case goes to trial, it is our position that in all likelihood you are going to be sitting with us throughout the whole trial and that is the way you should want it to be. Because while you are sitting there you are going to see everything develop and you can help us better represent you. The jury is going to want to see you and they are going to want to be there with their eyes on you to see what you have been through and to see how you are reacting to this and quite frankly see you fighting for yourself.
How long do I have to file a car accident case in California?
The most common causes of car accidents in California are not paying attention, people doing distracted driving because they are on their cell phones and the few times a year when it actually rains, people don't know what to do. That causes a lot of hysteria on Southern California freeways when all of a sudden two or three raindrops fall out of the air.
California does have statutes of limitations that can kick you out of court and not allow you file a case if you have waited to long. Cases are different and so depending on your injury and how you were injured and who injured you. It is very important that you seek legal advice immediately to determine what the statute of limitations is.
Generally, in personal injury cases, it is two years from the date of the incident. If the defendant, potential defendant, is a municipality, a government agency, you have six months to file a proof of claim. But again this is a situation that you need to talk to an attorney as soon as possible to look at the specific facts of your case.
How do I know if I need an attorney?
If you are trying to determine whether you need an attorney or not, there are certain things to look for. Really what you are looking for is were you or a loved one injured because of someone elses negligence. Was someone speeding or not taking care of their property or just not doing what they are supposed to do to keep other people safe and you got hurt because of it.
If you come to us and talk to us we are going to analyze your case and we are going to look at the severity of the injury, the seriousness of the negligence on the other side. We are going to talk to you honestly and plainly about whether or not you should pursue a case, what the likelihood of a recovery is and what the amount of that recovery might be. This is so you can make an informed decision on:
- Do you want to pursue the case?
- Do you want to pursue the case with us as your representation?
We wrote a book to try and help people, at least at the very beginning, handle the case on their own and see if they can work their way through the labryinth that is a personal injury case. At some point, if you really want to maximize value, you are going to need someone like myself, a law firm like our law firm because the insurance adjusters and the defendants prey on unsuspecting victims. They know that you aren't going to try the case on your own and they know that you are unlikely to file a case on your own. So they have all the leverage because that big hammer of a case getting filed and big exposure trial is not there. So can a person handle a case on their own? Yes. Do I recommend it? No.
To order a copy of our book, follow this link.
What makes your firm want to take a case?
There are three things you need in any personal injury case. That is:
We look for those three things and if all those things are present, the real thing that drives whether or not we are going to take a case is the client. We want cases where we can fall in love with our client. Where we can work well together with our client. Life is hard enough as it is working with people who aren't great, so we want to work with people who are great people, we want clients who are great people. And when you are invested in their story, juries can feeel that, they can sense that and that makes a huge difference.
How do I know if I have a good case?
We determine case value primarily based on past experience but also based on that client's story. A lot of law firms and insurance adjusters will look at a case and do a math equation. They look at the amount of the bills and the amount of future care and they do a math equation. We don't look at it like that. Everyone's injury, everyone's suffering is different based on their own personal experiences that they bring to the table. For us, we look at that individual story and we look at the loss and we look at what they have been left with to determine the overall value of the case.
How much money will I receive for my case?
How much money you receive in your case is important to every individual, but the most important thing is your health. If you seek medical treatment immediately, you are more likely to have a better short-term and long-term outcome. The amount of money that you recover or that you could recover is based on a bunch of different variables that range from what your past medical bills have been, what your future potential medical bills are and how this incident has affected your life. All of those things come together to inform the value of the case. The final thing that informs the value of the case is the offensiveness of the defendant's conduct. Normally that isn't something that a jury can award value for, but we see that generally speaking the more upset a jury is by the defendant's conduct, the higher the verdicts going to be.
Most plaintiffs personal injury attorneys work on contingency. It doesn't cost you any money during your case; you only pay money if we are able to recover for it. When we take a personal injury case, the typical percentages range from 33 1/3% to 40%. Sometimes they go as high as 45% if it is a difficult case or a case that has to go all the way through trial.
Do you take every case brought to you?
When we first sit down with a client, we go through the fact of the case and if we don't believe we can increase the value of their case to the point that it is worth hiring an attorney, we aren't going to take it. We aren't going to make a promise as the value because there are too many variables that affect the case from beginning to end. But initially when we look at a case, if we feel we aren't going to add anything to the case, if we don't feel we can bring real value, we are going to tell the client not to hire us and to either handle it themselves or do something else.
What qualities should I look for in a personal injury attorney?
In order to find a good attorney, there are certain things that are really indicative of someone who knows what they are doing.
- You need a specialist—you need someone who does plaintiffs personal injury every day of their life.
- You need someone with good reviews
- You need someone with trial experience. Having good trial experience means that attorney is not afraid to go to trial and it makes them better at building a case up because they understand what goes into putting a case before a jury.
What separates one law firm from another is trial experience because not many lawyers have trial experience. As a public defender I have tried more cases than 98% of attorneys out there and because I understand the end part of a case, what story is going to be told to a jury, it informs everything that leads up to that point. So if an attorney doesn't have trial experience, they really can't be excellent at all those things that lead up to it.
The leverage a trial lawyer has over an insurance company is fearlessness. You have to put yourself in the shoes of all the people in a case. An insurance company, an insurance adjuster, never wants to get tagged with that big verdict. They never want to get hit with that big number that ends up in the paper and maybe ends up costing them their job. So being a fearless trial lawyer, you always have that shadow of the big verdict hanging over the insurance adjuster's head. That is really where we get a lot of leverage at our law firm, it's our trial experience and our fearlessness in facing down those trial situations.
It is important, especially in the personal injury arena, to choose someone who is experienced in that area because there are subtleties that you are just not going to know unless you do this work every day and you understand the ins and outs, you understand the parties and you understand the motivations of everyone in a case like this. Unless you are doing this day in and day out, dealing with the courts, the adjustors, and all the parties, you really are not going to be able to the best for your client.