Orange County Car Accident Lawyers
Car accidents are a daily occurrence in the United States. In fact, more than 2 million people were injured and 35,092 were killed in car crashes in 2015 alone, according to research from the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, when people get into their vehicles to head to work, school or elsewhere, they almost never expect to be involved in a car wreck.
When accidents happen, they can leave victims seriously injured and unsure of how they'll afford to pay their medical bills, repair or replace their damaged vehicle, or generally make ends meet. Car accident victims who were injured due to another person's negligence may be entitled to compensation for injuries and other damages.
If you were injured in a car accident you didn't cause, we can help you.
Common Causes of Car Accidents in Costa Mesa, California
There are a number of different types of car accidents. Some of the most common accident types include:
- Drunk Driving: In 2015, alcohol played a role in 29 percent of fatal crashes, according to the NHTSA.
- Distracted Driving: More than 391,000 people were injured and 3,477 were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2015. Common distracted driving behaviors include texting while driving, eating and drinking, changing the music, or using a navigation system.
- Roadway Defects: If a defect in the roadway caused your accident, you may be able to sue the government agency that was responsible for maintaining the road.
- Motor Vehicle Defects: Issues with the car's seat belts, airbags, braking systems, ignition and more can cause a car accident. This is called product liability.
- Drugged Driving: Recreational or street drugs aren't the only substances that contribute to such accidents—prescription drugs, including opioids, also play a role.
- Drowsy Driving: Driving while fatigued can be just as impairing as driving while drunk or drugged, according to a study by AAA.
- Adverse Weather Conditions: Fog and rain can both cause dangerous driving conditions which can lead to accidents.
Common Types of Car Accidents
- Single-Vehicle Accidents: This category includes collisions with rocks or debris, run-off-road accidents, and rollover wrecks.
- Multi-Vehicle Accidents
- Head-On Accidents
- Left Turn Accidents
- Rear-End Collisions: Each year, there are approximately 1.7 million rear-end collisions in the United States. Roughly 80 percent of those could be prevented by collision avoidance systems, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
- T-Bone or Side-Impact Wrecks: These accidents usually occur when motorists run a stop sign or red light, then collide with another vehicle going through an intersection.
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Uber or Lyft Accidents: If there are any injuries associated with your accident you should always contact an attorney.
Injuries Associated With Car Crashes
- Severe bruises
- Head injuries, including concussions and traumatic brain injuries
- Broken or crushed bones
- Back injuries, such as herniated discs or slipped discs
- Spinal cord injuries, including paralysis
- Eye injuries, including blindness or eye loss
- Torn muscles
- Internal injuries
Potential Damages Available for Car Accident Victims in California
A wide range of compensation for economic, non-economic and other damages is potentially available to those injured in car accidents.
- Economic damages: Compensation for past and future medical bills related to injuries sustained in the accident; reimbursement for medical-related travel expenses; vehicle repair or replacement costs; and wages lost taking time off work to recover and the loss of earning potential if the severity of the injuries prevents a return to the workplace.
- Non-economic damages: Compensation for physical pain and suffering; mental and emotional anguish; loss of enjoyment of life; and scarring or disfigurement.
Plaintiffs who file a wrongful death lawsuit after losing a loved one in a car accident may be entitled to pursue additional compensation.
Damages in these cases are usually divided into two categories: damages that compensate for injuries and losses the decedent suffered between the time of the accident and their death, and compensation for losses incurred by the family after their loved one's death.
Examples of damages sought in wrongful death car accident cases include compensation for:
- Medical costs incurred by the victim prior to death
- Physical pain and suffering experienced by the victim
- Property damage to the victim's vehicle
- Funeral costs
- Burial or cremation expenses
- Loss of the victim's future earnings
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of the goods and services the victim would have provided
- Loss of pension plans, medical coverage or other benefits
- Pain, suffering, and mental anguish experienced by the decedent's survivors
- Loss of care, protection, guidance, and training
- Loss of love, society, and companionship
- Loss of consortium from a deceased spouse
Additionally, in cases where the defendant's conduct was particularly egregious, a judge or jury may award punitive damages that seek to punish the victim for these actions, as well as deter future bad conduct.
Settling an Orange County Car Accident Case
It is fairly straightforward to settle a minor car accident case if you are not at fault for the accident:
How Can I Settle My Car Accident Case Without an Attorney?
While many attorneys urge car accident victims to hire legal representation as soon as possible after an accident, there are times when hiring an attorney isn't strictly necessary. For example, motorists involved in very minor car accidents that caused no injuries and only slight property damage may not need to hire an attorney. Instead, they can submit an insurance claim to seek compensation for their losses.
You can probably settle your own car accident claim if you can answer "yes" to each of the following items:
1. There was minor property damage
2. The injuries consist of no more than "sprains and strains"
3. You either did not seek immediate medical care or you had no more than 2 visits to the emergency room.
4. You had no more than 4 months of chiropractic care or physical therapy.
5. You have been discharged from care and you are sure that you have no need for further care related to the accident.
6. You lost 5 days or less from work.
This type of accident occurs hundreds of times a day across California. There generally is no need for you to hire an attorney to settle this type of case.
When Should I Hire a Car Accident Attorney?
If your case involves broken bones or scarring of any type of an injury that caused you to be admitted to a hospital or to have outpatient surgery, you are going to get your money's worth with an experienced attorney in your area. There are times when having an attorney can be absolutely invaluable.
Accident victims may benefit from hiring legal counsel if:
- The accident happened less than 18 months ago
- The injuries sustained in the accident resulted in medical bills or lost wages of $2,000 or more
- The accident was caused by someone else's negligent actions
- The accident victim's vehicle sustained clear and visible damage
- The victim sought medical attention as soon as possible after the accident
- The victim has seen a doctor regularly since the accident and sought all recommended treatments
- The victim's injuries caused broken bones or necessitated surgery
- The negligent party has insurance
Understanding the California Civil Litigation Process
Many times, people seeking compensation for injuries sustained in a car accident have little prior experience with the legal system and therefore, just aren't sure what to expect.
Two of the questions potential clients often ask are: how long will a case take, and will they have to go to court. The answer to both questions depends entirely on the circumstances of the case and whether the injury victim decides to accept a settlement during the negotiations process or take the claim all the way to court.
- Settling a car accident injury claim has the benefit of as faster conclusion, so plaintiffs receive money sooner. However, after a settlement is accepted, no appeal is possible. Additionally, the other side may not offer a fair settlement amount, in which case, taking the case to trial may be the best option.
- Taking a car accident injury claim all the way to court means the parties involved can appeal decisions with which they disagree. However, this is a two-edged sword and, while the plaintiff could appeal an unfavorable decision, so can the defendant, which means that any potential settlement would be delayed—possibly for years. Trials can also be extremely stressful, exposing information the involved parties would prefer to keep private.
Regardless of whether the case is settled out of court or goes to trial, accident victims should be sure to choose an attorney who isn't afraid of going to trial, if necessary.
California Auto Insurance Overview
We require any potential client to bring in their own car insurance policy at their first consultation with us. We have found that most people do not understand their own policy and many people are very underinsured. Here we detail exactly what your policy says, how to speak to your insurance sales representative and how to maximize your coverage in an economical and efficient way for your family.
3 Important Aspects of Your Car Insurance Policy
1. Liability Coverage
This coverage protects you and your family if you hurt someone through your own carelessness. You will have a claim and possibly a lawsuit made against you. This portion of the policy will pay the claim and it will pay for your insurance defense attorney.
How much will the insurance company pay? Typically, you see the liability protection phrased like this: 25/50 or 50/100 or 100/300. What does this mean? These numbers are the maximum amount your insurance company will pay each person in an accident and the maximum amount your insurance company will pay total for the people injured in an accident.
Example: 100/300. This means that if you cause an accident, your policy will pay up to 100 thousand per person injured with a maximum claim limit of 300 thousand per accident.
Is that enough coverage?
This is a personal decision but our advice to you is to buy as much coverage as you can afford. If you can afford it, we suggest buying a policy that is 1,000,000.00/1,000,000.00. That means that you would be covered one million per person and a total of one million dollars per accident. It is important to get this coverage as high as you can possibly afford.
Many people have a policy of 25k/50k (25 thousand per person and 50 thousand per accident). If someone is in the hospital for a couple of days his or her medical bills alone can exceed 25 thousand dollars. The Intensive Care Unit bills can easily exceed 100 thousand in a couple of days.
Many people are surprised at how affordable it is to increase their existing policy. Sometimes you can get much more coverage for an increase of only about 20-50 dollars a month.
So, why do you need so much liability coverage anyway? If you don’t have enough coverage and you get sued, you can face financial ruin. Let’s look at the following scenario:
You cause an accident and are being sued for 800 thousand dollars. You have a 25 thousand dollar liability policy. Your insurance company may step in and offer to pay your policy of 25k. This means that you could be responsible for the excess and possibly have to pay the remaining $775,000.00. This could mean having to file for bankruptcy. Your home could be at risk and your wages could be at risk.
If you have a policy that is low, for example 25/50, you should call your insurance company and ask them how much it would cost to increase your policy from these low limits to 500/1,000,000 or one million/three million in coverage. You may be surprised at how little this actually costs.
If you are interested in having us review your current auto policy, contact our office to join our VIP Club membership. All members receive a free auto insurance policy review. It’s free to join and comes with other perks like free notary services and access to our advisor directory.
2. Uninsured & Underinsured Motorist Coverage
These are parts of the typical car insurance policy that are least understood by consumers and insurance company sales representatives, and yet they may be the most important coverage you can get for your family.
This insurance covers you if you are in an accident and the person who hit you has either no insurance or has less insurance than you do. If they have less than 500 thousand dollars of liability coverage and they cause you serious injury how can you protect your finances?
Note: It is illegal to drive in California without insurance. However, people do. Many people who do carry insurance, carry the minimum policy. This will not cover your damages if they injure you. Often, people let their policies lapse.
You protect yourself through your own policy that provides underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage. It will step in and act as the insurance company for the person who has minimum coverage or no insurance at all.
If you have 500 thousand in uninsured motorist coverage it will protect you up to that amount. When this insurance is “accessed”, it does not increase your rates if you were not at fault in the accident.
Underinsured motorist coverage will be used if the other driver has a smaller policy than yours. For example, you carry 500k in underinsured, and they have a policy of only 100k. The defendant’s insurance company would step in for the first 100k. Your insurance would step in and pay 400k. This coverage, when you increase it, is amazingly affordable. You may have to increase your liability coverage in order to increase your underinsured motorist coverage. This is a great thing to do.
3. Medical Payments Coverage
Medical Payments, commonly referred to as “Medpay” is extremely valuable to have. It is essentially a small health insurance policy that will promptly pay some of your medical bills, including co-pays and deductible if you have been in an accident. Remember, the person who caused your accident will ultimately be responsible for paying your medical bills but that could take years. Having Medpay, even if you have a health insurance policy, is generally worthwhile.
You should definitely have Medpay if:
1. You have no health insurance (Medpay can prevent medical bills from going to collections)
2. You have high deductibles or co-pays (In a serious accident these could go into the tens of thousands of dollars)
3. Even if you have your own health insurance policy 90% of those policies require subrogation (reimbursement). This means that if you are injured in an accident and you incur medical bills your own health insurance company pays the bills. They are going to want to be reimbursed out of the proceeds of your auto accident claim. They will be first in line when you get a recovery from the third party. If the settlement is small this may mean you receive nothing. Medpay can be used to fund the subrogation aspect of the claim. Medpay can also help doctors get paid promptly to preserve your credit and keep bills from going to collections.
If you have this coverage you will want to submit all your medical bills directly to your own insurance company until they have paid up to the limits of their coverage. If you do not have this type of coverage, you should strongly consider purchasing it. Remember, your own health insurance company may be no more than a glorified loan that needs to be repaid at the end of the case.
Medpay is typically purchased in increments of one thousand, five thousand and 10 thousand dollars, and it is fairly inexpensive.
You should look at the “declarations page” of your car insurance policy or call your agent to see if you have purchased medical payments coverage.
Summary: You want to buy as much liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage as you can afford. Towing coverage, wage payment, etc. is not as important. You may have to fight the insurance company to buy more coverage but it can be done.
How Do I Find Out the Other Driver’s Auto Insurance Policy Limits After an Accident?
Knowing the other driver’s policy limit affects the value of your case. It helps you determine if there is enough insurance to cover your injuries, or whether you need to get your own insurance company involved with the underinsured motorist provision of your policy.
Not surprisingly, many insurance companies have made it nearly impossible to find out what the other driver’s policy limits are. You should not negotiate a settlement without having this information. Here are some tips to help you find out what the other driver’s policy limits are:
1. Send a demand package (download our book, It's Settled, for a free demand letter template). Make sure you include a demand for the policy limits which includes a request for the proof of the limits. When you make an offer to settle a claim for an amount within the other driver’s policy limits, it puts pressure on the insurance company to try and resolve the claim. One way to try to get the policy limits is to prepare the demand package and offer to settle for the limit if they provide proof of the limits, and that the driver is “judgment proof” (meaning they don’t have any assets that they’d be able to use to pay judgments against them).
2. Contact the other driver. As long as the other driver is not represented by an attorney, you can contact them. The police report will have the contact information for the negligent driver. Write them or call them and tell them that you need to know their policy limits. You can tell them that they don’t have to disclose it to you, but that your alternative is to sue them, and that once that happens their insurance company will be obligated to disclose that information. You can tell them you want to avoid that, but if they don’t tell you, it doesn’t leave you many other alternatives. Once they learn that, they are often willing to disclose their limits. This is often a last resort. You have no way to verify that the person is telling you the truth, and you don’t want to be accused of harassing the other side. But in some instances, this is a suitable alternative. If you decide to do this, you should do it as soon as possible after the accident. If you wait too long his/her insurance company will certainly direct the driver not to talk to you.
3. Ask your own uninsured/underinsured motorist carrier if they can request the limits. Some insurance companies won’t tell you the limits but they’re willing to give that information to your insurance company. Additionally, if you file a claim with your insurance company for your car repairs, your adjuster may be able to obtain the policy limits for you.
4. Hire an investigative service. There are companies that can help you find insurance policies and their limits. They cannot offer this information with 100% accuracy, but they are typically pretty close. You shouldn’t do this if you are going to file a lawsuit because it will cost you close to the same amount, usually about 300-400 dollars.
5. File a lawsuit. If you hire an attorney and sue the other driver you can send a request for disclosure. When the other side reports to that request, they will have to disclose the policy limits and give you a copy of the policy. Adjusters know that once an attorney is involved in litigation they will have to disclose the policy limits. This is just another example of how the insurance companies play games and try to take advantage of you. You can file a lawsuit without an attorney, but we recommend getting a lawyer involved if you get to this point. There are many procedures and deadlines that you must meet in order to secure your rights and not jeopardize your claim.
Remember, you should never settle your claim without knowing the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage because you may accept less than you are entitled to.
What is the Statute of Limitations in California? Timeframes to Remember for Your Car Accident Lawsuit
In California, an adult generally has two years from the date of the accident within which to either have settled a claim or filed a lawsuit against the proper person in the proper court. Children generally have longer than that. Note: This information will vary by state. The following is for California residents only. If your case is not in California, you need to go find out what the rules are in your state.
In some cases, however, if you are hit by an employee of a governmental agency, there will be certain other mandatory notice requirements, and the time for bringing a claim may be shorter, even for children. If your case involves being hit by an employee of a governmental agency, then your case is not the type of case that should be settled without an attorney.
While we are talking about timeframes, remember this: Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute to Retain an Attorney.
If you decide to hire an attorney, please do not wait until the last minute (the last minute in our firm being defined as any time less than four months prior to the statute of limitations running out) to start your search. The good attorneys are in high demand and will want to do an in-depth investigation before deciding whether your case is one that they want to accept. Waiting until the end of your statute of limitations period may mean that no attorney will want to take your case.
Should I Talk to the Insurance Adjuster After My Car Accident?
Generally, you will be contacted by the insurance adjuster for the person who caused the accident shortly after the accident occurred. This contact may be by telephone, mail or in person. That insurance adjuster will ask for the following from you:
1. Signed authorization to obtain medical records.
2. Signed authorization to obtain work records.
3. A recorded statement.
Should I talk to the adjuster for the other driver?
No. Absolutely not. Don’t even think about it. Seriously. At least not until you have read one of our books or spoken to an attorney. The adjusters are trained in questioning and they are trying to diminish or do away with your entire claim. You should also make sure you never speak to them when you are on pain medication or in the hospital recovering. Be polite but firmly let them know that you are still in treatment and that you will get back to them.
In any conversation with an insurance adjuster always be polite and professional. An adjuster typically has hundreds of files on his or her desk and oftentimes, sadly, can be short-tempered, demeaning, or insulting. (The No. 1 reason that people end up calling an attorney after an accident is because the insurance adjuster insulted them.) You should always be above the fray. The simple fact is that human beings will respond well to other human beings whom they like. It is no different in the claimant/adjuster relationship.
Should I sign the medical authorization?
No. Absolutely not. Don’t even think about it. Seriously. If you are going to settle your case on your own, then the best thing that you can do is to request your own medical records from your own doctors and any hospital that you have visited. You should be the one to send these records to the insurance company. When you give a signed medical authorization to an insurance adjuster you never know what records they will receive. Most of the authorizations they use are very broad and would allow the insurance company to, for example, request records for health care that pre-dated the accident without you knowing they are doing so. You may not want your privacy invaded to that extent. Our recommendation is that you obtain the actual medical records from your own doctors and hospital first.
Should I fill out a lost wage verification form?
No. Absolutely not. Don’t even think about it. Seriously. The same goes for the lost wage verification. You should be the one going to your employer to obtain verification of the dates missed from work due to the accident. This verification should include your rate of pay, your job description, and your job title. Do not depend on the insurance company to do this for you. The insurance company should have no objection if you obtain this information yourself and send it to them.
Another form the adjuster may send you is a general release. Sometimes they will also send a check for settlement. Once you sign a general release that’s it. If you need further treatment down the road, you discover injuries that you didn’t know you had, or you need an operation, the insurance company will not pay for it.
What If the Insurance Adjuster Asks For a Recorded Statement?
Most times the insurance company’s request for a recorded statement is a one–way street. In other words, if you ask them if you can get a recorded statement of the person who hit you, they’ll just laugh. That is why in most cases it is not a good idea to give a recorded statement to the insurance company. If, on the other hand, you are going to handle the case without an attorney and the insurance adjuster absolutely refuses to deal with you unless you give a recorded statement, then you are probably going to have to do so.
Request that the insurance company provide you with a transcript of the recorded statement. You will want to check it for accuracy. The insurance company will use the recorded statement against you to the fullest extent possible.
What Questions Will the Other Side’s Insurance Company Ask Me After a Car Accident?
Remember, there is no legal requirement that you give the other side a recorded statement, but the other side may refuse to deal with you until you give that statement. You don’t want to give them a recorded statement until you read our books or speak to an attorney. They will want you to sign medical releases, which we never recommend. They may also want to come to your home. Again, we do not recommend this.
The Insurance Adjuster is Bugging Me, How Can I Stop Him?
We have heard of insurance adjusters showing up at hospitals, homes and calling outside of business hours. They may offer a sum of money for your case and ask if you will take it. They will then tell you that you will keep less money if you hire an attorney because the attorney will take 40% of your money. That is an astounding lie.
No legitimate personal injury lawyer should be charging 40% to settle your minor car accident case. That’s ridiculous and an adjuster should never say that an attorney would do that if you just speak to them. You also have plenty of time to deal with the adjuster (unless yours is a claim against a public entity). You typically have two years from the accident to file a claim. There is no rush. The adjuster wants to close the claim as fast as possible and pay you as little as possible. If you take the original offer and then a month later find out you need more care or surgery, too bad, you are going to have to pay for that, and you are on your own. They are trying to close your case early, they are trying to rush you into a decision, and they are trying to intimidate you to keep you from talking to an attorney.
If you have a settlement offer, call our office and we will help you. We will review that offer and your case for free. There is no way we would charge 40%, or anything, to review their offer. It may be a good offer. If it’s not, we can talk to you about what to do and how to improve your case.
What is the Biggest Mistake People Make When Dealing With the Insurance Adjuster?
The biggest mistake people make is allowing the insurance adjuster to intimidate them. Adjusters may say they will close your claim if you don’t sign their forms or that they can’t pay you without a recorded statement. These are complete lies. They will show up at your house or the hospital to get you to sign forms. They bring a check and try to intimidate you into settling your case. Once you sign their forms there is nothing anyone can do to help you if you need future care down the road. Do not rush into a settlement. You have plenty of time. Do not be intimidated by the insurance adjusters. They are trained to lie.
An adjuster may choose to “close your claim” if you won’t settle your case. If this happens do not be alarmed. It does not mean that you can’t re-open your claim, as long as it falls within the statute of limitations (usually two years from the date of the accident). Often, adjusters will close your claim if you won’t take their settlement. They are waiting for you to accept their offer. Write your own demand to them or get an attorney.
The insurance company may say something like, “We will send you a check for your out of pocket expenses.” You may accept this offer without realizing that you are entitled to much more than this. After you settle you may discover that your own health insurance wants to be reimbursed for 100% of your medical bills. If you have already settled for less than this, you will be on the hook for those bills. These are the details that insurance companies leave out to get you to settle for less.
If you are not already represented by an attorney and you are trying to settle your case on your own, we will give you a free review of any offer you have been given by an insurance adjuster to make sure it is fair. Just email us at [email protected] or call (949) 861-2990.
Things You Should Do to Protect Your Rights and Win Your Claim: Post-Car Accident Checklist
- Report the accident. No matter what. Contact the police after an accident to have a report made. This police report is vital when making a claim with the negligent driver’s insurance company. It will also have important information that you will use in your demand letter (section 11).
- Get any witness contact information at the scene. You will need this later.
- Take photographs. Include photos of any injuries, damage to the vehicles involved, the weather, the roads, traffic signs, any dangerous road conditions and anything else that may be useful.
- Seek medical treatment. No matter what and ASAP. You may not even realize how hurt you are. Also, getting medical treatment early can prevent symptoms from getting worse. You will need documentation of your medical treatment to help link your accident with your injuries. Adjusters love to say that you aren’t injured if you didn’t seek medical treatment.
- Make an insurance claim. Make a claim with your own insurance company ASAP. Be careful of what you say and don’t trust that your own insurance company will not try to deny your claim or relay information to the other side’s adjuster. Remember, never speak to the negligent driver’s insurance adjuster!
- Don’t discuss the accident with ANYONE until your case has been settled. No online chats and no social media images documenting what happened to you. This can all be used against you.
- Don’t sign ANY documents until you read this entire book or contact an attorney. Medical release of information, etc.
- Keep track of medical expenses and lost wages. Document everything. This will all be included in your demand letter.
For a more detailed breakdown of what to do immediately after the accident and how to win your claim download our free book, The 7 Biggest Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Accident Claim.
How to Document Your California Car Accident
Although you will likely be reading this for days, if not weeks, after you have been in an accident, you should know that it is critical that you document the following to the greatest extent possible:
- Exactly where the accident took place.
- The position of the vehicles before and after the accident.
- What the accident scene itself looked like immediately following the accident (If you live in California and do not have one of our free cameras and accident toolkits that you can keep in your car please call us at (949) 536-9593).
- Photographs of signs, buildings, or other obstructions that may have been involved in the cause of the accident.
- The names and addresses of anyone who was actively involved in the accident (passengers and drivers).
- The names and addresses of anyone who witnessed the accident.
Generally speaking, if the police investigated the accident then there will be a police report available to you.
How Do I Find a Good Car Accident Attorney?
If you wish to hire an attorney, essentially, what you are looking for is:
- Rating of “9” or higher at Avvo.com
- Positive online reviews
- Case results they are willing to share with you
- Experience with your type of case
- Track record of success
- Willing to share what systems they use for case management
- Authorship of books on personal injury
- Experience in trial (not always settling before trial)
- An attorney with a skilled team of paralegals and associates
- Someone trusted by other attorneys and respected in the community
Click to play video.
Who Will Pay My Medical Bills While My Claim is Pending?
As you are being treated for your injuries doctors and other health care providers will expect to be paid. The last thing you want is to have your medical bills sent to collections and have your credit damaged.
Here is what you can do with your own medical bills while your claim is pending:
1. Always submit your bills to your health insurance company first. You will usually be charged the lowest rate by the health care providers and they will typically be paid quickly. If any health care provider suggests that you should not submit the bills to the health insurance company, you should probably run. When you do not submit the bills to the health insurance company, you typically end up paying “list price” for the health care. This is usually a bad idea. Also, do not let a health insurance company tell you that it does not “cover” accidents. It is a rare health insurance policy that does not actually cover accidents. You need to explain to your health insurance company that your doctor will not wait two years to be paid. If your health insurance company denies, balks or delays paying your medical bills after an accident, call us.
2. You should check with your own car insurance company and determine whether you have medical payments or personal injury coverage. If so, you should submit your medical bills (even if they were already submitted to your health insurance company) to the car insurance company. They will typically pay the bills quickly. You want cash flow going to your health care providers so that they do not get nervous or upset about non-payment.
3. If you do not have health insurance there may still be a way that you can get health care for injuries related to your accident. Some health care providers will provide a limited amount of care “on lien”. This means that they will charge you the full amount of the bill (and you will ultimately remain responsible for the full amount of the bill); however, you and your lawyer will enter into an agreement with them to repay the health care provider directly out of your settlement proceeds. Many health care providers who do work “on lien” will not work with you unless you have an attorney. Often, in small cases with no health insurance, the client’s goal is to come out of the case at least “even” and to not owe for medical care. Many clients with small cases and no insurance seek, as their primary objective, not having their credit rating impaired by being sued by health care providers. Frankly if you do not have health insurance you will probably be better off in the long run by retaining an attorney and not trying to handle this claim on your own.
4.When it is time to settle your case you will submit the bills to the insurance company of the person who hit you. You should be aware that these bills will not be paid as they are incurred but will only be paid once the claim is totally settled. Remember to submit all your bills. The person who hit you and the insurance company are responsible for all of the reasonable treatment, even if they have been paid by one of your insurance companies. Remember that you may need to repay your own health insurance company.
How Much is My Car Accident Claim Worth?
In the past, there was probably a formula for determining the value of your case. Today we do not believe there is any such formula. Instead, both insurance companies and experienced personal injury attorneys evaluate their cases based upon the “marketplace”. The marketplace for a personal injury claim is what amount of money a jury in the jurisdiction where the case will be filed is typically awarding for these sorts of claims and/ or less the amount of money you will need to pay any expert witness or your treating doctors to appear at trial to testify on your behalf.
Since you are attempting to settle your case yourself without an attorney, you obviously are not in a position to fully evaluate or have even a reasonable sense of what juries are doing with cases like yours. We suggest two websites for this information: verdictsearch.com and juryverdicts.com. Both offer reasonably comprehensive information about the value of personal injury cases in the area. Remember, each case is different.
What if the Other Driver Does Not Have Insurance?
If the person who caused the accident does not have insurance, you will need to make a claim under the uninsured motorist provision of your policy. You will have to provide your own insurance company proof that the person who caused the accident is not insured. The insurance company may be able to verify this for you. Your own insurance company now becomes your adversary, in effect “representing” the person who was driving the car without any insurance.
The uninsured motorist provisions of your own car insurance policy also provide coverage in the case of a hit and run accident. If you do not know the identity of the person who hit you because they fled the scene, you can make a claim under this provision.
Finally, this same provision will also provide coverage if the person who caused the accident has less insurance than you have. Again, having an experienced personal injury attorney review your situation is a good idea even if you are ultimately going to be the one to negotiate with the insurance company.
I Have Reached An Agreement With The Insurance Adjuster – Now What Should I Do?
Once you and the insurance adjuster reach an agreement on the sum to be paid to you for your injuries, the adjuster will send you a settlement release. Review the document very carefully. Once you settle your case there is no going back. If it turns out that you are not completely healed or that you need future care or surgery, you will be on your own.
Property Damage Claims in California
In most accidents, there are two separate claims to be made with two different insurance adjusters. The first is for property damage. Your car may need to be repaired or, if the repairs would cost more than the value of the car, your car may be “totaled”. While the insurance company for the car that hit you may reach out to you about getting the repairs done, do not be afraid to turn to your own insurance company (provided you have this type of coverage) and get them to repair it for you. You will usually get better service from your own insurance company than you will from the company of the person who hit you. After all, you likely have been paying insurance premiums to your insurance company for years.
No matter who repairs your car, you should make sure that the repairs are done to your absolute satisfaction. Often there is damage that is not readily ascertainable upon first inspection.
How Much Will The Insurance Company Pay For the Property Damage?
If the car is repairable for less than the value of the car, then the insurance company will repair it. That should not be the end of the equation. They should also pay you for the diminution in value. A car that has been in an accident and repaired is worth less than a car that was not in an accident. Proving diminution in value can be difficult but oftentimes can be accomplished with an affidavit from the repair shop.
If the cost to repair your vehicle would be greater than the value of the vehicle before it was in the accident, then the insurance company may “total” the car. They would pay you essentially the price at which the car would have exchanged hands the day before the accident, and you will surrender the car to them. Determining that fair value can be difficult but often an affidavit or report from your local mechanic or used car dealer can be of assistance.
The bottom line with property damage cases is this: The vehicle is typically much more “valuable” to you than it is to any “Blue Book”. The sad reality is that you are almost never “fairly compensated” for that car’s value to you. Getting an attorney involved in the property damage aspect of the case is usually not warranted because you may end up paying more in attorney fees than you will recover for “loss of value.” It is almost always best to try to work out the property damage claim with the insurance company yourself.
Can I Settle the Property Damage Case (Only) With the Insurance Adjuster?
Absolutely. The property damage and the personal injury claims are two separate claims. So, if you are working with the insurance company and they want to get your car fixed or total it, you can go ahead and take that check and sign the release. As long as it is for the property damage only.
Which Insurance Company Should I Get to Pay the Property Damage?
You can go to your own insurance company or to the company of the person who caused the accident. We think that the property damage claim should be submitted to your own insurance company. You have a long-term relationship with them and they won’t hold you hostage. Here is what we see sometimes. When someone deals with the negligent driver’s adjuster, that person is always looking for a little bit of extra information about your personal injury claim. They may find out you have hired an attorney and then yank your property damage claim away. Just submit it to your own insurance company. You will have to pay the deductible, but your own company will get that deductible back for you from the other driver’s insurance company. This is usually the quickest, most efficient way to get back on the road again.
What Should I Expect at the First Meeting with a Car Accident Attorney?
Contact an Experienced California Personal Injury Lawyer Today
At Case Barnett Law, our experienced car accident legal team understands just how difficult it can be after suffering an injury from an auto accident, and we know how to help you find a legal strategy that can see you through this mess and land you the compensation you deserve.
You can find out whether you have a valid case at no cost to you. That’s because we offer free consultations. To request a free consultation with our team, reach out by calling 949-409-0055 or filling out the online contact form below. We have been proudly servicing clients throughout Costa Mesa, California, and the surrounding areas.