In 2017, the state of California recorded a total of 3,304 fatal car accidents and 3,602 related deaths, an alarming figure for a population of any size. Getting into a car accident can cause serious problems for everyone involved, including both personal and professional problems that result from injuries that keep a victim from performing their daily tasks as normal. The financial impacts of car accident injuries can be significant, and in many cases, they are overwhelming and stressful to think about as the bills continue to pile up for treatment and care, and you keep missing work to focus on recovery. This can be especially alarming when your accident was caused by someone else’s decision to drive recklessly or negligently, meaning that if they had driven safely that you would not be in this situation to begin with.
When someone else causes an accident and you are injured as a result, then you deserve to be compensated for all of the damages that you suffer because of their actions. This is what is known as a personal injury case, and these types of cases are extremely important to ensure that you are able to get the financial support that you need in order to move forward with your life. Working with a car accident lawyer in San Diego is one of the best steps that you can take in order to maximize your chances of getting the money you deserve because as you will see in the following sections, working directly with an insurance company can be very difficult.
Read more below to learn about why hiring a car accident attorney is an important first step after any injury from a car crash. The following is intended to provide you with a general overview of some information regarding personal injury cases, car insurance settlements, and other details typical in this type of situation. However, the best way to learn all about your own situation is by taking advantage of a free initial consultation with the team at Injury Trial Lawyers, APC. During your initial consultation, we will have an opportunity to speak about your experience in particular and give you insight and advice as to how we would proceed with your case as your legal representatives.
A Step by Step Guide For What To Do After a Car Accident
Every car accident is different, meaning that you will need to respond to the situation appropriately and make sure that your safety is your absolute top priority. That said, the following can be used for general guidelines of the steps to take after a car accident.
Prioritize Your Safety
In the moments after a car accident, your body will likely be surging with adrenaline and some degree of panic will likely set in as you realize what just happened. You will need to assess the situation and determine whether or not you have been injured, as well as anyone else in the car with you. Avoiding a secondary accident (and therefore additional injuries) should be a top priority if possible, meaning that if you and your passengers may want to consider getting to the side of the road. If the injuries are too severe, or the road is too dangerous to move on, then stay put.
Call 911 immediately, and inform the 911 operator about the injuries that you are aware of, your location, and any other information that you believe will be helpful for the first responders to be aware of. Any information that you can provide to the operator will be passed on to the police, fire department, and EMTs who will be dispatched to the scene of the accident, and if they are aware of any serious injuries then they can prepare a plan while they are en route.
Accept Any Necessary Medical Care
Whether you need to be put on a stretcher and taken to the emergency room or if you are able to walk away from the accident under your own power, it is absolutely essential that you get medical attention as soon as possible. The most obvious, and most important, reason for this is so that any possible injuries are addressed and properly cared for; however, this step has the additional benefit of establishing a record of your injuries that will be especially important in the upcoming claims process.
Get Eyewitness Statements
If you are able to, getting the contact information of any eyewitnesses will be very helpful so that their statements will be able to corroborate your own. In many cases, eyewitnesses saw additional details leading to an accident that you maybe did not see, such as a driver rolling through a stop sign before the accident, texting and swerving through traffic, or other actions that led to the crash before the driver even entered your field of vision. Establishing fault will be important for your claim, and each additional account will help this step. You may also be able to find traffic cameras or surveillance tapes that can help as well.
Hire a Car Accident Attorney
Once you have addressed these immediate issues, hiring a lawyer is one of the most important things to do in order to set yourself up for long-term success. We will go into greater detail about that below, but we would be happy to discuss your situation during your free initial consultation. Contact us now to schedule yours.
Why You Need a Lawyer After Your Car Accident
Support During the Claims Investigation
Once you have taken care of your immediate needs after an accident, you will need to file a claim with the insurance company. Once the insurance company accepts the claim, you will have a claims adjuster assigned to your case, who will spend the next days or weeks investigating the overall situation while determining how much money to offer you for a settlement. The unfortunate reality of this process is that an insurance company does not exist to give you the money you are entitled to—the primary focus of an insurance company is to limit the amount of money issued to a victim for any given claim. This means that every piece of information that a claims adjuster gathers will be used as a way to limit the amount that goes into your settlement.
During the time that the adjuster is doing their investigation, you will benefit significantly from having your own investigation with the help of an attorney. Your lawyer will be able to take the same steps that the claims adjuster is going through and calculate their own understanding of the damages that you deserve. You will be shocked at the discrepancy between the amount your attorney calculates versus the amount that the insurance company offers once the claims investigation is concluded
Negotiating a Settlement Agreement
Insurance companies will position an initial offer as “the best they can do,” in hopes that the mounting stress of medical expenses and lost wages will compel a victim to accept the first sum possible in order to alleviate their concerns. When you know what your case is worth, and you have someone willing to fight for you, then you will not need to fall prey to this tactic.
Once the insurance company makes you an offer, your attorney will be able to immediately submit a counter-offer using the ample evidence that they have gathered in the time that you have been working together. The negotiations will continue until either a resolution has been reached, or it is determined that you will likely not be able to reach a deal with the insurance company without taking more drastic steps.
Filing a Lawsuit
Too often, a victim in a San Diego personal injury case waits until they have hit a dead-end before hiring an attorney, but this only means that valuable time has been lost for research and negotiations. If you have been working with your lawyer since the start of the investigation of your claim, they will have all of the information necessary to move forward with filing an official complaint with the California courts and moving from negotiations to official legal measures.
Upwards of 95% of car accident cases are settled before going to trial, and even if you file an official complaint, this still does not mean that your case will go to trial. There are many steps that your lawyer will work through to further attempt to reach a resolution before your situation is heard by a judge and jury. In fact, 50% of claims that are filed with the courts are resolved before trial, meaning that your statistical chances of needing to go through a trial are very low. Luckily, you are working with a firm that has significant experience with trials, meaning you have excellent representation throughout the entire process.
Common Injuries from Car Accidents
Car accidents are unpredictable by nature, meaning that there are any number of injuries, and combinations of injuries, that you could endure depending on a variety of factors, including but not limited to the speed of the impact, the size of the vehicles involved, whether or not you were wearing a seatbelt, your location in the car relative to the point of impact, and more. Regardless of the nature of an accident, though, the following are some very common injuries that victims suffer.
- Whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries
- Fractures and broken bones
- Bruising, hematomas, and internal bleeding
- Seatbelt injuries
- Injuries resulting from airbags
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Sprains and tears
- Lacerations and open wounds
Whether or not your injuries include those listed above, contact the team at Injury Trial Lawyers, APC as soon as possible to begin building your case today and start to calculate the value of your case.
Calculating Damages After a Car Accident
The central issue of any personal injury case, and the center of negotiations after your car insurance claim, is determining the amount of money that a victim owes for the damages they have suffered. Some damages are obvious and simple, meaning that there is little or no dispute about them. However, other damages can be very abstract and subjective, meaning that insurance companies push back on these sums aggressively. Compensatory damages—the damages you will be seeking after your accident—consist of two types: economic damages, and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are the foundation of your case because they are comprised of the measurable, objective damages of your accident that come with receipts and financial statements to prove the amount you deserve. They include all medical-related costs, such as ambulances, prescriptions, surgeries, physical therapy, copayments, and anything else directly tied into the medical treatment you required. In addition, they include any lost wages or other impacts to your income that you suffer as a result of the accident and injuries, including any possible disability that you suffer due to a permanent injury.
Anyone who has felt the pain of an injury knows that there is a lot more to an injury than the cost of care, which is what non-economic damages seek to compensate. These damages include subjective issues such as the actual pain and suffering of an injury, as well as the trauma that you experienced in the accident, any emotional impacts that you have dealt with since your injury, and all other “abstract” but related damages. As you can imagine, insurance companies do not like paying victims for non-economic damages.
Since these damages are so subjective and have no measurable economic value, there are a number of methods that an attorney may use in order to calculate a dollar amount for these issues. One way to do so is by determining the severity of the damages along a predetermined scale, such as a scale of 1 through 5, and then using the number as a multiplier against the economic damages. For example, if you determine that your non-economic damages amount to 3 out of 5, and you have $100,000 in economic damages, then you will additionally seek $300,000 in non-economic damages. With the right attorney, you will be able to build a clear and strong case for your compensation.
Contact An Experienced San Diego Car Accident Attorney Today
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, you may have lifelong injuries and you deserve to be fully compensated. The insurance companies will attempt to settle the claim with you directly, to avoid fairly compensating you.
Call San Diego car accident attorney Richard Morse today to discuss your case. Our legal team is available 24/7 to take your call and you pay nothing unless we win. We have helped many San Diego residents get the money they need after a car accident and will put our experience to work for you.
If the other driver is not 100% at-fault for the accident, can I still collect damages?
California operates on the basis of something known as “comparative negligence,” which allows victims to collect damages after an accident proportional to the amount that they contributed to the accident. For example, if you are found to have been 10% responsible for the accident, then your final settlement will be reduced by 10%. This is why it is so important to have strong evidence and eyewitness accounts to ensure that you are not penalized more than you deserve to be.
Will my car accident case go to trial?
As mentioned above, nearly 95% of car accident claims are settled without going to trial. However, there is a non-zero possibility of going to trial, but when you work with our firm you already have access to experienced trial lawyers from the start. In many instances, a personal injury lawyer will work with a victim as their pre-trial attorney and will then need to hand the case off to an experienced trial lawyer—not when you are a client of Injury Trial Lawyers, APC.
Do I need an attorney to file an insurance claim?
There is no law in the United States that requires that anyone hires an attorney for any legal process, but although there is no requirement it is highly recommended that you do so. Most, if not all, legal processes in the United States are complicated for a variety of different reasons, starting with the complexity of the filing process and the basic procedures to get a legal action going.
Before you will be required to navigate these steps, you will then need to work through a series of negotiations with the insurance company after they complete their claim investigation. It is a near-certainty that the offer the insurance company will make you are not going to be anywhere near the amount that you deserve, and you will have to use substantial evidence to support your counter-offers during negotiations. An attorney can be a major help when you are going through this process, since they have a history of experience with the legal processes, as well as gathering information for determining settlement amounts and managing the negotiation processes.
Should I accept the offer an insurance company gives me?
Under no circumstance should you ever accept the first offer than an insurance company makes you, even if you think that it seems fair and reasonable. Insurance companies do not focus on giving victims the money that they rightfully deserve; instead, their top priority is to limit the amount of money that they pay for any given accident while also limiting the chances of any future legal actions against them or their client for the claim in question.
When you accept a settlement from the insurance company, you will also need to waive your rights for any future legal actions against them or their clients for your injuries or anything else relating to the accident in question. Make sure that you go through your entire case with an attorney before accepting any offers so that you can be certain that you have the compensation that you need and deserve.
Injury expenses can continue to accrue months and years after the accident, so having a professional explain what you can expect going forward will be a significant help to make a sound decision about what to do with your offer. In addition, an attorney helping you negotiate for a truly fair settlement is a very important way to get the help and compensation that you deserve.
How much is my car accident worth?
Unfortunately, there is no simple way to calculate exactly how much a victim deserves following an accident, which is why the claims, negotiation, and settlement process is so complicated. In order to understand the amount that a victim truly deserves after an accident, they need to go through every detail of their situation and calculate each of these details before adding them all together to reach a final amount.
In addition to needing to compile each measurable expense and financial loss, such as medical bills and lost wages, a victim will also need to calculate the amount of money that they deserve for the non-economic damages of their accident. These include things like the actual pain and suffering that they were forced to endure as a result of their injuries, as well as a variety of other “intangible” damages. Since these damages are so abstract and difficult to quantify in terms of a dollar amount, they are the most likely the be contested by an insurance company. This does not make them any less important, and working with an attorney is the most effective way to get the money you deserve.
Will I need to go to court to get the money I deserve after an accident?
There are a lot of steps between initiating your claim after an accident and deciding to file a lawsuit in the California court system. After the insurance company completes their claims investigation and the claims adjuster determines an amount to offer you, there will be a series of negotiations between you (and your attorney) and the insurance company in order to come to an agreement about a final settlement amount. In most cases, an attorney will want to reach a settlement before a court case, unless there are specific issues like the realistic possibility of punitive damages awarded by a judge.
If negotiations are unsuccessful, or if your attorney has other reasons for pursuing a lawsuit, the next step will be to file the lawsuit with the courts and go from there. It is important that you communicate with your attorney about your own expectations and needs, and understand the decisions that they are making in regards to your case.
Will I be awarded punitive damages if the other driver was drunk?
The standard damages that you and your attorney will be fighting for are known as “compensatory damages,” and are intended to compensate a victim for the actual losses and expenses that they suffered as a result of the accident. In some cases, a judge or jury may determine that the actions of the defendant were reckless or negligent enough to warrant an additional amount that they must pay, known as punitive damages. An example of a situation where a victim may be awarded punitive damages is if they were injured by a drunk driver who had significant financial resources, and the judge determined that additional compensation will adequately punish the drunk driver for their behavior.
Your legal counsel will not be in charge of requesting these damages, nor will they have any influence on whether or not they are ultimately awarded to you at the conclusion of your case, so they will never be factored into the damage amount that you are fighting for. In certain situations, you and your attorney may opt for a full lawsuit in order to increase your chances of getting these types of damages included in your case, but it may be equally possible that the defendant wants to settle before their actions are made public.
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San Diego personal injury lawyer Richard Morse can help if you have been injured in an accident. Richard has a proven track record of success both in the courtroom and in settlement negotiations.
At ITL we understand that after being injured you will have many questions regarding your rights and possible compensation. We have assisted many people throughout the years to get the compensation they deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation. We are conveniently located in downtown San Diego or can make arrangements to come to you.