Confused? Uncertain? You're Not Alone
Sometimes, circumstances can be deceiving and lead you to believe you do not have a personal injury case, when in fact you really do.
Here are some of our most frequently questions about personal injury accidents, liability, and compensation.
The importance of Uninsured Motorist Coverage limits.
Why won't a lawyer take my personal injury case?
What do you do with medical bills incurred as a result of a personal injury accident?
Do I have to pay my health insurance back?
Some of the common questions we get asked about cases
Personal injury attorneys take cases on a contingency basis, meaning you pay nothing until you get paid. And if we lose your case, you owe nothing.
The vast majority of cases here in Santa Cruz County never go to trial. Most resolve by settlement before the trial date arrives. A case is most likely to go to trial when the facts are in dispute or when there’s a contested legal issue.
The more carefully you build your case, the more likely it is that you and the other party can agree on the strength of your evidence and reach an appropriate settlement.
That depends. All cases are different. The shortest cases we’ve settled in Santa Cruz resolved in only a few weeks and without any formal litigation. Others required filing a lawsuit and may take years to settle. Most of our cases here in Santa Cruz fall somewhere in the middle. The more complicated your case, the longer you can expect it to take. You have some control over the length of your case because it’s up to you to accept or reject settlement offers.
Yes. Every state has “statutes of limitations” that set a time limit on filing a injury claim. In California, you have two years to file a lawsuit against a private individual or company, and only six months to file a claim against a government-owned vehicle or employee.
A minor can be liable for negligent actions if they do not behave carefully compared to what others of the same age would consider reasonable. When driving a car, an underage person is held to the same standards as an adult. You may have the opportunity to file a claim against them. You likely will collect compensation from the parent’s insurance since the child has money of their own.
California has a few parental responsibility laws when an underage person causes an accident. Parents can be jointly responsible for any damages that arise from an underage person driving. California Vehicle Code section 17707 imposes liability on the parent or legal guardian who signed a driver’s license application for the minor.
A hit-and-run is when someone leaves the scene of an accident and fails to identify themselves and other parties involved. If you sustain an injury, then the liable driver can get charged with a felony. Usually, the negligent motorist is not around long enough to file a police report when a hit-and-run occurs.
Like any other incident, you should file a claim with your insurance within two years. If the driver gets caught, then you can seek compensation from them. It is more than likely you would need to claim injury-related expenses with MedPay if you carry it.
Right-of-way laws help provide pedestrians with protection around vehicles. However, they do not always have the right of way. A person still needs to follow specific rules. For example, you cannot cross the road unless there is a crosswalk and the walk symbol flashes.
California uses comparative fault laws, so both parties may have partial liability. A pedestrian you hit could receive less compensation the higher their percentage of responsibility is. In some cases, the pedestrian could be fully to blame for crossing against a red light. They might not be able to recover damages.
Under normal circumstances, you would need to show the airbag should have deployed but did not. You should prove the airbag is defective, and you obtained injuries because it failed to deploy. Your injuries would need to have led to financial, physical, and emotional damages.
Sometimes, airbags will not deploy if the impact is severe enough. You would need to hit a solid wall or tree at 16 miles per hour or higher. Otherwise, you would not be able to sue for damages. If you were driving under the influence, the airbag manufacturer might use it as a defense to avoid liability, especially if there is a DUI. It can help to consult an attorney to determine the next step.
You may be far better off with a attorney, especially in serious cases. For one, insurance companies may offer higher compensation if you are represented by an attorney. That’s because they know that an attorney understands the true value of the case, and they don’t want to risk the time and expense of a lawsuit by making an offer that is too low. Additionally, often the fact that you are represented by an attorney will trigger laws that allow you to reduce your medical bills significantly. Some medical providers may even be barred from seeking reimbursement from you. We addressed this further in our “Do You Need an Attorney?” article.
First, make sure you speak to a Santa Cruz attorney first before you agree to even speak to the insurance adjuster. It would be ideal if you could avoid making a recorded statement at all, but you may be required to under the Rules of Civil Procedure. If that is the case, be prepared and well-informed. The insurance adjustor will be looking for information to weaken the claimant’s case. Be truthful, but do not give any answers that you do not have clear recollection of and that you may not be able to recall later. Make sure you are 100% confident in all your answers. If there is a question you cannot answer, do not answer it. Avoid specificities concerning time, place, distance, speed, etc.
The value of your claim includes your monetary damages like costs for medical treatment, lost wages, paying for help you need around the home or transportation to medical visits, physical therapy, and other related general expenses. Keep in mind that in some cases, these expenses can continue for a lifetime and this must be accounted for.
You total these losses and then multiply by 1-1.5 for moderate injuries and up to 5 for severe cases to cover pain and suffering.
California follows what is called a pure comparative negligence rule. That means the maximum amount of compensation you can receive is proportionately reduced by the percentage of fault you share. For example, if the crash caused $40,000 in losses, but a jury determines you were 25% to blame, you would only be entitled to a maximum of $30,000.
California’s financial liability laws require motorists to be able to cover another person’s injuries in a vehicle crash. Vehicle owners need to meet the minimum coverage for bodily injury liability and property damage liability. Still, some people might drive uninsured.
Many insurance companies offer drivers uninsured motorist coverage. If the liable party does not have coverage, you may end up filing a claim with your insurance company. You can still file a lawsuit against the uninsured party if you do not have uninsured motorist coverage.
However, the driver might not have much in terms of money. If you receive any payments, the compensation may not be substantial. A car accident lawyer can advise you if a lawsuit is the best course of action.
Sometimes, driving can leave people frustrated for a variety of reasons. Accidents may occur in some cases as a result. Chasing someone down with a vehicle or erratic driving can count as road rage. If you sustained injuries, one of the first things you should do is seek medical attention.
The next step is to speak to an attorney about filing a claim against the other party. Usually, the responsibility falls on the reckless driver. You would need to prove the road rage is related to the cause of the collision.
Acts of road rage usually are intentional, so the at-fault driver’s insurance company might drop its coverage. You can hire a lawyer to help with a third-party personal injury lawsuit against the driver personally.
It is not unusual to see litter on the side of highways. Occasionally, you can spot some tire debris on the road. The natural instinct is to try to get out of the way of an object. If you swerve to avoid the debris and crash, then injuries may occur. You might not be able to trace the tire debris back to the other driver that left it.
In some cases, you might have a valid claim against the government agency responsible for clearing the highway. Other times, you may be at fault for the accident.