Personal Injury FAQ
PERSONAL INJURY FAQ: OUR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA LAWYERS ARE READY TO HELP
At MCIS Lawyers, we understand your hesitation when it comes to dealing with legal matters. For this reason, we are providing you with answers to the most common questions asked about personal injury cases. We are hoping that the information here on personal injury FAQ can help you make informed decisions on how to proceed with the legal action you need. Just know that for any other concerns or if you wish to speak with a Southern California attorney in-person, we are ready to provide you with a free, initial consultation.
Contact our firm at (818) 999-1184 to schedule an appointment today!
Q - What sets MCIS LAWYERS apart from other law firms?
A - MCIS Lawyers has a combined total of almost 40 years of litigation and trial experience. We have lawyers who have worked for insurance companies and know how insurance companies think and act (in handling different types of claims), and how they will try to discredit your claims. We have the skill and training to maximize the compensation you deserve, and to help you overcome the physical and financial burdens caused by an accident. In addition, MCIS Lawyers includes a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, the premier organization of trial lawyers. Less than 1% of all practicing lawyers in California are invited to join this elite group of trial lawyers. Only the most qualified defense and plaintiff attorneys with courtroom experience are invited to join ABOTA. To qualify for membership, courtroom experience must be verified. However, more than the number of trials is considered. Members must exhibit the virtues of civility, integrity and professionalism. We are passionate and aggressive in handling your case. We fight to obtain maximum compensation for our clients. We are prepared to take your case to trial if a favorable resolution cannot be reached.
Q- What do I need to do to make a claim for damages against someone?
A - The first thing you should do is call an attorney to schedule an appointment. At that initial meeting, the attorney will review the facts of your case and provide an opinion on liability and your damages. The attorney may go over other factors that may affect the outcome of your case, including the time that has passed since when the injury first occurred, the evidence the client presents to him of the injury, the evidence he can expect to obtain in the future, the availability of any persons who witness what caused the injury, the ability of the person or company that caused the injury to adequately provide compensation, the costs he expects the case will incur, among several other factors. He may want to interview other witnesses or do further investigation before agreeing to accept the case. He may also consider whether the case would best be resolved through litigation or by some alternative method of resolving the dispute, such as through arbitration.
Q- What does it mean to file a lawsuit?
A - If a case cannot be resolve informally, your attorney will prepare a complaint. A complaint is a legal document that is filed in the appropriate courthouse. The complaint includes the allegations against the wrongdoer, who is called the defendant. Once the complaint is filed and the defendant is served with a copy of the complaint, the defendant has the right to respond to the complaint. Typically, the defendant files a document called an answer. After the answer is filed, both sides can begin to find out information from each other. This is called discovery.
Q- What will it cost me to file a lawsuit?
A - At MCIS, we take most personal injury cases on a contingency fee, which means that we are paid a percentage of the money we recover for you. Of importance, you pay no fee unless we win your case.
Q- How long do I have to file a lawsuit?
A - Every lawsuit is governed by a legal principle called the statute of limitations. The rule requires that a lawsuit be filed within a certain period of time. If a person fails to file within that time, he loses his right make a claim for his damages. In California, the statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit is two years. There are other time limits depending on the type of case. In addition, there are special rules when making a claim against a government entity or employee. Thus, it is important that you consult with a lawyer as soon as possible to make sure you do not lose your right to make a claim.
Q- Can a child file a lawsuit?
A - Yes, but someone will need to be appointed to prosecute the case. That person is typically called a guardian ad litem and is usually the minor’s parent. A minor can also make a claim once he turns 18 years old.
Q- What do I need to prove to win my case?
A - Every person filing a lawsuit has the burden of proof. That means that you must prove that the other person is responsible for causing your harm. In addition, you must prove the damages that you have suffered. The damages that you may be entitled to, and which you must prove, include past lost wages, past medical expenses, future medical expenses, future lost wages, and past and future pain and suffering.
Q- What is discovery?
A - Discovery is a process in which both sides can ask each other questions. The process is intended to educate both sides of the evidence in the case. The process may include questions and answers that are mailed back and forth between opposing attorneys and their clients; demands for certain things that can be used as evidence, such as photographs, records, medical reports and bills. depositions.
Q- What is a deposition?
A - A deposition is giving sworn testimony under oath. Each side has the right to take depositions. Generally, a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit requests a deposition of the injured person so that he can learn everything the person is likely to say if he later testifies at trial. At deposition, the attorney will ask questions and the injured person will answer them. Your attorney will be present to protect your interests.
Q- Can Motorcyclists ride between lanes?
A - The California Highway Patrol has removed from its website lane-splitting guidelines.
Q- Do you (I) have a case?
A - There are two parts to every case. The first part is called liability. A victim in an accident has the burden of proving that the other person was negligent. Generally, the analysis includes applying the applicable law to the facts to determine if a person was negligent. The second part is called damages. Again, a victim has the burden of proving he was damaged. For example, he has the burden of proving wage loss, the nature and extent of his injuries, his past medical expenses, and the nature and extent of his pain and suffering.
Q- What is a first party case?
A - There are two types of first party cases. One type is called an uninsured motorist case, which is when the person who causes an accident doesn’t have insurance. If you have uninsured motorist insurance on your car, you can make a claim with your insurance company to compensate you for your damages. The second type is called an underinsured motorist case, which is when the person who causes an accident doesn’t have enough insurance to compensate you. In which case, you collect his insurance and then make a claim under your underinsured motorist coverage with your insurance company to get fully compensated.
Q- What is a third party case?
A - A third party case is when you make a claim against the person who caused the accident. Usually, that person will have liability insurance (required under California Law) of at least $15,000.
Q- What is a wrongful death lawsuit?
A - A wrongful death lawsuit is when the person who caused an accident killed another person. The heirs of the decedent can sue the wrongdoer to collect damages caused by decedent’s death.
Q- How much your case worth?
A - Generally, the value of any case depends on two factors: liability and damages. Usually, the stronger the liability and damages, the better the case.
Q- How to calculate Personal Injury Settlement?
A - Most insurance companies rely on certain formulas to evaluate the value of personal injury cases. Generally speaking, the formulas these companies use are comprised of a combination of sums inclusive of Economic and Non-Economic damages (both are which are described below). Economic Damages (Special Damages) Special damages are those losses suffered by an injured person which are easy to quantify. Economic Damages include such things as: • Medical Expenses • Property Damage • Lost Earnings • Future Lost Income • Estimated Future Medical Expenses • Estimated Future Care • Other expenses resulting from a wrongful conduct. Non-Economic Damages (Pain and Suffering) Non-Economic Damages are generally not as easy to quantify as Economic Damages. These damages are case specific and may include conditions such as: physical discomfort, mental anxiety, stress, lost social and educational opportunities and other negative effects on the injured person’s day-to-day life due to permanent disability. Non-Economic damages are usually based on injured person’s medical expenses (also known as “Medical Specials”), multiplied by a number between 1.5 and 5. However, under certain circumstances the multiplier can exceed five (5).
Q- How long will the case take?
A - There is no definite rule on when the insurance company “has” to settle a case. Insurance companies will try to do everything to delay resolution of the claim. Often, cases settle before trial. If case is not settled, then generally it takes about 18 months to get to trial after a lawsuit is filed.
Q- Can I do it on my own?
A - Yes, you can. But remember, the insurance companies have adjusters with extensive training and experience in negotiating claims, who will try to pay as little as possible. If you were injured as a result of an accident, you will need an attorney to be involved in what treatment you receive, gather medical specials and reports. Once a lawsuit is filed, insurance companies will hire very capable lawyers whose motivation is to defeat your claims. Thus, your interests are best served by having a skillful personal injury trial lawyer on your side.
Q- Should I Settle?
A - That depends on whether the insurance company is making you’re a fair settlement offer. Whether an offer is fair depends on the strength of your liability case and your damages. Medical bills for you treatments and future treatments must be taken into consideration during the settlement process. A skillful and experienced lawyer will be in a position to properly evaluate your case and present it to the insurance company and its lawyers. Personal injury attorneys have experience in negotiating those medical bills down in order to maximize your recovery.
Q- What Attorney can do for me?
A - A skillful, savvy and experienced lawyer knows how to maximize your case. He knows how to establish that the other driver was negligent. He also knows how to maximize your damages and recovery.
Q- Can an Attorney guarantee a favorable result?
A - No. No lawyer has a crystal ball to predict the outcome of a case. However, an experienced trial lawyer is in a better position to accurately evaluate your case, including its strengths and weaknesses, so you can make a reasoned decision whether to accept a settlement offer or go to trial.
Q- Why are Truck/Bus accidents different from other motor vehicle accidents?
A - The reason they are different is because the injuries suffered from those larger vehicles tend to be much more serious, including brain injuries, serious spinal injuries and even death.
Q- Liability of Private Owners.
A - In California, insurance follows the car. By allowing others to use his/her vehicle the registered owner has responsibility in case of an accident. However, CA Vehicle Code section 17150 limits damages for a registered owner. Vehicle Code Section 17150. Every owner of a motor vehicle is liable and responsible for death or injury to person or property resulting from a negligent or wrongful act or omission in the operation of the motor vehicle, in the business of the owner or otherwise, by any person using or operating the same with the permission, express or implied, of the owner.
Q- Limitation of Liability of Owner.
A - Vehicle Code Section 17151. (a) The liability of an owner, bailee of an owner, or personal representative of a decedent imposed by this chapter and not arising through the relationship of principal and agent or master and servant is limited to the amount of fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) for the death of or injury to one person in any one accident and, subject to the limit as to one person, is limited to the amount of thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) for the death of or injury to more than one person in any one accident and is limited to the amount of five thousand dollars ($5,000) for damage to property of others in any one accident.
Q- Why is it important to have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage?
A - As part of your insurance coverage, most insurance companies offer you uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. It is optional coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage is triggered when the other driver is uninsured. Underinsured motorist coverage is triggered when the other driver has some coverage, but it is not enough to cover your damages. As an example, a driver hits you from behind and causes injury. The driver has a $15,000 insurance policy. You have underinsured motorist coverage of $25,000. Your damages are $25,000. You can settle with the driver for his $15,000 policy and then make a claim with your insurance company under your underinsured motorist coverage. That way, you will be able to recover the additional $10,000. If the other driver was uninsured, you can make a claim with your insurance company under your uninsured motorist coverage for up to the $25,000 limit.
Q- What happens if the driver who injures me doesn’t have insurance?
A - If you do not have the optional uninsured motorist coverage, you will have to make a decision to bring a law suit against the wrongdoer. However, obtaining a judgment does not guarantee a recovery from the wrongdoer with no assets.
Q- What happens if you are hit by someone while you are driving without insurance?
A - Proposition 213 was enacted to prevent uninsured drivers from profiting from an accident when someone else is at fault. This means that if you were not insured at the time of the accident, you are entitled to recover only economic damages. You can not recover noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering.
Q- When should I seek medical treatment?
A - If you experience pain from an accident, you should see a doctor immediately. Your injury could be more serious than you realize. Often, an injury can start as a nagging pain and then develop into something much more serious. You need proper medical evaluation by a qualified physician. MCIS Lawyers can help you find an experienced and reputable doctor.
Q- When should I seek physical therapy or chiropractic therapy?
A - The first thing that should be done if you have suffered an injury is to seek medical treatment. An injury can be more serious than you realize. It is important that you be evaluated by a medical provider to accurately assess your injury and to recommend a course of treatment, which many times will be physical therapy or chiropractic care. MCIS Lawyers can help you find a good doctor to assess your injury.
Q- What happens when as a result of an accident I cannot work?
A - It is not uncommon that an individual will be unable to work because of an injury, especially when the job is physically demanding. The law provides that you are entitled to be compensated for any past lost wages. If you feel you cannot work, it is important that you be seen by a medical provider to determine your disability and the length of time you need to miss work.
Q- Why is a Motorcycle accident different from other motor vehicle accidents?
A - Motorcycle accidents are different from other accidents because riders typically get more seriously injured in accidents because they are unprotected. Moreover, motorcycle accidents tend to happen because other drivers do not anticipate how motorcycle riders operate. For example, California Law allows for lane splitting when there are two or more traffic lanes. Often, a driver will not anticipate that a motorcyclist is lawfully lane splitting and will not check for an oncoming motorcycle before making a lane change. The driver would be held at fault for not anticipating the approaching motorcycle.
Q- Why should I go to an attorney-referred physician?
A - Often, accident victims are not familiar with specialists who can evaluate the injury. Moreover, their family doctor may not be that experienced in treating injury cases and may not know specialists to treat those injuries. At MCIS Lawyers, we know competent and capable specialists who have the right background, training and experience to evaluate your injury.
Q- Can I still recover if I was at fault at the time of the accident?
A - Yes, California law allows you to recover damages if you were partially at fault. In those situations, a jury will decide your percentage of fault. For example, if you were in a car accident and determined to be 50% at fault, a jury can still award you damages. However, the damages that you are awarded will be reduced by 50% because of your negligence.
Q- Should I contact my insurance even though the other party was at fault?
A - It depends, sometimes it is easier and faster for your insurance company to repair your vehicle. MCIS Lawyers can help you decide which options are best for you.
Q- Do I have a case if I trip and fall?
A - It depends. Under California law, the owner of the property is required to make sure the property is safe. An owner is negligent if he or she creates a dangerous condition or knew or should have known that a dangerous condition existed on the property. If you tripped and fell because of a dangerous condition, you may have a claim against the property owner.
Q- Who do you sue in a multiple car accident?
A - Typically, the drivers who are at fault should be sued in an accident. The failure to sue a negligent driver can adversely affect a case. For example, suppose you are struck from behind. You feel two impacts. You find out that the two vehicles directly behind your car were involved. The driver immediately behind you says he was pushed into you. The third driver denies that he pushed the second driver into you. If you sue only the second driver, you run the risk that a jury could find that that the third driver caused the accident. In which case, you would lose your case.
Q- What are the main advantages of choosing a personal injury law firm versus a solo practitioner?
A - The insurance company for the other party has considerable resources. An insurance company usually hires a larger firm, which bills by the hour. Those firms tend to generate a lot of work. Often, a sole practitioner cannot keep up and may let important things in your case fall through the cracks.
Q- What is a bad faith lawsuit?
A - If you are injured by an uninsured motorist, you are allowed to make a claim with your insurance company if you have uninsured motorist coverage. When you make a claim under your uninsured motorist coverage, your insurance company is required to treat you fairly. That is to say, the insurance company must fairly evaluate your case and not unreasonably delay in paying on your claim. If the insurance company acts unreasonably in evaluating your case or unreasonably delays in paying your claim, the company has acted in bad faith. In which case, you may have an action against the company.
Q- Can I change lawyers if I am unhappy?
A - Under California law, a client has the right to fire his or her attorney at any time. A client can change lawyers whenever the client loses confidence in either the integrity, the judgment, or the capacity of the attorney.
A discharged attorney has the right to assert a lien for attorney’s fees and costs against a later settlement. The discharged attorney is entitled to receive no more than the reasonable value of the attorney’s services up to the time of discharge. The discharged attorney shares the total contingent fee earned with successor counsel, as there may only be a single contingent fee. The attorneys must work together in coming up with how they will share the contingency fee.