Do I really have a case?
Whether you have a case depends on many facts including whether you have suffered an injury or harm, whether the injury and harm was caused by someone else and whether the wrongdoer has insurance, money or assets to pay you.
Why do I need a lawyer?
The law and the process of collecting on a claim are complicated and there are many pitfalls associated with making a claim. There are special time limitations, especially involving Governmental entities, there are legal procedural requirements and there are certain ways to co-operate with insurance companies that will enhance your case rather than hurt it.
Should I talk to the insurance company for the person who injured me?
Absolutely not without the guidance of an attorney. Never, ever, give a tape recorded statement over the telephone to an insurance investigator. Never sign authorizations without talking to a lawyer and having the authorization evaluated. Never assume that the insurance company is looking out for your interests. A highly qualified lawyer will protect you in each and every instance where you have contact with an adverse insurance company.
Shouldn’t I simply tell the truth to the insurance company?
Yes, of course, but an insurance company has standard ways of asking questions which can make you look foolish, or will create ambiguity in your answer. They know their business better than you do, and so simply thinking that “I am just going to tell them the truth” is opening yourself up to a potential minefield. An experienced lawyer knows that you should co-operate with an insurance company, but only on your terms, not theirs. There are certain questions you should not answer at all. There are certain statements you should not make at all. There is certain evidence that you should hold back from them for later. There are many approaches to co-operating with an insurance company that enhance your case, rather than destroy your case. Yes, you do need a lawyer.
How Can I Afford a Lawyer?
Depending on the type of case you have, certain cases can be handled on a percentage basis, which means that you pay attorney’s fees only if we obtain a recovery for you. This is commonly known as a contingent fee. There are also costs which are the necessary expenses required in representing a client. These are generally out-of-pocket expenses. In some instances, the attorneys will advance these costs for the clients, but these costs are repaid out of the settlement at the end of the case. It is important to know that certain rules require that the client is responsible for costs. In criminal matters, attorney’s fees are set at the time the attorney is retained. The nature, complexity, seriousness and various facts of the case will determine how much attorney’s fees will be in criminal matters.
What about my medical bills?
You medical bills will be a part of the damages associated with your bodily injury case. Sometimes health insurance companies such as Blue Cross, Blue Shield, AETNA and automobile insurance companies have a “reimbursement” provision in their insurance policies. This means that they will insist on some form of repayment out of a personal injury case, if they can get it. This is frequently a negotiable item, and it is not necessary to pay them dollar for dollar. However, if you receive Medicare, Medi-Caid or Medi-Cal, the Government does require repayment by law. However, your attorney can help you to arrange for this repayment and frequently this, too, is negotiable with the Government, although it is a time consuming matter for the attorney.
What if the accident was partially my fault?
Even if an accident was partially your fault, this is not a bar to complete recovery for damages. Cases can be negotiated based on partial fault.
What about construction accidents?
Generally, there are six to seven thousand workers fatally injured on the job yearly. This means that if you or a loved one is working in construction, the primary fear is falls. The most common are falls from roofs, scaffolds, holes in floors, and ladders. Electrocution is also a major cause of injury and death on construction sites. Also trenching collapses, cave-ins, fires, and equipment injuries can also be serious, and often deadly.
Am I limited just to Workers Compensation?
No, not always, frequently there are situations where an injury on the job involves a third party, a product failure, or other exception which may allow a direct claim against a wrongful party. It takes an experienced lawyer to investigate the facts, question witnesses, and learn exactly what happened to cause the injury.
If I am in an accident, what information should I obtain?
It is always important to get the names of the people involved, the driver license numbers, addresses and very importantly names of independent witnesses. It is also important to take photographs. People forget that their cellular telephones frequently have cameras in them. Use your telephone to take pictures of the scene, the location, and the position of the cars, the people involved, and the general location where the accident happened. Sometimes cell phones have a recording device; if possible take a statement from independent witnesses that are favorable to your case. This is extremely important and you should protect that evidence.
Should I contact my own insurance company?
Yes. However, it is important that you understand that sometimes your own insurance company can be adverse to your position, especially if there is an “uninsured motorist” involved. Therefore, contact a lawyer immediately and let the lawyer make the contact for you with the insurance company in order to protect your rights.
When should I contact an attorney?
Right away, it is extremely important, after you are safely able.
Should I go to a doctor?
Yes. If you have been injured, and you feel that your injury requires treatment, get it right away. Many times the onset of injuries begins twelve or eighteen or twenty four hours after an accident, so even if you were able to walk away feeling fine, you may be feeling the pains much more heavily the next day. Seeing a doctor following the accident will help to handle your discomfort and also establish your need for care. Frequently insurance companies would point to the fact that you didn’t see a doctor immediately to show that you were not injured. If there is a long delay, insurance companies will frequently claim that you went to the doctor simply to “make money”.
What if I received a ticket in the accident?
Even if you were cited by a Police Officer in the accident, you still may be able to collect damages against the other driver if a Court or Jury decides that the accident was partly his or her fault. This is the known as comparative negligence and is frequently an issue in most cases. The fact that you received a ticket may not be fair or correct, and the Police Officer may have based the ticket on erroneous information or on a misunderstanding. It is important to discuss this fully with your lawyer.
What is uninsured motorist coverage?
If you are involved in an accident and the other party has no insurance, or in some cases, limited insurance, and you had uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage on your policy, you still will be protected for your injuries. Uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage is designed to protect you in case another party is not insured. Your attorney will explain the details of uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage to you.
Do I have to go to Court?
No, frequently not. Most cases settle out of Court, but sometimes insurance companies dig in their heels and don’t want to pay. That means that the lawyer must file a lawsuit and prepare the case as if it were going to Court. Then insurance companies may recognize that they have to either settle or go through the expense and danger of a Court case. Frequently they don’t want that any more than you do, so most cases settle. However, a small percentage does go to Court and that will be fully explained to you by the lawyer at your first meeting.
If I am not injured, do I need a lawyer?
Commonly if the case is only about automobile damage and you have insurance, the matter will be settled between you, your insurance company and the third party insurance company. In those situations, you frequently don’t need a lawyer. However, if there is personal or bodily injury associated with the case, or you are not sure, you should never, ever, settle a case for a token amount unless you are absolutely certain that there is no bodily injury. Don’t rush to settle a bodily injury case right away. If the case is worth settling today for a small amount, it is certainly worth the same amount six months or one year later. Your best bet is to contact 1-800-LAWMAN-1 and discuss your case with a lawyer immediately.
An insurance investigator is calling and asking to meet with me – what should I do?
Insurance adjusters and investigators are highly trained people who are trying to save their company as much money as possible. They are skilled in trying to make you admit that you’ve had the injuries before, or the accident is partially your fault, or that your injuries aren’t so serious, or that your claim is not worth much. They will also try to get you to sign papers and authorizations allowing them to see your medical records and share them on their databases. Don’t do it. Don’t sign anything, and most of all don’t meet with them or talk with them about your case. Let your lawyer talk for you.