If You Are Injured in Auto Accident
One of the most common subjects of civil lawsuits is personal injuries that occur as a result of auto accidents. In order for someone injured in an auto accident to be able to seek compensation for their injuries, those injuries must have been caused by another party involved in the accident.
What Should You Do?
Two of the most important things to consider about an auto accident are things that should be done before the accident occurs. The first is to make sure that you are insured to drive. California law requires that everyone who drives be covered under some insurance policy, and further, a provision of California law also states that if you are injured in an auto accident and do not have insurance, you cannot recover damages for “pain and suffering,” even though the accident was the other party’s fault.
The second important thing is to make sure that you are wearing a seat belt. This not only protects you, but prevents someone who might otherwise be responsible for the accident from arguing that your injuries are all or mostly due to your own negligence in failing to wear a seat belt.
Once an accident occurs, if you are able, exchange insurance information with the other parties, cooperate with the police accident investigation, and seek treatment for injuries, as needed.
Do You Need A Lawyer?
Because California drivers are required by law to have insurance, the vast majority of auto accidents are first investigated by the insurance companies whose drivers were involved in the accident. The insurance companies will come to a decision as to who was at fault, consider the damages of the party found to be not-at-fault (e.g. items such as medical bills and lost wages), and make a monetary offer to settle the claim against their own insured (i.e. the party at fault).
If you disagree with the other party’s insurance company, either their liability decision—they decided it was your fault—or with the amount they offer in settlement—it’s way too low—then the next step is to file a lawsuit against the other party in the accident. Although most people who are not themselves lawyers find the assistance of a lawyer to be essential in pursuing a lawsuit, in fact, many people also find that having a lawyer represent them from beginning provides a tremendous help in dealing with the insurance company during the course of the investigation as well as in presenting a forceful and well-focused demand package for consideration.
How Does a Lawyer Help You?
When an attorney represents someone injured in an auto accident, the injured party is gaining the benefit of the attorney office’s experience in dealing with many insurance companies, auto body shops, and medical providers in many prior claims and over a number of years. The attorney and his staff is thus aware of the laws and regulations that govern the insurance industry and the adjustment of claims, and further is familiar with how the given facts of a particular claim are likely to be treated by insurance adjusters.
The attorney and his staff also spend a considerable amount of time dealing with the bureaucracy and paperwork that is an inevitable part of any insurance claim—time that is thus freed up for the injured party. The attorney is able to bring together and summarize the facts of the accident and the injuries to present the most compelling demand package to the insurance company, and in the event the insurance company has an unreasonable response, the attorney is in a position to advise the injured party on the prospects of proceeding with a lawsuit.
Manage your Expectations
Contrary to what some people may think, getting injured in an accident is far from hitting the proverbial pot of gold. The law says that someone who is responsible for another party’s injuries must pay compensation for the injured party’s damages. Broadly speaking, in personal injury cases, there are two types of damages, “economic” or “special” damages, and “general” damages. The economic damages are the tangible damages that can be reasonably calculated, such as medical bills and lost wages. The general damages are damages attributed to “pain and suffering,” and are more difficult to calculate with precision.
The severity of an accident and the severity of the injuries suffered will obviously have an effect on the damages incurred and the compensation that is offered. Accidents in which there are only soft-tissue injuries (neck, back, and muscle pain), with a couple of months of physical therapy or chiropractic treatment, will be considered and compensated very differently by an insurance company (or, in a lawsuit, by a jury) than accidents in which there are multiple broken bones, operations, lengthy hospital stays, and permanent residual effects.
Other Types of Accidents
Although auto accidents are the most common cause of personal injuries leading to insurance claims and then lawsuits, there are other types of accidents in which a someone is at fault for another’s injuries, and thus responsible to compensate for damages. Examples include assault and battery, slip and fall (i.e. a dangerous condition on another’s property causes injury), product liability (i.e. an improperly designed or manufactured product results in injuries to a consumer), and dangerous animal (i.e. an owner knows their dog is dangerous, and the dog severely bites someone).
Because there are so many different possible types of accidents, and the facts involved in each accident are significant in determining whether another party will bear liability under the law, consultation with an attorney is advised to assess whether a particular accident can be the basis for a successful lawsuit.
At Baughman & Wang, our litigation department attorneys will evaluate your case free of charge if you have sustained injuries in any type of accident. Please consult with us before you make any decision.