Were you injured in a car accident in California? If you were, you have a lot of unanswered questions.
There are so many things worrying you, your head is getting dizzy. The laws governing motor vehicle accidents are numerous, and even experienced attorneys need help keeping track of all of it.
But as an injured victim, you don’t need to try and learn all of that. It’s important for you to know what your rights are, and what you need to do to protect those rights.
With so many things to worry about, let us fight the insurance company and get the compensation you deserve.
You have a right to monetary compensation for any injuries caused by someone else in a car accident.
If someone injures through their own careless acts or behavior, they owe you monetary compensation for those injuries.
You have this right, even if you are a passenger injured in an accident in California.
That means if someone rear ends your car, and you are hurt because of that collision, they must pay you a sum equal to the amount of injuries they inflicted upon you.
The legal world calls this “damages.” You can call it money. This amount must be reasonable. Which means, if you suffer whiplash, go to physical therapy for 3 weeks and fully recover, you probably shouldn’t be paid $1 million. That’s not a reasonable amount.
The reason you are paid money is because there is no other way to make you “whole” after you suffer injuries. If someone stole a TV from you, they can return it and you are “whole” again. If someone injures you, causing you to suffer and feel pain for 6 months, there is no way to undo that. There is no “reset” button on your body, or your brain. The emotional roller coaster you experienced can’t be undone. Since you can’t undo the injuries inflicted upon you, the defendant must pay you a reasonable sum of money to compensate you.
This sum of money may even include any damages in the future as well, as long as the future damages are certain enough to be counted. In order to recover money, you must prove the person was at fault, and they acted intentionally or negligently. Negligence means:
So if someone driving behind you was mad at you with road rage rams the back of your car, they owe you money for all of the injuries they caused. This is intentional because they meant to cause you harm. However, if that person behind you was just slow to react, was not paying attention, or was texting and driving, they still owe you money if they rear end your car and injure you.
This is called negligence. Everyone is responsible for any injuries they intentionally cause, as well as injuries caused by their lack of ordinary care and or skill. California Civil Code 1714(a).
There are basic elements to prove negligence:
An example of negligence when it comes to vehicle collisions would be a driver who is following you too closely. A traffic signal ahead turns yellow so you apply the brakes to slow down like a normal prudent person would. The driver behind you takes too long to react and proceeds to collide with your car’s rear bumper.
A normal, prudent person would not have followed you so closely so they would have more space and time to slow and stop their car.
A typical case takes anywhere from a few months to several years. That answer isn’t very useful at all. However you might find the following information useful. The most important requirement is that your medical treatment be finished before any settlement is reached. There are times when you won’t be 100% healed, but you’ve reached a stable condition, and further treatment will not produce any more improvement.
Simple cases can often be settled within 4-6 months after the date of accident. These are cases with less significant injuries, such as a rear-end accident at a red light, where the victim suffered soft tissue injuries. After a couple months at a physical therapist or chiropractor and you’re completely healed. Liability is pretty straightforward, since it’s the fault of the person who hit you from behind.
These cases can usually settle soon after you complete treatment as long as the insurance company is being reasonable (which isn’t always the case). If you suffered more significant injuries, requiring visits with a pain management doctor, or a neurologist, your case will take a little longer. Again, once treatment is complete, settlement negotiations will begin.
If a significant procedure such as surgery is required, then the case will be extended even further. If the insurance company is being unreasonable, then throw all of these numbers out of the door. They’re playing hardball, and nothing short of filing a lawsuit will get the case moving forward. Once a lawsuit has been filed, the case can last a year or even more, from the date of filing.
But settlement talks can still continue after the lawsuit has been filed.
After your car accident, you need medical treatment right away. The bills for an ambulance, emergency room, visits to your primary doctor, physical therapy, and chiropractor start piling up. Before you know it, you have received thousands of dollars in medical treatment.
Who is going to pay for this? Ultimately, the person who caused your injuries will be responsible for all costs. However, they usually won’t pay up until the end of the case, which could be months or years. So how do you pay these bills for now, so your doctors won’t send them to collections ruining your credit?
The answer to this question is not simple. There are several options to pay for these bills, and an experienced car accident attorney will be best prepared to help you understand these options.
In general, the answer is two years. Within two years: An action for assault, battery, or injury to, or for the death of, an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another.
This is what lawyers call the “statute of limitations.” This is the maximum time you may file a lawsuit after the act that caused you injuries. In a car accident, you have 2 years after the date of accident to file a lawsuit.
The reason why there is a time limit is because there is a public interest to limit lawsuits that are too far out. With the passage of time, evidence and witnesses become more unreliable. Would-be defendants should also be allowed to reach a point where they are no longer worried about a lawsuit being filed agains them.
There are exceptions to this time limit, but they’re hard to qualify for. Remember: Once this time runs out, you can no longer file a lawsuit for these injuries.
Government claims. If the person who caused your injuries works for the government, the time limits and procedures are different. You have 6 months from the date of the accident to file a Government Claim. If they deny your claim, which they often do, you have 6 months from the date you receive the rejection to file a lawsuit.
However, if the government never responds to your claims, you can file a lawsuit within 2 years of the date of accident.
While 2 years seems like a long time, it goes by fast. So you should never wait to speak to a qualified car accident lawyer. Consultations are usually free, so there is no cost to speak to, or even hire an attorney.
Usually, yes. If your health insurance was used to pay for your medical bills, in most cases there is an obligation to pay them back if you receive a settlement or jury award from a 3rd party. The exact nature of that obligation depends on many factors. This is a highly specialized and complex area of the law.
The only thing you need to know is if your health insurance paid for your medical bills, and you recover those costs from the person who hit you (usually through their auto insurance policy) then you more often than not, have to pay the health insurance company back.
If you paid for the care yourself, then you would receive that amount back. But because someone else paid for the care, they deserve to be reimbursed because your injuries were caused by someone else.
As a practical matter, you can negotiate with quite a few of the companies looking for reimbursement. Negotiations are not always easy nor successful, but an experienced car attorney will be familiar with persuasive arguments and case law and can use this in your favor. There are different legal mechanisms where health insurers are paid back. Which one applies depends on many factors.
But here is a brief description:
As you can see, something seemingly simple as paying back your health insurance company after the case is over, is anything but simple. It’s a very complex area and failing to handle it properly can cause you to miss out on thousands of dollars, or worse.
If so, you must move fast to protect your rights. You need to be sure the other vehicle doesn’t have any insurance (or is underinsured). Then you need to be sure you carry uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage on your own policy.
You can read more here Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Accident Law in California
After a car accident, this is the #1 question of injured victims once things settle down. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer or formula that will definitely answer your question. There are so many factors affecting the value of your case. The value of your case can be simply summarized as:
Medical Costs + Future Medical Costs + Missed Time at Work + Future Earning Capacity + Pain, Suffering & Inconvenience = Value of Your Case
Looks easy right? If only it were so. Just looking at this formula gives you the sense this isn’t so simple at all. The hardest part to calculate is “pain, suffering and inconvenience.” Calculating loss of future earning capacity is also hard, but at least that is a concept most people understand.
If you were making $50,000 a year before your injuries, but now you can only take jobs that make $30,000 a year, we know the accident has caused you to lose $20,000 earning capacity per year, for the rest of your normal working life. Pain and suffering however, is much harder to visualize. We do know the defendant owes you money for pain, suffering and inconvenience. They are liable for all the damage they have caused.10
How do you put a dollar amount on the pain you suffer every day? What is the value of the difficulties you experience every day because of the accident? We know you’ve experienced pain. We also know you have suffered.
But when it comes time to place an actual dollar amount on this, where do you begin? We begin with your story. Your story is what drives the value of the case. Your story must be told to the adjuster, and to the jury if it gets that far. How was your life before the case? How was it after? How is it now?
Those are the questions that must be answered. And depending on the answers, the jury might give you more for pain and suffering, or less. This is why you can’t determine with any accuracy, the value of your case. Only rough, but educated guesses can be made when it comes to valuing your case.
Not always. Cases where you are not injured or your injuries are very minor, can often be handled on their own. If the insurance company does not want to pay a fair amount for a settlement, these smaller cases can be handled through the Small Claims Court.
While you might not need a lawyer for your case, you should always contact one immediately after an accident. You don’t have to hire an auto accident lawyer right away, but it doesn’t hurt, and may help immensely to talk to one as soon as possible. Some advice is needed right away. Maybe the insurance companies (yours and the other driver’s) and are pressuring you to give a recorded statement and settle quickly.
A 30 minute conversation and case review with an attorney will lead you in the right direction, even if you aren’t planning to hire anyone real soon. I don’t charge for an initial conversation and case review. After a quick screening on the phone, a more in-depth conversation and review occurs in person or on the phone. This is all free of charge, if I agree to meet with you after the initial screening. To hire me, or most all other injury attorneys, you only have to sign a contract.
The contract itself can be revoked at anytime by you. But I work on a contingency basis. That’s just fancy lawyer talk for saying, I don’t get paid my fee until you win your case. If you do win, then my fee is a percentage of the total settlement/award. If you don’t win, or you decide not to pursue the case, you do not owe me any unpaid fees (although you may be responsible for costs which haven’t been reimbursed).
While all motor vehicle accident laws apply to Uber and Lyft car wrecks, there are some additional wrinkles. Whether you're an Uber/Lyft driver, passenger, or were hit by an Uber/Lyft driver, there are some things you need to be aware of.
These companies are called Transportation Network Companies (PNCs) and are even regulated differently than taxi cabs and other transportation services. TNC drivers usually have 3 stages of insurance. The first stage is where their TNC app is not on. There is no TNC insurance at that point.
The second stage is when they're app is on, but they have not accepted a ride. This is the worst stage. Typically, the driver's private insurance is not in force because they have the app on and are "working." But the TNCs only provide minimal coverage at this point.
The third stage is when the driver has accepted a ride. Even before they picked up the passenger, their full policy has kicked in. Usually this is $1 million in coverage. There are many more differences and issues when it comes to Uber and Lyft car accidents.