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Injured in a Car Accident in California? What to do? Who to Call?

Injured in an Auto Accident in California?

I write a lot of blogs about DUI.  I write a lot of blogs about hit and run.  I don’t write a lot of blogs about what to do if you are the victim of crime.  It happens all the time and many people don’t know what to do when you are the victim.  The police don’t really help you.  The prosecution doesn’t really help you.  Your insurance company doesn’t really help you. It takes an advocate to get you where you need to go.

I’m going to start with some basics here:  You’re in a car accident that isn’t your fault.  You are hurt, your car is damaged and you don’t know what to do. The most important thing to do after a car accident is to remain calm.  Exchange information with the other side or give your information to the police, if they came to make a report.

If your injuries are severe, you were likely transported to the hospital by ambulance.  If your injuries are less severe, you must decide if you want to drive to the emergency room on your own or go to a local urgent care center to get treated by a doctor.  Most emergency rooms will treat you for emergent injuries whether or not you have insurance.  If you are walking in voluntarily, they may require a credit card or proof of insurance.  If you are unable to pay and/or don’t have medical insurance, your choices are more limited.  You may have to go to a county hospital or, if you can afford it, urgent care visits are usually quite cost effective.

Follow-up treatment and therapy is next.  Physical therapy can be very expensive and many insurance companies don’t want to pay for very much of it.  Chiropractic care can also be expensive and many insurance companies don’t want to pay for any of it. Call your lawyer.  Many lawyers work with medical providers (MD’s, chiropractors, physical therapists and more) on a regular basis.  There are many providers who will treat patients on a “lien basis”. This means they will offer treatment now and wait until the case settles to get paid. My network even includes MRI’s on a lien basis.  In some cases, my clients have even received surgeries on a lien basis.

Once you are medically stable, you must also address the issue of property damage.  You have to get your car fixed.  You are entitled to be put back into the same position you were in before the accident.  You are entitled to loss of use of your car.  Your lawyer can help you with this if you need help.  Typically, lawyers don’t get paid for property damage recovery.

You are also entitled to lost wages if you missed work as a result of the accident or the medical treatment.  Keep track of the time you missed and the amount of money you may have lost as a result of the time commitment.

All the while, your phone is ringing, letters are coming in the mail.  You may be getting emails or even text messages from adjusters, doctor’s offices, DMV and more.  Don’t talk to anyone without your lawyer’s permission.  Don’t (ever) talk to the other side unless your lawyer tells you to.  Don’t sign anything unless your lawyer tells you to.

At some point you will get your car out of the shop or a check from the insurance company if it was a total loss.  At some point you should be feeling better and will need to get all of your medical records and bills from all of your treatment facilities.  This is quite a chore, costs money and may drive you crazy.

Once you have all of your documents together you will need to submit them to the other sides.  It’s then time to try and negotiate a settlement with the other side.  You can make a demand or sometimes they will make an offer.  If you are able to reach a settlement, you’re close to done.

Once the check comes from the insurance company then you have to pay all the medical providers for their services.  Did your insurance company pay any medical bills?  If so, you may have to pay them back all or part of what they paid.  Did Medi-Cal or Medi-Care pay any of your bills?  If so, you will likely have to pay them back for all or part of what they paid out.

If you are not able to reach a settlement with the other side, you may need to file a lawsuit.  A lawsuit for personal injuries has time limits.  It costs money.  It must be prepared in the proper legal format.  Filed in the property court.  It must be “served” upon the defendants.

Once served, then the litigation starts.  There is the discovery process of written and other types of questions and document request.  There are court hearings.  There may be an attempt at formal settlement negotiations like mediation and/or arbitration.

Ultimately, if the case does not settle, there will be a trial.  You have to prove your case to a judge or a jury.  You have to introduce legally acceptable evidence to establish that you were injured, the defendant caused your injuries and that you had damages (money) based upon the defendant’s wrongful conduct.  You will have to establish an amount of damages based upon the evidence and you have to convince the judge or the jury about why you are right, and the other side is wrong.

If this all sounds a bit complicated to you, that’s because it can be.  Negotiating the best path through the legal system is something that good lawyers do every day.  Typically, a lawyer who handles injury cases works on what is called a “contingent fee” basis.  This means he does the work up front and gets paid after the case settles.  The typical fee for a lawyer is about one third of the gross recovery.  The fees are a little higher if a lawsuit gets filed, if the case has to go to arbitration or meditation and a bit more money if the case goes to trial.  Costs of the suit, like the filing fee, investigation, etc. are often covered by the lawyer and he gets paid back after the case resolves.

Some people think lawyer fees are high for this type of work.  Some people try to negotiate their claims on their own.  You can do this.  Please understand, the insurance companies don’t make money by paying out claims.  The insurance companies have hundreds of claims adjusters and lawyers working for them to try and make sure what they take in is a lot more than what they pay out.  With my skills, training and experience I almost always am able to resolve cases in a manner that nets my clients more money than they can get themselves.  You get to sit back and relax, and I do all the heavy lifting.

If you or someone you care about has been injured in a car accident, a work accident or any other type of personal injury, call an experienced lawyer. I have helped people resolve millions of dollars worth of claims for well over twenty years.  The initial consultation is almost always free, so you have nothing to lose.

Call me:  Attorney Jeffrey Vallens (818) 783-5700 or (888) 764-4340.

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