Car Accident FAQ:
Why should I retain the services of a Los Angeles car accident lawyer?
An accident attorney is able to help you navigate this challenging period, supplying assistance by dealing with insurance companies and other relevant parties so you can take the time you need to totally focus on healing. After an accident, you will likely have several questions and concerns. Often, California car accident and personal injury laws are confusing. An accident attorney will help explain the laws and accident reports to you so you know and understand your legal rights. A car accident law firm will be able to offer you beneficial viewpoints about your circumstance and information on how to manage your injuries. The firm will also gather details concerning your accident that are essential to develop a productive case and obtain compensation for your injuries. Additionally, a big part of car accident claims is direct interaction with insurance companies, other lawyers, and other individuals. Often, when an accident attorney is the one interacting with the other party, they are able to acquire more complete and comprehensive answers than an ordinary individual who is unfamiliar with the legal process. Working with a Los Angeles car accident attorney can help resolve your case faster and with much less stress.
What is comparative or contributory negligence?
Historically, if two people were involved in an automobile accident and the injured individual was even the slightest bit at fault, he or she would not be entitled to get back anything for his or her injuries or damages. This is known as pure contributory negligence. For example, say Luke and Martin were involved in a crash. Luke hit Martin’s automobile while making a left turn onto a two-lane street at night. Luke didn’t notice Martin’s vehicle because it was night time and Martin was not driving with his headlights on. But, under a pure contributory negligence theory, Martin cannot recover damages for his injuries because he was partly at fault for the accident.
While some states do still adhere to the rule of pure contributory negligence, the majority of states now use some proportional type of comparative negligence that will allow an injured party to recover some damages for his or her injuries, even if he or she was partially at fault.
There are presently three variations of comparative negligence:
- Pure comparative fault
- Proportional comparative fault at 51%
- Proportional comparative fault at 50%
What is pure comparative fault?
In states that have adopted pure comparative fault as a measure of damages, if an injured person is somewhat at fault for producing his individual injuries, his or her damages are lessened by the percentage of his or her fault.
For example, say Michelle was injured in a car wreck for which she was 80% at fault. Damages for her injury amount to $10,000. Michelle will be entitled to recover $2,000 for her injuries; that is, $10,000 minus 80% (or $8,000) for her percentage of fault.
What is proportional comparative fault at 51%?
States that have adopted proportional comparative fault bar recovery if you are more than 51% at fault for the car accident. Put simply, you cannot file a liability claim or lawsuit against the other driver if you were more than 51% at fault.
For example, Dennis hit Teri’s car while traveling in excess of 25 miles per hour over the speed limit while Teri was making an attempt to cross the road. Even though Teri was partly at fault for not looking until the road was completely clear before crossing, the insurance company allotted fault to Dennis at 60% due to his increased speed. Even though Dennis suffered a broken arm from the accident, he is not entitled to recover for his injury due to the fact that he was more than 51% at fault for the accident.
What is proportional comparative fault at 50%?
In states that have implemented the 50% bar standard in dealing with car crash claims, an injured person who is less than 50% at fault for the incident is entitled to compensation. If the injured party is 50% or more at fault, he or she is not entitled to recovery for the injury.
For example, Richard and Susan accidentally hit each others’ cars while backing out of their parking spaces at exactly the same time. Both were not looking cautiously enough when they backed up, and so both were deemed equally at fault for the accident. Neither one will be eligible to damages since both were 50% at fault for the accident.
How is percentage of fault determined?
Right after an accident, the insurance company claims adjuster has the job of determining the relative degrees of fault. This is primarily based on the circumstances surrounding the accident. There is no top-secret mathematical formula for figuring out percentages of fault in car accident cases; rather, you and the claims adjuster will negotiate and come to some agreement as to what, if any, your allocated fault is. Here is where a personal injury lawyer can be extremely helpful. An attorney will know how to evaluate the accident and advocate for the lowest percentage of wrongdoing on your behalf. If you and the insurance adjuster reach an impasse, a court of law is ultimately your next step to take care of the issue of fault.
What is PIP insurance?
Insurance companies often offer you extra coverage/protection (for extra money) to help you pay for property damage and/or personal injury and medical bills after an accident, regardless of fault. So, if you are seriously injured in an accident that was mostly your fault and you are not entitled by law to compensation from the other person’s insurance but you have extra coverage under your own policy, your insurance company will pay for your injuries. This extra insurance coverage is called PIP (personal injury protection) or Med-Pay coverage. In California, PIP insurance is available, but it is not mandatory.
If you are involved in an accident and you do have PIP/Med-Pay insurance, you would file a liability claim with your own insurance company for medical charges and lost revenue, up to a given maximum, without any discussion about the circumstances of the accident or who was at fault. This also offers insurance coverage for damages ensuing from an accident with somebody who either has no insurance or does not currently have enough insurance to cover your expenses. It also helps to protect you if the other individual flees the scene after the accident.
How much compensation will I get for my car accident claim?
Beyond the damages suffered, the degree of fault is probably the most important factor in figuring out how much you may finally get back for your damages. In most instances, both you and the insurance company will know (by the circumstances around the accident) the degree of fault for both parties. Was the other party entirely at fault? Largely at fault? Or only a little bit at fault? If you were partially liable, an adjuster will reduce your recovery amount by your percentage of comparative fault. If you were only 10% at fault, your damages total will be lowered by 10%. Your recovery will not be reduced by any amount if the accident was clearly someone else’s fault.
What should I avoid doing after an accident?
There are a number of things that you should avoid doing after an auto accident. Don't forget to call the police. Avoid recorded statements. Also, make sure you don't wait too long before seeking recovery on your claim.
What if I don't know who caused my accident?
In the case of a hit-and-run where the negligent driver is never identified, plaintiffs can sometimes recover under California’s underinsured/uninsured motorist policies. Talk to a lawyer at our firm to learn more.
What is an Independent Medical Examination (IME)?
An Independent Medical Examination (IME) is a tool utilized by insurance carriers wherein they examine their own insured pursuant to their auto insurance policy in an effort to suspend their medical benefits or curtail their medical treatment under Personal Injury Protection (PIP). Do not confuse an IME with a CME (Compulsory Medical Examination). For the purpose of this discussion, an IME, is ordered by your insurance carrier prior to a lawsuit being filed. CMEs are requested by either an insurance carrier (the at-fault party’s carrier or your own insurance carrier) when the case is in litigation as a tool to defeat the lawsuit or at least mitigate damages.
Keep in mind that there is very little that is “independent” about this type of examination. The IME, is generally conducted by a physician retained by the applicable insurance carrier. We have seen the same IME physicians time and time again. In fact, IME physicians often produce the same report over and over, regardless of the complaints and presentation of the injury victim. The insurance carrier hand-picks the IME physician based on prior experiences and what they can expect.
In order to seek an IME, the insurance carrier must show that the mental or physical condition of an injured person who is covered under PIP is material to a claim for first-party medical benefits. If the mental or physical condition of the claimant is at issue, the applicable insurance carrier can require the individual submit to an examination.
Only a physician licensed under the same statute as the treating physician can generate a report that the insurance carrier can utilize to withdraw, reduce, or deny benefits for medical expenses. In other words, an insurance carrier can rely on a report generated by a chiropractor from an IME to cut off, deny, or reduce medical bills generated by the treating chiropractor. An osteopathic physician can do the same to a fellow osteopathic physician, a neurologist can respond to a neurologist, and so on. Subsequent case law stands for the proposition that a report from an IME is not necessary to deny benefits only to withdraw (cut off) benefits.
It is essential to note that the insurance carrier has a fundamental right to an IME. A refusal by the insured to submit to an examination or failure to attend said exam will constitute a material breach of the insurance policy (i.e., contract) and can serve to completely release the PIP carrier from liability for further payments to be made on medical services rendered. However, the failure on the part of an insured to attend the IME is not necessarily deemed to be an “unreasonable refusal” to attend. California law states that an insured’s attendance at an IME is not a condition precedent to the existence of PIP benefits. The insurance carrier has the burden of proving the insured’s failure to attend was unreasonable.
-  Partners in Health Chiropractic v. United Automobile Insurance Co., 21 So.3d 858 (Fla. 3d DCA 2009)
-  Allstate Insurance Co. v. Graham, 541 So.2d 160 (Fla. 2d DCA 1989)
-  Custer Medical Center v. United Automobile Insurance Co., 62 So.3d 1086 (Fla. 2010)
The person that hit me doesn't have insurance; what can I do?
In order to be protected by this type of insurance, you have to carry it on your own policy. In the very small number of situations where a negligent driver is uninsured, your uninsured/underinsured motorist policy holder will be liable for the damages you incur. These claims often operate in exactly the same way as a normal personal injury case, with the difference being that you are recovering from your own insurance carrier rather than the other person’s insurance provider. It is very important to remember in these situations that the representatives from your carrier are not out for your best interests. Just like every insurance adjuster, they will be looking to minimize the insurance company’s loss. Contacting an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you in these situations is the best way to ensure that you are protected.
Our firm represents all sorts of injury cases. Whether you have been hurt in a truck accident, car accident, motorcycle accident, or something else, we're here for you. Call Bral & Associates today at (855) 951-2215.
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