If you have recently been injured in an accident, you may have dozens of questions running through your mind, and rightfully so. Injury and accident victims are harmfully affected by the accident that they have been involved in, especially when they were not to blame for the incident. Fortunately, a Santa Clarita personal injury lawyer from The Law Offices of Gerald L. Marcus has answers to some of the most commonly asked questions!
What should I do after I have been injured in an accident?
After suffering injuries in any type of accident, it is immediately important to obtain the medical help that you need to remain healthy or to be nursed back to health. Your health and survival should be your main priority. Immediately after receiving medical attention, you, or a family member, are strongly advised to consult with a Santa Clarita personal injury lawyer to find out if you are eligible to file a personal injury claim.
How do I know if I am eligible for a personal injury claim?
By working with your personal injury attorney, you can determine fault and negligence in the accident. If another party was entirely at fault for the accident, leaving you absolutely no fault for the damages, you are most likely eligible to file a claim. However, insurance companies can be sneaky, and they may try to convince you otherwise or that you are not eligible for a claim. Only speak to an insurer if you have your lawyer present.
What if I'm contacted by the insurance company?
It is in your best interest to refrain from giving the insurance company a recorded statement until you have consulted with a lawyer. If you believe that your injuries were caused by negligence on the part of the other person, then you may be entitled to more compensation than the insurance company will tell you upfront. The goal of most insurance companies is to settle for as little as possible as quickly as possible. This allows them to increase their client's premiums while securing maximum revenue by paying out a lesser settlement. The incentive they draw most victims in with is a fast settlement. However, when your life has been transformed by injuries that you did nothing to cause, you deserve a fair settlement proportionate to your situation – not the insurance company's preferences.
The other person's insurance company offered me a settlement check, should I accept it?
After an injury accident, you should not accept any settlement without first speaking with a lawyer. Insurance companies prefer quick settlements and will try to get you to agree to an amount that is below what you rightly deserve. Consulting with a personal injury attorney about the offered settlement can be beneficial in the long run because his or her legal counsel may reveal new perspectives on your situation that can increase the worth of your claim. If you contact The Law Offices of Gerald L. Marcus about a settlement check offered to you by the insurance company, we will be able to offer you a free initial consultation on your case with no obligation.
What is the difference between compensatory and punitive damages?
The key to the difference between compensatory and punitive damages lies within the very titles of the two. Compensatory damages are intended solely to compensate the plaintiff for any losses he or she incurred because of the accident. Losses, also known as damages, primarily include the added financial costs of the accident such as medical expenses, future medical treatment, wages lost by the inability to work during recover and the loss of property. However, the plaintiff may be awarded further compensatory damages for physical and emotional reasons. While money cannot actually replace these types of losses, plaintiffs may ask to be financially compensated for the actual experience of pain and suffering, which includes emotional pain from being injured and living with physical impairments.
How long do I have to decide whether to file or not?
The time limit on pursuing legal recourse for personal injury is legally referred to as the statute of limitations. In California, the statute of limitations on most personal injury claims is two years from the date that the injury occurred. This means that a claim, however valid it may be, will be rendered invalid if the plaintiff fails to file within the two year limit. After that, the personal injury is considered immaterial and no longer exists in the legal realm. This statute of limitations applies to most personal injury claims including product liability, car accident claims and workplace injury claims. If the personal injury includes professional malpractice such as medical malpractice, the statute of limitations is extended to three years from the date of the injury. If the injury is not discovered immediately or if the date of the injury cannot be identified, the plaintiff has one year to file for medical malpractice from the discovery of the injury. If the medical malpractice claim concerns the presence of a foreign object inside of the patient's body, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of discovery. Furthermore, for children made victims of medical malpractice, a claim must be filed either three years from the date of the injury or before the child's eighth birthday – whichever time period is longer.
What is negligence?
In the general realm, negligence simply refers to carelessness by one or more persons. The legal philosophy behind personal injury assumes a duty of care for all people towards themselves and other people. It is the duty of all members of society to exercise reasonable care and caution in order to protect themselves and others from injury. Negligence is the failure of that duty, usually resulting in injury to another person. The legal principle of negligence is the key element in any personal injury claim. Unless the plaintiff can prove that the defendant's negligence was the direct cause of their injuries, the case is unlikely to be successful. Negligence is a non-criminal wrong done by one person to another without the intention of harm but with the absence of reasonable care and prudence. Negligence is present in civil actions as opposed to criminal actions, which usually involve recklessness or actual malice.
What will happen if the opposing party claims I contributed to the accident?
In the past, contribution of negligence on the part of the plaintiff would completely disqualify them from the ability claim damages. This is known as the system of contributory negligence, which does not award compensation to plaintiffs who had even the slightest degree of fault in causing their own injuries. However, California is among the states operating by a pure comparative negligence system, where percentage of fault determines the amount of damages paid by the defense. Under pure comparative negligence, the judge or jury will assign percentages of fault to each party and then assign damage award according to those percentages. This means that if the plaintiff is found 75% at fault for their own injuries because of their own negligence in avoiding the accident, he or she will be expected to pay for 75% of the damages claimed in the suit and the defendant will pay the remaining 25% of the damages.
Will my claim go to trial?
Not necessarily. In fact, most personal injury claims reach a settlement before getting to the courtroom. Out of court settlements are favorable for both parties because they avoid added court costs and lengthened trials. Obviously, you do not want to compromise the amount of potential compensation that a trial may bring you. However, the right personal injury attorney can adequately negotiate a fair settlement without having to resort to a courtroom trial.
How long after a settlement is reached will I receive the money?
In most cases, funds from a personal injury settlement are disbursed between seven and 14 days after the release is signed. Cases that involve larger settlements, the State as a party in the case or out-of-state insurance companies can take longer.
What will I have to prove to win a personal injury claim?
There are three main elements in a successful personal injury claim. The first thing you will have to prove in order to win your claim is that there was a duty of care owed by the defendant to you. This would include anything from being a fellow driver on the road expected to follow traffic signs to being your physician responsible for providing reasonable medical care. Secondly, you must show that the defendant breached that duty towards you by failing to exercise the care that any reasonably prudent person in the same situation would have. Lastly, you must be able to demonstrate that you have real, tangible damages from the accident and that the breach was the direct cause of those damages. These are called the elements of negligence.
What is the difference between a claim and a lawsuit?
Both claims and lawsuits are civil actions taken against negligent or otherwise liable parties. In a lawsuit, a plaintiff will bring a claim of loss against a defendant and demand action (usually financial compensation). For example, a consumer might file a lawsuit against a drug manufacturer because the pharmaceutical in question caused significant damage when used. Claims, on the other hand, typically involve things like car accidents, workers' compensation, pedestrian accidents and more.
How can your firm help me?
At our law office, the personal injury legal team works persistently to pursue compensation for individuals and the families of wrongful death victims throughout Santa Clarita and the surrounding communities. We have recovered millions of dollars in settlements for our clients in the past and we will continue to put forth our greatest effort to help all future clients.
What are the benefits of hiring a personal injury lawyer?
When retaining the services of an attorney, you will have the added advantage of an advocate of your rights to help aggressively pursue compensation on your behalf. Additionally, your legal representation will be capable of finding important information regarding your case to help strengthen your argument and potentially maximize your settlement.
The Law Offices of Gerald L. Marcus understands that there are many more questions that you might have regarding your accident. This is why our firm provides free consultations for those interested in legal representation or simply have inquiries. A Santa Clarita personal injury lawyer from our firm can evaluate your case and determine what legal action you may be able to take. To learn more, please contact The Law Offices of Gerald L. Marcus today!