Ultimate guide to personal injury
What is Personal Injury Law?
Personal injury law protects people who are injured in accidents caused by someone else’s negligence. Personal injury laws allow injured victims to seek compensation for damages caused by these accidents. Some typical accidents involved in personal injury lawsuits include car accidents, premises liability, dog bites, pedestrian accidents, and bicycle accidents.
California Personal Injury Laws
Personal injury law in California allows victims hurt by someone else’s negligence to file a claim to earn compensation. The law of negligence holds that in certain circumstances, individuals or entities are legally responsible for the safety of others.
When parties are negligent in their duty to keep others safe, those injured can sue to collect financial help with their recoveries. This legal “duty of care” applies to drivers who must show caution to other motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists.
It applies to business owners who invite customers and clients onto their property. It also applies to employers charged with the care of employees and manufacturers charged with making safe products for consumers.
Talking to a Personal Injury Lawyer After an Accident
Your battle to earn support for everything you endure after an accident isn’t usually fought with the person who caused the accident. It plays out against the at-fault party’s insurance representatives. Unfortunately, insurance companies don’t put the victim’s needs first. They immediately begin looking for ways to discredit the victim’s claim and deny that their policyholder is to blame.
Insurance adjusters can be stubborn, and it often takes legal action to get them to do the right thing. You should seek out the counsel of a California personal injury lawyer as soon after your accident as possible. A lawyer can tell you what your injury is worth and how to avoid falling into the traps insurance adjusters set for victims.
You can schedule a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer to talk about the benefits available to you. An insurance representative may not tell you about these benefits. If you decide to hire a lawyer, you won’t owe any money upfront. Most personal injury lawyers don’t get paid unless they win your case.
Types of Personal Injury Cases in California
A day in California can take us so many places. We might travel from the top of a mountain and down to the coast, and along some of the most dangerous freeways in the nation. We may be in for the day and face a threat from within our homes.
Here are just a few examples of the types of personal injury accidents that might leave you or a family member with an injury:
- Freeway and Street Accidents – Careless drivers leave more than just themselves vulnerable when they lose focus on the road. Drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians are all owed care when they are on or near the road. They should also receive full support when hurt by careless drivers. Rideshare, delivery, and trucking companies may also owe victims compensation after their employees cause a collision.
- Slip-And-Fall and Premises Liability Injuries – A person or a business allowing or encouraging visitors to enter their properties also accepts liability for any accidents that might occur. This applies at apartment buildings, grocery stores, government facilities, and at any business or public place. You may take a slip on an unmopped spill or fall down a stairwell with a loose handrail. A family member may be harmed while at a theme park like Universal Studios. Property owners and operators must compensate your family for these injuries.
- Workplace Accidents – Construction workers and agricultural workers work under some of the most dangerous conditions. However, anyone at any office or workplace can suffer an injury due to an employer’s negligence.
- Sports and Recreation Injuries – Adults or children injured while playing sports for a school or city-run league can ask for recovery support. There are normal risks that come with any sort of physical activity, but often property owners and organizers create hazards that are above and beyond the average risk for participants. This liability can apply to the owners of a paintball course or fun park. A signed waiver form at a theme park or for a rec league doesn’t always protect the owners and operators from having to provide injury support.
- Product Liability – The products we purchase or install in our homes or the appliances furnished in our apartments can malfunction and cause harm. Manufacturers and the stores that sell these products may be held liable for recovery costs after an injury.
- Wrongful Death Accidents – With the most dangerous incidents, there’s the risk of an accident claiming the life of a loved one. Personal injury can result in a fatality and then it’s the families who need the support to handle the enormous financial challenges that arise after a tragic accident. A wrongful death claim allows a grieving family to ask for help with the costs of a funeral. It also helps replace the income the deceased will no longer be able to provide in the future.
- Emotional Distress – Believe it or not, the intentional or unintentional infliction of distress is a type of personal injury that may qualify for compensable damages. Speak to our legal team to discuss the nature of your emotional distress injuries.
When Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer After a California Accident?
In most cases, yes. After a personal injury that involves only property damage or just a few scrapes and bruises, you might be able to file an insurance claim and receive fair treatment on your own.
However, when accidents involve a serious injury, the price of recovery immediately escalates and that triggers insurance adjusters to fight against support you even more. When you need more in support, they want to provide less or nothing at all.
A personal injury lawyer safeguards your rights by protecting you from insurance tactics. They may question even a police report on your accident and try to pin blame on you. Insurance adjusters can also offer you far less than what you need to pay for your full recovery. Without an attorney on your side, you may accept a “lowball offer” and sign away your rights to more support later.
When you are unsure if you have a case or not, contact a California Law firm for a no-risk consultation. It’s free and confidential and it’s a way to figure out how much you could earn in compensation for what you’ve been through. With Maison Law, you’ll talk with an actual California personal injury lawyer and get direct answers to your questions.
Who Can Be Held Liable After a California Personal Injury Accident?
Many injury victims assume they can only target the person directly responsible for their accident in an insurance claim. This isn’t true. There may be several parties that can be called upon to provide financial support through your recovery.
The driver who caused your car accident may be found at fault. However, that motorist may have been working for a rideshare, delivery, or trucking company when they hit you. Their employer could bear just as much liability for the accident or more. A trip-and-fall in a grocery store parking lot could be the responsibility of a local business owner, but if the store is part of a national chain, a corporation could face responsibility.
You could be bitten by a dog at an apartment complex. The pet owner would face some blame, but the landlord or the management company could be found at fault for not providing proper safety measures at a dog park.
Filing a claim against multiple parties gives you a much better chance of getting fully compensated for your injuries. Filing against an individual with limited insurance coverage might leave you having to pay for some of your medical bills out of your savings. Identifying other at-fault parties gives you additional routes to receiving full support.
Your California Personal Injury Lawyer will play a key role in fully investigating your case and finding multiple parties that could owe you compensation.
Can I Receive Compensation After an Accident If I Was Partially Responsible?
Yes. You could share some of the blame for the accident that left you injured, but you could still earn financial support for recovery.
California is a pure comparative negligence state when it comes to personal injury accidents. This means that the blame can be attributed to several parties. Every party found to have contributed to an accident, including you, is assigned a percentage of the blame.
For example, you may slip on a spilled drink at a supermarket. If it’s determined you were looking at a cellphone and not watching where you were going, you could be assigned 20% of the liability for your injury. The store should have cleaned up the mess and had warning signs out, and they could have to accept 80% of the blame.
In this example, you could still be awarded compensation for your injury recovery, but your 20% of blame would be deducted from the total. Your attorney would fight to get your percentage of liability reduced. In some cases, your attorney would be able to successfully argue that you aren’t responsible for any percentage of your accident.
How does a car accident settlement account for preexisting conditions?
If your preexisting condition was still “active” before your accident, you probably won’t be able to collect compensation for that injury. But, if your preexisting condition is aggravated by an accident, compensation is possible.
A preexisting condition is any health issue you were diagnosed with before an accident. This may include things like an aggravated disc, arthritis, or a previous brain injury. Victims may have a preexisting condition that is still considered “symptomatic” and causing issues. They can also have a preexisting condition that is considered dormant or inactive.
It’s also important to note that the victims of accidents can still receive compensation for injuries suffered in an accident that isn’t associated with the preexisting condition. But sometimes insurance companies like to lump preexisting injuries and new injuries together for their own benefit.
Insurance companies will use any excuse to downplay your injuries and reject your accident claim against their policyholder. When a preexisting injury is present, insurance adjusters can make a blanket judgment and dismiss all of your other injuries too. Don’t accept this.
Explain your situation to a skilled California personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer will make sure you receive what’s fair for your new injuries and any advancement of your preexisting condition due to an accident.
Visit our informational page on filing an injury claim when you have a previous injury.
What Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?
There are many ways California residents can get hurt over the course of a normal day. Another motorist may pull out in front of them to cause a crash. A product in their homes could malfunction and harm a family member. A shopping trip to Walmart or Target could end with a traumatic brain injury after a slip-and-fall on a puddle in the produce section.
Each accident case is different and each resulting injury will have a different timeline for recovery. It’s hard to estimate how much an insurance claim can earn without knowing every factor involved.
Your personal injury attorney will want to hear about every struggle you’ve had since your accident. They’ll also investigate the circumstances surrounding what happened. Only then can lawyers use their experience and knowledge of California law to assess how much you should be demanding in compensatory damages.
These are just a few of the factors that will determine how much support you and your family can count on:
- The severity of injury and length of recovery.
- The amount of pain you must endure through recovery.
- The total for your medical and rehabilitation bills.
- The emotional trauma you and your family have suffered.
- The total on the wages you’ve lost while missing work.
- How many liable parties may have to contribute to your recovery.
- Insurance limits for those parties.
- The skill of your personal injury attorney. Your attorney’s skill at the negotiating table and experience in the courtroom can play a big role in how much support your case earns or doesn’t earn.
What Should I Do After a California Personal Injury Accident?
Before you turn your case over to a personal injury lawyer, there are details you can secure at the scene of your accident that will later help your lawyer build a strong case.
This evidence may only be available for a short time before it’s cleaned up or removed. If you’re physically strong enough, you should secure every shred of evidence you can in order to prove what happened.
These are just a few of the important tasks you should try to accomplish at the scene:
- Dial 911. Let paramedics check out all injuries you may have. Go to the emergency room if necessary. In a traffic accident, allow officers to write up a collision report after telling them everything you can remember about what happened.
- Take photos with your phone. In an accident at a business or on someone’s property, document the obstacle that caused your injury. That obstacle may be cleaned up or repaired and disappear shortly after you leave the scene. Take pictures of any visible injuries. After a car crash, take pictures of car damage and fully capture your surroundings, including street and traffic signs.
- Exchange information. Alert a business owner or proprietor as to what happened. Allow them to write up an incident report. Get driver’s license and insurance information after a traffic accident. Don’t discuss who was at fault in your accident or how badly you are hurt.
- Talk to all witnesses. Get their contact information.
- Note the presence of security cameras on businesses or homes nearby.
- Get checked out by your physician in the days that follow. Pay special attention to any injuries that appear in the days after an accident. Injuries are often masked while you are still in shock over what happened.
- Bring your evidence to a California personal injury lawyer. Lawyers will take your evidence and contact information and begin their own investigation into what happened, looking for every way to prove you weren’t to blame.
What Happens if Evidence Is Tampered with After a Car Accident?
If an accident case has the potential to lead to litigation or if a claim or lawsuit has been filed, those involved are compelled to preserve all evidence. Tampering with evidence intentionally or unintentionally can harm a personal injury case for the plaintiff and the defendant.
The proof that shows who was at fault for a traffic accident may involve one key piece of evidence. If that evidence has been destroyed or tampered with, a driver may escape liability and leave victims paying for their medical bills out of pocket. This is not justice.
When evidence tampering or destruction is discovered, a judge can generally take one of three actions:
- A judge could issue a criminal penalty and require fines or jail time.
- A tort proceeding may be allowed. This enables a victim to file another lawsuit over the destruction of evidence and attempt to recover more in compensation.
- Inform a jury about the destruction of evidence. If a personal injury case went to trial, a jury would be allowed to consider this missing evidence in their determination over fault and liability.
Tampering with or removing traffic signs or signals is a criminal offense. What’s more, evidence could be found that a knocked down stop sign or yield sign was moved was not put back in the right spot. This change could greatly affect your case.
Evidence is the foundation of a strong case. If you think another driver tampered with evidence pertaining to your case, alert your personal injury attorney know immediately. Your attorney conducts a full investigation into your case. Your attorney strives to prove you weren’t to blame through evidence from the scene, police collision reports, and witness testimony.
A simple way to protect yourself from losing a case over evidence manipulation is to capture an accident scene in photos before any tampering can occur. Take photos of all damage to vehicles, traffic signs, and signals, and show lane markings. Show these elements in relation to car positions. Also, take photos of any visible injuries. Turn this evidence, along with witness contact information, over to your personal injury attorney.
What Should I Do if a Loved One Is Killed in an Accident?
If someone’s negligent actions are to blame for your loved one’s death, your family can seek insurance support. A close relative, like a spouse, domestic partner, or adult child of the victim, can file a wrongful death lawsuit. This lawsuit seeks to recover money spent on funeral expenses, medical bills, and ambulance fees.
Families should seek additional support to protect themselves from monetary issues in the coming years. They’ll be without the financial support a victim may have always provided through his or her job. Family members will also be without the love and guidance of the deceased in the future, and this emotional loss can also factor into compensation.
Statute of Limitations Including Whether or Not a Lawyer Can Help on an Old Car Accident Case
California sets its personal injury statute of limitations at two years from the date of the injury or death. This means that you have 24 months after an accident to file an injury or wrongful death claim. If you wait beyond two years to file a claim you’ll likely lose your chance to earn compensation from an at-fault driver’s insurance company. Your recovery costs will come out of your own pocket.
A personal injury lawyer can help you file a claim on an old car accident as long as the two years haven’t expired. Keep in mind that your lawyer won’t be able to help if you’ve already signed off on an insurance settlement for the accident.
Two years may seem like a very long time, but it’s not a good idea to wait until the deadline is approaching. The longer you wait to bring your personal injury case to a lawyer, the harder time your lawyer will have preparing your case.
Collecting physical evidence and documents becomes more difficult if you wait months after the date of your accident. Witnesses can be harder to track down and surveillance video associated with your accident could be erased before your lawyer can request it. The best policy is to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon after your injury as possible to ask for a free consultation.
Do I Need a Personal Injury Attorney to Negotiate My Insurance Settlement?
When your injuries involve more than just a few bumps and bruises, you’ll almost always benefit from having a California personal injury lawyer at your side during negotiations. In fact, one of the biggest benefits of having legal representation is that it allows you to focus on recovery, while your lawyer handles all communications and negotiations with insurance adjusters.
Your lawyer’s guidance also prevents you from accepting a hastily offered insurance settlement that is far below what you and your family will need to recover. Once you sign off on such an offer, you can’t go back to ask for more support when you require surgery in a year or miss more time at work with an injury flare-up.
This protection is also important for families after a loved one has been taken in a careless act. It’s vital that families are provided the support they need to rebuild their lives. They must also be able to count on support in the future to avoid bankruptcy while coping with the loss of the deceased’s financial support.
Your personal injury lawyer also rushes to your defense when an insurance company tries to unfairly blame you or a loved one for an accident. These and other insurance tactics rob hundreds of thousands of victims of the support they need. Your attorney safeguards your rights and the rights of your family after a serious accident.
How Much Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Cost?
The cost to have a personal injury lawyer represent your case will include the attorney fee and the legal and investigative fees your lawyer will incur while building your case. The good news is that these costs aren’t due up-front.
Most Personal Injury lawyers work on a contingency basis, meaning they earn an attorney’s fee if they win your case. If they win, they would earn about a third of a personal injury award. The fee goes higher on a case that is particularly complex or if a case takes a very long time to resolve.
Do attorneys charge fees in addition to the contingency fee?
After a legal victory, personal injury lawyers will receive their contingency attorney fees out of the settlement or judgment earned on behalf of the victim. Most law firms also require that all expenses associated with the case are also paid out of the client’s earnings.
Most personal injury lawyers cover the costs of legal fees, investigative fees, and documentation fees without requiring up-front money from the client. These are costs involved with anything needed to build a strong case for the client. After a successful outcome, these costs are usually paid back to the law firm out of the settlement award.
If the client doesn’t win an award and a case is unsuccessful, this requirement can change. After a failed case, some law firms absorb the legal fees involved and don’t charge their clients for anything. Some law firms do charge the client for legal fees, even after a loss.
If your case doesn’t succeed, some lawyers don’t charge their clients anything. This would mean you wouldn’t pay an attorney fee or for any of the legal fees accumulated over the course of your case.
Who Should Receive the Check After a Personal Injury Case?
After you sign off on an insurance settlement, a check made out to you and your attorney is sent to the law firm. Your attorney then deposits the check into a secure escrow account. Several debts must be paid before you receive your share of the award.
From this escrow account, any liens placed on your settlement are paid first. These liens may have been placed on your account by medical care and health insurance providers. You and your attorney may have asked health care providers to wait on payment for care until you received settlement money.
After all liens are paid, the legal fees and investigative fees your lawyer covered over the course of your case are paid back. The attorney also collects an attorney fee out of this account according to the percentage laid out in the contingency agreement.
This process can take anywhere from a week to several weeks depending on the complications that arise. Once all outstanding debts have been paid, the attorney will transfer your money to you according to your directions. This generally means the money is transferred from the escrow account into your bank account electronically.
What if a defendant doesn’t pay a personal injury settlement?
Defendants without insurance usually agree to pay a settlement to avoid a lawsuit. If the defendant refused to pay an agreed-upon settlement, a personal injury lawyer would then file a lawsuit to instead earn a court judgment for the victim.
This lawsuit can serve merely as a threat. Defendants may change their minds and decide to pay up rather than face a judge and jury. If the settlement still isn’t honored by the defendant, the lawsuit would proceed and a court would decide the case.
If the court ruled the defendant does owe the personal injury victim compensation, the defendant would be under a legal obligation to pay the judgment amount. A defendant refusing to pay a court judgment would face legal penalties.
When a defendant has insurance and the insurance provider has agreed to pay a settlement, victims and their lawyers usually receive the settlement check without issue.
How Long Can a Doctor’s Office Wait Before Sending a Bill?
After suffering an injury in an accident, you may have little hope of paying for the expensive medical care necessary to get you back on your feet. At the very least, paying for that care all at once may be impossible.
Doctor’s offices could send you a bill for your medical care at any time, but their bills are often delayed. They must often send a bill to your health insurance company first. The healthcare provider will wait to see what your health insurance will cover, and then bill you for the rest. This process can sometimes take up to a year or more.
Accident victims may hope for a delay in billing because when someone else is at fault, it should be the guilty party’s liability insurance provider (e.g., car insurance) that pays. Unfortunately, liability insurance companies can stall on paying you fair compensation, and, in turn, leave you in default on your medical expenses for months at a time.
For accident victims facing a financial crisis over hospital invoices, there is another option to delay those bills. When an insurance injury settlement is expected, your personal injury lawyer can ask your doctors if they will work under a “medical lien” agreement. This means they agree to wait until you receive a personal injury settlement. They then get paid out of your award.
Not all hospitals and doctor’s offices will work for a medical lien. Your personal injury lawyer often knows what healthcare providers are flexible and can direct clients to the right doctors for care.
How Do You Pay for Bills While You Wait for a Settlement Check?
After the pain of your injury, the financial struggles you’ll endure may be the next most difficult part of your accident experience. When someone’s negligence causes you harm, you’re supposed to be able to count on financial help from their liability insurance policies. Sadly, this compensation can take months and even years to arrive.
In the meantime, you could have an emergency room visit to pay for, on top of a week or more in the hospital to cover. This is while you are forced to skip paychecks at work while your monthly bills, like the rent and car payments, go unpaid.
To make it through this difficult waiting period, you can rely on several outlets to keep you financially afloat. As far as medical costs, you have a few options.
- Health Insurance — Your health insurance may not cover every bill, but it may cover at least part of your medical expenses. Keep in mind that the health insurance company may want a share of any injury award that you receive if a car insurance company or homeowner’s insurance decides to cover your recovery.
- Medical Liens – When medical providers aren’t paid they can file a medical lien against any insurance settlement you may receive. Your doctors would be paid out of your settlement before you received your portion. Your personal injury attorney can also ask doctors to work under a medical lien agreement. Your doctors and surgeons would agree not to charge you until an insurance settlement is awarded.
For financial issues caused by your inability to work and support your family, there may be other alternatives. Banks can provide short-term loans to keep you on strong financial footing until an insurance company provides relief. A letter from your attorney going over the potential settlement award you could receive can help you secure a loan.
There are also companies that specialize in lawsuit settlement loans. These companies provide you with a portion of your potential settlement early. They then recover their money with interest when you receive an injury settlement.
It’s important to talk to an experienced California Personal Injury Attorney about your options. The options listed here may not be the best solutions for you and your family, but a skilled attorney will have other ways to help you in recovery until you can earn fair compensation.
Am I Entitled to See My Lawyer’s File on My Case?
Yes. Your case file is your property and your lawyers work for you. They are legally obligated to make copies of a case file at your request. Your files are yours to look at even if you terminate your relationship with a lawyer. He or she is still required to turn over the file to you or your new attorney.
Does a recorded statement last forever?
Yes. For all intents and purposes, assume that any recorded
statement you give an insurance adjuster after an accident will last forever.
These statements can often hurt your insurance claim. The best thing to do is
politely decline to give a statement. There’s no law saying you have to.
After a serious accident, an insurance representative for
the at-fault party will call you for a recorded statement. They’ll want you to
talk about the fault in the accident and the injuries you suffered. What they
really hope is that you make a statement they can use against you later.
If you aren’t prepared for this call and it takes you by
surprise, ask the insurance adjuster to call you back at a later date. Buy
yourself some time to call a personal injury lawyer and take advantage of a
free consultation to find out how to handle your injury claim.
If you have hired a personal injury lawyer, it’s even
easier. You can tell anyone calling you from an insurance company to contact
your attorney. Your attorney should handle all communications with insurance
representatives and opposing lawyers.
Do You Usually Assign Power of Attorney to your Lawyer in a Personal Injury Case?
Your attorney may or may not ask you to sign a power of attorney document depending on the circumstances of your personal injury case. This agreement grants your lawyer the power to make decisions on your behalf.
If you were to become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for your case or couldn’t be reached, your attorney could make certain choices for you. They could take action while negotiating with an insurance company or decide how settlement money should be used. Keep in mind that your lawyer is always legally obligated to act in your best interest.
For the most part, the power of attorney is just a matter of convenience for a client. You would not have to go into your lawyer’s office every time a document needed to be signed. Your attorney could sign for you.
This is often handy when a settlement offer from an insurance company arrives. Most reputable attorneys would discuss the terms with you, perhaps by phone, to make sure the offer is satisfactory. If you consent, your attorney could sign the papers for you and get the ball rolling on receiving a check that much faster.
If you don’t feel comfortable with your attorney having this power, or don’t have complete trust in your attorney, you can choose not to grant this power.
Can You Have Two Different Law Firms Work on your Personal Injury Case at the Same Time?
Yes. You are allowed to have as many lawyers from as many different firms as you like. Your case may involve two different areas of the law. Your case could require multiple attorneys specializing in different types of law to give your claim the best chance of success.
Why Do Law Firms Refer Some Cases to Other Law Firms?
Lawyers are much like doctors in that they can specialize in many unique and different fields. Some lawyers focus on personal injury cases involving medical malpractice. Others dedicate their time to protecting the victims of traffic accidents.
Lawyers you’ve discussed your case with may feel they can’t provide the legal representation you need due to a lack of experience in the field of law your case involves. They could send you to a lawyer they know and trust with experience in your case matter. Lawyers could also send you to a partner in their own law firm who does specialize in your area of need.
Your case could also require less specialization or experience to be successful. A more experienced lawyer could turn your case over to a trusted colleague to handle simple, routine legal actions.
A case may only require a simple court filing or a brief negotiation with insurance adjusters. This move could free up a more experienced lawyer’s time to focus on helping clients with more complex cases. The action could also save you money in attorney fees while still making sure you are receiving the care your case deserves.
Is it Legal for My Employer to Fire Me if I Am Permanently Injured in an Accident?
Yes. In some cases, unfortunately. Most states, including California, are at-will states which means employers can fire employees for any reason. They just have to be careful not to violate public policy such as anti-discrimination laws.
Upon returning to work with a permanent injury, you may no longer be able to perform your previous job duties. An employer is obligated to attempt to find a job your injury will allow. If no job can be found, they may have grounds to fire you.
An employer could also terminate your position if you return from medical leave approved for light-duty but refuse the new role.
Small business owners could fire an employee out for an extended time because the owner can’t afford to pay both a replacement and an injured worker. If office modifications to allow the victim to work would be a financial burden to the company, termination could be allowed.
There are other means of earning support if you lose your job over an injury. Victims could still report an injury and file for workers’ compensation.
If you were hurt on the job because your employer failed to provide a safe work environment, you could have a case to ask for additional financial support from your company and in some cases retain your job. This support may extend over a lifetime.
If your permanent injury was caused by a careless driver or happened on someone else’s property, you have a right to file a claim for damages. The party’s insurance company should be held responsible for all hardships you face and that includes the loss of the ability to work and support yourself and your family.
Can You Fire Your Personal Injury Attorney?
Yes. You may terminate your partnership with your personal injury attorney at any time and for any reason. It’s your right to do so. There are some things to consider before making this important decision. There’s also a right way to fire your attorney to avoid damaging your case.
You can and usually should have your next attorney lined up in order to cause the least disruption to your personal injury claim. You’ll want a smooth transition if your case is still open, in settlement negotiations, or heading to trial.
Reasons for Firing Your Attorney
You don’t have to offer a reason for why you’re firing your attorney, but there are many common grounds for clients wanting to seek new lawyers.
You and your attorney may simply not get along or be a bad personality match. Perhaps you are unhappy with the level of attention your case has received. Maybe you haven’t gotten regular updates on your case.
You may disagree with the strategies your lawyer is using or you may feel your lawyer isn’t aggressive enough.
Always make sure that your dissatisfaction with a lawyer isn’t tied to things the lawyer can’t control. Getting an unfavorable decision from a judge or finding out your case isn’t as strong as you thought may or may not be the lawyer’s fault. Finding new legal counsel may not improve your position.
How To Terminate Your Personal Injury Lawyer
Start by going over the contract you signed with your first attorney to find any sections that cover how to end the attorney-client relationship. If the stipulations are reasonable, do everything possible to follow the guidelines and pave the way for an amicable departure.
Here are some other factors to consider:
- Hire a new lawyer before firing your old one. Begin looking for a new attorney immediately after you realize you’re going to leave your current attorney. This way you won’t be without legal counsel in the event something comes up with your case.
- Write a formal letter stating you are terminating your relationship with your old lawyer. Send it by certified mail. Request that the attorney turn over all case files to your new attorney and list contact information for your new attorney.
- If your case is pending before a court, you’ll need to notify the court of your change in legal representation. The court should be notified immediately when you’ve changed lawyers.
Other Things to Remember When Firing a Lawyer
You could have to pay your last attorney for any expenses laid out while preparing your case. You may owe court fees as well. Pay these fees as soon as possible to avoid being taken to small claims court over the amounts in dispute.
You may not have to pay your attorney anything after termination, but your old attorney could still have a claim on a percentage of any insurance settlement you receive.
If your last attorney played a part in investigating your case and moving it forward, the attorney could be entitled to part of any award. Your new attorney would have a claim to some of the compensation earned through a settlement or judgment in court.
Your current lawyer and your old one would have to decide how to divide up the lawyer’s fee due out of the award. Their shares would be based on the amount of work each did. Fortunately, you would not have to worry about this negotiation.
However, keep in mind that if the lawyer you are leaving has done a bulk of the work on your case, finding another lawyer may get harder. Any potential lawyer may avoid taking over a case when the bulk of any attorney fee would be going to someone else.
What Happens if Your Personal Injury Lawyer Didn’t File Paperwork On-Time?
Unfortunately, lawyers sometimes make mistakes like everyone else. They could miss a statute of limitations deadline on your personal injury case. If this date passes before your case is filed, it usually means you have lost the right to file a claim and demand compensation over an injury suffered in an accident.
In most states, this statute of limitations gives you one or two years after the date of the accident to file. If missed, there is hope for the victim. A sympathetic judge could grant permission to file a late notice, but this assistance shouldn’t be counted on.
Personal injury lawyers are legally required to act in the best interests of their clients, and, of course, leaving a case to expire is often harmful to the client. An injured victim will have no way to seek help with hospital bills and recoup lost wages from an insurance company.
A lawsuit filed against the negligent attorney could earn a victim financial support. This would usually mean the client would seek new legal representation, either to file a claim against the previous attorney or to continue with a personal injury case if possible.
Things to Remember When You File Your Own Personal Injury Insurance Claim
If you decide to file your own insurance claim after an accident, you should be ready with a lot of documentary evidence.
You’ll have to turn over all medical records, invoices, and receipts for travel costs to appointments. You’ll also need documents showing every paycheck you’ve lost while missing work. Write down every detail you can remember about your accident. Submit photos from the scene and any police or incident reports.
When evaluating any settlement offer an insurance company extends, be sure to keep in mind any future costs you might face due to your injury:
- Additional surgeries and treatment.
- Physical therapy visits, the costs of medical equipment, and prescription medication.
- Support for a temporary or permanent disability.
- Missed time at work in the future.
Does this settlement provide for those expenses down the road? If the money doesn’t come from a settlement, it will come out of your own pocket.
It’s also important to remember that when you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury, getting the maximum compensation available is absolutely critical.
To make sure that you do, it’s extremely helpful having a California personal injury lawyer going over every detail of your negotiations with an insurance company. It’s also key to have a lawyer when you are being unfairly blamed for causing an accident and causing your own injury.
What is the difference between a lien specialist and a lien negotiator?
A lien specialist works within certain industries like the mortgage field, the medical field, and for car loan providers to ensure debtors make their payments. When debtors get behind on bills, lien specialists take action to contact them and facilitate remittance.
When bills aren’t paid, lien specialists may place a lien on the property in question, perhaps a house or a car, and prevent it from behind sold until payment can be worked out.
A lien negotiator for a law firm works in favor of accident victims and helps law firms secure protection for them. After accidents, lien negotiators try to safeguard victims from financial turmoil over medical invoices and normal monthly bills they can’t pay.
Victims may be out of work due to injury and behind on many of their bills. They will be waiting on the at-fault driver’s insurance company to provide financial compensation for their recovery. Victims may have no money to pay their medical bills or make a mortgage or car payment until an insurance settlement is reached.
A lien specialist works to negotiate a lien agreement with creditors. Creditors and their lien specialists agree to wait on payment until the victim receives money from an insurance settlement or judgment.
Do Personal Injury Lawsuits Require Juries?
No. A California judge can rule on a civil lawsuit, like a personal injury case, with no need for a jury. Either side in a lawsuit has the right to request a jury trial but that side will be responsible for the added costs a jury brings.
It’s important to note that most civil injury claims and many lawsuits settle out of court before a jury trial would be necessary.
Personal Injury Jury Trials for California Victims
A personal injury trial is decided by the presiding judge unless a jury trial is asked for. Any personal injury lawsuit plaintiff (victim) has the right to request a jury trial.
A jury trial is an available option, but victims must be informed that the costs for the trial will go up. Although, the potential increased costs are often worth it when a jury awards more than a judge might.
The party that requests the jury trial must pay certain fees and daily expenses. If both sides of the case request a jury, then both sides would split these fees.
Parties that request juries would be responsible for these additional costs:
- One-time court fees charged for a jury trial.
- Money to cover each juror’s daily pay and expenses.
- Money to cover the mileage each juror travels each day for the trial. This includes money for prospective jurors’ travel.
Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis. This means they don’t get paid upfront. Your lawyer would handle your case without pay and would usually cover the costs of the case.
Under a contingency agreement, your lawyer only gets paid if the case is won. That means the lawyer’s fee would come out of any settlement money you were awarded at the end of a trial. Generally, any court fees the lawyer paid on your behalf would also come out of your compensation after the trial.
Will I Have to Go to Court Over My California Personal Injury Case?
Not usually. Personal injury claims are usually settled out of court in negotiations between an insurance company and the victim or the victim’s attorney. Insurance providers usually want to avoid trials.
Victims often don’t have to file lawsuits and threaten court action to get results, because insurance companies don’t like going to court. It’s expensive for them and they risk losing a very public battle with someone they’ve treated unfairly (you).
It’s when an insurance provider refuses to accept the blame for their policyholder or refuses to extend a fair settlement offer that a trial becomes necessary. A skilled California personal injury lawyer will be ready for this possibility and will already have been building a case, backed with evidence, for a potential trial.
And remember, just because a lawsuit is filed, a settlement can still be reached before or even during a trial. A lawsuit will sometimes scare an insurance company or a corporation into accepting full responsibility for an accident.
Do I Want a Jury Trial for My Personal Injury Case?
A skilled and experienced California lawyer will know what sort of trial will give your case the best chance of success. You’ll sit down with your attorney and discuss your options before going to trial.
A jury trial is usually the best choice in a personal injury case. Personal injury cases often involve serious injuries. It’s believed that juries are more sympathetic to a victim who has experienced pain and hardship after something like a car accident or a dog bite.
A trial decided by a judge, known as a bench trial, is usually more beneficial when a case carries of a high degree of complexity. A jury trial shouldn’t be requested when detailed statutes and legal jargon might confuse a jury.
Again, your attorney knows your case best and will have the legal knowledge to determine what path most benefits you.
California Civil Jury Instructions
The California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) is an online resource that instructs jurors on the responsibilities they’ll have during a personal injury trial.
Jurors can find instruction on how to evaluate evidence and witness testimony. They can get a preview of what their time in court will be like. There are sections on a juror’s duties in a motor vehicle accident case, in a premises liability case, and many other types of civil trials.
You can find out more about a juror’s responsibilities on our California Civil Jury Instructions page.
Contact a California Personal Injury Lawyer
After you or a loved one have been hurt in any sort of personal injury accident, talk to a skilled California Personal Injury Attorney before speaking with any insurance company.
Contact Maison Law to schedule a free, and confidential consultation with Martin Gasparian, the founder of Maison Law. It’s a chance to get an honest look at the best options for you and your family. If Mr. Gasparian can’t improve the outcome of your insurance settlement he will tell you that, but he will also make sure you have the knowledge you need to win fair compensation on your own.
If you decide to allow our law firm to represent your case, you won’t need any money to hire us. There is no attorney fee unless we win your case for you.