Protecting Your Rights After an Accidental Injury in San Francisco
In the event that you or someone you love experiences a serious injury, your first instinct might direct you to reach out to your insurance company to help walk you through the process of compensation. Although the insurance company has a duty to respond, however, it is not always working in your best interest.
Discussing the details of your situation with a San Francisco/Oakland area personal injury attorney, however, will help you learn your legal rights and how to proceed in recovering full compensation for your injuries. This is an important time, and decisions that you make now could affect your financial future. It’s not enough to rely solely on benefits that your insurance company might offer. Gaining experienced legal representation will help ensure that you protect your interests in the event of a personal injury.
Handling a Wide Range of Personal Injury Cases
The law firm of Winer, Burritt and Scott, LLP, know that personal injuries can strike in a wide variety of settings. We regularly handle the following claims, among others:
Should I Obtain a Police Report in a Personal Injury Case?
A report from an unbiased source at the scene of the accident, such as a police officer, can form an essential piece of information in your personal injury case. This document can help establish exactly what happened at the scene. Oftentimes, when you suffer injuries that require immediate medical assistance, you cannot record the details of the accident yourself. A police officer will do so in that event.
When police arrive, an officer will gather evidence and piece together what happened. After collecting evidence, the officer will generate an official report to document the details of the accident. The police officer may also determine fault after reviewing the details of the incident.
Evidence a police officer will typically record at the scene of an accident includes:
- Official statements from all drivers involved in the accident
- Insurance information from all drivers
- Statements from witnesses who observed the accident
- Photos of the accident scene
- Pictures of property damage (cars and landmarks or obstacles in the area)
Negotiating With Insurance Companies
The official police report can turn into an invaluable asset when dealing with your insurance company. Most insurance companies retain their own investigators to determine fault in an accident. Providing the official police report to your insurance company may help when attempting to negotiate a settlement. This will establish exactly what happened at the scene of the accident. Your personal injury lawyer can use the information provided in this report to negotiate just compensation for the injuries that you sustained in the accident.
Providing Documentation in Court
If your case goes to trial, although the police report can help you, it is actually not admissible in court. The court considers police reports hearsay. Still, the police report can provide a valuable starting point that your lawyer can use to bring up important details of the case.
Recoverable Damages in a Personal Injury Case
You may recover several types of damages in the event of a personal injury case. A plaintiff may collect monetary compensation for past medical expenses as well as anticipated future medical expenses (such as additional therapy, treatments, and medications). Other recoverable damages include both past, present, and future lost wages, and compensation for physical and mental pain and suffering.
In determining past and future medical expenses, the court will rely on the testimony and evaluation of a physician and other healthcare providers who treat and understand this type of injury. To quantify a value of current and future lost wages and earnings, attorneys commonly rely on the testimony of a local economist.
One more difficult area to gauge is pain and suffering. This area is relatively subjective as it includes emotional distress and damage. The scope of this damage will vary in each case. This is where an experienced attorney will provide skill in presenting the case and outlining the damages that led to pain and suffering.
Minors and Those Unable to Represent Themselves
When the victim of a personal injury case is either classified as incompetent or younger than 18, California law provides certain protections in the form of guardianship. The appointed guardian will oversee the case, may obtain legal representation, and can approve a settlement. Once reaching the settlement, the guardian will pay the awarded funds to the victim over a certain time period, or the guardian will deposit them into a protected trust for disbursement once the victim becomes a legal adult. The guardian may spend the funds sooner to cover specific medical and health expenses.
Understanding the Importance of Punitive Damages
If the plaintiff can show that the defendant engaged in either malicious or fraudulent conduct, California law allows the plaintiff to receive punitive damages. These are meant both to serve as an example to society and to punish the person who committed these despicable acts. The total amount of punitive damages can vary and will depend on the level of the misconduct. The defendant’s financial status may also play into the damages as well. A common example of a case that awards punitive damages is a case against a drunk driver.
How Insurance Coverage Works
Insurance coverage is especially important if the defendant in a personal injury case is not a large corporation or someone with significant assets and the ability to pay out of pocket for damages. A plaintiff has the right to sue a company or an individual for an amount that is greater than the insurance coverage, but actually collecting these damages can prove difficult.
In California, for example, many drivers go uninsured or carry the minimum amount of insurance required to legally operate a motor vehicle. In these cases, injured people may need to reach out to their own insurance companies to receive compensation.
It is important to understand that, under California law, an automobile driver who doesn’t carry active insurance is not entitled to claim pain and suffering damages from another driver, even if that driver caused the accident. For this reason, among many others, all drivers must maintain current automobile insurance.
California Personal Injury Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Many legal questions relevant to a personal injury case involve complicated determinations—and they rest on specific facts unique to the case. Nevertheless, what follows are a set of general questions and answers that we commonly hear in personal injury cases. If you were seriously injured, discuss the exact details of your situation with an experienced attorney.
What is classified as a “serious” personal injury? In general, these injuries are typically classified as serious:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Severe burns
- Fractures or broken bones
- Amputations and lost limbs
- Spinal cord injuries
Can I sue anyone in a personal injury case? Anyone or any entity who has acted with either intentional wrongdoing or with negligence can face a personal injury lawsuit. The only stipulation is that the person whom you sue must bear at least partial fault for the incident that caused your injury.
What parties can sue for a serious personal injury? Anyone who was injured in the state of California through intentional wrongdoing or negligence can initiate a personal injury case. If the plaintiff is a minor, the court will appoint a guardian to bring the case to court. This procedure is straightforward and relatively uncomplicated.
What happens if I am partially at fault for my injury? California has enacted comparative fault. This means that a person who is partially at fault for an injury can sue other parties who contributed to the injury. This requires proving at least one or more other party caused the accident. If you were partially at fault in the event that caused the injury, the court will reduce your compensation by the amount of your fault. Take, for example, an injured person who was 50 percent at fault for the accident. If the court awards a $2 million judgment, the court will reduce it 50 percent, to $1 million. The attorneys at Winer, Burritt and Scott, LLP, however, know how to fight insurance companies that use comparative fault to reduce what they owe you.
What are recoverable damages available in my case? California law stipulates that a seriously injured person is entitled to recover:
- Compensation for past and future pain and suffering
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future lost income and loss of earning capacity
- Additional damages on a case-by-case basis
Why is insurance coverage important? Having current insurance coverage is essential when it comes to a personal injury case. The purpose of these cases is to collect damages to cover the significant costs of your injuries. To collect compensation for these damages, someone or some entity must supplement this award. Typically, the insurance company covers this. The plaintiff’s legal team must work to produce an airtight investigation that includes every defendant who was involved in the incident. This will increase the likelihood of an insurance company (or multiple insurance companies) providing the total compensation you may need to cover your damages.
When should I file my serious personal injury claim? Typically, the victim of a personal injury case has one year from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit. There are exceptions. For example, if you are initiating a case against a public entity, like a city, you will need to file the claim within six months of the event. Timelines change with the involvement of a minor. Given the intricacies and exceptions, work with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you understand the timelines involved in filing this type of claim.
What are the chances my case will settle outside of court? There is a strong chance your case will settle outside of court. The majority of personal injury cases (about 95 percent) settle before a case is brought to trial. Nobody, however, can guarantee if your case is one of them.
What happens if I’m injured at work? Given that we spend an average of eight hours a day at work, injuries on the job are fairly common. In the event that you sustain an injury at work, your employer may face liability. In California, an employee must go through a workers’ compensation claim and cannot sue an employer in civil court. Workers’ compensation benefits are limited in what they pay and the cases are difficult to prove. If you were injured on the job, an experienced attorney can help guide you through the process and work to complete your workers’ compensation claim correctly.
Contact a San Francisco Personal Injury Attorney as Soon as Possible
At Winer, Burritt and Scott, LLP, we work on behalf of our clients to hold negligent parties responsible for their actions. Our experienced lawyers help to guide our clients to just resolutions and will keep them updated and informed throughout the entire legal proceeding. We have offices in Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco, and we work one-on-one with clients from all over California. Reach out online or call us at (415) 212-4932 to discuss your case with a personal injury attorney who can help you.