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Vehicle accident victims should never be left to fend for themselves after a serious injury. Thousands of dollars in medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering wreak havoc on their lives. Many require surgeries, long-term therapy, and months or years to recover.
Other accident victims find themselves stuck with permanent disabilities, including paralysis, disfigurement, and lost limbs. No money can make up for this type of life disruption and struggle.
But California law provides those injured in a car accident with the right to full compensation for their injuries. According to California law, personal injury compensation takes many forms, including compensatory (economic) and general (non-economic) damages. In a minority of car accident cases, punitive damages apply.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Car Accident Claim?
When you sustain serious car accident injuries, you need an attorney to negotiate with insurance companies to win the settlement you deserve. For example, a vehicle accident trauma often leaves victims in pain with heavy medical debt and may even leave them unemployed. The last thing auto accident casualties need is to simultaneously be physically and financially impaired.
Your La Jolla car accident attorney ensures this never happens to you. In addition to medical costs, you may also be entitled to compensation for lost income and pain and suffering. However, insurance companies won’t tell you that. Instead, their business model is built on paying out the least in claims, and their adjusters are trained to justify the lowest settlement possible–or no settlement at all.
California is a pure comparative negligence state. The insurance company can reduce its payout for injured parties if it can shift some of the blame onto them. For instance, if you end up with $100,000 in medical expenses because of an accident, an insurance company may claim you are 30% responsible and offer you just $70,000. In addition to short-changing you on medical reimbursement, such an offer provides no compensation for lost income, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Your La Jolla personal injury attorney won’t let them get away with offering an inadequate settlement. Firstly, you may be far less than 30% at fault or 0% at fault. In addition, the settlement must reflect your general damages, which are the non-economic costs of the accident.
During discovery, your La Jolla personal injury attorney gathers evidence, interviews witnesses, and deposes defense witnesses to establish the strongest possible case. With the completion of discovery, your attorney has the evidence needed to show the other party bears all or the vast majority of the liability. Therefore, you are likely to receive a generous jury verdict. This provides the leverage you need to force the insurance company to offer the settlement you deserve.
Once the insurance company knows your attorney is prepared to take the case to trial and win, it usually offers an excellent settlement.
Why Choose Shamon Law As Your Personal Injury & Accident Lawyers?
An injury can leave you with mounting medical expenses, lost income, and an inability to participate in your life fully. No accident victim should be left to fend for themselves.
Shamon law understands how important these cases are for our clients. Our experience includes going up against the big insurance companies and winning. We use our expertise to develop powerful cases, negotiate the best possible settlements, and win cases at trial.
When you suffer an injury because of someone else’s negligence, you need the Shamon Law team in your corner. Insurance companies are in business to make money, and that means they work to reduce claims payouts. Their adjusters receive compensation and advancement according to metrics that reward them for playing hardball with claimants.
Shamon Law plays hardball too. Our legal team pushes against insurance companies to earn our clients the settlements they deserve. We have decades of combined experience as car accident lawyers in La Jolla. We have seen all insurance companies’ tricks to short-change injured parties. We never let them get away with short-changing our clients.
Shamon Law’s La Jolla car accident lawyers go into negotiations from a position of strength. To win the settlements our clients deserve, we carefully build our cases until they are bulletproof. Because we go to court ready to go to trial and win, our opponents know they must offer our clients full compensation or risk losing at trial and bearing the expense of litigation.
In cases where the opposition remains unreasonable, we have the courtroom experience to see your case through trial and appeals. Shamon Law car accident attorneys in La Jolla always go the distance for their clients. We value every claim and fight until the fight is done.
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Common Types Of Auto Accident Injuries
Auto accident injuries range from superficial to life-threatening. Even relatively low-speed collisions can result in serious, chronic injuries. Here are some of the most common types of car accident injuries:
Scrapes and Cuts
Unsurprisingly, scrapes and cuts are the most prevalent. Minor wounds of this type usually cause no long-term problems, though some serious cuts result in scarring and disfigurement.
Whiplash results from the impact of a crash propelling your body at a velocity it was never meant to endure. The neck, ligaments, and tendons frequently suffer trauma from whiplash. The condition often results in chronic pain and requires treatment to mitigate symptoms.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Human skulls cannot fully protect the brain from high-speed impacts, and traumatic brain injuries often result. Some cases result in headaches and sleep difficulties, while the severe cases can permanently degrade cognition.
Seeking a medical exam after an accident is always important because some injuries show few or no symptoms until they become dangerous. Internal bleeding is a great example. A medical exam determines if accident victims have sustained interior trauma.
Trauma injuries and broken bones often go together, leading to pain, expensive medical treatment, and lost income.
Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord can only absorb so much shock, and the crushing trauma of auto accidents often results in major damage that can lead to neurological deficits, postural degradation, and paralysis. In addition, severe spinal cord injuries result in some of the highest jury verdicts.
Common Causes Of Auto Accident Injuries
Most auto accident injuries result from human error. Careless driving and reckless conduct on the roads send innocent people to emergency rooms daily. Speeding, tailgating, and texting while driving is other bad behaviors that cost auto accident victims in financial and life quality terms.
No person should be left without just compensation when another’s negligence causes personal injury. La Jolla car accident attorneys at Shamon Law have seen all the causes of auto accident injuries. We know how to determine negligence and prove it in court. Until robot drivers take over the roadways, human error will remain the number one cause of auto accident injuries. Shamon law gets our clients the compensation they are due for their economic losses and pain and suffering.
Other common causes of auto accident injuries include poor weather conditions, mechanical failures, and drugs or alcohol. Poor weather conditions are no excuse for careless or reckless driving. Motorists must adjust their speed and following distance to accommodate poor visibility and wet pavement. When they fail to correct for inclement weather, they are responsible for the crashes they cause.
Mechanical failures also result in liability. Often, the vehicle owner fails to practice prudent maintenance. In other instances, the manufacturer or vehicle repair shop released a defective product or completed shoddy work. As a La Jolla car accident lawyer, Shamon Law gets to the bottom of mechanical failures and holds the liable parties responsible.
It’s axiomatic that drugs, alcohol, and driving don’t mix, yet people continue to endanger lives by driving drunk or drugged. Shamon Law’s car accident lawyers seek large settlements when their clients suffer because of another’s criminal conduct.
No one has the right to place other people in danger because they choose to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. Instead, we seek punitive damages when our clients sustain devastating injuries because of another’s blatant disregard for the safety of others.
Common Injuries Suffered in Car Accidents
Car accident injuries range from superficial to life-altering. Thankfully, most injuries heal with proper treatment, but victims suffer from permanent disabilities, including paralysis in the worst cases.
Whatever level of injury you bear, Shamon Law La Jolla car accident attorneys ensure you receive all compensation due. We have seen all types of injuries, including the following:
- Cuts and scrapes
- Broken bones
- Internal bleeding
- Traumatic head injuries
- Spinal cord trauma
- Facial disfigurement
- Eye injuries
- Ear injuries
- Hand injuries
What Should I Do Immediately Following an Auto Accident?
This depends on whether you have sustained serious injuries. If you are badly hurt, it’s unlikely you are in a position to take any action. If possible, make sure you are in a safe location until emergency services respond. Later, when you are recovering and able, make notes of everything you can remember.
If you are injured and able, obtain the other driver’s insurance information and take pictures and videos of the accident scene. Also, record the contact information of any witnesses. On public roads, it’s prudent to contact the police. This establishes the basic facts of the case and prevents an unscrupulous party from denying the incident occurred.
The steps you take after a car accident can impact the outcome of your personal injury case. If you are involved in a car accident in La Jolla, these steps can help you protect your rights in an accident claim:
Stop, call 911 and get help for any injured parties on the scene:
- As soon as an accident happens, we are often left in a state of shock. The first step in any automobile accident is to make sure you and any other party have not been seriously injured and to contact 911.
Exchange contact and insurance information with another party:
- After 911 has been called and any immediate injuries have been addressed, exchange contact and insurance information with the other parties. Gathering this information early will help move the case along for all parties involved.
How Much Is My Car Accident Case Worth?
A car accident settlement is worth what a jury will likely award at trial. Insurance companies try to settle for less than this amount by claiming the accident was at least partially your fault or short-changing you on damages. Shamon Law personal injury attorneys fight to win every dollar due to their clients.
When juries calculate damages, they total the compensatory (economic) damages, determine the general damages multiplier, and then calculate the compensatory damages times the general damages multiplier. They then reduce this number by the percentage of fault applied to the plaintiff under California’s pure comparative negligence law. Punitive damages, though applicable in only a small percentage of auto accident cases, are then applied.
During settlement negotiations, attorneys debate the amount juries are likely to award. In addition, insurance company lawyers attempt to minimize settlements by arguing to exclude some compensatory damages items, reduce the general damages multiplier, and cast blame onto the plaintiff for a large proportion of the accident.
Shamon law personal injury attorneys fight back hard against these tactics. All compensatory damages and full compensation for general damages must be included. In addition, Shamon law never accepts spurious claims of fault based on comparative negligence.
For instance, if a car accident victim sustained $100,000 in economic damages from medical bills and lost income, that number is multiplied by 1.5 to 5 to determine general damages.
General damages include non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and other intangible but terrible costs of the injury and impairment. For example, if the accident caused significant life interruption and trauma, a jury might select 4 as a multiplier. As a result, compensatory damages would be $100,000 and general damages $400,000, for an award of $500,000.
Pure comparative negligence requires juries to reduce awards by the percentage of fault borne by the plaintiff. In this example, if a jury believed the plaintiff was 10% at fault, the award would be reduced from $500,000 to $450,000.Punitive damages go on top of this, though they apply only in cases where the defendant(s) egregiously disregarded the safety of others.
Uninsured motorist claims work differently because your insurance company pays them. But, as with other claims, it’s key to negotiate the settlement with your insurer.
Compensatory damages consist of the direct financial losses incurred because of the accident. These are tangible losses upon which you can place a precise figure, such as by totaling the costs of medical treatment. They are also the easiest to prove.
Compensatory damages can relate to any economic loss from the incident. When a vehicle accident occurs, these are the most common compensatory damages awarded by California courts:
- Emergency room bills
- Hospital bills
- Ambulance charges
- Doctors’ visits
- Medication expenses
- Surgical costs
- Physical therapy
- In-home care
- Assistive devices
- Extra transportation costs
- Domestic help related to the injury
- Lost wages
- Lost benefits
- Lost retirement account contributions and opportunity cost
- Other fringe benefits
- Lost self-employment income
- Business income reductions
- Business closure or forced sale
- Any adverse impact on incomes tied to the injury
General damages consist of non-pecuniary damages that result from an injury. When you suffer a serious injury, your damages go beyond what can be expressed on a ledger showing expenses and lost income. You also experience physical and emotional pain and reduced enjoyment of life.
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Emotional distress
Because general damages are more difficult to quantify than compensatory damages, California law uses a multiplier approach. Juries deliberate on the extent of the general damages and then award between 1.5 and 5 times the compensatory damages.
For instance, if a plaintiff sustains $50,000 in compensatory damages because of an auto accident, a jury can award that individual 1.5 to 5 times that amount. Presuming the victim spent time in the hospital had to attend many therapy sessions, suffered physical pain, and missed many important life activities, the jury may decide to award (as general damages) 3 times the $50,000, resulting in a total verdict of $200,000.
California law stipulates punitive damages in cases where the defendant(s) acted recklessly, irresponsible, or unconscionable. Punitive damages serve as a deterrent to others. However, to be effective as a deterrent, punitive damages must apply to situations the defendant had control over rather than a run-of-the-mill auto accident that can happen even to careful drivers.
For instance, if a court finds an auto accident case defendant at fault due to an honest mistake, such as misjudging distance, it is unlikely to award punitive damages. However, even the most responsible vehicle operators are humans.
However, a court could find punitive damages if a defendant was driving twice the speed limit while texting and ran a red light, causing a major injury accident. This defendant acted with disregard for the safety of others. Punitive damages warn others against driving with disregard for public safety in this type of case.
Contact a Top-Rated La Jolla Car Accident Attorney Today
If you or a loved one have suffered an injury in an auto accident, contact Shamon Law for a free consultation.
La Jolla Car Accident FAQs
California law requires the parties involved to report an auto accident that causes more than $1,000 in property damage, injury, or death. Regardless of legal requirements, reporting a serious accident is usually in your best interests. A police report provides proof that the accident occurred, the identity and insurance information of those involved, and witness statements and contact. When building a case, these reports are a starting point for your La Jolla, personal injury attorney.
You need to report the accident to your insurance company, but do not feel you must cover all details. A basic report of what happened suffices. For serious injury accidents, consult an attorney to help you decide what to share with the insurance adjuster.
No legal obligation exists for you to speak to the opposing insurance company. Do not. Insurance companies train their adjusters to search for reasons to reduce claims payouts or even deny them. But, like an opposing attorney, these insurance company employees make a living undermining your interests. The best practice is to hire a personal injury attorney and let them handle communications with the other side.
Remember that California personal injury law bases itself on the pure comparative negligence standard. Under this doctrine, every percentage of blame the opposing insurance company can transfer to you reduces your award. For example, if your damages stand at $50,000 and a court finds you 0% at fault, your award is the whole $50,000. However, if the other insurance company can establish that you were 20% at fault, your award is reduced to $40,000.
Your statements to the other party’s insurance company could give them the justification they need to trim your award or even eliminate it. For instance, the other party may have been at fault for proceeding into an intersection when you had the right of way. However, suppose you admit to an insurance adjuster that you were speeding, even a little bit. In that case, they could argue that your excessive use of speed contributed to the cause and severity of the accident.
Insurance companies instruct their adjusters to record statements made by the parties of an accident. They do this, in part, because naive accident victims often believe the insurance company representative is sincerely concerned about their injury and wants to help. In addition, the accident victim may inadvertently say something detrimental to their case, misstate something, or answer a leading question intended to damage their claim.
The only way to prevent such a mistake is to refer all insurance company calls to your attorney.
California law uses a pure comparative negligence standard. Under this legal approach, a plaintiff is entitled to damages even if 99% at fault. However, the award is reduced by the percentage of fault a court finds. So if you were 99% at fault for an accident and your damages were $10,000, your award would be $100.
Unlike California, many states use a modified comparative negligence standard that requires plaintiffs to be less than 51% at fault to collect damages. However, a few states take the opposite approach and bar plaintiffs from financial remedies even if they are 1% at fault.
If an accident is partly your fault, your case may still be strong, especially if the other side’s argument that you are partly at fault is weak. To reduce settlements and verdicts, insurance companies often try to claim plaintiffs are partly at fault when they share no blame or artificially magnify their contribution to the accident. Your La Jolla car accident lawyer will fight back against these attempts and win the settlement you deserve.
Though a percentage of fault reduces your award, it can still outweigh your medical and other expenses, depending on the general damages awarded in the case. A California personal injury verdict consists of compensatory and general damages. A few also include punitive damages.
Compensatory damages are the direct financial burdens of the accident: medical bills, physical therapy, lost income, and the like. General damages consist of the intangible consequences of the injury, including pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and inconvenience. Courts award general damages as a multiplier of the compensatory damages between 1.5 and 5. A high multiplier can result in an award far above the compensatory damages, even if you are partly at fault.
For example, imagine a jury finds you 30% at fault for an accident, your compensatory damages totaled $100,000, and your general damages multiplier is 3. In that case, your award is $400,000 times .70, or $280,000. Though the 30% finding of fault substantially reduces the award, you still receive an amount well over your out-of-pocket costs.
The question of liability is often a point of contention in La Jolla car accident cases. Some instances result in the clear full liability of one party, such as a rear-end collision or a drunk driver crossing a double yellow line and striking another vehicle. However, many cases result in mixed liability, where each party is assigned a percentage of fault and monetary awards adjusted to reflect them.
For instance, a driver passing straight through an intersection on a green light has the right of way. A driver making a turn collating with the oncoming vehicle is likely primarily at fault. However, what if the driver going straight was speeding? Is it not fair that the turning driver had a reasonable expectation that oncoming traffic was proceeding within the speed limit and that they would have had ample time to complete the turn if the other driver were obeying the law?
This instance could result in a mixed liability verdict under California’s pure comparative negligence law. For instance, a jury may conclude that the turning driver was mostly at fault but that the other driver’s excessive speed also contributed and find an 80%/20% comparative negligence verdict.
California law establishes a two-year time limit on filing a personal injury claim. However, there are some exceptions, but they rarely apply to auto accident cases.
The two-year “clock” starts later or is paused for a time if the plaintiff has delayed discovery of the injury, is legally incapable of deciding to sue, or the defendant has left the state.
Delayed discovery is unlikely in an auto accident case because people know when they are in a collision. Diminished capacity may apply if the plaintiff is under 18 or suffers from mental impairment.
Since most drivers carry insurance, cases will likely be settled even if the defendant leaves the state. However, for instance, if an uninsured driver fled California and a summons could not be delivered, an extension of the statute of limitations may apply.
Most cases settle for some time during the discovery process. Discovery is a phase of litigation where both sides have the legal right to subpoena evidence and interview witnesses. Once discovery is complete, the case is slated for trial.
Some cases settle without the need to file a lawsuit. However, these are often smaller value claims with relatively clear fact patterns. Cases at this level can be settled in months. Most larger and complex cases require filing a lawsuit for the insurance company to offer a reasonable settlement. Discovery provides personal injury lawyers with powerful tools for establishing their cases. During this phase, lawyers find evidence to negate false comparative negligence claims and formulate convincing arguments for larger damages. When convinced they face an adverse result at trial, insurance companies offer generous settlements.
When settled before trial, cases tend to take 1 to 2 years. Trials resolve disputed facts as to fault or damage amounts. While necessary in some instances, trials extend litigation to two years or more. After trial, the case may go to appeals. The case can settle during the appellate process or go through the appeals courts and the California of United States Supreme Court. Appeals can add several years to the process, though few personal injury cases go to this level.
Califonia sets a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury cases. A few exceptions apply:
Unaware of the Injury
While this rarely applies to auto accidents, California does extend the statute of limitations when a plaintiff was unaware of the injury for a long period.
Minors receive longer periods to file personal injury cases.
People suffering diminished capacity may receive more time to file a lawsuit.
If a defendant leaves the state, a court may allow an exception to the statute of limitations.
Car accident settlements in California average $21,000, but the distribution of claim amounts varies widely from the mean. Many car accidents result in only minor property damage and settle for a few thousand dollars. However, when a serious personal injury occurs, the settlement amounts usually exceed $21,000 by a very large margin.
Car accident settlements compensate victims for property damage, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other financial and non-economic costs. Compensatory damages can reach the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Shamon Law’s car accident lawyers cost nothing out of pocket. We work on a contingency fee, which means we get paid after our clients get paid. Contingency fee arrangements allow plaintiffs to access legal counsel without fronting large legal fees. Most car accident victims face heavy medical debt and may lose substantial income because the injury puts them out of work. Our contingency fee programs make it easier for our clients to bear the financial burden of a civil action.