FAQs

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  • How will the at-fault driver’s DUI conviction affect my personal injury claim?

    Accidents caused by drunk drivers often result in serious injuries for passengers, other motorists, and nearby pedestrians. A personal injury claim resulting from a drunk driving accident is processed separately from the criminal charges an intoxicated driver faces. However, the driving under the influence (DUI) charge can affect your case in several different ways.

    Understanding How the Driver's DUI Conviction Affects Your Personal Injury Claim

    California defines DUI charges based on the driver's age and type of vehicle that is being driven. For example:

    • Drivers age 21 or over must have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher to be guilty of driving while intoxicated.  [Vehicle Code sec. 23152(b)]
    • For drivers under age 21, a BAC of 0.01 percent is enough to warrant a license suspension for one year.  (Vehicle Code sec. 23136)  Criminal conviction for DUI of a person under the age of 21 can occur with a BAC of as little as 0.05.  (Vehicle Code sec. 23140.)
    • For commercial drivers, the BAC for a DUI charge is 0.04 percent.  [Vehicle Code sec. 23152(d).]
    • Commencing July 1, 2018, drivers engaging in “passenger for hire” services such as Uber©, Lyft© or cab service, are guilty of DUI with a BAC of 0.04 percent or more.  [Vehicle Code sec. 23152(e).]

    Establishing fault for the accident is the first step in establishing financial liability for your injuries. If the driver was arrested and convicted of driving while under the influence, you have a higher probability of establishing fault for the collision, so long as the drunk driver was the one who caused the collision. This puts you in a strong negotiating position. Auto insurance companies are often willing to take their chances with a trial, but they are well aware that a convicted drunk driver will garner little sympathy in court and that it can turn ugly. This means in most instances the insurance company will be more likely work with your attorney to come to a settlement agreement and avoid putting on trial an unsympathetic defendant.

    A quick settlement offer may seem like a blessing, but you should keep in mind that accepting a settlement will prevent you from seeking further compensation down the road. You shouldn't settle your case until you're confident you know the nature and extent of your injuries and the offer represents fair reimbursement for your expenses and losses and a proper acknowledgment of your pain and suffering from your injuries.

    An at-fault driver is liable for:

    • Accident-related medical expenses, including emergency room care, follow-up appointments, physical therapy or other rehabilitative services, prescription medication, and any anticipated future medical expenses related to the incident.
    • Lost wages during your recovery period, as well as any applicable reduction in your future earning capacity due to your injuries.
    • Pain and suffering, including both physical pain and emotional trauma related to the accident.
    • Punitive Damages, are also potentially available in egregious cases.

    Potential Complications Relating to Intoxicated Drivers

    Although a DUI conviction can often make a personal injury claim easier to negotiate, other factors can complicate the case. For example:

    • Accidents involving multiple vehicles. If you were injured in a multi-vehicle accident caused by a drunk driver, you may run into problems if several people sustained severe injuries. Every auto insurance policy has specific limits as to how much it is obligated to pay per person or per accident. If the claims exceed the policy limits, you'll need find out if there are other available sources of recovery, such as other insurance, other responsible parties or personal assets.  If none of these are available, then the available policy may need to be appropriately allocated based upon the extent of the injuries.
    • Passenger injuries. If you were injured as a passenger in a car being driven by a drunk driver, seeking compensation is possible, but it can be complicated. The insurance company may try to deny coverage based upon your relationship to the driver because you are excluded as a possible insured.  The insurance company may also try to argue that you knew or should have known the driver was intoxicated and that it was unsafe to get in the car with the drunk driver. In this line of defense, it will be claimed that you assumed the risk when you voluntarily got into the car with an intoxicated driver and are thus partially responsible for your own injuries.
    • Uninsured and unlicensed drivers. Unfortunately, many people who are convicted of DUI are not first time offenders. Since repeat DUI offenders are subject to lengthy license suspensions and very high insurance rates, the driver responsible for your injuries may not have a valid license or insurance policy. In this case, you'll likely need to make a claim under your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. However, if the driver was using someone else's vehicle, you may be able to seek compensation under the owner's policy, especially if the owner of the car knew the person was drunk when he took the car. Negligent entrustment of a vehicle to an unfit driver makes the owner liable for the resulting damages.
    •  
    • Passenger injuries. If you were injured as a passenger in a car being driven by a drunk driver, seeking compensation is possible, but it can be complicated. The insurance company may try to deny coverage based upon your relationship to the driver because you are excluded as a possible insured.  The insurance company may also try to argue that you knew or should have known the driver was intoxicated and that it was unsafe to get in the car with the drunk driver. In this line of defense, it will be claimed that you assumed the risk when you voluntarily got into the car with an intoxicated driver and are thus partially responsible for your own injuries.
    • Uninsured and unlicensed drivers. Unfortunately, many people who are convicted of DUI are not first time offenders. Since repeat DUI offenders are subject to lengthy license suspensions and very high insurance rates, the driver responsible for your injuries may not have a valid license or insurance policy. In this case, you'll likely need to make a claim under your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. However, if the driver was using someone else's vehicle, you may be able to seek compensation under the owner's policy, especially if the owner of the car knew the person was drunk when he took the car. Negligent entrustment of a vehicle to an unfit driver makes the owner liable for the resulting damages.
    • One last note, if you were uninsured at the time of your accident you usually cannot recover pain and suffering damages.  However, one exception from that rule is when a drunk driver is criminally convicted of DUI, then an uninsured motorist may recover pain and suffering damages from the collision and from the drunk driver’s insurance company or defendant him or herself. 

    • Passenger injuries. If you were injured as a passenger in a car being driven by a drunk driver, seeking compensation is possible, but it can be complicated. The insurance company may try to deny coverage based upon your relationship to the driver because you are excluded as a possible insured.  The insurance company may also try to argue that you knew or should have known the driver was intoxicated and that it was unsafe to get in the car with the drunk driver. In this line of defense, it will be claimed that you assumed the risk when you voluntarily got into the car with an intoxicated driver and are thus partially responsible for your own injuries.
    • Uninsured and unlicensed drivers. Unfortunately, many people who are convicted of DUI are not first time offenders. Since repeat DUI offenders are subject to lengthy license suspensions and very high insurance rates, the driver responsible for your injuries may not have a valid license or insurance policy. In this case, you'll likely need to make a claim under your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. However, if the driver was using someone else's vehicle, you may be able to seek compensation under the owner's policy, especially if the owner of the car knew the person was drunk when he took the car. Negligent entrustment of a vehicle to an unfit driver makes the owner liable for the resulting damages.

    One last note, if you were uninsured at the time of your accident you usually cannot recover pain and suffering damages.  However, one exception from that rule is when a drunk driver is criminally convicted of DUI, then an uninsured motorist may recover pain and suffering damages from the collision and from the drunk driver’s insurance company or defendant him or herself. 

     

    Protecting Your Legal RightsPersonal injury claim with DUI conviction

    Drunk drivers can present some unique challenges in proof and in evidence preservation.  It's vital that you seek representation from an experienced personal injury attorney. Inland Empire Law Group's dedicated legal team advocates for the needs of California residents who've been injured due to the negligence of others. Please call today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review at our Victorville or Rancho Cucamonga office locations. 

    DON’T BE VICTIMIZED TWICE BY THE DRUNK DRIVER AND AN INSURANCE COMPANY!

     

     

  • Can I switch lawyers during my case?

    Hiring the right lawyer for your legal representation in a personal injury case can be difficult.  There are many attorneys that will say they want to handle your case at the very beginning when they think a quick settlement is in the works. Many times, when a person is dealing with the pain and financial losses from an accident, they make quick or rash decisions about which attorney they hire. As time progresses, you realize that the promised services are not being fulfilled and you conclude you may have hired the wrong lawyer or law firm. It's important to keep in mind that you are not locked into your initial decision. You have a legal right to fire or change your lawyer if you are unhappy how he or she is handling your case. Ultimately, whether at the beginning of the case or later on, the process of hiring the right lawyer who will stick with you through the entire process is the single most important action you will take at the outset of your personal injury case.

    When Is it Appropriate to Find a New Lawyer?

    No lawyer can guarantee a specific outcome for your case, nor can an attorney assure you of a specific date your case will resolve. Thus, experiencing difficulties in obtaining a settlement isn't necessarily justification for new legal representation. You should explore with your attorney all that is being done to move your case towards its conclusion. Make sure you give your lawyer the opportunity to help you understand what has been done in handling your claim. On the other hand, the following issues indicate valid reasons for firing your personal injury lawyer:

    • Your lawyer is rude and doesn't answer your questions. Even though you didn't attend law school yourself, don't forget that your lawyer was hired to be your advocate.  The lawyer works for you. You and your concerns should be respected and you should have your questions answered. If your lawyer is rude, condescending, and dismissive, seeking other legal representation is a smart move.
    • Your lawyer doesn't seem interested in resolving your case. Although it's common for lawyers to be working on multiple cases simultaneously, there's an expectation your lawyer will work on your case in a timely fashion. If your lawyer doesn't seem to be making progress on your case and/or your requests for updates are continually ignored, it's time to find new representation.
    • You're questioning your lawyer's competence. Finding other representation should be a priority if you have serious doubts about your lawyer's competence. A recently admitted lawyer, unsupervised by an experienced attorney, often doesn't have the experience necessary to handle a complex personal injury case. Additionally, you may also have a cause for concern if your lawyer doesn't normally handle personal injury cases. A lawyer can be excellent at practicing criminal law, but personal injury law requires different knowledge and skills. Finally, if you are concerned your lawyer may be experiencing substance abuse or financial problems, change lawyers immediately.
    • Your lawyer is engaged in unethical behavior. A lawyer who advocates falsifying evidence or lying about the facts or the extent of injuries can't be trusted. Sexual harassment or other similar misconduct would be another example of grossly inappropriate conduct that justifies finding another lawyer.

    How Do I Change Lawyers?

    If you've decided to change lawyers for your personal injury claim, start first by looking for another attorney with whom you are comfortable and who is willing to have your case transferred to him or her. If you are able to find the right attorney for your case, hire that attorney and he or she will send your current lawyer a written notice of your decision, to stop working on the case and to transfer the files to the new lawyer. If you have not found another attorney to handle your case, you may want to attempt to work with your current lawyer to see if he or she will be willing to refer your case to another attorney due to your unease with the current representation. As a last resort, send a letter to the lawyer clearly and objectively stating the reason or reasons why you feel your lawyer isn't qualified to represent you in your personal injury claim. Within the letter, provide instructions as to where to send your case file. Send the letter via certified mail so you have documentation of its delivery to the lawyer.

    If your case is currently pending before a court, additional paperwork is required to be filed with the court notifying the court and opposing counsel of the change of counsel. This form is called a Substitution of Attorney. Your new lawyer will prepare this form, or if you do not have an attorney at the time you terminate, your courts’ website should provide online access to the form.  

    Will I Owe Money?

    Since personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, you may find yourself wondering if there is a financial penalty involved in firing your lawyer before the case is completed.

    When you switch lawyers in the middle of a case, your initial lawyer will have a lien or claim against the settlement you receive. He or she won't be able to collect the full original percentage, but your former lawyer is still entitled to compensation for the reasonable time and costs spent preparing your case. This expense should not increase your cost for legal fees, but it does impact the amount of money your new attorney may receive for the services to be rendered on your behalf. Depending on the stage of the case, this fee division may make it challenging to get another lawyer to take over your case, because the greater the lien, the lower the compensation is for the new attorney to take over your case.

    Some contracts will have language stating that your lawyer is allowed to withhold case files until current charges are paid in full. However, under California law, your attorney cannot withhold your file, regardless of the terms of the legal services contract. The file belongs to you, not the lawyer. Under some limited circumstances, the need to pay your prior attorney may not be required at all. For example, if your lawyer was engaging in unethical conduct, was under suspension or failed to perform the required services, then a court may determine that you were justified in terminating the contract and you may not be fully responsible for the legal fees claimed by the prior attorney. Also, if your lawyer terminates you without cause, the lawyer may not collect fees which would have been paid if the lawyer completed the work.

    Why Should I Seek Representation From Inland Empire Law Group?

    The Inland Empire Law Group may consider taking on a case that was started or handled by another attorney. Once you meet with our staff, you will be able to see we are highly qualified and desire to meet or exceed your expectations. You may want to hire our firm at your initial meeting. However, in many instances, we advise individuals not to change attorneys because we see the work performed is within the standard of care for personal injury attorneys. We may make recommendations to perform certain acts to work with your current attorney before deciding to make a change. Unless your attorney is truly not doing his or her job, we often decline the transfer of an ongoing case. On the other hand, if there appears a real need for you to change counsel, we will help you with that process, and will if we agree with you, we will represent you and work hard for your benefit.

    Inland Empire Law Group’s attorneys have extensive experience assisting California residents in settling personal injury claims. Please call (888) MY IE LAW to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at either our Rancho Cucamonga or Victorville offices.

     

  • Should I provide a recorded statement without first consulting an attorney?

    Hand Holding a Voice RecorderAfter an auto accident, it's natural to want to do everything in your power to get your claim resolved as soon as possible. However, providing a recorded statement in the hopes of speeding up the process can prove to be a very costly mistake later on in your case.

    Recorded Statements Can Only Harm Your Case

    A recorded statement isn't given under oath, but the contents of the statement can be used as evidence in a personal injury case. Here are some of the many reasons why giving a recorded statement is ill-advised until after you have hired an attorney.

    • The interviewer may ask misleading questions to get you to provide incriminating information.
    • The interviewer might encourage you to speculate as to the cause of the accident, possibly creating a scenario where they can argue you are at fault for your own injuries.
    • The interviewer might begin a line of questioning that casts doubt on the severity of your injuries or implies that your injuries were caused by something other than the auto accident.
    • You might get nervous and say something you didn't mean or get angry and provoke a confrontation.
    • Your answers might be subject to misinterpretation by the interviewer, especially if English is not your first language or you tend to struggle expressing yourself verbally.
    • Without an attorney present, you won't know if answering a question is in your best interests.

    When settling a claim, the insurance company's goal is to pay as little as possible, not what is fair and appropriate. Never forget that the company's real interest is making a profit, not ensuring that you have the money you need to pay all of your accident-related expenses.

    Laws Regarding Recorded Statements in Personal Injury Cases

    You have a duty to cooperate with the investigation by your own insurance company. Your insurance company will conduct an investigation into the accident if they may have to pay something for the accident. You should provide the basic information and does not require providing a recorded statement. In most cases, your obligation to your insurer is explicitly outlined in the terms of your policy. If you fail to cooperate, the processing of your claim could be denied. This would be especially problematic if it's later found that the at-fault driver has no insurance or insufficient insurance and your expenses must be paid under your own uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

    There is no law that requires you to provide a recorded statement to the other driver's insurance company. The insurance company is allowed to ask for your statement, but you have no obligation to accommodate the request. In fact, it's generally better to obtain a personal injury attorney and direct all communication from the other driver's insurance company to your attorney.

    Using Written Statements to Provide Your Side of the Story

    If you're being asked to provide a statement or wish to tell your side of the story, a written statement is a better alternative to a recorded statement. A written statement lets you provide key details about the accident without the risk of being thrown off track by an interviewer who asks inappropriate questions.

    In your written statement, you should provide:

    • Your identifying information
    • Names and contact information for witnesses
    • The date and time of the accident
    • The name of the road you were driving on
    • What direction you were traveling
    • What, if any, actions the other driver took before the collision
    • What, if any, action you took before the collision
    • Any immediate injury symptoms you noticed

    A written statement that clearly and objectively presents the facts surrounding the accident without offering irrelevant information or speculating as to fault will be an asset in resolving your personal injury claim. Your attorney can review the statement to make sure you're not providing unnecessary or potentially damaging information that could harm your case.

    Inland Empire Law Group Can Help

    Don’t fall for the insurance company tricks in demanding record statement. Consider an attorney before allowing your statement to be taken. The legal team at Inland Empire Law Group can help with personal injury cases. Our attorneys have extensive experience assisting California residents in obtaining the compensation they need to move forward with their lives. Please call (888) MY IE LAW to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our offices are conveniently located in Rancho Cucamonga and Victorville.

     

  • Why Do People in the Same Accident Often Suffer Different Injuries?

    Have you ever wondered why people occupying the same car in an accident can have different injuries, or no injuries at all while, someone else in the car suffers life altering injuries?

    An example of this is an accident which happened in Pomona, California on Saturday night, January 23, 2016.  This accident happened at the intersection of Mission Boulevard and East End Avenue.  From this car crash, there were ten people injured, one of which sustained serious injuries and was airlifted to an emergency room, while the others in the cars had only minor injuries.  At the time of this post, there was no available information about how the accident happened, so I use that accident to merely show the basis for the idea that people can respond differently when in the same accident.

    Here are some of the reasons why people can have different injuries in the same accident:

        1)    The Location of the Impact.  A person sitting nearest to the impact point may suffer greater injuries due to the magnitude of the force on that person.  In some instances, the impact crushes into the occupant at the impact point, resulting in far more serious injuries than those suffered by others in the car.  

        2)    The Position of the Body.  A person’s body position at the moment of impact is critical to the degree of injury.  Most car seats are designed to reduce injury in certain collisions when a person is sitting perfectly straight and proper in their seat.  Unfortunately, passengers and even drivers are not always sitting perfectly straight.  As a result turned hips, shoulders, neck or head, can significantly alter the bodily injury of one passenger over another.

        3)    Seatbelt Use.  Using a seatbelt generally reduces injuries, especially in serious collisions.  Those who are restrained in a serious collision, while they may suffer injuries, routinely will avoid ejection from the vehicle and death as a result of their body being catapulted within, or without, the car.

        4)    Physical Condition of the Occupants.  An older person or a person with a pre-existing injury is more likely to suffer injuries in a smaller accident than a healthy individual.  Also, the recovery time for an older or previously injured person tends to be longer than one who was healthy before the accident.  

        5)    Impact With Objects.  Sometimes, one person will hit their head against the interior of the car, or a side window, and that impact is experienced by only one person in the accident.  So that person’s experience is different from the other occupants, and the injuries differ.

    These are just five of many reasons for people to suffer differently when involved in the same accident as others.  If you have any experiences with multiple people having different injuries in the same accident, share your experience with others so they do not feel like they are going through this experience alone.

    If you need assistance with an injury claim due to the negligence of another, call the experienced law firm of the Inland Empire Law Group to get the legal help you need to obtain the financial recovery you need from your accident. Call 909-481-0100 for a fair and honest review of your injury claim.  

  • How Do I Know I am Hiring The Right Lawyer?

    There are the right lawyers, and there are those who pretend to be the right lawyers. If you are looking for a California lawyer, there is a hierarchy of things you should do to find the right lawyer for your matter. First, identify the type of lawyer you need, and the locality where you nee

    d that lawyer. If you had an injury accident in the Inland Empire, find an experienced Inland Empire personal injury lawyer.  Maybe you are dealing with a divorce, a breach of business contract or a probate matter, then locate a lawyer close to you who specifically works in your area of need.  A local divorce attorney for a divorce, a nearby business litigation lawyer for a breach of contract, etc. 

    Next research lawyer web sites and their online presence.  Read as much as is provided by the lawyers’ websites. Educate yourself from these websites.  Ask yourself, is this attorney interested in me and my education, or is he/she more about self glory.  Watch any available videos the lawyer has.  Ask yourself, is this the person you would like standing by you advocating your case before a jury?  If yes, keep him/her on your list.  If no, drop them.

    Once you have identified several possible candidates, check with the California State Bar website, www.calbar.ca.gov to make sure they are active with the State Bar and to see if they have any history of violations. Eliminate those who concern you. 

    Finally, visit their office to meet the lawyer or his/her staff.  It is important you go to their office for the interview. You want to make sure they appear stable and will be around when you need them the most. During the interview, was your confidence raised by them?  Were all questions answered? Did they seem to understand your needs?  Did you feel comfortable with trusting your legal matter to them? Is the agreement fair and reasonable? If the answer to these questions are “yes,” and you are ready to start, hire that lawyer and trust you will be properly represented. 

     

  • What Financial Recovery Rights Does an Injured Hit and Run Victim Have?

    The answer to this question really depends on whether the driver who caused the accident can be found following the accident. If the driver can be found, then an injury victim can attempt to make a claim against the hit and run driver’s liability insurance company, or make a claim directly against the hit and run driver if there is no insurance available. However, if the hit and run driver or vehicle cannot be found following the accident, (or the driver/vehicle was uninsured) then the injury victim needs to seek compensation for his or her uninsured motorist coverage, assuming uninsured motorist coverage was purchased by the injury victim before the accident occurred.

    For more detailed information on this topic, Uninsured Motorist Coverage Protects Injury Victims in Hit and Run Accidents.

  • Why is Everyone’s Injury Case Worth Different Amounts?

    There are so many times when someone says something to me about their friend settling her accident case ten years previously for a certain amount. Then they tell me that if she got that much for her case, they feel entitled to at least that sum for their claim. Is that a proper measure of value for a case? It is not. A person should really look to the details of their own case to identify the key issues which determine the value for their case. Thereafter, case comparisons in a broader sense, over multiple cases, and over an extended period of time can provide some direction.

    Each case is individualized making it impossible to do one-to- one comparisons between cases. Each injury will be unique such that one person may suffer a long-term lower back injury, while another, in the same accident, was minimally injured. Even though these two people were involved in the same accident, the value of their claims will be significantly different. So one factor in determining the value of a person’s claim is the severity of the injury.

    Another factor in determining the financial value of a claim has to do with the nature of the accident itself. Some accidents are extremely severe, leaving no question the individual suffered a serious injury. Other accidents are less serious and the injuries from these accidents are challenged by the opposing party.

    A third factor has to do with the responsibility for the accident. If an injured person was partially responsible for the accident, then her fault will proportionately reduce the value of the case.

    Fourth, is the amount of available insurance or assets to cover the claim. If available insurance is minimal, even with a serious accident, there may be limited funds to pay for the injuries suffered.

    Don’t compare your case with anyone who has had an accident. Facts differ and each case will vary the financial value

  • Can I Use a Paralegal for My California Personal Injury Claim?

    The short answer is yes you may. But you must understand the many limitations associated with using a paralegal. First, in California, not everyone who calls themself a paralegal actually are allowed to use that title. Any independent individual, that means a person not working for a lawyer, government or corporation, cannot use the term paralegal. These individuals are legal document assistants. They may not provide legal advice. They may not help you make legal decisions or anything else which may be deemed legal services.

    Read more about the dangers of using a paralegal or legal document assistant.

  • Why are Medical Malpractice Claims so Hard to Win?

    I receive phone calls nearly daily from people who indicate that they suffered from the negligence of a doctor. Many of these stories do support the allegation of medical negligence, but there is nothing I can do to help them receive compensation for their injuries. Why is that? Let’s start with the costs associated with a medical negligence claim. These cases require costly expert witnesses and medical records, etc. So by the time a case is ready to settle or go to trial, the costs of the claim can exceeded the possible value of any recovery. As a result, only significant injury claims can justifiably to be brought to court.

    The next challenge has to do with a natural bias held by jurors who want to believe in the doctor and his/her integrity. We naturally hate to believe that those we trust, such as doctors, police officers, etc., can do wrong. Unfortunately, even good people make mistakes. These mistakes can cause injuries to others. There is a saying that a patient in a lawsuit starts with two strikes and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, behind by two runs. It’s a tough place to start. Statistics show that 80% of all malpractice cases which reach trial, are lost by the patient.

    The third challenge has to do with the malpractice caps of $250,000.00 and the way these claims interact with medical insurance, etc. The laws, the jury instructions and the reimbursement requirements all seem to favor the doctors and hospitals over the injury victim’s rights.

    So how does a viable malpractice claim get through these challenges and results in an award of damages? It starts with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. If the lawyer understands the issues, and whether negligence exists, then good cases rise to the top (so to speak) and those which can’t be pursued are turned away. Understanding the interplay between mere negligence for which no claim can be made and actionable negligence will result in good cases succeeding.

  • What Happens if the Defendant (The Person Who Caused Your Accident) Dies Before Your Lawsuit or Settlement is Over?

    Accident Attorney Because lawsuits can often take years to reach trial, or before they get resolved, sometimes parties to a lawsuit can pass away. In other situations, in an accident, a responsible party might die from injuries suffered in an accident. An example of this occurred in Victorville on September 1, 2014, when the driver of a Honda Civic recklessly drove his car at a high rate of speed, near 90 mph, into the rear of another car. The driver of the Honda died from his injuries in the collision and sent two victims to the hospital with injuries of their own. These two victims have a claim against the 32-year-old deceased driver for his negligent and reckless conduct. But the driver is dead, so what happens?

    With the death of the person who caused this accident where do these victims turn to recover damages for their losses and injuries?

    A Claim Can Proceed Against the Deceased Party's Insurance Policy

    The answer to this question may be multifaceted. If the deceased driver has an insurance policy to cover him for his negligent or reckless activities, such as causing an accident, then a claim would start with the available insurance policy. Depending on the nature and scope of the injuries, as well as the amount of insurance available for the claim, a demand to the insurance company may fully resolve the dispute and provide proper compensation to the injury victims. If the available liability policy does not have enough money to pay for all the injuries, then the injury victims might be able to turn to their own uninsured motorist insurance coverage for additional compensation. All this depends on the availability and amount of the insurance purchased prior to the accident by both the deceased and the injury victims.

    It's Also Possible to Seek Compensation from the Estate of the Deceased

    If there is not enough insurance provided by the at-fault driver, and there is not enough uninsured motorist coverage, or none at all, to pay for the injuries, then the injury victims could try and recover damages from the estate of the deceased. When someone dies, they leave their worldly possessions behind. For some, that "estate" may be substantial, for others it may be nothing at all. If the deceased driver has a substantial estate, then a claim can be made against the estate itself to seek compensation, or additional compensation, to pay for the injuries inflicted on the innocent accident victims. There are procedural steps which have to be followed to make a claim against an estate or the claim can be lost. The ironic thing is that in most instances, when a person has a large estate, they tend to have larger insurance policies and there is a lesser need to pursue the estate directly. For those with small or no estates, they routinely have little or no insurance coverage because of the cost of that coverage, thereby requiring you to either suffer from the injuries without compensation or rely upon your own uninsured motorist coverage.

    Unfortunately, when there is no insurance and no available estate, there is little hope for recovery, absent unusual circumstances or other possible sources of recovery beyond the dead driver. All options must be explored to help the injury victims secure the best and proper compensation.

    Let Our Car Accident Lawyers Help You Through This Unique Legal Situation

    Ultimately, the best protection you have from the damages caused by a negligent driver, who dies in the accident or sometime thereafter, is to make sure you have an ample uninsured motorist insurance policy of your own. By so doing, your future does not depend on the at-fault’s preparedness, or lack thereof, in purchasing a sizeable insurance policy. If you're involved in a similar situation, or have more questions about the claims process involving a deceased party, we urge you to call us today at 909-481-0100 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our car accident attorneys. We have offices in Rancho Cucamonga and Victorville, conveniently positioned to serve all of the Inland Empire and High Desert regions.

     

     

  • Why is it Difficult to Settle a Personal Injury Case Without a Lawyer?

    Personal Injury lawyerThere are some situations when you can settle your injury case without a lawyer.  However, it is my personal belief that insurance companies use tactics to low ball a claim to frustrate a claimant and encourage him or her to give up and accept the paltry offer.  I believe that insurance companies have conducted many studies to come up with a strategy to reduce their settlement payouts and increase the profitability of the company.  If kindness and general fairness would make more money for the insurance company, then they would utilize that method of claims resolution.  Since that is not the way most claims are settled, I believe that insurance companies have designed their negotiation strategies to financially favor them over all other means or methods.

    Know this, certain adjusters are assigned to deal with unrepresented individuals, while others are trained to deal with attorneys.  Those assigned to deal directly with an injury victim are taught of ways to get people to release their claims prematurely or to prey upon the financial needs after an accident.  They are trained to frustrate and discourage people from asserting a legitimate right.  Those tactics are ineffective with a good personal injury lawyer.  In fact, those tactics are rarely used with attorneys the insurance companies know are capable, competent and willing to fight for the rights of their clients. 

    For information on When to Hire an Attorney.

  • When Should You Hire a Car Accident Lawyer for an Injury Claim?

    Personal Injury Lawyer for car accident If a Victorville traffic accident caused your serious injuries or the death of a loved one, you should seek help from an experienced injury lawyer right away.  Having an attorney early following an accident helps you avoid mistakes which are made by inexperienced accident victims dealing with highly trained insurance adjusters.  If the injury is clearly not serious, and your pain goes away within a few days or even a month, you probably don’t need a lawyer to help you with your claim.  These injuries are generally resolved effectively by simple negotiations between the injury victim and the insurance adjuster.  They are generally resolved for small amounts of money.  But remember, if you are still hurt, don’t settle your case until you are better.  If you don’t improve quickly with reasonable medical care, contact a lawyer for help.  For more detailed information.

  • Why Is Money Exchanged for Personal Injuries?

    Do you think it is odd that the way we resolve personal injury and wrongful death claims is to exchange money for injuries suffered in accidents? However, it should not be that unusual. There are some things we cannot do as a result of an accident causing personal injuries or the death of a loved one. We cannot go back in time and alter the outcome of the accident. We cannot eliminate the pain, suffering, injuries or death. We are unable to restore time lost in recovery or hospitalization. Finally, we are not able to return a person to work before a proper recovery.

    In criminal prosecutions, the person who committed a crime, if convicted, is punished for his/her actions. The courts may require a criminal to pay "restoration" for some of the damages caused by the individual.

    In a civil action for personal injuries, this is an action between individuals and/or an individual and entity. There is no punishment by the government involved in a personal injury action, only financial compensation for losses. The objective is to compensate the individual for all detriment caused by the negligence or intentional acts of another. To compensate, or equalize, a person for his/her losses, the civil courts measure the losses in terms of money. The only means and methods society has to "equalize" the losses suffered by an individual for injuries is to order the transfer of money from the person who caused an injury to the injured person.

    Compensation is measured for "economic" damages and "non-economic" damages. "Economic" damages are items measured in such things as medical expenses, future medical care, losses of past and future earnings, property damage, and other similar items. "Non-economic" damages are items which are not easily calculable. These things include temporary or permanent disabilities pain, suffering, grief, anxiety, loss of relationships, disfigurement and similar items.

    The exchange of money for personal injury losses actually makes sense. While it is not a great way to deal with these losses, there is really no other means by which society can compensate someone for such losses.

  • Does a Property Owner Have to Pay The Medical Bills for an Injury on His Property?

    The initial answer to this question is, no.  However, there are some exceptions to the rule.  First, many property owners maintain insurance with two types of coverage.  First, is liability insurance.  This pays out if the policyholder is proven to be negligent in causing the injury.  The second is a medical payment coverage.  This coverage is generally a low limit coverage of $1,000 to $10,000.00 which pays for medical expenses for an injury on a property, regardless of any fault.  The injured individual merely submits bills to the insurance company and it pays the bill.

      However, without medical payment coverage, the property owner has no obligation to pay the medical bills, unless he is found to be negligent for the injuries suffered by the claimant or plaintiff.  If an injured person proves that the injury was caused by the improper acts of the property owner, then he may recover reasonable medical expenses necessary for the treatment of the injuries caused by the accident, loss of earnings from the inability to work following the accident, other related out-of-pocket expenses and general damages, which include pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life and other intangible damages.

      Oftentimes, a claim is settled before trial because the evidence points to the possibility of liability against the property owner, or against the injured person.  If the parties to the claim can agree upon a reasonable settlement figure, the claim can resolve without a lawsuit.  Settlements are designed to limit liability to a defendant and compensate a plaintiff for the injuries suffered.

     

  • Can’t I just wait to hire a lawyer and see if the insurance company will settle my case?

    Calendar of time passingThe answer to that question is “yes”. However, by doing so, the delay may have very significant negative consequences on your case. Most of the time, delay in hiring an attorney for a moderate to severe personal injury case does not result in any positive financial benefit to the injury victim. Here is why.

    1. Documentation of the Injuries Will Vanish

    All the needed documentation of the injuries becomes harder to get with the passage of time. Often, injuries heal with time. By looking at a person nearly two years after an accident can be very deceiving to what the person went through during the recovery process after the accident. If the injuries are not photo-documented, including still and video pictures, those injuries will be forgotten. It is so much more difficult to go back and recreate the nature and extent of the injury. If the jury sees a healed individual at trial, it is more difficult to get them to award substantial damages.

    2. Witnesses and Potential Testimony Are Lost

    This is a critical point. Memories fade and people move away or die. Without actively establishing liability for the accident through independent witnesses, if they are available, proving fault can be a fifty-fifty proposition. Your word against the other driver’s word. If the jury finds both stories equally believable, you lose.

    3. Normally, an Insurance Company Has no Duty to Settle Until You Pursue Your Own Recovery

    So by waiting to hire an attorney, you just prolong the possibility of getting your case settled early. As the saying goes, “Time is money.” Certainly, the more you delay, the longer the insurance company gets to hold onto your money earning interest for itself and not for you.

    4. Delay Conveys a Lack of Interest in Your Claim and a Perceived Lack of Severity of Your Injuries

    Human nature is not to delay things that are important to us. The reverse is, therefore, true, that which is not important we tend to delay or not give it our attention. Conveying that message at the beginning of your claim is not healthy to your success.

    5. If You Wait Too Long, a Lawyer May Not Want to Get Involved

    An attorney may not want to get involved with your case because they have not had a chance to help form the case from the beginning.

    6. The Insurance Company Knows What It’s Doing. You Don’t

    This is not meant to offend, only to point out the obvious. An insurance adjuster has been trained specifically in the art of negotiation to minimize their employer’s exposure to your claim. You have no such training.

    7. The Right Personal Injury Attorney Will Actually Add Value to Your Case

    And they’ll do so while not costing you anything out of pocket. Nearly all good personal injury lawyers do not request the payment of fees and costs up front. They perform the work on a contingency fee and generally advance the costs to prosecute the claim. If you are asked to pay for a personal injury attorney, go find another lawyer who will not make you pay up front.

    8. You May Wait Too Long and Allow the Statute of Limitations to Expire

    If this happens, you can kiss your case goodbye.

    There are many more reasons why you should seek immediate legal assistance following an accident, these are just a few ideas for you to consider. If you have had a California or Inland Empire injury accident, contact the Inland Empire Law Group to learn about your legal rights. We can help you secure the right compensation in a timely and effective manner. Don’t delay, call now at 909-481-0100.

  • I have been in an accident and my car is a total loss. How is the value of the car determined?

    In some automobile accidents, a car may be declared a "total loss". Generally, a total loss means the cost to repair the vehicle exceeds 80% of the value of the vehicle. Most people think that the "value" of the car is the cost to replace it. That is not the case. In fact, in most instances, the total loss payment from the insurance company will not be enough to purchase an equivalent car.

    Your Insurance Company Will Not Pay More Than Your Policy Limit

    If your car is a total loss from an accident, the insurance company will pay you the actual cash value of your car, but no more than the policy limit. The insurance company calculates the payout on the wholesale price a dealer would pay for your car. This is their general definition of "fair market value". If you go through your own insurance company, it pays this amount, less your deductible. Since few of us are privy to wholesale prices, this usually amounts to a payment far below the cost to replace the car or pay off the loan. One way to protect yourself is to purchase "gap" insurance that will pay off the loan on your vehicle if the amount paid by the insurance company will not cover the amount owed on the loan. Gap insurance has certain restrictions so carefully read the policy before you purchase it.

    Now, California law is a bit different than the way insurance companies want to adjust the claim. The law states: "To recover damages for the loss, you must prove the fair market value of the car just before the harm occurred.

    ‘Fair market value’ is the highest price that a willing buyer would have paid to a willing seller, assuming:

    1. That there is no pressure on either one to buy or sell.

    2. That the buyer and seller are fully informed of the condition and quality of the car.

    Don't Accept the Initial Offer from the Insurance Company

    When settling a claim for the total loss of your car, remember, the insurance company wants to pay the least amount possible. You want the true "fair market value" for your car. Do your research and get prices on replacement cars. Do not accept the initial offer. Ask to see the background work that was used to make the offer. Only settle when you are satisfied.

    Contact Our Attorneys for Help With Your Claim

    The Inland Empire Law Group has offices if Ranco Cucamonga and Victorville, and proudly represents accident victims throughout the High Desert region and all of Southern California. If you feel like you're not receiving fair treatment from the insurance company after your accident, we can help. If you were injured, complete the form on this page for help with your injury claim and also get advice to help with the property damage claim.

  • How Likely is it that Your Personal Injury Case Will End Up In Trial?

    The likelihood of your case going to trial depends on the strength or weakness of the facts of the case, the legal issues and controversies involved in the dispute, as well as the effectiveness, reasonableness and cooperation of the parties and their lawyers in trying to settle the case. Of all personal injury cases filed with the courts, only about 5% of them end up in trial. There are many, many other cases which never get filed with the court because they are settled prior to filing a lawsuit through settlement negotiations. Ultimately, if you have a reasonably strong case, there is less than a 5% chance your case will go to trial.

    So what happens to all the cases that never go to trial? A great majority of those cases will get settled prior to trial. They may get resolved through private negotiations directly between the attorneys and an insurance company. Other cases may require the use of a mediator at a private mediation to help move the parties to a resolution. In some situations, a mandatory settlement conference, sponsored by the court, is used to secure a settlement. A few cases may be transferred to a private arbitration by agreement or contract. A percentage of the filed cases will be dismissed by the court because they are improper and cannot be brought to trial. These dismissals come from demurrers, motions for judgment on the pleadings and motions for summary judgment or summary adjudication of issues. Finally, some cases are voluntarily dismissed by the person who brought the case because he or she determines success in the case is not likely or they just cannot afford to pursue the case through trial.

    For more information on trial or settlement, click here.

    Hiring a personal injury attorney experienced in both trial and pre-trial settlement negotiations gives you, an injured person, the best chance of a successful recovery in a personal injury case. If you are contemplating a personal injury claim against someone who caused your injuries in Southern California, then you should contact the Inland Empire Law Group for a quality evaluation of your case and excellent, ethical representation. Call Now. 909-481-0100.

  • How Do You Protect The Statute of Limitation in a California Personal Injury Case?

    In every injury case there will be a point in time when the law will prohibit you from pursuing your claim against the person or company who allegedly caused your injuries. These laws that terminate liability against a defendant are called statutes of limitation. The way to protect a statute of limitation and your claim to recover for injuries you may have suffered is to either:

    1. Settle your claim with the person who caused your injuries, or that person’s insurance carrier prior to the expiration of the applicable limitations period; or,

    2. File a lawsuit against the defendant in the appropriate court before the expiration of the relevant statute of limitation.

    For more information on statutes of limitation, click here.

  • What Is Hearsay Evidence? And Why Is It Restricted?

    Hearsay is defined as:  “evidence of a statement that was made other than by a witness while testifying at the hearing and that is offered to prove the truth of the matter stated.”  This is called the “hearsay rule.”  Hearsay, unless it falls within certain designated exceptions, is excluded from introduction at trial.  The reason for this exclusion is because hearsay evidence is less reliable than direct testimony.

    If a witness is asked:   “Who did Mrs. Smith say caused the accident?”  Objection, hearsay! Says the opposing attorney.  This would be asking for hearsay,  because the witness is being asking for a statement made outside of court and intended to prove the matter stated that a specific person caused the accident.  To avoid the hearsay rule, Mrs. Smith could be asked to testify and directly testify to who she saw caused the accident.  Because Mrs. Smith directly testifies what she saw, not asking someone else what she said she saw.  Also, if a person testifies about statements made out of court, but those statements are not to prove a matter asserted, those statements can come into evidence.

    There are many exceptions to the hearsay rule which allow the introduction of evidence not otherwise allowed due to this rule.  Some of these exceptions include:

    1 - If a party to the lawsuit makes a statement out of court and someone testifies to what he/she said, this is an exception to the hearsay rule.

    2 -  If the out of court statement is consistent or inconsistent with the witness’ statement in court.

    3 -  A statement made by a dying person concerning the cause or circumstances of the death.

    4 -  Certain business records which contain hearsay statements may be admitted with proper authentication.

    There are actually many exceptions to this rule, but these exceptions are based upon the principal that the statement will lead to the truth. 

     

  • How Do I Know If I have a Product Liability Claim?

    A products liability claim consists of an injury caused by the reasonable use of a product. These claims arise out of three situations:

    1) When a product is designed improperly and causes injury;

    2) When a product is designed properly but fails and causes injury; or,

    3) When a product is not properly labeled to warn of potential injury.

    Just because a person is injured from a product, does not auto-matically mean there is a case or that the product caused the injury. Many times, an injury occurs when someone uses the product in a way not intended by the manufacturer. For example, children’s scooters cause injuries to their riders all the time, however, most injuries result from improper or negligent use by the rider him or herself.

    Here are three examples of product liability claims.

    Improperly designed product: A pressure cooker is designed so that the opening latch is not properly linked with the pres-sure gauge to keep it closed until the pressure is fully re-leased. The user opens the latch and hot liquid spews out of the cooker causing burn injuries.

    Failed product: A tire is properly designed, but during the construction of the tire, the steel belts improperly rust and fail while a driver is traveling at 65 mph. The car flips and results in paralyzing injuries.

    Lack of Proper Warning: A medication is issued for use for treatment of a particular disease. The manu-facturer of the pharmaceutical knows the medication has cer-tain side effects, which if the medication is used for an ex-tended period of time, will cause liver failure. The manu-facturer fails to include a prop-er warning on the bottle or label regarding the side effect. The drug causes injury by the reasonable use of the product. Strict liability applies to prod-uct liability claims. This means that negligence is not a prereq-uisite to the claim. However, one injured by a product, must prove one of the above scenar-ios and the product was being used in a reasonable manner.