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Should I provide a recorded statement without first consulting an attorney?
After 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.
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?
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?
There 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?
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?
The 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.
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.
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.
What is a paralegal, and how do they help my case?
A paralegal is an individual who holds him or herself out as a paralegal, through training or experience, and who works under the direct supervision of an attorney. A paralegal is authorized to perform a wide variety of work, including, case planning, development, and management; legal research; interviewing clients; fact gather-ing and retrieving information; drafting and analyzing legal documents; collecting, compiling, and utilizing technical information to make an independent decision and recommendation to the supervising attorney; and representing clients before a state or federal administrative agency, if allowed by law. Although lawyers assume ultimate responsibility for all legal work, they delegate many tasks to paralegals. Paralegals perform many similar tasks as lawyers, however, they are explicitly prohibited from carrying out duties considered to be within the scope of the practice of law, such as giving legal advice, and representing cases in court. One of the most important tasks a paralegal has is helping lawyers prepare cases for settlement or trial.
Paralegals will often perform the initial investigations of facts of cases and ensure all relevant information is considered in each case. Thereafter, they organize and keep track of all important case documents and make them available and easily accessible to the attorneys. After they analyze and organize the information obtained, paralegals may prepare written reports, initial letters to various companies, and speak to many people asso-ciated with the case. The attorneys then use this information in determining how each case should be handled. If an attorney decides it is neces-sary to file lawsuit on behalf of the client, paralegals may be involved in preparing some of the initial paperwork to be filed with the court. Since paralegals often work directly with clients or potential clients, a paralegal should be able to communicate well, be attentive to what the client’s needs are, and then document and present their findings and opinions to the attorney. While it is ultimately the attorney’s decision on how to proceed with each case, the para-legal provides insights and recommendations to assist the attorney.
Paralegals in law offices often help keep the cost of legal ser-vices down. However, many people believe that if they go to a document preparation ser-vice, they can get the same quality service as a legal office. This is not the case (unless your lawyer is not very good). In fact, document preparation firms, even if they call them-selves "paralegals," are limited to provide "self-help" assistance, as defined in 6400 of the Business and Professions Code. If any legal advice is necessary, they must refer you to a lawyer, however, all too often, they cross the line into practicing law without a license.
Connie Macias, is our paralegal and has been with us for many years. She does a great job and we are glad to have her assistance on our cases.
What do I do if called as witness to testify?
There are several circumstanc-es when you could be called upon to testify in a court or at a deposition. For example, you are at a grocery store when you observe a shoplifter. You report the criminal activity and the individual is arrested. If the matter goes to trial, you could be asked to testify. Or, you might be a witness to, or a party in, an auto accident. Another scenario would be the necessity of testifying in a di-vorce or probate matter. Tens of thousands of deposi-tions are conducted in Califor-nia every working day. The likelihood you will have to testify some time in your life are pretty high.
Here are some tips if you are called to testify.
Take Notes Early.
If you think you witnessed something where you might have to testi-fy, immediately write down what you saw, heard or experi-enced. This way you will be able to refresh your memory when called to testify.
Tell the Truth
Always tell the truth. Lying under oath is a criminal offense. Tell the truth even if you think a lie will sound better.
Answer Only the Question
When testifying, answer only the question asked. If the questioner wants more infor-mation, they will ask additional questions.
Understand the Question.
If you don’t understand the question, let the examiner know so you can get clarifica-tion or have another question asked.
Speak Clearly and Assured-ly.
Say "Yes" or "No" when
required. Don’t say "uh huh" or "yeah". Speak clearly and sufficiently load for all to hear your response.
Be Cooperative but not Manipulated.
Give the an-swers as you understand them to be. If the lawyer tries to twist your words, reject the rephrasing and restate your position.
Never argue. You are there as a witness, not as an advocate.
When testifying, allow the question to be asked before responding. Don’t antic-ipate the question or attempt to speak over the questioner. Also, be patient with the pro-cess. Delays and inconvenienc-es will occur.
These few tips should help you if you think you may have to testify as a witness or a party in a criminal or civil action.