Car, Truck, and Motorcycle Accident FAQs

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  • When are punitive damages appropriate in a car accident case?

    Punitive Damages in a Car Accident CaseMany different variables come into play in determining whether a car collision might give rise to an award of punitive damages.  Simple negligence is not sufficient to create a factual scenario for awarding punitive damages.  Even reckless conduct or driving drunk may not lead to an award of punitive damages.  But if you add to the mix circumstances which show a willful disregard for the safety of others, or evidence which shows a pattern of serious misconduct, the case might warrant the possibility of punitive damages.   

    What Is the Difference Between Compensatory and Punitive Damages?

    Compensatory damages are those which are intended to reimburse the victim for specific losses he has suffered, such as lost wages, medical expenses and pain and suffering damages. Punitive damages are those which are intended as punishment for the defendant and his conduct.  Punitive damages are also referred to as exemplary damages.

    When Can Punitive Damages Be Awarded?

    The circumstances for awarding punitive damages in a car crash claim has to arise above a mere accident.  For punitive damages to be applicable, there must be severe forms of misconduct. For example:

    • Two drivers are engaged in a game of chicken. The two drivers are competing to see who will swerve first, but the driver who swerves loses control and strikes a nearby motorist.
    • A drunk driver on his second or third DUI blows more than double the legal limit. He is picked up after striking a pedestrian walking through a residential area.
    • A driver who is accidentally cut off by another motorist experiences an episode of road rage. His speeding and carelessness results in multiple injuries, including victims left with lifelong disabilities—such a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or paralysis.

    California Civil Code Section 3294 states: “In an action for the breach of an obligation not arising from contract, where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice, the plaintiff, in addition to the actual damages, may recover damages for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.” Key terms are defined as follows:

    • Malice means conduct which is intended by the defendant to cause injury to the plaintiff or despicable conduct which is carried on by the defendant with a willful and conscious disregard for the rights or safety of others.
    • Oppression means despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person’s rights.

    How Are Punitive Damages Determined?

    Some states place a cap on punitive damages in personal injury settlements, but California does not. The law only states punitive damages must be proportionate to your compensatory damages. This means that cases involving serious and permanently disabling injuries may be eligible for the highest punitive damages.

    While not the deciding factor, state law also requires that the defendant's financial situation be taken into consideration when deciding the dollar amount of the damages to be awarded. Since the purpose of punitive damages is to deter future bad behavior, a wealthy defendant with ample resources can be expected to pay a higher punitive damage award than someone who is living paycheck to paycheck.  A large punitive damage claim can provide the deterrent impact on a wealthy person or company while a smaller award might accomplish the same purpose on a person of lesser financial means.

    It should be noted that insurance policies do not cover awards for punitive damages.  This means if you have a punitive damage claim you are going to pursue you need to make sure the target of the claim has ample funds to pay an award of punitive damages.

    How Can an Attorney Help Me Prepare My Case?

    Since cases involving punitive damages involve complex factual and legal issues, it is vital that you have an experienced personal injury attorney available to advocate for your needs. Your attorney can help you line up evidence, document expenses, and negotiate with the insurance company or others on your behalf. This leaves you free to focus on recovering from your injuries to the fullest extent possible. Personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means there is no upfront cost for your legal representation. The attorney accepts a percentage of your final settlement as the fee for his services.  If the attorney is unsuccessful in a contingency claim, then he does not get paid for his work.

    Inland Empire Law Group's legal team is committed to helping injured California residents receive the personal injury compensation deserve. Call (888) 694-3529 today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

     

  • How will self-employment affect my personal injury case?

    Self-Employment and Personal Injury CasesRecovery for lost wages can be a significant portion of any serious personal injury claim. However, receiving a fair settlement becomes more complicated when you are self-employed and your income fluctuates or is based on more than your own efforts. 

    Understanding Self-Employment

    Someone who is self-employed works for himself instead of being an employee of another business. The self-employed are typically either owners of unincorporated small businesses or work as independent contractors.

    Self-employment encompasses a wide range of professions and industries. Salespeople, real estate agents, writers, artists, musicians, accountants, mechanics, doctors, and software developers are just a few of the many different types of self-employed people you will find working across the United States. People who are contractors in the gig economy working for services such as Uber or Fiverr are also considered self-employed, even if they only work through one service provider.

    Types of Compensation

    In a personal injury claim for injuries that are the result of another party's negligence, you are entitled to compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages. As a self-employed person, your lost wages include:

    • Lost income
    • Loss of future earning capacity
    • Lost business opportunities
    • Lost goodwill or damage to your professional reputation
    • Lost profits that can no longer be invested back into your business

    If you were forced to hire someone to provide essential business services while you were recovering from your injuries, this person's wages could be included in your request for compensation. If applicable, overtime pay for existing employees who were required to take on additional duties in your absence can also be included.

    Documentation Needed

    Documentation is absolutely vital to proving how much income your business generates. Supporting documents your attorney might ask for include:

    • Income tax returns
    • Bank statements
    • Invoices
    • Ledgers
    • Work orders
    • Profit and loss statements
    • Forms 1099-MISC
    • Deposit information for cash and credit sales
    • Payroll records

    If you have been self-employed for several years, these documents will probably be fairly easy to provide. However, if you are newly self-employed or your income has recently changed dramatically, you may need to think outside the box to provide the appropriate proof. For example, attorneys sometimes recommend submitting letters from clients you have been working with or those who have agreed to have you perform work in the future.  This avenue may be necessary if you have no other way to prove what your normal income.

    Having an economic loss expert testify on your behalf is another way to support your claim for damages. An economic loss expert can assess your earning potential given your education, past experience, and the local market for your services. He can also help to provide insight into how your injuries will affect your ability to support yourself in the future.

    How an Attorney Can Help

    Due to the challenges associated with accurately estimating self-employment income, having an attorney to advocate for your needs throughout the settlement process is in your best interests. Your attorney will be able to assess the value of your case, help you properly document your income, and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.

    It is a common misconception that legal representation is unaffordable when you do not have a steady income, but personal injury attorneys accept cases on a contingency fee basis. This means you owe no money upfront and will pay a percentage of your settlement to your attorney as the fee for representation. With this arrangement, you can rest easy knowing that your attorney is committed to helping you protect your right to compensation.

    The attorneys at Inland Empire Law Group are dedicated to helping California residents receive the personal injury compensation they need to move forward with their lives. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at our Rancho Cucamonga or Victorville offices.

     

  • What is a release of claims?

    Release of Claims and Your Personal Injury CaseA release of claims is the document the insurance company or a defendant requires to be signed in order for payment to be made to settle the accident-related injuries. The release of claims details the compensation you will receive for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering in exchange for a release from any further claims.

    Should You Sign?

    If you are offered a release of claims a few weeks after your car accident, do not sign the document without careful consideration. Insurance companies are typically eager to settle claims early before you realize the extent of your injuries, so signing too soon may be a big mistake.

    If you sign a release of claim, then seek the advice of counsel because you continue to hurt, the lawyer cannot reverse the effect of the release.  Even if you do not intend to pursue a claim, you should consider consulting with an attorney to determine if signing a release is in your best interest. 

    The primary reason that attorneys caution against signing a release of claims too early in the process is that the severity of car accident injuries can be hard to predict. An injury that first seems to be a minor inconvenience may turn out to be much more serious. For example:

    • Whiplash. Although most people with whiplash do make a full recovery, others are left with chronic pain that requires therapy, medication, and time off work well into the future.
    • Concussion. A mild traumatic brain injury that happens after a blow to the head, a concussion can sometimes lead to a complex disorder called post-concussion syndrome. This condition causes symptoms such as chronic headaches, dizziness, and cognitive difficulties.
    • Back pain. Don't assume that a backache will get better over time. Back pain after a car accident may be caused by damage to muscles and ligaments or a herniated disc. This can lead to chronic pain.
    • Injuries to children. Since young children lack the communication skills necessary to fully articulate their symptoms, it is easy to underestimate a child's needs. Children may require treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a car accident which shows up later.

    Another factor to consider when deciding if a settlement is appropriate is that pain and suffering compensation is often undervalued in the early stages of a claim. Pain and suffering damages are intended to reimburse you for the physical pain as well as the emotional trauma of the accident.  Pain and suffering damages develop over time so and early settlement may not properly capture all these damages.

    Maximum Medical Improvement and Your Settlement Offer

    Regardless of the extent of your injuries, it is recommended that you refrain from settling your case until you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). This is a term that indicates you have either fully recovered from your injuries or have stabilized your condition to the extent that it is possible for experts to accurately estimate what your future medical needs and future pain will be. Your doctor can explain when MMI is likely to occur for your injuries.

    How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help

    A personal injury attorney offers several valuable services to resolve your car accident claim. For example:

    • Assess the value of your case. While it is impossible to guarantee a specific outcome, a skilled personal injury attorney can assess the value of your case based on past experience with similar types of injuries.
    • Document your expenses. To receive reimbursement for your damages, you need to have all of the proper documentation. It is easy to overlook required documents when you are distracted by your recovery, but an attorney will know exactly what's needed.
    • Line up relevant expert testimony. If your case involves anticipated future medical expenses or loss of future earning potential, expert testimony will be crucial in establishing damages. Your attorney can locate the most qualified experts to testify on your behalf.
    • Negotiate with the insurance company. The insurance company's goal is to make a profit, not to fairly compensate you for your injuries. Having someone advocate for your needs is critical.

    Inland Empire Law Group's legal team is committed to help compensate California residents who have been injured due to the negligence of others.  Our legal team wants to help you move forward with your lives. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at our Rancho Cucamonga or Victorville office.  (909) 481-0100.  Call now and see the difference between our office and other lawyers in Southern California.



     

  • Can I still sue for damages if I cannot remember the accident?

    Memory Lapses After a Car AccidentIt is common for people who are injured in serious car accidents not to remember the incident clearly. However, not remembering the accident does not necessarily mean that you are not entitled to seek compensation for your accident-related expenses.

    Reasons for Memory Lapses

    Common reasons for memory loss related to a car accident include:

    • Traumatic brain injury. A severe brain injury can leave the victim unable to function independently, but even a concussion can create gaps in memory.
    • Emotional trauma. In an accident where someone was severely hurt or died, the mind can shut down to avoid dealing with the emotional trauma. Memories may return at a later date, but may only be in brief flashbacks.
    • Substance abuse. Someone who was impaired by drugs or alcohol may not remember the accident due to their substance abuse.
    • Previous cognitive impairment. In cases involving accidents caused by older drivers with signs of Alzheimer's or dementia, a pre-existing condition may be the reason they cannot recall the details of the crash.

    Types of Evidence Used in a Car Accident Claim

    If you cannot remember the details of the accident that caused your injuries, you will want to consider using the following evidence to help establish fault:

    • Police reports. The police report is not normally admissible in court, but can play a significant role in settlement negotiations if it shows that the other driver is clearly at fault. Reports can also provide contact information for witnesses and details that may help to fill in some of the gaps in your memory.
    • Eyewitness testimony. Witnesses may include other vehicle occupants, nearby drivers, or pedestrians who happened to be in the area when the event occurred.
    • Black box data. A vehicle's black box can contain data on variables such as speed, acceleration, steering, braking, airbag deployment, and seat belt use.
    • Surveillance video. Live traffic cameras or security systems from a nearby business may have caught the accident on tape.
    • Photos. Witnesses, law enforcement, or members of the media may have taken photos of the accident scene.
    • Vehicle damage reports. Certain types of car accidents leave well-defined patterns of vehicle damage, which means damage can be used to indicate fault. For example, in a rear-end collision, the driver who hits another car from behind is almost always at fault. If the back of one car and the front of the other car are the only damaged areas, this provides a strong indication of what happened.
    • Accident reconstruction experts. These professionals use their background in physics and vehicle dynamics to interpret available data, including photos, event timelines, vehicle damage, and testimony.

    How Comparative Negligence Laws Affect Your Claim

    If the evidence suggests you were partially at fault for the accident, you can still collect compensation. However, California's pure comparative negligence laws requires that your settlement be reduced by your assigned percentage of fault. This means that if you were 30 percent responsible for the accident, you'd only receive 70 percent of the settlement you would otherwise be entitled to.  A good personal injury attorney can help minimize the amount of fault attributed to your negligence.  If the parties cannot agree on the percentage of fault, a judge or jury who tries the case will be required to assign percentages of fault.

    Protecting Your Right to Compensation by Hiring an Attorney

    A personal injury claim can seek compensation for:

    • Medical expenses such as emergency care, diagnostic tests, surgery, hospital stays, and medication 
    • Anticipated future medical costs for an accident-related disability
    • Lost wages during the recovery period
    • Applicable loss of future earning potential
    • Pain and suffering

    If you have recently been injured in an accident that you cannot accurately remember, retaining the services of an experienced personal injury attorney is the best way to protect your right to compensation. Your attorney can help you line up evidence to assess fault, document expenses, and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.

    Personal injury attorneys accept cases on a contingency basis, which means the attorney will ask for a percentage of the settlement in exchange for representation. This means you do not need to pay any money upfront for a retainer or come up with out-of-pocket funds while you are still dealing with the effects of your injuries.

    Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with Inland Empire Law Group's legal team at 888.694.3529. Appointments are available in our Rancho Cucamonga and Victorville offices.


     

  • How will unemployment affect my personal injury case?

    Unemployment Benefits and Personal Injury ClaimsWage loss can make up a substantial portion of a personal injury claim if the injuries are so severe that they would limit a person’s ability to work.  So unemployment can have a significant effect on your case. However, being unemployed does not necessarily mean that you are not entitled to compensation for the wages which could have been earned, but for the injuries suffered.

    How Receiving Unemployment Benefits Affects a Personal Injury Claim

    If you are currently receiving unemployment benefits, this will likely reduce the value of your personal injury claim. You cannot argue that your injuries have caused immediate wage loss if you were not working at the time of the injury causing accident. However, if your injuries have affected your future earning potential, this can and should be taken into consideration when negotiating a settlement.

    Examples of possible car accident injuries that might affect your ability to find future employment include:

    In the situation where you were not employed at the time of the collision, but you were looking to return to the workforce, your attorney will use expert testimony to establish how your injuries have limited your ability to find suitable work. Testimony will focus on the nature of your injuries as well as your past work history, education, experience, and the conditions of the local labor market.

    In any personal injury claim involving unemployment, the length of time in which you have been out of work will play an important role. If you have only been unemployed for a short time, and that unemployment event was not of your choosing, such as a layoff, it will be easier to make the link your injuries to how they have negatively affected your future job prospects. However, if you have been unemployed for six months or longer, the defense may argue that other factors are playing a more important role in your inability to find suitable work.  These challenges are to be evaluated in assessing the value of any personal injury claim.

    Individuals Who Are Not in the Labor Force

    If you were unemployed, but not receiving unemployment benefits or actively looking for work, you may be classified as being out of the labor force. In this case, you are not entitled to lost wages or compensation for lost earning potential because your injuries are not the reason for your lack of employment. For example, someone who has been retired and drawing a pension for the past decade would not have lost wages or lost future earning potential due to injuries. The settlement value would be based solely on medical expenses, pain and suffering and possibly other damages.

    Special Concerns for Stay at Home Parents or Caregivers

    If you are currently at a stay at home parent, your lost wages can be calculated based on the economic value of the household services you provide. This includes:

    • Caring for young children
    • Transporting children to and from school or other extracurricular activities
    • Cooking meals
    • Grocery shopping
    • Cleaning and performing general household maintenance
    • Paying bills and managing the family finances

    If you have had to hire a housekeeper or nanny due to your injuries, this cost can be included in your damages. If your spouse has been forced to cut back on his work hours due to increased responsibilities at home, this can also be taken into account.

    Similar considerations would apply if you are the full-time caretaker for an elderly parent or a disabled spouse.

    Special Concerns for Self-Employed Individuals

    If you were working as a freelancer, independent contractor, or sole proprietor at the time of your accident, your claim for lost wages is typically based on your previous earnings. However, if your business venture is relatively new, you will need to provide an alternative way to document lost earnings or loss of future earnings. This might include copies of invoices, contracts, correspondence, and bank statements. Expert testimony can also be used to assess the value of your business and lost future opportunities that have occurred due to your injuries.

    How Inland Empire Law Group Can Help

    Car accident injuries can result in a significant financial burden. When your injuries are caused by another party's negligence, you need an experienced personal injury attorney in your corner to advocate for your right to compensation.  Calculating loss of earnings and its correlation to the injuries caused by the negligence of another, requires the skill of competent legal counsel.

    The legal team at Inland Empire Law Group is dedicated to helping Southern California residents who have been injured due to the negligence of others receive the personal injury compensation they need to move forward with their lives. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at our Rancho Cucamonga or Victorville offices.

     

  • What are medical liens?

    Medical Liens and Personal Injury SettlementsSome doctors and hospitals will provide medical services on a lien basis.  This means that they provide the medical services for an injured patient, yet they wait for payment until after a personal injury suit is settled.  The debt remains an obligation of the patient, however, the medical providers asserts a lien against any financial recovery by the injured patient.  Knowing the amount of the medical lien will be important to determine whether a settlement offer is adequate for your needs, including the payment of any medical liens.

    About Medical Liens

    Medical lien are contractual agreements between the doctor, the patient and the attorney, to have the medical provider provide medical service in advance of payment.  The doctor, patient and lawyer all agree to provide the doctor payment from any settlement or judgment prior to the patient receiving any funds from a settlement.  This allows the patient to get the necessary medical care without having to worry about paying for the services during the recovery process.  Ultimately, if there is no recovery, the patient remains responsible for the payment of the charges.  Other types of medical liens involve a health insurance provider seeking reimbursement for previously paid medical bills.  The health insurer often has contractual language which requires the insured person to repay any financial advances made by the health insurance company. Finally, there are some liens imposed by law for emergency medical services rendered to an injury victim or liens to protect government healthcare payments.

    Generally, there are two categories of liens, statutory liens and contractual liens.  Statutory liens are imposed by law, while contractual liens are agreements between patients and doctors.  Statutory liens are imposed to  government and hospital interests.

    Contractual liens are those which exist due to the terms of a specific contract between two parties. Most medical liens fall into this category based on one of the following:

    • Health insurance: The majority of health insurance providers have clauses in their agreements that require you to repay any health insurance benefits later recovered from a third party in a personal injury settlement.
    • Medical payments from your own auto insurance carrier: If your car insurance covers medical expenses related to your accident and another driver is later found to be at fault, you may have to repay some or all of the benefits after receiving a settlement.
    • Agreements to treat: When someone is injured in a car accident and does not have medical insurance, providers will sometimes agree to treat on a lien basis. In this case, the doctor or care provider is agreeing to provide immediate treatment with no pay until a settlement is received.

    Negotiating a Lien

    Although it may seem like a lien would require you to pay back every dollar of medical care you received, this is not necessarily the case. Lien amounts can often be negotiated, depending upon the terms of the contract. In many cases, an experienced personal injury attorney can convince a lienholder to accept less than the full amount for repayment.

    Negotiating a lien is often effective because the lienholder's financial interests are in line with the injured patient. If you go to trial and lose, the lienholder receives nothing. Therefore, they are often likely to accept less than what is fully owed as an incentive to resolve your personal injury claim out of court.

    When your attorney negotiates a lien on your behalf, it is common to consider how the cost of attorney's fees factor into the settlement. Since personal injury cases are accepted on a contingency fee basis, your attorney receives no payment for his services until a settlement is received. Then, a percentage of the award is provided as reimbursement for representation. As such, lienholders are often willing to accept responsibility for a prorated share of the legal costs associated with your case.

    Penalties for Ignoring the Law

    You are legally required to report any personal injury claims that are pending to Medicare, Medi-Cal, or the health insurance which is paying for your medical treatment. Additionally, sophisticated computer software is used to flag records of injuries that could indicate an accident where someone else may be liable for payment—such as whiplash or broken bones. When this happens, you will receive a form asking for more information about who may be responsible for your injuries.

    If you do not report your pending personal injury claim to the appropriate party, you risk jeopardizing your eligibility for future benefits. You could also be sued to recover the amount of the lien plus additional penalties.

    How Inland Empire Law Group Can Help

    In any personal injury case, the best way to protect your right to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering is to obtain experienced legal representation. Your attorney can assess the value of your case, gather evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and help to resolve any outstanding liens to ensure that the final settlement you receive is adequate for your needs.

    To learn more, call to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with the dedicated attorneys at Inland Empire Law Group. Appointments are available at our Rancho Cucamonga and Victorville offices.

     

  • What is a vehicle data recorder?

    What Information Does a Black Box Hold?Most newer cars are equipped with a vehicle data recorder, also known as an event data recorder or black box.  The device monitors the vehicle and stores information about accidents and other information.  This information can be used to uncover information about the cause of an auto accident. In most vehicles, the black box is found in the powertrain control module or the airbag control module.

    Types of Information Preserved in the Vehicle Data Recorder

    Black boxes have been used in vehicles since 1994, but did not become widespread until the mid-2000s. They only work when the vehicle is turned on, so they will not provide any information when there is no battery power.

    Black boxes record a wide range of information that can be useful in the event of an accident.

    • Speed
    • Acceleration
    • Steering angles
    • Throttle position
    • Braking
    • Force of impact
    • Vehicle roll angle
    • Use of ABS
    • If electronic stability control was on or off
    • How many crash events occurred
    • Airbag deployment times
    • Seatbelt use
    • How far forward the driver's seat was positioned
    • Size of seat occupants

    There is no one standard type of black box. This means that the length of time data is preserved from a crash varies according to make and model. Most black boxes record around 20 seconds of data before a crash, but some can record as few as 2.5 seconds of information.

    Data Access and Potential Privacy Concerns

    You can find out if your vehicle has a black box by referring to your owner's manual. However, there is no easy way to turn off the black box or opt out of having your data recorded. This has led to many complaints from activists who believe that the use of black boxes constitutes an invasion of privacy and those who believe black box data may be vulnerable to hackers.

    California law views black box data as the property of the vehicle owner. In most cases, it can only be accessed with your consent or a court order. However, it is also permissible to access data to perform vehicle safety research and to diagnose, service, or repair the vehicle.  This information may also be accessed in a civil suit with a subpoena or through discovery.

    There are products that can lock your vehicle's diagnostics port, such as AutoCYB, OBD Lock, and OBD Saver. This means that nobody can plug in the tools needed to access black box data without your permission. However, you are still required to turn over your data if presented with a court order or subpoena.

    Using Black Box Data as Evidence in Your Personal Injury Claim

    Black box data can be used in an auto accident personal injury claim to establish fault. The data could theoretically be used in any type of case, but is most useful when the accident involves a fatality, parties who don't remember the crash, or contradictory testimony from the drivers involved. Black box data can also be used to corroborate claims of certain types of injuries, such as whiplash from rapid acceleration and deceleration. In product liability cases, such as those involving the widely publicized defective GM ignition switches or the Toyota unintended acceleration crashes, black box data may offer proof of manufacturer negligence.

    If you want to use black box data as evidence, you must act quickly. The devices will only keep data for about one month before they start to record over the information. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney to begin the process of accessing and interpreting the black box data from your own vehicle or the other driver's vehicle.

    To protect the integrity of the data, your attorney will want to:

    • Get a preservation of evidence order.
    • Invite all parties to attend the download process.
    • Prepare a download protocol and get the consent of all parties involved.
    • Videotape the download process.
    • Photograph key stages and readouts from the computer.

    The legal team at Empire Law Group is dedicated to helping California residents receive personal injury compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering following an auto accident. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation at either our Victorville or Rancho Cucamonga office.

     

  • Do I need to pay taxes on a vehicle accident settlement?

    Tax Liability Relating to Personal Injury SettlementsTHE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS NOT TAX ADVICE.  ALL TAX DECISIONS SHOULD BE DECIDED WITH A TAX ADVISER WHO KNOW YOUR SPECIFIC CIRCUMSTANCES.

    If you have been injured in a car accident caused by another driver's negligence and are seeking reimbursement of damages in a personal injury claim, it may surprise you to learn that a portion of your settlement may be taxable. Plan ahead to avoid being hit with an unexpected tax bill.

    Tax Liability for Personal Injury Settlements

    Your tax liability in a personal injury settlement depends on the type of damages you receive. Liability is briefly outlined in IRS Publication 4345, Settlements Liability.

    Key points to remember include:

    • Medical expenses: Funds used to pay for your medical expenses are not taxable. However, if the funds are provided to reimburse you for medical expenses that you previously deducted from your tax return, a portion of the settlement may be taxable.
    • Property damage: Money intended to compensate for vehicle repairs, a totaled vehicle, or a rental car while your vehicle was in the shop is not taxable.
    • Lost wages: Any portion of your settlement intended to compensate for lost wages is fully taxable, since you would have been liable for income taxes on your salary if you were working.
    • Lost profits: If you are a self-employed business owner, compensation for lost profits is taxed as ordinary income and may be subject to self-employment tax.
    • Pain and suffering: Compensation for physical and emotional distress related to the accident is not considered taxable.
    • Punitive damages: Intended to punish the defendant and act as a deterrent against future bad behavior, punitive damages are rarely awarded in a personal injury suit. However, if you do receive this type of compensation, the funds are almost always taxable.
    • Settlement interest: If you are receiving interest on a settlement, it is generally considered taxable as interest income.
    • Attorney's fees: Personal injury cases are typically handled on a contingency fee basis, with an attorney receiving a portion of the settlement in exchange for his services. For tax purposes, however, you are considered to have received 100 percent of the settlement. This means you must include the portion of the settlement reserved for your attorney's fees in the taxable recovery.

    Effect of Going to Trial on Tax Liability

    In most cases, it does not matter whether you settle your personal injury claim out of court or go to trial. Money from a settlement at the claim stage or awarded through a judgement following a trial is subject to the same tax laws. When determining if you should go to trial, you should weigh the strength of your case against the added time and expense of litigation.

    Strengths of Settling Your Case on Tax Liability

    In many instances, the settlement documents can define the nature of the settlement payment to help minimize tax liability.  The damages can be allocated to one type of damage or another to help reduce the possibility that the settlement will be taxable.  These settlement arrangements can significantly alter the taxability of the payment.

    Making Estimated Tax Payments

    Personal injury settlements may trigger a liability for estimated tax payments if you are expected to owe $1,000 or more after subtracting credits and withholding. Review IRS Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, and Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, for details.

    If you are required to make estimated tax payments and fail to do so, you may be charged a penalty. You can be charged a penalty for late payments, even if you end up being owed a refund when you file your annual return.

    Consult an Accountant for Details

    It is important to determine how tax liability will affect your personal injury settlement, since being responsible for unanticipated taxes could make an otherwise fair offer inadequate for your needs. However, a personal injury attorney is only equipped to offer general guidelines regarding what types of damages are taxable. For advice that is specific to your situation, you will need to consult an accountant for details.

    Contact Inland Empire Law Group

    Maximizing the size of your personal injury settlement requires careful documentation of damages, evidence to support claims of the defendant's negligence, and expert negotiation with the insurance company. To protect yourself, you need an experienced personal injury attorney in your corner.

    Inland Empire Law Group's dedicated legal team is committed to helping California residents who have been injured due to the negligence of others receive the personal injury compensation they need to move forward with their lives. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at our Rancho Cucamonga or Victorville offices.

     

  • How are passengers compensated for their car accident injuries?

    Damages Available in a Personal Injury CaseAs an injured passenger, unlike a driver, it is unlikely anyone will attempt to assess any liability on the passenger for the collision.  The passenger generally looks to determine which driver caused the collision or if there were multiple causes for the collision.  This determination is extremely important because in some instances a passenger will be excluded from coverage by their driver’s insurance carrier.

    There are some important things to remember when seeking compensation for your accident-related expenses.

    Types of Damages Available in a Personal Injury Case

    You can seek compensation for the following accident-related expenses:

    • Medical care, including emergency room visits, surgery, hospital stays, follow-up care, and necessary medication.
    • Anticipated future medical needs, if you have suffered disabling injuries.
    • Lost wages for the time you were unable to work due to your injuries.
    • Loss of future earning potential, if you have suffered disabling injuries.
    • Pain and suffering, including both the physical pain and the emotional trauma of the accident.

    Figuring Out Who Is Liable for Your Injuries

    The first step in any personal injury case is figuring out who is financially responsible for your expenses. When the police come to investigate an accident, if there is sufficient evidence to make a conclusion, they will typically assign fault to one or more parties.  However, a police officer’s investigation may be wrong or incomplete.  This means that the passenger needs to investigate the facts more completely after the accident is over.  This investigation may result in finding fault with one or more individuals or entities:

    • The driver of the car in which the passenger was riding.
    • The driver of the other vehicle or vehicles.
    • Multiple drivers, in accordance with their percentage of fault.
    • The vehicle owner, if the driver at fault was operating a vehicle belonging to someone else.
    • Employers of one or more drivers
    • Government entities for defective or avoidably dangerous road conditions

    If you attempt to collect damages from more than one party, keep in mind the total amount of damages is generally allocated between the parties by their respective fault.  In California, the law allows an injured party to collect all their out of pocket damages (called special damages) from any one party that is at all responsible for the collision.  For the monetary damages related to pain and suffering, the laws allocates this damage strictly by the percentage of fault of each party.  The objective is to make the injured party as whole as possible, not to provide a financial windfall.

    When you have immediate medical bills that aren't covered by your health insurance, you may wish to use the MedPay coverage from your own auto insurance policy or the policy of the driver whose vehicle you were riding in. Approving claims made in this way is much quicker since fault does not play a role in the process. However, any funds you receive will often need to be repaid if you later receive a settlement from the at-fault driver.

    Special Considerations for Family Accidents

    If your accident occurred when you were riding with a family member, you may be wondering if you are eligible to make a claim covered by your relative's insurance. This depends on the specific terms of the policy, as well as where each occupant of the vehicle lives.

    When an at-fault driver and passenger live in separate houses, the passenger is eligible to recover damages resulting from an accident. This means that you'd likely be eligible for coverage if you were in an accident while visiting your aunt or accompanying your grandmother to a doctor's appointment.

    Unfortunately, many insurance policies have an exclusion that prevents liability coverage for passengers if the vehicle occupants all live in the same household. This means that accidents involving injured children are not covered when a parent is driving and causes an accident.  Make sure you consult with an attorney to explore all the nuances in possible insurance coverage.

    The Dangers of Trying to Avoid an Insurance Claim

    If you were riding in a vehicle with a friend, you may feel awkward trying to bring an injury claim to recover accident-related damages. Remember, your claim will involve the insurance company more than your friend.  Also, be careful that you do not accept an offer to pay for your out of pocket expenses without consulting with an attorney.  Some insurance companies try to get a quick settlement to prevent having to pay for all the damages caused by their insured driver.

    A Secret Many Passengers Do Not Know

    Even when you are occupying someone’s vehicle, a passenger may still be covered by their own uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.  For example, if the passenger has an uninsured motorist policy that is larger than the insurance available for the at-fault driver(s), then that policy may be available to help pay for the damages.  Also, if the car in which the passenger was riding has uninsured motorist coverage, that coverage may also be available to the passenger under the right circumstances.

    Getting Legal Help

    As an injured passenger, your claim is considered a third-party claim. This means you are filing under an insurance policy that's not your own. To protect your rights throughout this process, it is recommended that you retain legal representation. Your attorney can gather evidence, line up the relevant expert testimony, and negotiate the highest possible settlement on your behalf.  The attorney can also evaluate the possible source of all available insurance coverage.

    Many people worry about the cost of hiring an attorney when they are injured and unable to work. However, money should be no object when it comes to advocating for your needs in a car accident personal injury case. Personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay no upfront fee. Instead, your attorney will accept a percentage of the final settlement.

    To learn more, call to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with the dedicated attorneys at Inland Empire Law Group. Appointments are available at our Rancho Cucamonga and Victorville offices.

     

  • How can an attorney help me resolve my car accident case?

    An Attorney Can Help Resolve Your Car Accident CaseIf you recently suffered injuries in a car accident caused by another driver's negligence, you may be wondering if it is really necessary to hire an attorney to settle your personal injury claim.  Although it may seem tempting to try to resolve the claim on your own, the services and experience an attorney provides may be worth the expense incurred for the attorney’s services.

    Injury Attorneys Work on a Contingency Basis

    Many injury victims believe that can’t afford an attorney so they will have to deal with the insurance companies on their own.  You can afford a personal injury attorney!  Most excellent personal injury attorneys do not require you to pay them upfront.  In fact, these attorneys, including the Inland Empire Law Group, work on a contingency fee basis.  This means that the attorney gets paid out of the settlement or judgment the secure for you as the accident victim.  If there is no recovery, there is no fee for the services provided.  Don’t be afraid to speak with an attorney to see what he or she can do for you.

    An Attorney Allows You to Fully Focus on Your Recovery

    Personal injury cases can be time-consuming to prepare and present to the insurance company or the courts. If you are recovering from broken bones, burns, or other serious injuries, your top priority should be your health. When you hire an attorney to handle your case, he or she will oversee all communication with the insurance company. This leaves you free to focus on meeting your immediate medical needs.

    An Attorney Gathers Evidence

    The success of your personal injury claim will depend upon the quality of the evidence you can submit to support your request for damages. When you hire an attorney to represent your interests, he or she will gather many different types of evidence on your behalf. This may include:

    • Police reports
    • Photographs of the accident scene
    • Witness testimony
    • Depositions
    • Medical bills
    • Medical records
    • Documentation of lost wages

    If you are trying to settle a case on your own, you can easily to overlook crucial evidence that supports your request for damages.

    An Attorney Helps Find Relevant Experts

    Expert testimony can be used as valuable evidence in many types of personal injury cases.  In some cases, experts are absolutely necessary to prove your case.  Different kinds of experts an attorney may be able to locate for your case include:

    • Accident reconstruction experts
    • Human factors experts
    • Medical experts
    • Life care planning experts
    • Economic loss experts
    • Vocational rehabilitation experts

    There are strict criteria used to determine what makes an expert a credible personal injury witness. An experienced attorney has a network of experts known for their reputation in court.

    An Attorney Can Help Avoid Common Personal Injury Claim Mistakes

    Most people realize that lying to an insurance company is not a good idea, but an attorney can help you strengthen your case by pointing out other mistakes you may not have thought of. For example:

    • Speculating about the cause of the accident on your social media accounts
    • Failing to keep all of your recommended medical appointments
    • Being seen in a public place engaged in activity that goes against the doctor's orders, such as lifting heavy weights or not using your crutches
    • Failing to document all related accident expenses, including things like transportation to medical appointments
    • Neglecting to plan for reimbursement of Medicare, Medicaid, or your own private health insurance after you receive your settlement

    An Attorney Negotiates on Your Behalf

    Never forget that insurance companies exist to make a profit. They are not necessarily concerned with whether you receive a settlement that adequately compensates you for your injuries. In fact, car accident victims without legal representation are likely to receive offers for significantly smaller than what their case is truly worth.

    Although an attorney's expert negotiating skills are invaluable in any car accident case, they become particularly important if you are partially at fault for the accident. California law allows you to collect damages if you are partially at fault for the accident, although your compensation will be reduced by your assigned percentage of fault. However, since there is no set formula used to determine the percentage of fault, a skilled attorney can often negotiate a lower fault percentage and thus increase your eligibility for compensation.

    Hiring the right lawyer to handle your case will increase the likelihood your settlement will be much better than handling the claim on your own.  Making sure you hire a highly skilled personal injury lawyer may also help you in recovering greater compensation than a less skilled attorney.  Each case is unique, but generally, hiring the right attorney makes a major difference.

    Contact Inland Empire Law Group

    Inland Empire Law Group's dedicated legal team is committed to helping California residents who have been injured due to the negligence of others receive the personal injury compensation they need to move forward with their lives. You will find a team of very skilled legal professionals working to maximize an injured person’s recovery.  Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Appointments are available at our Rancho Cucamonga or Victorville offices.



     

  • Why do airbags sometimes fail to deploy in a crash?

    How Do I Know If My Airbags Were Supposed to Deploy

    After a car accident, determining liability for your injuries can help you decide how to best alleviate the financial burden associated with the incident. If your airbags did not deploy in the crash, this could potentially mean that you have the basis for a valid product liability claim as well as a personal injury case.

    Should the Airbag Have Deployed?

    It is a common misconception that airbags should deploy in every accident. The force of an airbag can cause traumatic brain injuries, loss of hearing, blindness, burns, or broken facial bones if it deploys when it is unnecessary. Therefore, airbags are intended to only deploy in serious crashes.

    If you've been in an accident and you are trying to determine if your airbags should have deployed, consider the following:

    • At the time of impact, you need to be traveling above 12-18 miles per hour for the airbag to deploy.
    • Passenger airbags will not inflate if the passenger is a child since they are intended for adult use.
    • Frontal airbags should deploy in head-on or near frontal crashes.
    • Side and side curtain airbags only deploy when you have been stuck from the side.
    • An angled front impact might not set off any airbags.

    Airbags are not intended as a substitute for seat belt use. To protect yourself, you should always buckle up before you start to drive.

    What Causes Airbag Failure?

    Airbags are monitored and controlled by computer network sensors that calculate the location and severity of the impact. Based on pre-programmed criteria, the sensors determine if the airbag should deploy. When the sensors fail, the airbag will not work.

    In addition to faulty sensors, airbag problems can sometimes be traced to faulty wiring and design or manufacturing defects. Unfortunately, these issues are often undetectable until an accident has occurred.

    Should I Be Concerned About the Takata Recall?

    Over the years, there have been multiple recalls associated with defective airbags. However, the largest and most recent recall involves vehicles from 19 different automakers made from 2002 to 2015. These vehicles have airbags made by Takata, which have been linked to 18 deaths and hundreds of injuries throughout the United States.

    The Takata airbags have defective inflators, which can ignite with explosive force. If the inflator ruptures, it can send metal shards flying throughout the vehicle. The risk appears highest in areas with both high-humidity and high-temperature cycling, but incidents have been reported in all climates. As the result of this defect, Takata has been named in multiple product liability lawsuits.

    Efforts have been made to notify vehicle owners if their cars are included in the Takata airbag recall, but drivers who move frequently or purchased used vehicles from a private party can prove difficult to contact. If you do not know what brand of airbags are installed in your vehicle, you can contact the car's manufacturer or take it to a nearby dealership for assistance.

    How Does a Faulty Airbag Affect My Eligibility for Compensation?

    Normally, when you are involved in a car accident, the at-fault driver is financially responsible for damages you have suffered. The equation becomes a bit more complicated if there is evidence to suggest your vehicle had faulty airbags.

    When the airbags failed to deploy and you suffered injuries that would likely have been prevented if the airbags were working correctly, the airbag manufacturer may be responsible for those additional injuries which could otherwise have been avoided. If the accident is one that shouldn't have triggered the airbags, there is no possible product liability claim.

    Due to the expense in bringing a product liability claim against a manufacturer of an airbag, the additional injuries must be substantial and valued at an amount greater than the available insurance or assets of the at fault driver.

    Regardless of who is responsible, your compensation can include the following types of damages:

    • Medical expenses, including emergency care, follow-up care, and any anticipated future medical needs for an accident-related disability
    • Loss of wages while you were unable to work due to your injuries and any applicable loss of future earning potential due to an accident-related disability.
    • Aid and assistance with daily living.  When one is severely injured they may need in home care, living assistance or yard care.
    • Pain and suffering, including both the physical pain and emotional trauma from the accident.

    Meeting with an experienced personal injury attorney can help you determine how to best proceed with your case. Call today at (909) 481-0100 or toll free at (888) MY-IELAW to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with the dedicated legal team at the Inland Empire Law Group. Appointments are available at either our Rancho Cucamonga or Victorville offices.

     

  • Can I recover damages if I was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident?

    Your Rights to Compensation After a Wreck When Not Wearing a Seat Belt

    California's seat belt law requires both drivers and passengers to buckle up when a vehicle is in motion.  Even if you violate this law, and you are involved in an auto accident while not wearing a seat belt, you still may be entitled to compensation for some of your injuries from the at-fault party.

    California's Seat Belt Law

    Under California law, the only people who do not have to wear seat belts are those with medical disabilities that prevent seat belt use or people engaging in occupations that make frequent stops, such as USPS, newspaper delivery persons, or waste collection personnel. Children who are too small to use a standard vehicle seat belt must be restrained in an appropriate car seat or booster seat. Also, if you occupy a vehicle that does not have a seatbelt provided, such as some public transportation, you are not required to wear a seatbelt.

    If you violate California's seat belt law, you can be ticketed for this violation.  Some tickets can be for a minimum fine of $162 for an adult violation, or $465 for a child under the age of 16.  Penalties are assessed against the parents of the minor, or the driver if the parents are not in the car.  

    How a Seat Belt Violation Affects Your Personal Injury Claim

    If you are involved in an accident and were not wearing your seatbelt at the time, you may receive a ticket from the law enforcement officer at the scene for failing to buckle up. However, the ticket does not prevent you from filing a personal injury claim.

    California is a comparative fault state but has specifically stated that failing to wear a seat belt does not bar you from seeking a claim for accident-related expenses.  The way the courts address this violation for purposes of civil responsibility of liability is that the Courts will look to see what injuries could have been avoided if a seatbelt was worn and those injuries can be excluded for recovery.  All other injuries are available to pursue.  The insurance company for the at-fault driver will try to argue that nearly all the injuries are related to your lack of seat belt use.  If they are successful, then they reduce the amount they are obligated to pay for the injuries.

    If your case goes to trial, the jury is instructed to consider how the failure to wear a seat belt affected the injuries. If a negligent driver tries to avoid paying accident-related expenses by using a seat belt defense, he will need to establish two key elements:

    • Normal or ordinary care would involve using the available seat belt
    • Wearing a seat belt would have prevented the injuries or made them less serious

    In this scenario, expert testimony from biomechanical and medical experts will become crucial. Your own attorney will need to locate experts who can provide testimony on your behalf to establish that your injuries are unrelated or only minimally related to your lack of seat belt use.

    Protecting Your Right to Compensation

    California has widely been considered a leader in seat belt use, with over 97 percent of drivers and passengers buckling up to protect themselves on the state's busy roads and highways. While it is always smart to be properly restrained before you start out on the road, there's no reason you should bear the brunt of all accident-related expenses due to one simple mistake.

    If you are determined to be partially responsible for the accident or for your injuries from not wearing your seatbelt, your settlement will be reduced by your assigned percentage of fault. For example, if you were determined to be 20 percent at fault for the accident and would otherwise be eligible for a $100,000 settlement, you would receive $80,000 or 80 percent of the original settlement total.

    After a California car accident, you have up to two years to file a personal injury claim.  The best way to protect your right to a fair settlement is to have an experienced attorney advocating for your interests throughout the process.

    Inland Empire Law Group's legal team is committed to assisting California residents to obtain the personal injury compensation they need to move forward with their lives following a car accident. Call us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Appointments are available at either our Rancho Cucamonga or Victorville offices.

     

  • What happens if I am injured in an accident caused by an excluded driver?

    Excluded drivers are not covered by an auto insurance policy, even if they have permission to use the vehicle. If an excluded driver causes an accident, the accident is treated as if the driver had no insurance at all. This can create problems if you have been injured in an accident caused by an excluded driver and need to protect your right to compensation.

    Reasons Why Drivers Are Excluded and You May Need a Car Accident Attorney

    Coverage for accidents with excluded drivers

    The most common reason why people opt to exclude drivers is to save money on their car insurance. California law requires good driver discounts of 20 percent or more for drivers with no accidents during the past three years. (Cal Ins Code §1861.02) This law has been on the books since 1988 and also requires that drivers who do not qualify for the discount due to a household member's poor driving record be given the opportunity to exclude the problem driver in exchange for lower rates.  If the driver is excluded, that driver should not be behind the wheel of a car for which they are an excluded driver.

    In addition to the money-saving aspect of excluding specific drivers, some people opt to take advantage of the excluded driver option to prevent a policy from being canceled altogether. This scenario is most likely when the problematic driver has a recent conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) or a related offense that would put a driver in a "high risk" category. Also, some parents or guardians opt to exclude teen drivers if they do not intend to allow driving privileges.

    Insurance Coverage After an Accident in Riverside County, CA

    Permissive use is a concept that allows a vehicle owner to maintain coverage when a friend or family member borrows the vehicle for a short time. For example, permissive use would cover an accident caused by a friend who is allowed to use the car to drive the store to pick up a gallon of milk or to run errands while a vehicle is in the shop. Permissive use applies in most situations where the driver has a valid license and is not using the vehicle on a regular basis or for a commercial purpose.

    Excluded drivers do not qualify under permissive use because the auto insurer has been specifically told they are not allowed to drive the vehicle. When an excluded driver has an accident, the claim will be denied automatically. Even if there is a legitimate medical emergency that requires the excluded driver to operate the vehicle to take the policyholder to the hospital, there won't be any insurance coverage available to cover liability and property damage. Medical coverage may still be available, but this varies according to the terms of the specific policy.

    Collecting Damages From a California Accident Involving an Excluded Driver

    If you are in an accident where an excluded driver is at fault, your Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UMC) /Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) can be used to help pay for damages. California law requires all auto insurance policies sold within the state to offer this coverage unless you waive your rights in writing to UMC/UIM coverage.

    In addition to collecting from your own insurance, you can attempt to collect from the driver and/or vehicle owner's personal assets, however, direct recovery may be very challenging. If you are seeking recovery from your uninsured motorist coverage or the responsible driver, you can seek compensation for:

    Collecting damages from the liable party's personal assets can be challenging since it is not always readily apparent what assets are available for a settlement.  In cases involving accidents caused by excluded drivers, the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney can prove invaluable.

    If you have been injured in a car accident in California by a private individual or company, you have two years to file a personal injury claim for damages.  If you been injured by a government entity, you need to submit a government claim within six months from the date of the collision. Inland Empire Law Group's attorneys have extensive experience assisting California residents in receiving compensation for car accident injuries. Call us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at either our Rancho Cucamonga or Victorville offices at (909) 481-0100.

     

  • Will my car insurance cover drivers who are not listed on the policy?

    Although your car insurance will often cover drivers who are not listed on the policy if they had permission to borrow your vehicle, there are some important exceptions to this rule of which you should be aware. If you lend your car to someone who is not covered, both you and the borrower of the car can be held personally liable for all damages caused by the borrower.

    Coverage for Other Members of the Household

    Many policies require members of the household who are over driving age to be listed by name, while others offer more general coverage to all household members. However, household members are typically defined as people who live in the house and are related through marriage, blood, or adoption. If you are living with a roommate or partner, and you let them use your car, to assure they are covered by your insurance policy, you will need make sure they are listed by name on the policy.  If you do not, you may place yourself at risk that your vehicle is not insured while a roommate or partner are driving your vehicle.

    Coverage Under the Concept of Permissive UsePermissive use of vehicles and insurance

    When you allow someone who is not a member of your household, or who does not live with you, to borrow your vehicle, the concept of permissive use may provide coverage in the event of an accident. This coverage is not necessarily the same level as you would have for yourself when you are driving.  Many insurers apply a higher deductible or lower coverage payment limits to permissive user accidents.  You need to read your policy carefully to make sure you have the right coverage for permissive user accidents.

    Permissive use does not apply to people who drive your car on a regular basis or someone who will be borrowing your vehicle for an extended period of time. This type of coverage is intended for short, infrequent trips only.  For example, a relative comes to visit and you are going to let your relative use your car for the month long visit.  You should have his or her name included on the insurance policy.  However, if that same relative is only staying for a week or a few days and is going to use the car for running an errand or two while staying with you, there is no need to include them on the policy, they would most likely be covered.  You should check with your insurance agent or your policy to make sure coverage is provided.

    Business use on a non-commercial policy is generally not covered under permissive use.  This is true even if you are just letting a friend borrow your vehicle for a day to attend client meetings or make deliveries. Any type of commercial activity requires specific business insurance coverage.

    All drivers who qualify for permissive use coverage must have a valid driver's license. Allowing someone with no license, a suspended license, or a revoked license to drive your car will invalidate your coverage.  Check that the borrower has a current license before letting him or her use your car.

    Keep in mind that some insurance policies exclude permissive use altogether. Exclusion against permissive use are often found in low cost insurance policies.  If you have any doubts about your coverage, you should contact your insurance agent for details.

    Excluded Drivers

    Excluded drivers are people who are prohibited by name from driving a vehicle. This is most often because they have a record of unsafe driving behavior, such as a DUI conviction, reckless driving charge, they are a high risk driver, or have caused multiple accidents in a short timeframe. 

    Not all policies allow excluded drivers, but some will let you exclude a driver to save money or prevent the policy from being canceled entirely. If you exclude a driver by name, permissive use no longer applies. If you allow the excluded driver to drive your car, or you negligently allow the driver access to your vehicle, you will have no insurance coverage in the event of an accident.  In this case, you and the driver will be held personally liable for damages.

    Liability for Accident-Related Damages

    When a car is driven by someone other than the registered owner, the owner's policy is the first source of coverage. If the owner's policy does not apply, the driver's auto insurance may afford coverage. However, not all policies will pay for damage caused to borrowed vehicles.

    If no insurance coverage is available, the owner can be held personally liable for the damages, unless someone else is at least partially responsible for the accident. In this case, a personal injury claim would be reduced by another driver's percentage of fault. Claims can include compensation for medical care, lost wages or loss of future earning capacity, and pain and suffering.  Under some circumstances the financial liability of an owner of a vehicle used with permission can be limited by law.  California Vehicle Code §17151.

    An injured person has two years to file a personal injury claim for damages related to an auto accident. Contacting an attorney is strongly recommended, due to the complex liability issues involved in an accident where someone other than the policyholder was driving.

    The dedicated legal team at Inland Empire Law Group has extensive experience assisting California residents in receiving the personal injury compensation they need to move forward with their lives following a car collision. Call us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at either our Rancho Cucamonga and Victorville offices.  (909) 481-0100 or (760) 243-9100.  Call now to preserve and enforce your rights.

     

  • Should I wait until I’ve reached Maximum Medical Improvement before I settle my case?

    When it comes to settling your personal injury claim, patience is a virtue. Insurance adjusters will commonly give a low settlement offer shortly after an injury.  They know that many people will be anxious to have the matter resolved and not get attorneys involved. However, waiting until you know the real nature and extent of your injuries, and even waiting to reach the point where you reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI), your settlement results will generally be better than accepting a quick settlement.

    About Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)

    Reaching MMI means you've recovered from your injuries as fully as doctors expect you will be able to recover. For minor injuries, this is generally full recovery so you have no remaining problems with your injuries. For more serious injuries, your MMI may be a point at which any existing pain or physical limitation have stabilized, but the injuries are expected to be permanent. Doctors can make an educated assumption as to what your ongoing care will involve, but they may not be able to forecast many years into the future.

    Your doctor will decide when you've reached MMI based on physical examinations and the results of any diagnostic tests applicable to your injuries. In some cases, a second opinion might be needed to decide if you've recovered as fully as can be expected.

    The Importance of Waiting to Reach MMI Before Settling Your Claim

    Once you've accepted a personal injury settlement, you're releasing the other party from any future liability for your injuries. You can't go back and ask for more money if your injuries turn out to be more serious than you thought. This can make settling before you reach MMI a risky gamble.  In some situations, settling early can be your best alternative.  Utilizing the skill of a good personal injury lawyer to judge the best time to settle is key to maximizing your best recovery.

    Although doctors can provide a general timeframe for your physical and emotional recovery from specific injuries, everyone's case is different. What first looks like a simple problem may turn out to be something more serious. For example, a small percentage of people who suffer a concussions experience what's known as post-concussion syndrome and remain bothered by headaches, dizziness, and mild cognitive deficits months or years after the initial injury. Another example would be broken bones that don't heal properly and require repair or surgery.

    Handling Expenses While You Wait for a Settlement

    Watching unpaid bills accumulate can be very stressful, but you have several different options for handling your finances while you wait for a settlement.

    • Utilize your own health insurance to pay your medical bills until you recover from the opposing party
    • Have your attorney negotiate a lien agreement with the medical care providers to wait for payment until you receive a settlement
    • Have your attorney negotiate reductions or payment plans on the amount owed on your medical bills, then pay cash from your personal savings until you get paid back when you finally reach a settlement
    • Borrow money from friends or family to be repaid from settlement proceeds
    • Temporary cut out unnecessary expenses such as restaurant meals or buying new clothes
    • Sell unwanted items to generate extra income

    While your claim is pending, you may be contacted by companies offering to loan you money now against a settlement you will receive in the future. This is known as a personal injury settlement loan, advance settlement funding, or lawsuit advance loan. When the loan is approved, the financing company will place a lien on the proceeds of the settlement. There is no credit check involved and only cases with a high likelihood of reaching a settlement will qualify. However, the interest rate and fees on this type of loan can often be more than what you'd pay with a credit card or personal loan. This type of loan is also not federally regulated, which means it's your responsibility to investigate the trustworthiness of the lender thoroughly before agreeing to the terms.

    Seeking Legal Representation

    Personal injury law is complex and insurance adjusters are often counting on you being anxious to settle your claim. The insurance adjusters are also hoping you will not go to an attorney who can assist you in protecting your rights of recovery.  Having an experienced attorney to advocate for your needs is the best way to maximize the size of your settlement.

    Personal injury attorneys accept cases on a contingency basis, which means legal fees are paid as a percentage of the settlement. There is no upfront payment required, so you're not pressured to settle early in order to reduce the fee for representation.

    Inland Empire Law Group's attorneys are committed to helping California residents who've been injured due to the negligence of others resolve their personal injury claims or to fight for them in court. Call today at (888) 694-3529 to schedule a consultation at our Victorville or Rancho Cucamonga offices.

     

  • Should I talk to my insurance company about my accident?

    Talking to insurance company after car accident

    You have a legal obligation to cooperate with your car insurance claims representative regarding the facts of your collision. However, it's vital that you understand the scope of what information you are required to provide so you don't inadvertently damage your case.

    Filing Your Claim

    Your first priority after an auto accident should be seeking medical attention for any serious or life-threatening injuries. After the immediate medical needs of all involved have been addressed, you will want to provide information to law enforcement officers on the scene regarding the facts of the collision and how it occured. When dealing with law enforcement, make sure you are honest and that you describe how the collision occurred to the best extent possible. If you can, take pictures of the accident scene and secure contact information from any witnesses or from the other driver.

    Although you should file your claim promptly, it's not necessary to contact your insurance company the same day as your accident or while at the scene of the accident. It's fine to wait until you return home or until you've had a chance to rest and recover from the initial shock of the collision.

    If you're worried about the cost of the accident and how it will affect your future insurance premiums, you might be tempted to forgo making a report. However, you must report all accidents—even if you believe the other driver is 100 percent at fault. The terms of your policy most likely require full disclosure of every accident. It's also possible that you may be found partially at fault for the accident and you rinsurance company may need to defend you. Additionally, it is posbbile the other driver has insufficient insurance coverage to provide reimbursement for your damages and you may need to make an underinsured motorist claim against your own insurance company. If you have not been cooperative, you may compromise your own bility to protect yourself from claims or your right of recovery.

    Your Insurance Company’s Rights

    Policy terms vary, but most auto insurance companies require the following after an accident has been reported:

    • You must provide a basic factual account of the accident. This includes a general statement of what happened before and immediatly after the accident, identity of those involved and witness names to the collision. Your insurance comapny may ask about contact information for the doctors who are treating your injuries, but this information should be withheld until you speak with an attorney.
    • You must allow access to your medical and work records. Your insurance agent will likely ask you to sign a form authorizing the release of these records so your losses can be formally verified before a settlement offer is made.  I do not recommend that you provide the insurance company with an authorization to secure your medical records without first consulting an attorney.  Those are your private records and you control the distribution of those records.  However, at the time you are prepared to resolve your claim you will then be required to provide the medical record and billing information required to justify settlement of your claim.
    • You must allow the insurance company's representative to inspect your vehicle. Taking pictures of your vehicle damage at the scene of the accident is helpful, but the insurance company is entitled to request an in-person inspection before repairs are made.

    Understanding Subrogation

    The concept of subrogation rights may also factor into your car accident settlement. Subrogation is intended to prevent double recovery, which means you're not allowed to profit twice from a car accident settlement.

    Subrogation refers to the right of a third party to collect reimbursement for any payments they've already made on your behalf if another party is found liable for the incident and pays for those same losses. In a car accident case, this can happen when you use your own car insurance to pay for repairs to your car or your own health insurance to pay medical expenses. If you're covered by government assistance benefits such as Medicaid or Medicare, subrogation will apply as well.  The government requires a person using public healthcare benefits to repay that which has been expended by the government and then recovered by the injured party from another insurance company.

    Hiring an Attorney

    Unfortunately, your insurance company may not have your best interests in mind as they're working to process your claim. To protect yourself, it's best to obtain professional legal representation.

    A skilled personal injury attorney can guide you through every step of the settlement process. Your attorney can:

    • Review any release you sign to make sure you're not giving permission to the insurance company to look at irrelevant information such as your credit history, unrelated medical historical medical care or any medical condition not related to your current injuries.
    • Participate with you at any statement you may provide to make sure you're not providing information that could be misinterpreted or used against you.
    • If you're determined to be partially at fault for the accident, the attorney can negotiate on your behalf to lower your percentage of fault. Since there is no set formula for determining fault following an auto accident, a skilled attorney can increase your eligibility for compensation by showing that you are either not liable, or less liable for the collision than what the opposing side wants to attribute to you.
    • Locate experts to testify on your behalf and obtain evidence to support your case.
    • Make settlement demands and review settlement offers to make sure they adequately compensate you for your damages. 
    • If appropriate settlements are not received, the attorney will prepare the case for trial and then try the matter to secure a proper verdict for all the medical expenses, loss of earnings, other out of pocket losses as well as the pain and suffering from the injuries.

    The legal team at Inland Empire Law Group is committed to helping California residents who have been injured in auto, motorcycle and truck accidents receive the compensation they need to move forward with their lives. Please call to schedule a free, no-obligation case review at either our Victorville or Rancho Cucamonga locations.  You can reach us at 909-481-0100 for the main Rancho Cucamonga office, 760-243-9100 for Victorville cases or (888) MY IE LAW for cases anywhere in Southern California.

     

  • MIST cases are special types of personal injury claims involving soft tissue injuries. Learn how this affects your right to compensation.

    Personal injury cases involving primarily minor property damage and soft tissue injuries are sometimes called MIST cases by those in the insurance industry. The term MIST is short for “Minor Impact Soft Tissue.”  If your case is considered a MIST case, there are a few different ways in which this will affect your right to compensation.

    Understanding MIST Cases

    Typically, a MIST case is a car accident occurring at relatively low speeds and resulting in less than $1,500 in property damage to the vehicles involved. Injuries are most often contusions, sprains, strains, and/or whiplash.

    • Contusions – When capillaries under the skin are ruptured, an accident victim ends up with discolored and painful bruises. Most contusions heal over time with no lasting damage. Some MIST cases can result still result in painful and long term damage to the muscle fibers and connective tissue under the skin.
    • Sprains – After a car accident, ligaments in the joints can stretch or tear. These sprains most often occur in the arm, wrist, knee, or ankle, resulting in pain and swelling. A brace or splint is typically used to immobilize the injured area while it heals, although victims are also advised to rest the area as much as possible by avoiding overly vigorous physical activities. Physical therapy, medication or corrective surgery may be needed to resolve these injuries. 
    • Strains – Injuries involving stretched or torn muscles or tendons are referred to as strains. These injuries are treated in a manner similar to a sprain, with braces and rest being the most common approach. However, the neck, mid-back and back are the most common location for a strain in a MIST case.  Chiropractic care, physical therapy, medication, imaging studies, and home health care are often used to address these injuries.  In some limited circumstances, surgery or special pain management care may be required.
    • Whiplash – When your neck jerks back and forth due to the impact of the car accident, whiplash can result. Also known as a cervical strain or sprain, whiplash gets its name because the motion causing the injury is similar to how you would crack a whip. Victims with whiplash may suffer from sleep disturbances, headaches, memory problems, chronic neck or back pain, and dizziness.

    Compensation for Car Accident MIST Cases

    The insurance company often discounts soft tissue injuries as not as serious as injuries such as broken bones.  However, in many instances the soft tissue injuries are much more difficult to treat and cure than a broken bone that is set and heals over six to eight weeks.  Soft tissue injuries can last a life time and only get worse with age.  Just because you were involved a collision which did not result in significant property damage, it does not mean you are not entitled to compensation.  If you were legitimately hurt, then you have a right to make a claim for damages.  Whether the insurance company will agree with you or not is the fight your lawyer will have to engage in to help secure compensation for you.  A MIST case can involve the following types of damages:

    • Medical expenses, such as an emergency room visit and any necessary follow up appointments.
    • Loss of wages, if you were unable to work while recovering from your injuries.
    • Pain and suffering, to reimburse you for the physical pain as well as the emotional trauma of your injuries.
    • Permanent injuries or disabilities, and their impact on your life.

    Medical expenses and lost wages are called economic damages, since an exact dollar value can be calculated based on your hospital bills and pay stubs. Pain and suffering is a category of non-economic damages, since it has no readily available dollar value. Insurance companies will often try to deny damages in MIST cases because they claim that harm could not have occurred to the occupants of the vehicle when there is little property damage.  However, there are many studies that have debunked this argument, but the insurance companies continue to deny the existence of injuries from these collisions. 

    The Challenge of Proving Your Case

    The primary challenge associated with a MIST case is that victims are often accused of faking or exaggerating their injuries. Here are some tips to help your attorney build the strongest possible case:

    • Follow your doctor's treatment recommendations exactly and keep all of your appointments.
    • Do not return to work until you've been cleared by your doctor. 
    • Get a doctor’s note excusing your absence from work.
    • Keep a journal detailing your ongoing symptoms and efforts to get better.
    • Take photos of your injuries as they heal.
    • Do not talk to anyone other than your attorney about your case.

    Letting Inland Empire Law Group Protect Your Rights

    Insurance companies are often eager to save money on MIST cases by offering lowball settlements, claiming a victim is partially responsible for his injuries, or accusing the victim of exaggerating the seriousness of his condition. Having someone to advocate for your interests throughout the settlement process ensures that you'll be treated fairly and have your case resolved as soon as possible.  If a pre-trial resolution is not possible there are some lower cost alternatives we can utilize to help take case to trial.


    The Inland Empire Law Group is dedicated to helping California residents who've been injured in accidents caused by negligent drivers receive the compensation they need to move forward with their lives. We cannot take all MIST cases, nor can we take all large cases.  We will evaluate your case to see how we can best serve you, an injured victim from a negligent driver.  Please call today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review at our Victorville or Rancho Cucamonga locations.

     

  • How will my pregnancy affect my personal injury claim?

    Every expectant mother dreams of giving birth to a healthy child, which is why car accidents occurring during pregnancy are so devastating. If you've been involved in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, it's vital you understand how to protect your right to compensation for both you and your unborn baby.

    How Common Are Car Accidents During Pregnancy?

    Unfortunately, accidents do not exempt pregnant women.  When on the road, an expectant mother involves assuming an element of risk—no matter how cautious you try to be. You can stay away from secondhand smoke, abstain from alcohol, and limit exposure to environmental toxins, but it's nearly impossible to avoid traveling in an automobile for nine months.

    Approximately 170,000 car crashes in the United States each year involve pregnant women. It's been estimated that between one and three percent of all infants born in the United States were subject to an in-utero motor vehicle crash, with auto accidents being the top cause of traumatic fetal death.

    Personal injury car accident as a pregnant womanWhat Pregnancy Complications Are Associated With Auto Accidents?

    Your womb offers some protection for your baby during impact, but a car crash can still cause several serious complications. Your seatbelt, while necessary when driving, can cause extra pressure or trauma across the womb if the seatbelt is not place low across the lap instead of across the womb. The following are a few examples of types of complications which can arise from an accident:

    • Miscarriage which is defines as the loss of a fetus prior to the 20th week of pregnancy. After 20 weeks, the absence of a fetal heartbeat is classified as a stillbirth.
    • Premature birth results when a serious car accident results in an early birth during the third trimester. A premature birth is classified as any birth prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy. The earlier a baby is born, the higher the probability that he or she will suffer some form of physical and/or intellectual disabilities.
    • Placental abruption occurs when the placenta separates from the uterus and is most common in auto accidents involving abdominal trauma. This can lead to preterm birth as well as significant blood loss for the mother.

    Seeking medical care following a car accident is always recommended, but it's crucial when you're an expectant mother. You need to be thoroughly evaluated to determine if the crash caused complications for you or your baby. Once you've been released from the hospital, you'll be asked to watch for signs of fetal distress. Some of these signs include:

    • Vaginal bleeding
    • Leaking fluid
    • Increased vaginal discharge
    • Contractions
    • Unexplained abdominal pain
    • Fainting or dizzy spells
    • Change in the strength or frequency of fetal movements
    • Vomiting unrelated to morning sickness
    • Chills or a fever
    • Reduced or no fetal movement

    Depending upon your health and how your pregnancy had previously been progressing, your healthcare provider may decide to classify your pregnancy as high risk due to the auto accident. This simply means you'll require extra monitoring and observation until you deliver. In some cases, bed rest may also be recommended as a precautionary measure.

    What About Emotional Trauma?

    The physical and hormonal changes associated with pregnancy can make an expectant mother prone to anxiety and depression, which intensifies the emotional trauma associated with being involved in an auto accident. There may be many sleepless nights spent wondering if the force of the crash has caused harm to your unborn baby.

    If you've been involved in a car accident while pregnant, you may want to speak with a psychiatrist or therapist to discuss how the accident has affected your outlook on parenting. Keeping a journal of your feelings can also be useful as both a therapeutic tool and as a way to preserve your memory and evidence to support your personal injury claim.

    How Can I Protect My Right to Compensation?

    medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, which includes emotional distress.  With a pregnancy, if the accident is proven to have caused damage to the fetus which resulted in the need for additional medical care in-utero or after birth, those damages may also be recovered from at fault driver if there is available assets or insurance.  There is no available recovery for the death of a fetus in an auto accident, but the mother, an possibly the father of that fetus may have a claim for their personal emotional distress due to the loss of their unborn child.

    California has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims, so it's vital that you act before this deadline to preserve your right to compensation. The skilled attorneys at Inland Empire Law Group are committed to helping California mothers and their children receive the resources they need to move forward with their lives. Please call today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review at either our Victorville or Rancho Cucamonga office locations.  (909) 481-0100 or (888) 694-3529 for all of Southern California or (760) 243-9100 specifically for the High Desert region of California.

  • 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!

     

     

  • 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.