If you’ve been in an auto accident, you know just what a frightening experience it can be, especially if you, a family member or a friend have suffered significant injuries or major property damage. After your initial shock wears off, you have lots of questions.
These are all important questions to ask and can make the difference between getting back to normal or facing a lifetime of misery and regret. Understanding the law and making the right choices are critical if you want to have a successful case outcome.
To discuss your claim with an experienced Sacramento car accident attorney, call us at 916-788-7100 or contact us to schedule a free consultation.
A question often asked by accident victims is whether they should hire an attorney. The answer? It depends. While there are times when going it alone is doable, there are several areas to consider before making a decision.
The advice here tends to vary slightly, but most experts agree that $3000 (or less) of damage is a good starting point. Anything below this number can probably be safely handled on your own, while anything above would likely benefit from the services of an accident lawyer. There are a number of reasons for this theory.
Resistance - As you can imagine, as the cost of damages increase so will the insurance company’s reluctance to pay for them. Minor claims are normally covered and paid out quickly to resolve the issue. Larger settlements, however, may be tied up for months (or even years) while an army of corporate lawyers “duke it out” with your attorney. As a rule of thumb, assume the more the damages, the harder it will be to recover them.
Complexity of Laws and Regulations - As injuries and damages begin to mount so do the complexities of proving liability and determining a proper settlement. Minor fender-benders are typically straightforward, while scenarios like head-on collisions or multiple-car accidents can result in volumes of evidence and weeks of multiple court appearances.
Unless you’re comfortable with the law and legal proceedings in general, complex cases usually benefit from the services of an lawyer.
Costs - A competent attorney’s fees will likely amount to roughly one-third of your final settlement. When a large payout is expected, the result usually justifies the expense. However, in smaller cases, you may be better off in the end handling the issue yourself.
Just like analyzing the damages/costs of an accident, evaluating injuries is another point to consider.
As you may have guessed, the tipping point for injury costs is roughly the same as those for property damage - around $3000. Anything less can likely be handled directly with your insurance company, while those that are more serious often require legal counsel.
When it comes to injuries, there are three main areas to keep in mind:
Anytime there are severe injuries both the initial fees and subsequent recovery costs tend to increase. Keep in mind that with the price of medical treatment continually rising, even seemingly minor ER visits can generate bills into the thousands of dollars. Those “bumps and bruises” may end up costing a lot more than you think.
The final point to consider when choosing whether to hire an attorney lies in the complexity of the case itself. While a small percentage of accidents are cut and dried many others are just the opposite, especially when dealing with hard-nosed insurance adjusters.
Insurance Pushback - The most common issues victims face with insurance companies are either:
Either way, in these cases it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney to ensure your rights are protected. Doing so can mean the difference between a fair settlement and one that barely covers your losses.
Lawsuits - Probably the scariest legal outcome from a crash. If you find yourself being served with a lawsuit - or end up having to go to trial - you probably don’t want to be playing hero. Much of the legal process is near impossible to navigate without proper education and experience.
Besides, with the outcome being something that could potentially affect the rest of your life, it’s best not to take unnecessary risks.
This case involved allegations against a trucking company for negligently changing lanes and colliding into our client’s vehicle. The vehicle overturned and our client suffered head injuries. The matter settled on the first day of trial. The defendants increased their offer from $900,000 to $2,500,000.
Most accident victims are not usually in the best frame of mind to handle the emotional and physical stresses of managing their own claims. Whenever possible, focusing on healing and recovery should be your first priority. While there is certainly no rule that says you have to hire an accident lawyer to help with your case, there are number of compelling reasons why you may want to.
A key component of negotiating a fair settlement involves assembling a complete medical profile to support your claim. Therefore, it’s important to start the process as soon as possible and keep detailed notes of every visit, treatment, procedure, and medication related to your accident. Doing so will help your lawyer mount a strong argument for your claim and may provide leverage for negotiating higher compensation rates.
Items to collect include:
In addition to helping locate and organize this evidence, an lawyer can also help in several other ways.
Although you have a right to view your personal medical records upon request, providers and facilities often put a low priority on completing such tasks. Having your lawyer ask for this same information, as part of an injury claim, can often speed up the process. Partnering up means the initial request - and any subsequent follow-ups needed afterwards - fall on the lawyer’s shoulders (not yours).
Although obtaining the records themselves are step #1, there’s often much more to the story. If the records are incomplete or inaccurate, a lawyer can help you get these errors corrected. As the main point of contact for your case, your lawyer will work with the facility to make sure everything is ready to submit as evidence in your case.
Additionally, the wording of the reports themselves can make a huge difference for your claim. In order to win your case, the doctor’s findings must clearly state the exact nature of your injury and explain how it was caused by someone else's negligence. If these two points aren’t clearly spelled out in the doctor’s findings, your lawyer can work with the provider to clarify these points.
In the same way that medical reports have to be formatted correctly, how the evidence is presented makes a big difference. Most insurance companies have a full “bag of tricks” at their disposal in order to reduce or even deny your claim. A skilled personal injury lawyer knows all of these tactics and can ensure your case is taken seriously.
As with medical issues, a personal injury lawyer can assist with insurance company proceedings as well. Skilled lawyers understand how to file a claim, negotiate with adjusters, and manage the entire process from start to finish. When insurance companies know you have a professional on your side, they’re far less likely to bully you or use scare tactics to reduce your settlement amount.
Perhaps best of all, your lawyer can act on your behalf in most proceedings thereby avoiding the stress and hassle of doing it all yourself. Additionally, an lawyer can also handle other aspects of your case that might not be so obvious.
Because personal injury lawyers see these types of cases so often, they have a strong grasp of what’s needed - and should be expected - in an accident claim. A good lawyer will fight for their client’s rights and demand a fair settlement on their behalf.
A key part of the process is also obtaining and protecting the evidence of a case. Accident lawyers understand what needs to be saved and, likewise, what can be ignored. For instance:
As you can see, an accident lawyer can help with your case in many ways, not only from a legal standpoint, but in an emotional one as well. However, there are certain situations when choosing to represent yourself is also a viable option. Let’s take a look.
Our client, age 36, was driving a Lexus sedan and was rear ended by another vehicle. Our client's car sustained $7,000 in property damage, and she suffered injury to her neck. Our client underwent an MRI which revealed nothing. Her symptoms persisted, and she was sent for a cervical discogram. A discogram helps diagnose discogenic pain and annular tears. The results evidenced a significant problem. Without the discogram our client would have never been properly diagnosed and her case would have been worth significantly less money. Our client subsequently underwent surgery. Because of the progressive nature and potential for future neck problems we were able to obtain medical testimony evidencing that our client’s work life would be reduced by 10 years. At the time of the accident, our client earned $70,000 per year and had not missed much work. Our Client works for the State of California in a desk position. However, using the medical testimony we were able to resolve her case for $600,000. Thinking ahead and outside the box sometimes opens doors to damages that other lawyers may never think about. Most lawyers do not realize that surgery is usually a temporary fix to a problem. Neck pain will return at some point and it will affect the client's ability in the future to work.
While making the decision to hire an accident attorney is a major step in the process, one question likely remains - which one do you choose? With the myriad options available it can be difficult to decide. However, there are a few areas to consider that might make your selection easier (and hopefully more rewarding).
There’s often confusion surrounding the cost of hiring a car accident lawyer. However, in reality, it’s fairly straightforward. Our firm works on what's called a contingency agreement.
Here's what that means for you:
While cost might be the first element you consider, it certainly shouldn’t be the last. Finding a reasonable rate is meaningless if the attorney doesn't know what they’re doing. Asking the right questions can make the decision process easier. Topics to discuss might be:
The more case similarities and experience you can find, the better off you’ll likely be.
Remember, the larger the claim the longer it will take to resolve. You’ll want to be comfortable with the attorney that you’re working with. You’ll want to understand how they operate, communicate, and what that means to your relationship. Keep asking questions until you're satisfied with the answers.
Once you find an attorney you’d like to work with, you’ll want to know whether you have a valid claim. Based on your initial consultation, a competent accident lawyer should be able to tell you quickly. Once the merit of the case has been determined, you’ll want to go into more specifics. Follow up questions might include:
Gathering all the information you can will make for a better decision. However, it’s not just about what a potential attorney says...it also matters how comfortable you are with the person themselves. In addition to the previously mentioned questions, you’ll also want to ask yourself a few as well.
How does the attorney make you feel? They should inspire confidence and put you at ease, not leave you with nagging doubts or feeling restless. How about knowledge? If you’re not certain they know what they’re talking about - they probably don’t. Most importantly, do you like their personality? You should be able to picture yourself working with this person long-term.
In the end, your gut will probably tell you who to trust and the best fit for getting the job done. Just be sure you’re listening.
Our client, age 42, was driving a large Dodge pickup truck and was rear ended by another truck. An MRI and discogram revealed injury to four levels of her neck. The neurosurgeon agreed that it was extremely rare to have four levels affected. It is as if you bend a coat hanger, you only expect it to bend in one spot. A repeat discogram was performed, and this time it revealed only a problem at one level. Our client was told she needed surgery and she declined. Her wage loss was minimal, however we argued for loss of future income based upon reduced work life. Her case was resolved for $400,000.
Although specific dollar amounts are hard to estimate since each case is unique, there are some general guidelines as to what can be claimed. Below are some of the factors used to determine how much your case could be worth.
The word “compensate” is used to describe something that makes up for a loss. In car accident cases, these losses usually refer to income. However, there is more to this type of claim than just filing for a missing paycheck; it is also about the possibility of losing future earnings.
Lost wages compensation means compensation from having to take time off work The more severe your injuries, the higher this amount will be as you’ll need more time off for your recovery period.
Although healing and recovery are always the victim’s first priority, getting back to work is usually a close second. However, with extensive injuries, this goal is easier said than done. Some accident victims never fully recover from their injuries and may not be able to return to their previous career.
When this occurs, the loss of future income potential becomes a factor. Accident attorneys and other professionals can determine how crash injuries will affect a victim's ability to work and earn a paycheck. If the injured party is unable to perform their previous job duties, a claim can be made to compensate for these future losses.
With the cost of healthcare continually rising, even a short hospital stay can lead to enormous medical bills. If your injuries are due to another driver’s negligence on the road, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses.
An experienced accident attorney can help recover costs for both current and future medical bills. This fact holds special importance when talking about neck, back, or spine injuries that are often difficult to treat and may linger for years beyond the initial diagnosis. Being able to cover these costs is vital for anyone facing this type of financial hardship.
While missing wages or medical bills are the first thing most accident victims think about, there are other claims that can be made as well. These losses usually focus on the physical and mental aspects of an accident rather than the financial implications. Typical claims include:
Mental anguish covers the mental stress and trauma caused by an accident. Worry, grief, depression, and anxiety are common symptoms.
Pain and suffering is a metric for measuring the pain and discomfort of an injury and its recovery. Factors include the type of accident, severity of injuries, length of treatment, and ability to fully recover afterward.
Loss of consortium occurs when a spouse or companion is no longer able to enjoy companionship, sexual relations, or affection from their partner.
Punitive damages are sometimes awarded when the liable party’s actions are so heinous that they defy any sense of normal behavior. Although victims typically receive some level of higher compensation, punitive damages are also intended as punishment to deter future criminal behavior from the defendant.
While money and lost wages remain the focus (in most cases), it’s important to remember that they’re not the only avenue of compensation. Physical, mental, and emotional quality of life issues are part of the equation as well. A well-researched claim incorporates all of these elements into a single package and provides the best option for a comprehensive recovery.
When it comes to selecting an attorney, you have many options to choose from. As a client with so much riding on the outcome of your case, it only makes sense to shop around and find the right fit. However, once you get down to the details, there’s usually only a select few that stand out. Although you want to feel comfortable with the attorney you’re working with, you also need to verify that they have the background and resources necessary to win your case.
At Sevey, Donahue & Talcott, our team of expert attorneys have over 150 years of combined legal experience and have managed nearly every type of personal injury claim that exists. With a strong record of accomplishment in car, truck and motorcycle accidents, our top-notch lawyers know what it takes to win in tough cases and get the results our clients deserve.
In addition to our team of highly-competent personal injury attorneys, our firm also partners with numerous experts in related disciplines and fields. Do you need help finding a doctor to evaluate your injuries? We’ve got you covered - expert medical care is available to all our clients.
Our how about determining what an accident means to your current income or future earning potential? No problem - leave it to one of our partner financial experts to pinpoint your exact number. Whether your needs involve legal, medical, or financial representation Sevey, Donahue & Talcott is here to help.
One of the biggest advantages a law firm can have is expertise in their chosen field. Sevey, Donahue & Talcott is no exception. Prior to joining our team, senior partner Matthew Donahue was a defense attorney in the insurance industry for over ten years. This experience provided invaluable information for dealing with insurance companies. Matthew and the other attorneys on staff have served dozens of clients in both auto accident and personal injury litigation and can do the same for you.
While demanding proper compensation for our clients is our primary assignment, we know that justice involves more than just a dollar amount. Our mission is to understand and address the specific problems and needs of each client and provide them the fastest, most comprehensive recovery possible. Some of the areas we provide assistance with include:
We understand what you’re going through. Our firm has helped hundreds of Northern California victims reduce their stress and anxiety in accident-related cases and we can do the same for you. Our patient, caring attorneys are here to guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have along the way.
Dealing with the aftermath of a crash is never easy, but partnering with the right lawyer can make the experience less painful and more productive. If you or someone you know has recently been injured in an auto accident, call us today at 916-788-7100 for a free no-obligation consultation and professional evaluation of your case.
A member of our team will be happy to discuss your situation and let you know whether you have a claim. There is no charge to meet with us and we only collect a fee if we win your case.
We serve Sacramento, Roseville and the surrounding Northern California area in all types of personal injury litigation and welcome the opportunity to assist you and your family in your time of need. Call 916-788-7100 or contact us today for your free consultation and get the process started.