Dealing with the aftermath of an accident is stressful enough without the added burden of filing and chasing insurance claims. Many accident victims handle claims themselves, often leading to frustration, delays, and inadequate settlements. It is advisable to hire a personal injury lawyer to guide you through the process.

A reputable lawyer will advocate for your rights and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Read on to discover how hiring a personal injury lawyer can significantly impact the outcome of your insurance claim settlement.

Helps You Understand Your Rights

After an accident, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of your rights under California personal injury law. A personal injury attorney can guide you and explain the relevant statutes that apply to your specific situation.

For example, California follows a "pure comparative negligence" rule. This means you can still recover compensation even if you were partially at fault for the accident, though your percentage of fault will reduce your award.

Your lawyer can also advise you on important deadlines. Per California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) Section 335.1, you have two years from the date of your injury to file a lawsuit. Missing this deadline could mean losing your right to seek compensation.

Gather Evidence On Accident Liability

Proving who was at fault for your accident gives you an upper hand when seeking compensation. Your personal injury lawyer can investigate the case and gather evidence to establish liability. This evidence can include:

Photographs Of The Accident Scene

In the immediate aftermath of an accident, your lawyer can take photographs of the scene from multiple angles. Photos can capture details that may be overlooked or forgotten later, such as:

  • The extent and location of damage to your vehicle and the other party's vehicle
  • Skid marks
  • Debris from the accident, such as broken glass or car parts
  • Photos of traffic signals, signs, and road markings
  • If weather played a role in the accident, photos of rain, snow, ice, or fog

Your personal injury lawyer can use these photographs to reconstruct the accident and build a compelling case on your behalf.

Contact Information Of Other Drivers And Witnesses

If you sustain severe injuries, your lawyer can collect the necessary information from other drivers involved in the accident and any witnesses present at the scene. The information includes:

  • Full names
  • Contact information like phone numbers, email addresses, and home addresses
  • Driver's license number and insurance information of other drivers involved in the accident
  • A brief description of what the witnesses saw, including the events leading up to it and the immediate aftermath

With this information, your personal injury lawyer can contact witnesses, obtain their formal statements, and potentially call them to testify in court if necessary.

Police Reports And Other Official Reports

If you or someone else called the police to the scene of your accident, your lawyer should obtain a copy of the police report. This report often contains valuable information, including:

  • Names, contact information, and insurance details of all drivers involved
  • The officer's account of how the accident occurred, based on their observations and interviews with those involved
  • A visual representation of the position of vehicles, road markings, traffic signals, and other relevant details
  • Statements from drivers and witnesses
  • If any traffic laws were violated, the officer will note any citations issued
  • Officer's opinion on fault. The officer's opinion on who was at fault can be persuasive evidence.

In addition to the police report, other official reports may be relevant to your case, such as reports from emergency medical services (EMS) personnel or accident investigators. Your personal injury lawyer can obtain these reports and use them to strengthen your claim.

Medical Records

Your medical records can show the extent and severity of your injuries. These records should include:

  • Detailed descriptions of your injuries, diagnoses, and initial treatment plans
  • X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, or other diagnostic tests that reveal the nature and extent of your injuries
  • Documentation of all medical treatments received, including medications, physical therapy, surgery, or other procedures
  • Records of all medical expenses incurred due to your injuries.
  • The doctor’s assessment of your expected recovery time and any potential long-term effects of your injuries.

Your personal injury lawyer will collect these records from all healthcare providers you saw and use them to establish the full extent of your damages, including current and future medical expenses.

Negotiate With Lien Holders

In many personal injury cases, third parties may have a financial interest in your settlement. These parties, known as lien holders, could include:

  • Health insurance companies
  • Medicare or Medicaid
  • Workers' compensation insurers. If an injury occurs at work, your employer's workers' compensation insurer may seek reimbursement for the benefits paid.

Negotiating with lien holders is hard, as they often have different rules and regulations. Your personal injury lawyer can handle these negotiations, ensuring that lien holders are paid fairly while protecting your interests and maximizing your net recovery.

Communicating With The Other Drivers Insurance Adjuster

After an accident, you'll likely be contacted by the insurance adjuster representing the other driver. The adjuster's primary goal is to minimize the amount their company pays out.

The adjuster may ask leading questions or mischaracterize your statements to shift blame onto you. They might suggest your injuries are minor or pre-existing, attempting to reduce the value of your claim.

Moreover, insurance companies often try to settle claims quickly for far less than they are worth, hoping you will accept them before consulting a lawyer. A personal injury lawyer should handle all communication with the insurance adjuster. Your lawyer can protect your rights, advocate for your interests, and prevent you from saying the wrong thing.

Help Assess The Full Extent Of Your Damages

You need a personal injury lawyer’s help to accurately assess the full extent of your damages. Accurately assessing your damages requires a deep understanding of personal injury law and the ability to gather and analyze financial and medical information.

They will perform a comprehensive assessment, considering both economic and non-economic damages.

Your lawyer may use various methods to calculate the value of your claim, such as:

  1. Multiplier Method

This method involves multiplying your economic damages by a factor, usually between 1.5 and 5, to account for non-economic damages.

  1. Per Diem Method

This assigns a daily rate for pain and suffering and multiplies it by the number of days you've experienced pain.

Establishing the Value of Your Claim

Once your lawyer has thoroughly assessed your damages, they will determine the fair value of your personal injury claim. This involves considering various factors, such as:

  • Severity of injuries
  • Impact of injuries on your life
  • Cost of medical treatment
  • Lost income and earning capacity:
  • Pain and suffering
  • Strength of evidence

Medical Expenses

Medical expenses are often the most significant component of a personal injury claim. They can include:

  • Emergency room and hospital bills
  • Fees for consultations, examinations, and ongoing treatment by physicians and specialists
  • Expenses for X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, blood work, and other tests needed to diagnose your injuries
  • Costs of any surgical interventions or other procedures
  • The cost of pain medications, antibiotics, and other drugs prescribed for your treatment and recovery
  • Expenses for physical therapy, occupational therapy, or other rehabilitation services necessary for your recovery
  • Costs of crutches, wheelchairs, braces, or other equipment needed to manage your injuries

Your lawyer will document all your medical expenses, ensuring that every bill and invoice is included in your claim. They will also work with medical experts to estimate future medical costs, such as ongoing therapy, medication, or potential surgeries.

Lost Wages

If your injuries have prevented you from working, you are entitled to compensation for lost wages. This includes the income you've already lost and any future income you're expected to lose while recovering from your injuries. To calculate lost wages, your lawyer will typically use the following information:

  • Your pay stubs
  • Tax returns
  • An employment contract or offer letter
  • Doctor's note

Your lawyer may also consult with vocational experts or economists to assess the long-term impact of your injuries on your earning potential. This is especially important if your injuries have caused permanent disabilities or impairments that will affect your ability to work in the future.

Loss of Earning Capacity

In some cases, the impact of your injuries extends beyond just the wages you've lost while unable to work. If your injuries are severe or permanent, they may limit your ability to earn the same income level in the future. This is known as a loss of earning capacity.

Calculating loss of earning capacity is complex and requires a thorough analysis of your:

  • Education and work history
  • Occupation and industry
  • Age and life expectancy
  • Medical prognosis

A professional or economist can help your lawyer calculate your loss of earning capacity. To determine the difference, they will create a detailed projection of your potential earnings over your lifetime, both with and without your injuries. This difference represents your loss of earning capacity and can be a significant component of your claim.

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering encompass the physical pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish you've experienced due to your injuries. These damages are non-economic, meaning they don't have a fixed monetary value like medical bills or lost wages.

Factors that can influence the value of pain and suffering damages include:

  • Severity and type of injury
  • Duration of pain and recovery
  • Impact on daily life
  • Emotional distress
  • Scarring or disfigurement

There's no precise formula for calculating pain and suffering damages. Your lawyer will use their experience, knowledge of similar cases, and negotiation skills to advocate for a fair and just amount that reflects the full extent of your suffering.

Loss of Consortium

Loss of consortium refers to the deprivation of benefits that one spouse or domestic partner is entitled to receive from the other. These benefits can include companionship, affection, sexual relations, moral support, and household services. If your injuries have negatively impacted your relationship with your spouse or partner, they may be able to seek compensation for this loss.

Property Damage

If your vehicle, personal belongings, or other property were damaged in the accident, you are entitled to compensation for the cost of repair or replacement. This includes:

  • Vehicle repair or replacement
  • Personal belongings that are damaged or destroyed in the accident
  • Other damaged property, if any

Your lawyer can help you document the value of your damaged property through repair estimates, receipts for any repairs you've already paid for, and appraisals.

In some cases, you may also be entitled to compensation for the loss of use of your vehicle while it's being repaired or replaced, such as the cost of renting a car or using public transportation.

Punitive Damages

While less common, punitive damages may be awarded in personal injury cases where the defendant's conduct was particularly egregious. These damages are not intended to compensate the plaintiff for their losses but rather to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior in the future.

In California, punitive damages are only available if your lawyer can prove by "clear and convincing evidence" that the defendant acted with malice, oppression, or fraud. This means the defendant's conduct was intentionally harmful or showed a reckless disregard for the safety of others.

Examples of cases where punitive damages may be awarded include:

  • Drunk driving accidents
  • Hit-and-run accidents
  • Accidents caused by intentional acts

Punitive damages are not awarded in every case, and the amount awarded can vary significantly depending on the circumstances. If appropriate, your personal injury lawyer can assess whether your case may warrant punitive damages and advocate for them on your behalf.

Life Altering Disabilities or Permanent Injuries

If you've sustained life-altering disabilities or permanent injuries in an accident, your personal injury claim becomes even more challenging. These injuries can profoundly impact your life, affecting your ability to work, enjoy daily activities, and maintain relationships.

Examples of life-altering disabilities or permanent injuries include:

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • Amputations
  • Chronic pain
  • Organ damage

When dealing with these injuries, your personal injury lawyer will work diligently to maximize your compensation. Life-altering injuries often require extensive medical care, rehabilitation, and ongoing support. Your lawyer will fight to secure the maximum compensation possible to cover these expenses and provide for your future needs.

Sending a Demand Letter to the Insurance Company

Once your lawyer has established the value of your claim, they will draft a formal demand letter to the insurance company. This letter comprehensively describes your case, outlining the liability, damages, and demand amount.

The demand letter sets the stage for settlement discussions and informs the insurance company that you are serious about pursuing your claim. A well-crafted letter can increase the chances of a favorable settlement and avoid the need for costly litigation.

Negotiate A Settlement

After sending the demand letter, your lawyer will negotiate a settlement with the insurance company. This process involves back-and-forth communication, offers, and counteroffers. Your lawyer aims to reach a fair settlement that adequately compensates you for your losses without needing a lengthy and expensive trial.

During negotiations, your lawyer will forcefully present your case, emphasizing the strength of the evidence and the extent of your damages. The adjuster may try to minimize your claim's value or deny liability altogether. But, your lawyer will counter these arguments with compelling evidence and legal reasoning.

Experienced personal injury lawyers deeply understand insurance company tactics and negotiation strategies. They know how to push back against lowball offers and secure a fair settlement. Your lawyer will also keep you updated on the progress of negotiations and advise you on whether to accept or reject any settlement offers.

Offer Legal Guidance And Representation

Your lawyer will be your trusted advisor and advocate throughout the entire personal injury claim process. They will explain your options, answer your questions, and help you make informed decisions about your case.

If a fair settlement cannot be reached, your lawyer will take your case to court and fight for your rights before a judge and jury. They will handle legal procedures in filing a lawsuit, conducting discovery, and preparing for trial.

Filing a lawsuit is a time-consuming process. Your lawyer will handle all aspects of the litigation, including:

  • Drafting and filing the complaint against the defendant and the damages you are seeking
  • Conducting discovery through exchanging information with the other party. For example, through depositions, interrogatories, and requests for documents
  • Preparing for trial by gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and developing a trial strategy
  • Your lawyer will argue your case before a judge and jury, presenting evidence, cross-examining witnesses, and making legal arguments

Litigation can be unpredictable, and there's no guarantee of a favorable outcome. However, having a skilled trial lawyer by your side can significantly increase your chances of success.

Find a Skilled Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

If you have been injured in an accident, you should seek legal representation. A lawyer can fight for your rights and ensure you receive compensation. They understand the physical, emotional, and financial toll accidents can take and are committed to providing compassionate and effective legal representation.

At The LA Personal Injury Law Firm, we pride ourselves on our experience, expertise, and commitment to client satisfaction. We offer free consultations to discuss your case and explain how we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Call us at 310-935-0089 for help with insurance claim settlement in Los Angeles.