Injuries from motor vehicle accident can change your life. It is easy to understand how a fast settlement with the insurance company may seem like the quickest way to getting back what you had before the injury.
Be careful. Settling your case by yourself or at the wrong time may hurt you more in the end. At the Blackman Legal Group, we have the knowledge and experience needed to properly evaluate the value of serious motor vehicle injury cases. We know the law and we know the insurance companies’ tactics. We know the difference between a settlement offer that leaves you unprotected and one that brings you a fair value for the injuries you have suffered and the changes a serious accident can cause in your life.
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SETTLING A MOTOR VEHICLE INJURY CLAIM?
Statute of Limitations
The first thing you should understand about your injury claim is that in California you have a set period of time in which to make your claim. This set period of time is known as the statute of limitations. There are many factors that can affect your statute of limitations including your age at the time of the accident, the type of claim or claims you are making, and the person or company against which you are claiming. Determining which statutes apply to your claim is imperative. If you fail to file your claim within the appropriate period, you may be forever barred from bringing your claim. The fact that you were negotiating with one or more of the potential defendants in your case at the time your statute of limitations ran will not save your claim. When you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, it is always the best course to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are preserved.
Liability is the second issue. When we speak of liability we are really talking about who is going to take responsibility for the accident that injured you. Before discussing settlement with any of the parties, you need to identify all of the parties that might bear some responsibility for your injury. You may think you know who caused your accident. However, you may only know part of the story.
You could have a claim against a manufacturer for products liability if there was a defect in one of the vehicles in the accident. If the driver at fault was intoxicated, you could have a claim against the establishment that served him or her. If the road was in poor condition or without appropriate signage, you might have a claim against the State of California. Without a thorough investigation of your claim, you might not identify all of the parties at fault.
It is important to identify and include all the responsible parties still in existence because settling with just one defendant may operate to release all of the other possible defendants. An attorney experienced in handling motor vehicle accidents can help you identify the parties responsible for your injuries.
Once you have identified all the parties who bear some responsibility for your injury, you need to determine what is the appropriate amount of compensation or damages for your injury. This is not as simple as adding up your medical bills and time lost from work. California has specifically identified damages that are allowed in cases of personal injury. Generally, these damages can include past and future medical and nursing bills, past and future wage loss, past and future pain and suffering, past and future emotional distress and embarrassment, past and future loss of consortium, as well as past and future expenses associated with the injury such as having to hire work done that you can no longer do due to your injury. Some of these damages require proof from an expert.
For example, usually you will need a doctor to say that you are likely to incur future medical expenses. The doctor will also need to outline the nature and frequency of those expenses. Similarly, with respect to wage loss, you may need to have a doctor say that you are permanently disabled and an economist to demonstrate what you lost in wages as well as benefits such as pension contributions.
An attorney experienced in handling injury claims can assist you in determining all of the damages arising out of your injury. Where necessary, your attorney can secure testimony or other proof from medical providers and economists to demonstrate the extent of your loss. As a general rule, the settlement you make is considered a full, final and complete settlement of all aspects of your claim. Courts are reluctant to undo a settlement you have made, absent a showing of fraud. If your injury is very extensive or your injury is such that full extent of your injury is not yet ascertainable you may be asked to consider a structured settlement, a partial settlement with a reservation of rights, or both. You will need the help of an experienced attorney to determine whether such offers are appropriate for your situation.
As noted above, the items of damages for which you may claim compensation include medical expenses and lost wages. Perhaps you are wondering whether you really need to be concerned about those items since your medical bills are paid by your insurance company or employer and your lost wages were paid by your employer through workers’ compensation. The answer is yes, and the reason is, in a word, subrogation. In essence, subrogation means that if an insurance company or your employer has paid for a portion of your damages, then the insurance company or employer is entitled to receive that money back when you settle. The idea is that it is unfair for you to get money to pay medical bills that have already been paid by someone else, namely your insurance company. You will need an experienced attorney to determine whether there are any potential subrogation claims in your case, what notices need to be sent to those holding subrogation interests, and how to best settle your case given the subrogation interests in your case.
Settling your injury claim is more complicated than it might appear at first glance. The persons and companies you are seeking compensation from will likely have experienced attorneys helping them during the negotiations. Because your settlement will likely be a full, final and complete settlement of your claim, you need to ensure that the settlement you make is appropriate. Enlisting the assistance of an experienced attorney is the best way to make sure that the settlement you receive provides just compensation for the injuries you have suffered. At the Blackman Legal Group we know the law and we have the experience to make sure the settlement you achieve protects your rights. Contact Us Today!