This information is intended to provide guidance to clients about what may happen during the course of a personal injury case. We suggest you keep this FAQ sheet available until your case resolves and refer to it as needed.
We will contact you if anything significant happens with your claim. Otherwise, please call us any time if you want an update on the status of your claim.
When will you try to settle my case?
A settlement demand will be prepared as soon as you’re done treating and we can obtain copies of your medical records and bills and verify your lost wages. Keep us advised of any changes in treatment, names and addresses of treating facilities and when you are done treating.
What are "costs" and who pays them?
“Costs” are expenses associated with a claim and may include obtaining a Police Report, copies of medical records, duplicating photographs, filing fees, the Court Reporters at a deposition and the costs of expert witnesses needed to prove your claim. In most instances we will advance costs and be reimbursed from the settlement.
How is "pain and suffering" calculated?
There is no set formula to determine the value of pain and suffering. Jurors are instructed to award “reasonable” compensation for pain, inconvenience, distress, etc. Settlement values for pain and suffering are generally based upon the severity and duration of your symptoms.
How is "pain and suffering" verified?
Medical and chiropractic treatment are the most important component influencing settlement values. Treatment is how your symptoms are verified. If you are in pain, your symptoms will not be considered if you are not treating.
What other factors are important in valuing "pain and suffering"?
How an injury affects your lifestyle is another important influence on settlement values. Keep a separate diary of all of your physical complaints and condition and how your injuries affect your life, including at activities at home, work, sports and hobbies.
What else am I entitled to recover?
In addition to pain and suffering you are also entitled to recover past and future medical expenses, lost wages and property damage.
Do I have to wait until the end of my case to get my car fixed?
Property damage (repairs, rental, deductible, etc.) is usually settled separately and before the bodily injury claim and often can be recovered shortly after the expenses are incurred.
What about my medical bills?
The responsible party’s insurance carrier will not pay for your medical costs or other expenses until the final settlement at the end of the case. If you have your own health insurance coverage you should submit your unpaid medical bills to them for payment. You can also submit bills for payment under the Medical Payment coverage of your own car insurance. The best way to handle outstanding bills is first submit them to your health insurance and then submit any unpaid balance to your car insurance Med Pay benefits. Your net settlement will be greater if your bills are paid prior to settlement.
Do I have to repay my health insurance?
Nearly all health insurance companies and public programs such as Medi-Cal and Medicare require reimbursement from your settlement for the accident related medical expenses they pay.
What if I don't have health insurance?
If you don’t have health insurance, treatment can often be arranged on a “lien,” where payment for the cost of treatment is deferred until the conclusion of your case.
What should I tell my doctor?
It’s important to tell your doctor all your symptoms and complaints and what you are doing for treatment with other medical providers.
What shouldn't I tell my doctor?
Your medical records include everything that you tell your doctor. Avoid comments that minimize your symptoms (e.g. “feeling great,” “much better”) unless they are accurate and avoid other statements that have nothing to do with your treatment.
What are some common problems with treatment that I should avoid?
Common problems associated with treatment which should be avoided include delays in seeking treatment, gaps in treatment and excessive treatment (e.g. chiropractic care lasting more than 8 – 10 weeks or expensive diagnostic tests not considered medically necessary).
I'd rather settle than sue. Is this possible?
Most cases settle without the need for a lawsuit. The most common reasons why lawsuits are needed are disputed liability and low offers. If a lawsuit is filed your fees and costs increase. Be sure to discuss the pros and cons with your attorney.
Why isn't the insurance company paying my demand if they admit fault?
In 1988 the California Supreme Court ruled that insurance companies could no longer be sued by accident victims for engaging in unfair claim practices or for refusing to make a good-faith effort to reach prompt and fair settlement of claims. Since then the insurance companies have adopted a strategy of deny, delay and defend rather than attempting to reach a fair settlement.
How long can I wait before filing a lawsuit?
There is a two year statute of limitations applicable to most personal injury cases. Shorter time limitations apply when a defendant is a governmental entity. Longer time limitations may apply to minors.
Will the lawsuit be against the insurance company of the responsible party?
The lawsuit must be filed against the responsible driver or owner. Their insurance company cannot be named in the lawsuit.
What can I expect if a lawsuit is filed?
If a lawsuit is filed the defendant is entitled to conduct “discovery” which may include written questions (called “interrogatories”), depositions and a physical examination by a defense doctor. We will assist you with each of these procedures.
What kind of information do I have to provide in Discovery?
The scope of discovery is broader than what is admissible at trial and the process can be intrusive. Defendants are entitled to information that could lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.
Is it okay to ignore a prior claim if it wasn't too serious?
Insurance companies maintain a database of all prior claims. If you forget to disclose a prior claim insurance company attorneys will accuse you of lying.
What happens if I have a severe injury and the person who caused my accident does not have enough insurance coverage to pay all of my damages?
After you have exhausted the insurance coverage you next look to the responsible person’s assets. However, most people who don’t have enough insurance usually don’t have enough assets either. If the responsible person was in the course and scope of their employment when the accident happened, their employer would also be responsible. Most employers have high limit insurance policies. We also look for excess or umbrella insurance policies. There may also be other defendants and other theories of recovery. In auto accident cases your underinsured motorist coverage may provide an additional source of compensation.
Who pays for my time off work to attend a deposition or trial?
Nobody. Taking time off work to deal with legal issues is not considered an element of damages and is not a recoverable expense. You are only entitled to recover for lost time from work for medical appointments or because you were physically unable to do your job due to your injuries.
How long will my trial take and how many days will I have to be in court?
The average auto accident trial takes about 3-5 court days once the trial begins. The scarcity of available courtrooms can delay the start of trial and the court’s busy calendar may require interruptions once trial begins.
What do I have to do to prove my case at trial?
The injured party has the burden of proof on nearly all issues at trial. In a Civil case the burden is to prove that something is more likely than not. This includes proving the nature and extent of your injuries, the amount of your lost wages and the reasonableness and necessity of your medical treatment.
If my case goes to trial can we tell the jury that the defendant's insurance company is being unreasonable?
No. Evidence of insurance and settlement offers are not admissible at trial.