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General Personal Injury FAQs

  1. Making a Claim
  2. Hiring An Attorney
  3. After You Hire An Attorney
  4. Insurance Bills
  5. Injuries
  6. Settlement Process
  7. Compensation and Case Value
  8. Starting a Lawsuit

1. Making a Claim

Making a Claim

How do I know if I have a personal injury claim?

To have a personal injury claim, you must be able to show that you have been injured, either physically or emotionally, by someone else who has been negligent or has done something wrong – for example, someone who has broken the rules of the road or has designed an unsafe product.

Can I still have a claim if the accident is partly my fault?

Yes. In most cases, accident victims can recover money even if they are partly to blame for the accident. In California, this concept is known as “comparative fault” and the amount you recover in damages may be reduced if you are partly at fault.

How long do I have to file a personal injury claim in California? (Statute of Limitations)

In California, you generally have two years from the date of injury to file a personal injury lawsuit. This means that you must file a complaint in court or settle your claim within two years of the accident/injury. An important exception to the 2-year statute of limitations applies when the person who caused your injury or damage works for a “public entity.” A public entity can involve a city, county, school district, parks, and recreation district, state government, federal government, and many others. In those cases, you generally have only six months from the date of the accident or injury to file a claim with the governing body of the public entity. Also, when a child is injured in California, the injured party has until two years after the child’s 18th birthday to file a lawsuit. One important exception to this rule involves local, state and federal public agencies. For example, if your child was injured playing in a city park, you generally have only six months to file a claim against the public entity. Because the statute of limitations is so important and missing it will prevent you from pursuing your case, you should consult with an experienced California personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident.

Can I file a personal injury claim if I am not a US citizen?

Yes. You can still file a personal injury claim in California if:

  • You are visiting the United States but are not a legal US resident or citizen
  • You are an illegal immigrant or illegal “alien” living in the US
  • You were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence

California courts have held that the immigration status of a plaintiff is should be irrelevant in a personal injury case. The only time the citizenship status is considered is if the plaintiff is trying to submit a “loss of wages or earnings” claim. Then the defendant can argue that there can be no claim for loss of wages or earnings, since the plaintiff was not allowed to be legally working and paid in the US.

What are “class action” and “mass tort” lawsuits?

There are several similarities between class action and mass tort lawsuits. Both concern a large group of plaintiffs who have allegedly been harmed by the same common defendants. Instead of trying each case separately, the legal action is consolidated into one lawsuit. This protects the company from the enormous expense of defending thousands of separate lawsuits. The difference between the two is that in a class action lawsuit, one individual plaintiff acts as a “class representative” for the rest of the plaintiffs—the class—involved in the lawsuit.For example, if the phone company overcharges all of its customers, each customer has been harmed in exactly the same way and a single plaintiff may represent all of the plaintiffs in the class action. On the other hand, in a mass tort, each plaintiff is treated as an individual, even though they belong to the same class and are suing the same defendant.Most large-scale defective medical device lawsuits are mass torts because the negative effects of the defective device or implant vary between individuals, depending upon their existing health, lifestyle and other factors. For example, Demas Law Group, P.C., represented several hundred women who had been harmed by defective breast implants. Each had to be examined by a board-certified physician. That information was then submitted to the court considering the mass tort action. The court then granted monetary awards to our clients based on the extent of their injuries.

2. Hiring An Attorney

Hiring An Attorney

Do I need a personal injury lawyer?

If you were in an accident that caused only property damage, you may not need an attorney. However, if you sustained any injuries – regardless of how minor they are – obtaining legal consultation is vital before deciding what course of action to take. Most reputable personal injury attorneys provide initial consultations at no cost and no obligation, which means you have nothing to lose. Furthermore, an experienced personal injury attorney can evaluate your case and tell you what to expect. He or she can recommend appropriate medical treatment, negotiate a replacement automobile or car repair, and ultimately help you obtain a fair and full settlement with the insurance company that takes into account all of your damages, including your pain and suffering. Attempting to negotiate a settlement with an insurance company on your own can be risky. Keep in mind that the lawyers and claims adjustors employed by the insurance company get paid, praised and promoted for keeping their side’s costs down. They know the business, and are eager for you to settle your case as fast as possible, before any more issues arise that can potentially increase their liability and costs. In fact, dealing with an insurance company without legal counsel could also result in you unknowingly waiving important legal rights, such as filing a lawsuit in a timely manner. When an insurance company is dealing with a lawyer who has a record of success and trial experience, they are much more likely to offer a fair settlement.

When should I hire an attorney?

If you have been injured to the extent that you needed to seek medical treatment, you or your representative should consider consulting with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Hiring an attorney soon after your injury will ensure that important evidence and documentation are properly collected and that you receive the maximum result possible for your case. In addition, you want to make sure your legal rights are protected before the statute of limitations expires – which in some cases, may be a short as 6 months after the accident.

What exactly does a personal injury lawyer do?

Many people do not know what a personal injury lawyer does. Below is a list of the most important services we provide for our clients:

  1. Educate our clients about the claim and litigation process
  2. Gather evidence and investigate the case
  3. Analyze insurance policies to see what coverage is available to pay for the client’s damages
  4. Assist our clients with obtaining medical treatment, accessing other resources, and paying medical bills
  5. Meet the client’s health care providers to discuss and evaluate the client’s case
  6. Obtain reports from experts to support the client’s claim
  7. Analyze pertinent legal issues that may affect the client’s case
  8. Analyze the client’s health insurance to evaluate what the client must repay after the settlement
  9. File claims or make “demands” for compensation on our client’s’ behalf
  10. Conduct negotiations to settle the claim
  11. If a lawsuit is to be filed, prepare the summons and complaint to file in court
  12. Prepare for and conduct depositions of clients, defendants, doctors, experts, and other witnesses
  13. Hire any additional experts necessary to support the case
  14. Analyze all records and reports related to the case
  15. File the necessary documents in court
  16. Prepare for mediation, arbitration or trial
  17. Research and write briefs and file motions
  18. Try the case

What should I look for when choosing a personal injury attorney?

Before you hire a personal injury attorney, we suggest you conduct some research about their firm. Whom you choose will be one of the most important decisions you will make. There are many personal injury attorneys, but very few are qualified enough to get you the best result. The success of your case is largely dependent on your having the right attorney and firm on your side. Some questions to ask include:

  1. Does the firm specialize in personal injury cases?
  2. Who are you really hiring and who will handle your case?
  3. Does the firm have the resources to prosecute your case?
  4. Does the firm have significant trial experience?
  5. Are the firm’s lawyers leaders in the personal injury field?
  6. How will the attorney communicate with you and what kind of relationship will you have?
  7. Has the firm ever sought to recover costs from a client after losing a case?

At Demas Law Group, P.C., we want to help educate you on the process of choosing a personal injury attorney. For more detailed information on what to look for when hiring a California personal injury attorney, please order a free copy of our e-guide “7 Things to Consider When Hiring a Personal Injury Law Firm in California.”

What will a personal injury attorney cost me?

Our attorneys are hired on a contingency fee, meaning you will not pay any legal costs until there is a settlement or a winning verdict at trial. Your attorney will receive a percentage fee of the total case recovery, in addition to case costs. If there is no settlement or winning verdict, you won’t be charged any legal fees or costs. Some people are hesitant to hire an attorney, because of the fees they will eventually have to pay, if and when a settlement is reached. However, hiring an experienced attorney can actually increase the amount of financial compensation you receive for the accident. Generally, even after the attorney’s fee is paid, you will have more money in your pocket than you would if you attempted to represent yourself. The experienced attorneys at Demas Law Group, P.C., know what you are entitled to receive as compensation, and will fight to get the best possible result for you.

What cities and areas do your attorneys take cases from?

We have offices in Sacramento and Elk Grove.  We work with and represents clients locally and across Northern California. In some personal injury cases, Demas Law Group, P.C., also represents clients statewide and nationwide.

I already have a lawyer, but I’m not happy with him/her. Can I still hire you?

Yes, you have the right to change lawyers. you may have an ongoing case with an attorney who doesn’t have the knowledge or experience to get you the best result, doesn’t have the resources to refer you to the right experts, or simply doesn’t provide you with feedback or information about what is happening with your case. Many of our clients initially hire less experienced attorneys and quickly realize they chose the wrong lawyer. If that is the case with you, do not fret. Please call and speak with one of our attorneys to see how we can help you. If we agree to take your case, your prior attorney will be compensated for his/her time from our fee, which means it will not cost you anything extra to change attorneys. Please contact us to discuss your options further.

3. After You Hire An Attorney

After You Hire An Attorney

What happens after I hire an attorney?

Just like you should follow your doctors’ advice for treatment of your injuries, you should follow your personal injury attorney’s advice regarding your case. After you hire an attorney, you should direct any phone calls or correspondence from the defendant’s insurance company to your attorney’s office. You should also make copies of any other documents related to your case and mail them to your attorney. Finally, you should always keep your lawyer informed about any changes in your medical care/treatment, condition, work, or life in general that may affect your case. Your attorney should be available to answer any questions you may have throughout the duration of your case, and should notify you of important milestones regarding your case.

What are my responsibilities as a Demas Law Group, P.C., client?

Your main responsibility as our client is to follow your attorney’s and health care providers’ advice. Keep these tips in mind while you are recovering from your injuries:

Medical treatment

  • Seek immediate and adequate treatment for your injuries and focus on healing
  • Keep track of your day to day health complaints, injuries, change in lifestyle and improvements
  • Stay honest with your treating doctor about your injuries and symptoms
  • Reveal all of your complaints of pain, discomfort and difficulties to your doctor
  • Keep a list of all doctors, hospitals and therapists who have treated you
  • Keep a list of prescriptions and medicines you have taken
  • If your treatment is not helping, ask your doctor and attorney for advice

Documentation

  • Retain receipts for special expenses you incurred as a result of your accident, such as prescriptions, extra help at home, costs of transportation, lost income, etc.
  • Take photographs of all your injuries (bruises, cuts, burns, scars, casts and bandages)

Bills

  • If you have it, use your health insurance for treatment
  • Take responsibility for your unpaid bills and charges by making payment arrangements, providing health insurance information request, or arranging for treatment on lien if necessary (call us to ask about this)
  • Don’t let medical bills go to collections

Communication

  • Don’t communicate with anyone on the facts of your case and don’t give statements to insurance companies
  • Ask us questions if you don’t understand the legal process
  • Give our legal team a copy of all documents received in the mail, such as health insurance information, letters, bills, etc.
  • Let us know about changes in your life, changes in your medical condition, treatment, contact information, etc.
  • Notify us when you have completed treatment for your injuries
  • Do not post any comments or videos on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. regarding your accident/injury and condition.

Decision Making

  • Please keep in mind that after a claim is filed it is ultimately your decision whether to accept or reject a settlement offer or proceed to trial. Although your attorney can guide you, you have the responsibility to make the final decision.
  • Once you have made the decision to file a lawsuit, it is your responsibility to follow your attorney’s instructions for how to prepare for trial.

What if the insurance company calls me after I hire an attorney?

Once you have hired an attorney, the insurance company is no longer allowed to contact you directly. If an insurance adjuster calls you, advise him or her that you have retained an attorney and give that person your attorney’s name and number.

What roles do the attorney and paralegal have in my case?

The attorney and paralegal work as a team to handle your case. At Demas Law Group, P.C., the attorneys strive to maintain good client communication throughout your case. However, if your attorney is in court or out of the office conferring with experts, taking depositions or negotiating with insurance companies, the paralegal may be more accessible to address your questions. Our paralegals have the necessary knowledge to address most of your questions. If your question requires an attorney’s response, they will make sure your attorney contacts you directly as soon as possible.

What should I do with any bills and letters I receive?

You should send copies of any documentation you receive to your attorney. That will allow them to monitor the payment of your bills and deal with any issues that may arise.

4. Insurance Bills

Insurance Bills

What can I expect to get from the insurance company?

Insurance companies count on you not knowing the true value of your claim. They try to tell you what it is worth and settle with you for as little as possible before a knowledgeable attorney reviews the facts of the case. An experienced personal injury attorney knows how much money will be necessary to fully compensate you for your injuries, and will typically obtain a much higher settlement for you.

Do I have to pay my health insurance company back for bills they have paid?

Your insurance policy may contain a provision called “subrogation.” This means that you are not entitled to receive double payment for your bills. When your case is settled, it generally includes payment for all medical bills incurred as a result of your accident, including those already paid by your health insurance. Since the at-fault party is responsible for all of your damages, your insurance company may have the right to be reimbursed for any payments it made. The personal injury lawyers at Demas Law Group, P.C., can help you significantly reduce the amount of money you must repay for your medical bills when you receive a monetary settlement from the negligent party. It is important to note that this area of the law is always evolving and you need an experienced injury attorney well-versed in this complicated topic to make sure your best interests are served.

5. Injuries

Injuries

What types of injuries has your firm dealt with?

Our attorneys at Demas Law Group, P.C., have represented thousands of clients throughout the years with injuries ranging from minor to catastrophic. Unlike many personal injury law firms that do not have the experience and resources necessary to pursue catastrophic injury cases, at Demas Law Group, P.C., we have years of experience bringing such cases to successful resolution. For more information on the types of injuries we handle most frequently, please explore our Practice Area section on injures.

What do I do if my treatment isn’t helping?

The first thing you should do is discuss this with your doctor to explore any alternative treatments available for your condition. In addition, you should inform your attorney about this and any changes made to your treatment. In many cases, due to the volume of cases and injuries we have dealt with, our attorneys are able to recommend state of the art specialists for you to consult with. Making sure you receive the proper and best medical treatment to fully evaluate your injury may be one of the most important things your attorney can do.

What do I do if my condition is permanent?

The first thing you should do is discuss this with your doctor to explore any alternative treatments available for your condition. In addition, you should inform your attorney about this and any changes made to your treatment. In many cases, due to the volume of cases and injuries we have dealt with, our attorneys are able to recommend state of the art specialists for you to consult with. Making sure you receive the proper and best medical treatment to fully evaluate your injury may be one of the most important things your attorney can do.

6. Settlement Process

Settlement Process

When will my case be ready to settle?

Generally, after you have fully recovered from your injuries or (in the case of more serious injuries) when you have completed treatment with your doctor and he or she has stated that you are as well as you are going to be or have reached a plateau in your recovery, (what is usually called “maximum medical improvement”) you should contact your attorney and let him/her know. At that point, your attorney will get the medical records from the doctor(s) with whom you treated, and will begin the process of settling your case.

What happens when it’s time to settle my case?

After all relevant information is obtained and you have been released from treatment or have reached a plateau in your recovery, a “demand letter” is written and mailed to the defendant’s insurance company. The demand letter presents the facts of the accident, your injuries, and the impact the accident/injuries have had on your life. The demand letter also requests a monetary amount to settle the case. Many claims settle at this stage. If, however, the insurance company refuses to compensate you fairly, a lawsuit may then be filed. Our attorneys will consult with you and get your approval at every step of this phase. If your injury is very serious or debilitating, or if the facts of your accident are complex or involve multiple parties or defective products, our attorneys may advise you to file a lawsuit without first attempting to settle with the insurance company. The attorneys at Demas Law Group, P.C., know that in complex or more serious injury cases, the only way to get the best results is to file a lawsuit and proceed toward trial. Insurance companies often times will only pay fair and reasonable compensation when the threat of a jury trial is looming.

Can I settle only part of my case, in case I have future medical bills?

No. This is why we obtain an opinion from your health care providers and other rehabilitation or medical experts on what additional care and medical treatment you will most likely require in the future and an estimate of what that care will cost. This amount is included in the amount of compensation we request from the insurance company during settlement negotiations.

How quickly will my case be over?

We usually tell people that their case will be resolved as soon as the defendants agree to pay full and fair compensation for our clients’ injuries. Since every case is different, there is no way to give you an accurate estimate of how long it will take. Generally speaking, in cases with less serious injuries and good recovery results, one can expect the settlement process to move fairly quickly. However, in serious injury or wrongful death cases, our attorneys may need to work longer and harder to reach an acceptable result.

7. Compensation and Case Value

Compensation and Case Value

What can I get compensated for in a personal injury claim?

Compensation for your injuries depends on several factors, including the nature and extent of your injuries, physical and emotional pain and suffering, the change in your quality of life, economic hardship or financial loss, decreased earning potential and physical impairment. Depending on the type and extent of your personal injury, you may be eligible for compensatory damages, which may include the following:

  • Property damage
  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages, including overtime
  • Out of pocket expenses (transportation charges, etc.)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Physical disability
  • Disfigurement
  • Permanent scars
  • Emotional trauma
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of love and affection
  • Embarrassment
  • Mental disability

How much financial compensation can I get for my injuries?

You are entitled to be fully compensated for your injuries. In legal language, you are entitled to “be made whole”, meaning to be put back in the same position after the settlement as you were in immediately before the accident. Since the person/entity that caused your injury cannot go back in time and prevent their negligence from harming you, the law requires them to adequately compensate you for your injuries. This compensation is called damages. When it comes to damages, one thing is certain: do not expect to get adequately compensated for your injuries by what the insurance company will offer. Insurance companies are in the business of making money. The way they do so is by collecting premiums and paying out as little as possible to compensate injured people. Their adjustors and attorneys have one purpose only: minimize the amount they have to pay you to make you “whole”. Oftentimes this means they will not even agree to pay you for all of your medical bills or lost wages, claiming the bills are excessive or the medical treatment was not necessary. In serious injury cases, they may dispute the nature and extent of your injuries and the impact your injuries will have on your future and type of medical treatment and care you will need for the rest of your life. In essence, they will try to minimize your claim regardless of your injuries. Fighting the insurance industry and obtaining the best possible outcome for your case requires the assistance of an experienced and well-respected attorney. The attorneys at Demas Law Group, P.C., have the knowledge, experience, and the long history of success necessary to make sure you receive the best recovery for your case.

What is my claim worth?

Demas Law Group, P.C., has a long track record of securing six and seven-figure awards for clients who have been seriously injured in car crashes. How much each individual case is “worth” depends on the extent of your injuries and the circumstance of your accident, which can vary tremendously. No matter what the cost, many insurance companies will try to pay less than the victim is legally entitled to. That’s why you need a Demas Law Group, P.C., personal injury attorney on your side. We take the same approach to each case: whether you received minor or major injuries in a car accident, or you, unfortunately, lost a loved one, we are dedicated to securing the best settlement possible for your claim.

What is loss of consortium?

Your spouse has a right to your company, which may have been affected by the accident. Based on the time spent in the hospital and the affects of your disability on your relationship, your spouse is entitled to recover damages from the person causing the accident for the loss of your companionship (i.e., consortium).

What is loss of future earnings?

If you have been seriously injured, you may not be able to resume the same type of work you did previously or be able to work as hard or as long. Since your decreased ability to work was the result of the accident, the person who caused the accident should compensate you for your loss in earning potential.

8. Starting a Lawsuit

Starting a Lawsuit

Will I have to sue?

Although the majority of personal injury cases are settled out of court, sometimes a lawsuit is the only option, especially in complex cases, cases involving serious injuries or when the insurance company offers an unfair settlement amount. You may then have to sue to protect your right to full and fair compensation. An experienced trial attorney can calculate the value of your case, so you will know whether the offer from the insurance company is adequate or not. He or she can also estimate the chance of success at trial, and advise you accordingly. Ultimately, although your attorney can provide guidance, it is your responsibility to make the final decision of whether to settle a case or go to trial.

I don’t want to bankrupt somebody. What happens to the person I sue?

Although a lawsuit generally has the other driver’s name on it, you are actually going after the insurance company’s money. In the vast majority of cases, the person sued does not have to pay anything, since their insurance company pays the settlement or verdict amount, as well as the legal fees.

This literature may be considered attorney advertising or an offer of professional services, according to rule 1-400 Rules of Professional Conduct by the State Bar of California. The information does not constitute a guarantee, warranty or prediction regarding the outcome of your potential legal matter.

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