Pain and Suffering, and Emotional Distress Damages in an Injury Accident Case in California

pain and suffering after an injury accidentPain and suffering and emotional distress are major elements of recoving damages in any personal injury case, especially in claims arising out of serious auto accident cases. Gathering evidence, talking to police and witnesses, taking photographs and making sure that you organize your papers properly are the last things in your mind when you are involved in an auto accident or another serious injury incident and suffer serious injuries. However, sooner or later – the issue of being compensated for your injuries and damages, including pain and suffering damages, will become relevant. And the more serious the injuries are that one sustains in an accident, the higher the medical bills are, the greater the loss of wages is, the greater the likelihood of temporarily or even permanent disability is, and thus – the greater the overall financial and emotional loss on a person is.

Thus, if you want to make sure that you are ultimately compensated for your injuries and pain and suffering, you will have to keep track of the facts, and documentation and the parties involved.

The Accident

Driver information – obtain and exchange information with all other drivers and make sure to get their names, license plate numbers and driver license numbers, insurance company name and policy number as well as their current address.

Photographs – photograph the damages done to your car as well as other vehicles at the scene of the incident and photograph you injuries (bruising, and other visible injuries) before they start healing. Obviously, it’s a good idea to always have a digital or a Polaroid camera in your car. However, even if you don’t have one, chances are that if your accident occurred in the City of San Francisco, there might a drug store within walking distance where you can buy a camera, and it would be a very good idea to do so to preserve evidence as soon as possible.

Police Report – the San Francisco police is often reluctant to come out to the scene of the incident, unless one or more parties were seriously injured. Call the San Francisco Police Department if you were injured and demand that they arrive and take down the traffic collision report. Make sure to get a report slip, so that you can order the report later from their office.

Witnesses – do not hesitate to approach people who have or might have witnessed your accident. Their testimony or simple declaration (a statement with a signature on a paper) may prove to be crucial in a case of disputed liability. San Francisco residents are known for their desire to help and step up to the plate when they witness a traumatic injury accident, so you should not feel that approaching and asking potential witnesses for their information would be inappropriate.

Medical Treatment – if you feel that you have suffered a serious injury do not hesitate to go to the emergency room. You might be discouraged by ER treatment in San Francisco if you do not have health insurance. However, this should not be your concern at the moment when receiving prompt medical attention, taking your x-rays and getting pain relief medication is crucial to your future health and well being. Don’t worry about medical bills. There are different ways to handle them later, one of which is hiring a an injury lawyer in San Francisco who will place the bills on “hold” until your claim is settled and who will later negotiate with the medical providers to reduce your obligations.

After the Accident

Medical Treatment – log all the office visits, prescriptions, over the counter medications, medical treatment, chiropractic treatment, physical treatment and any other medical help your received from the date of the accident. Evidence of your medical treatment reflects on your pain and suffering damages.

Lost Work Time / School Time – keep track of the days you were absent from work and for which your employer did not compensate you and the days you weren’t able to attend school because of your pain and suffering injuries.

Photographs – continue to take photographs of your injuries, to show the healing process and write the date the photo is taken on the back of each photo. This is particularly important if you have significant bruising or other visible injuries that take a long time to heal.

Witnesses – contact them for a written statement before too much time lapses.

Pain, discomfort, emotional distress, fatigue, tenderness, inconvenience – keep a daily log of your experiences, documenting how the injuries have interfered with your daily life and relationship.

It is impossible to fully protect yourself from being involved and being injured in an auto accident, especially in San Francisco, where the drivers are known for their aggressive nature and where so many out-of-towners and tourists are driving and often do not rally know where they are going, creating dangerous situations on the road. However, it is in your power to make sure that you are prepared for such an event and you protect your rights and future financial well being.

February Rain Brings about New Injury Accidents in San Francisco and Alameda Counties

san francisco car accident injuries in rainAs I was leaving San Francisco this morning, heading East on I-80 towards Sacramento, it was quite disturbing to see a number of serious accidents on the freeway during this morning’s very strong rain and even one roll-over accident. All of the accident scenes I saw this morning suggested that the accidents took place in a car pool lane, and quite a few of the vehicles hit a median divider. Most of the accidents must have involved serious injuries as a number of fire trucks and ambulances were rushing toward the scenes of those accidents from both directions.

Clearly, some of the drivers lost control of their vehicles, hit the divider, and had their cur spun on a wet, slipper road, causing one or more cars behind them collide into them and cause a major pile-up accident. This is yet another reminder to the drivers of how important it is to keep distance between the vehicle in front of you, especially during and right after the heavy rain.

From a legal standpoint, one upside of having a pile-up is the opportunity for the biggest victim of the accident to obtain contact information of the potential witnesses who can later testify that he/she was not at fault, and who really caused the accident. This is important, because it is not uncommon for insurance companies to deny liability due to the conflicting recount of how the accident happened, and having unbiased witnesses on your side, who saw with their own eyes how the accident happened are very likely to tip the scales of liability in your favor.

Parents’ Liability for Intentional Injuries caused by a Minor

As a parent of a minor child who is in your physical and legal custody, you are well advised to supervise your children and make everything in your power to prevent them from getting in violent fights and intentionally causeing injuries to others, as California law imposes serious liability on parents of minor children in such situations.

In addition to any liability for negligent supervision of children who cause injury or damage to property, a parent or a guardian is liable under California Civil Code section 1714.1 for intentional miconduct of a child (such as criminal acts, destruction of property, etc.) Any act of a minor which results in injury or death to another person or damage to property will be imputed to the parent for all purposes of civil damages. The parent or guarding having custody (physical custody and not just legal custody required). The liability of a parent for each such act by a minor was originally limited to $25,000.00 when this law was enacted, but is being adjusted by judicial council every two years and is currently at about $35,000.00.

If the insurance coverage applies to the injury or damage caused by a minor, the insurer will not be liable for more than $10,000.00 of the total sum.

Liability is also imposed by statute on parents for the intentional misconduct of children in other situations. These include:

  • intentional act resulting in injury or death to any student or any person employed by performing volunteer services for a school district or private school. Cal. Education Code setion 48904(a);
  • intentional or negligent act by a minor in driving a parent’s vehicle with parent’s express or implied permission. Cal. Vehicle Code section 17150 and 17707;
  • Injury caused by a discharge of a weapon by a minor under 18 years if the parent either permitted the minor to have a firearm or left the firearm in a place accessible to the minor, although such liability is limited to $30,000 for injury to or death of one person per one injured person or $60,000 for injury to or death of all persons involved in a single event. Cal. Civil Code section 1714.3.

Safer Driving in San Francisco During Rain to Avoid Accident Injuries

injury accidents when driving in rain in san franciscoWe all hear about the importance of safe and defensive driving during the wet road conditions brought by rain in San Francisco all throughout the winter season.  Generally, all drivers are aware of the fact that it takes longer to stop a vehicle when it’s raining than when the road is dry, as water significantly decreases the friction between the tires and the road and the overall traction of the a vehicle.  However, I believe that people only fully appreciate how difficult it is to break on the wet road and how much time and distance they need to stop their car abruptly only after they have to deal with this situation at least once.

Thus, in my opinion, every driver would greatly benefit by conducting an experiment on the road where they will have to face with the potentially dangerous conditions, so that they see how their vehicle responds to the need for a sudden stop on the wet road.  Here is how you can make this experiment work for you.  During one rainy day, drive your car out late at night to a safe area with no traffic.  Position your vehicle straight on the road and mentally choose a point about 150 – 200 feet away from where you start driving. As you approach the chosing point, imagine that there is another car stopped in that spot and try to break as hard as you can to avoid colliding into that vehicle about 2-3 second before you arrive to the chosen point. This will simulate a common situation where the driver takes his eyes off the road for a few moments while the vehicle in front of him stops in traffic or at a stop light. You will be amazed to find out that your vehicle will likely skid far past the chosen point and that there is absolutely nothing you can do prevent your vehicle from skidding or almost sliding forward.

This experiment will provide you with an invaluable appreciation of the dangerous road conditions during rain and will likely make you drive slower and more carefully, keeping a large distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.

The Risks of Falling Asleep while Your Friend is Driving

Today, I met a happily married couple for over 25 years who was a painful reminder of the dangers of both falling asleep while driving and also sleeping while being a passenger.  The wife was pushing the husband’s wheelchair as they arrived to see me regarding an employment law related matter.  When I asked how the man ended up being disabled and in a wheelchair, they told me that they were involved in an auto accident over ten years ago when they both took a long-distance trip in their car.

I was surprised to see that while the husband sustained such a serious, crippling injury, the woman seemed like she did not sustain a serious injury.  As I found out, the woman was behind the wheel, driving on a highway, while her husband was sleeping as a passenger next to her in the car. As the woman started falling asleep, she veered off the road and collided into a pole.  Since she was not fully asleep, her body was somewhat “ready” for the impact. Her husband, on the other hand, was in deep sleep.  Thus, at the time of the impact, his body was not able to provide any amortization for the impact and was freely and violently thrown forward, even though the vehicle was not traveling at a high rate of speed, when hitting the tree. As a result he suffered permanent spine injury,  and both of his knees were broken, rendering him unable to walk for the rest of his life.

Ironically, the very reason people switch who sits in the driver seat when going on a long distance trip is in order for the driver to not get too tired and not fall asleep, allowing the person who is not driving to take rest breaks and sleep while being a passenger in the car. As the above example illustrates, this is a very dangerous situation, as even a minor accident or collision will likely hurt a body of a sleeping person much more seriously than that of a  driver who is awake or who is not fully asleep.

Hiring the Right Injury Lawyer

tips for hiring the right accident injury lawyer in san franciscoThere are thousands of lawyers in California and well over a hundred injury lawyers in San Francisco who seem to have a similar education, licensing and specialization in personal injury law and yet the quality of representation and attention that different injured persons receive from different injury lawyers is so different.

So, how do you choose the right attorney for your injury case? Here are six important factors that you should consider when hiring an attorney to represent you in your claims:

1. Your attorney is not overconfident in the outcome of your case. No matter how experienced and seasoned the lawyer is, he cannot and should never be sure of the outcome of your case. Every competent attorney knows that he should never predict the exact outcome of the case, because for obvious reasons legal claims have many elements to them that are inherently unpredictable and affect recovery of damages. There are so many facts and circumstances that might come into play,as the case develops, and the nature of our legal system is such that there is simply no way to know for sure whether you will win or lose and if you win – how much money exactly you will recover from the other side.

A responsible legal professional will assure you that he will do the best he can to represent you as aggressively as possible but he will not make any promises as to how much you will recover and how long exactly the process will take.

2. A good attorney should not act like a pushy salesman. Your attorney shouldn’t shove papers underneath your hand for your signature telling you that “it’s ok and you have nothing to worry about.” Instead, he should explain to you in plain and understandable terms what you are signing, why it is necessary to execute the document, and what the consequences are. The attorney should be educating you about the next steps in your relationship and how the process works.  For instance, a good attorney will go over your services contract paragraph by paragraph, making sure that you understand what the scope and the limitations of his representation is.

A good attorney will also advise you that you are free to terminate your agreement at any time and seek alternate counsel and hire a different attorney of your choice at any time.

A good attorney is patient with his clients and makes sure that you have a general understanding of the process, and he doesn’t make you feel unwelcome or like you are wasting his time.

3. A good lawyer is capable of keeping in touch with you in a way that makes you feel that your case gets the attention it requires. An attorney has an ethical duty to communicate with his client effectively and respond to the client’s communication with reasonable promptness.  One of the most common complaints reported to the California State Bar by clients is that attorney fail to communicate and return phone calls / e-mails and letters from their clients. Being ignored is a frustrating experience in any setting – professionally, socially and especially when it comes to dealing with a lawyer. Litigation process is stressful enough and raises many questions or concerns in a client as the case develops that need to be addressed promptly. A good attorney is not “too busy” to return your calls and he keeps you informed of the developments of your case.

4. A good attorney will advise you not only how to prosecute your case but whether or not it is worth your time, money, energy and emotions to actually go after it. Not every fight is worth fighting, and sometimes it is a better idea to walk away for your own benefit even if the other side gets away and isn’t held liable. An honest attorney will not make you fight a case just to charge you an hourly fee. He truly works in the best interests of his clients by not only pursuing their legal rights but also advising them whether or not it’s prudent to pursue a case altogether. He understand that pursuing a claim is a business decision first and foremost for all parties involved.

5. A good lawyer is not too busy to handle your case. A competent lawyer will not take on more work than he can handle in a quality manner. A good attorney will not sacrifice the quality of his services for the sheer volume of the business because he realizes that his reputation and concern for his existing clients’ cases is his priority.

6. Lastly, your attorney doesn’t come across as a “typical” lawyer. A great attorney defies the stereotypes that are commonly associated with the legal profession – arrogance, greed and flamboyance, and substance abuse. He is friendly, personable and charismatic and you actually enjoy working with him/her. Attorney-client relationship is one kind of intimate relationship between people where many confidential facts and concerns are often disclosed. Effecitve attorney-client communication requires that the attorney be open and honest with his client and will encourage the client to be the same.