California Injury Law: Pain and suffering compensation in an accident

There are two broad categories of damages available in a personal injury claims in California: Economic and Non-Economic. Compensation for pain and suffering fall into the non-economic category and are often the most controversial part of any auto accident case, partly because they are not easily defined or quantified, and partly because they can make up a very substantial part of any injured party’s overall recovery and in many cases can have a much greater value than the economic damages such as medical treatment expenses, wage loss, etc. The following is a break-down of the types of harm covered under economic and non-economic damages:

In auto accident cases, economic or general damages may include:

  • Medical expenses – past and future
  • Lost wages – past and future
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Loss of ability to provide household services
  • Damage to real property (i.e., a car hits a house)
  • Loss of use of real property
  • Damage to personal property (your car, for example)
  • Loss or destruction of personal property
  • Damage to personal property having a special value (i.e., family photos)
  • Loss of use of personal property
  • Lost profits

The non-economic or special damages may include:

  • Continuing physical pain and discomfort while performing typical daily activities such as prolonged standing, sitting, and driving.
  • Mental suffering, including fear of driving or using any kind of transportation on the road, inability to focus, insomnia, loss of appetite and eating disorders.
  • Emotional distress – stress, anxiety, depression associated with the injury incident.
  • Loss of consortium (loss of spousal companionship and services and even inability to have healthy sexual relationship also known as alienation of affection)

California operates under a tort liability system that governs how pain and suffering claims are to be litigated. In short, the tort liability system allows the jury to decide, exclusively, the amount of damages to be paid to someone for a car accident injury.

Injuries and accidents involving children in residential areas

It seems that no matter what precautions the apartment and condominium communities take to make their are safer for pedestrians and bicyclist, people and especially small children continue being hit and severally injured by vehicles entering and exiting residential areas, even in gated communities. Posted speed limits, highlighted crosswalks, speed bumps and signs warning the driver that children might might be crossing the street unexpectedly  – all these precautions are of little help if the driver is speeding through the area, assuming that no one will be crossing the street or running out in the quiet residential area, and the child who is used to feeling safe runs out or rides his bicycle out unexpectedly onto the street to only be violently hit by that car.

In most such accidents the driver is found liable for speeding and unsafe driving under conditions. However, regardless of whose fault the accident is, it is very important to explain and remind children that the area surrounding their house (no matter how suburban that area is) can be just as dangerous as any busy highway. In fact, it is likely to be more dangerous, because the drivers don’t expect any dangerous situations in a quite neighborhood and therefore don’t pay as much attention to the road and often feel at liberty to speed through.

You cannot prevent the drivers from not being as careful as you should be, but you can certainly make sure that your children are fully aware of the potential dangers posed by drivers on the streets immediately outside their house.

San Francisco Accident Injury Lawyer: Police report and liability in the accident

You have just been involved in a car accident. You might be hesitating who you should call for help, and whether it’s a good idea to call anyone at all. It is very important to contact the police immediately after the accident, especially if any of the parties suffered serious injuries. The arriving police officer will gather all the available information and evidence from the scene of the collision – the statements of parties, parts of the vehicle, if any, will make the measurements of any skidmarks on the road, and will take down all the personal and insurance information of the drivers involved in the accident.

It is not uncommon, however, for a police report to contain incorrect information or even find the wrong party at fault, as the officer who prepares the report bases his conclusions on the statements received from other people, which are often incorrect or even biased. It is important to remember, however, that although the findings in the police reports are evidence of liability, they are no conclusive and are definitely subject to dispute. First, you can contact the police officer who prepared the collision report, discuss the accident and request that he/she amend the report in light of overlooked facts. The police officer may or may not supplement the original report, as the office has the ultimate discretion on preparing the document.

It is just as effective or even more effective to conduct your own investigation and submit your findings to the insurance company in order to dispute liability prove that the other party was liable. You may want to go back to the scene of the incident, take pictures or even a short movie of the intersection if you need to prove that the other drivers should have seen you and had enough time to stop. The insurance company will gladly consider any new evidence, especially in a serious accident, as they are very interested in avoiding significant liability and would rather settle a serious injury case early than argue over liability, litigate the claim and possible incur a much more significant liability and attorney’s fees.

If you have been recently involved in an injury accident in the San Francisco area or anywhere in Northern California, and would like to discuss your claims, contact Arkady Itkin – San Francisco injury lawyer for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss the injury incident you have been involved in.

Why Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance Coverage is so important

The direct benefits of having uninsured motorist (UM) coverage on their car insurance are obvious to most drivers. Such a coverage provides compensation for the insured’s bodily injuries and property damage in the event of collision with another driver, who does not have a valid liability insurance. In some cases, the uninsured motorist coverage also operates as underinsured (UIM) coverage, under which the injured party might obtain additional recovery from its own policy if the recovery from the liable party was not sufficient to compensate for all the injuries and damages, because that other party’s policy was insufficient, and he was “underinsured.”

However, every drivers should consider the other profound but not so obvious advantage of having uninsured motorist coverage. Generally, the more responsible people are also act more responsible on the road and are generally considered to be safer drivers. A person who is not responsible enough to comply with the law and have a liability insurance is more likely to drive irresponsibly and create dangerous situations on the road by speeding or otherwise acting “cool” on the road. Thus, the likelihood of getting into a serious accident with an uninsured motorist is higher than with a driver who is properly insured.

Further, people who cause serious accidents tend to flee from the scene of the incident more often to escape significant liability. An uninsured driver has even more reasons to try and run from the scene of the accident in order to not be cited for not having valid insurance. For a relatively small cost, your uninsured motorist coverage will cover your expenses for damages and injuries in a hit-and-run situation as well.

So, make sure you have an uninsured/underinsured coverage on your car insurance policy, as it provides significant and important protection for the most serious accidents.

Effective injury settlement negotiation with insurance adjuster

Although it might appear to many consumers that insurance companies are nothing but greedy money making machines that are only concerned with the bottom line and whose job is to shortchange or “low ball” their customers who suffer injuries in car accident and other injury incidents, it is important to remember that insurance company, like all other companies, are run by people. The claim adjusters who handle your injury claim are also humans and they respond to the different settlement negotiation strategies respectfully. Certain things make them happy and unhappy, satisfied and annoyed. Because insurance adjusters often handle a huge load of claims (up to 200), they are actually interesting in settling an injury claim and they will if you play your cards right.

While there are many aspects to a successful injury settlement negotiations, like any other “sales” the settlement is also in many ways a “sale” – you sell your claim to the insurance company and you want to convince them that the price you are asking is fair and reasonable and that they are not being ripped off. Thus, like in any other sales, your attitude toward the other party – the adjuster, is just as important as the substance of your communications.

After speaking with dozens of adjusters informally and becoming friends with some of them, it became abundantly clear to me that the injured person or his representative’s attitude makes a big difference. An adjuster has a certain authority within the range of the settlement that he is allowed to pay, and he will exercise that authority with the people who he likes and enjoys working with, and he might just take it personally and try to make life harder for those claimants who make his life hard as well.

So, you should avoid treating adjusters as your servants or making authoritative demands to them as if you were their boss and they were owing something to you. Acting like you are entitled to a certain recovery will only hurt your bottom line or will significantly delay your receipt of settlement funds. On the other hand, being firm but courteous and treating insurance adjusters with respect will likely make the insurance representative more willing to help you and be more flexible in settling a claim, potentially paying out more than he would have otherwise.

So, the bottom line is this: it pays being nice when you are negotiating a settlement with an insurance company.

Should you buy a cheaper car insurance?

We are all looking to have the best deal on the products and services we purchase for obvious reasons. The insurance companies are aware of this. They know that what catches the typical consumer’s attention is such terms as “sale” and “discount.” All you have to do is look at their advertisements and the insurance agents’ attempts to beat any other quote that you have received. But wait!

Before you run out to find the cheapest insurance policy that will get you out on the road, think about why you should spend a little more money on a better policy. Here are 4 key reasons.

1. You Get What You Pay For. Welcome to the oldest truth there is. Like most things, cheap insurance is cheap because you’re not buying much coverage and protection. In fact, in many cases, you’re buying just enough insurance to get you out on the road without violating the mandatory liability insurance law but not enough to truly protect you.

In all states, insurance is required to drive a car on the road and those policies must meet minimum standards, called minimum policy limits. These limits vary from state to state, but in California, those limits are $15,000/$30,000/$5,000.

What do those limits mean? The amounts–in sequence–reference the maximum coverage for bodily injury damage per person, bodily injury damage per accident, and property damage coverage per accident. These amounts only pertain to your liability to another person for damages caused when you are at fault.

While $15,000 may have been adequate 10 or even 20 years ago to pay for the bodily injury in many cases, it is increasingly becoming an inadequate amount with rising health care costs and inflation. Also, many car accidents exceed $5,000 in property damage. Remember that if your liability insurance is not enough to pay for the injuries covered by your negligence, the injury victim will start looking toward your house, your paycheck, and your assets to pay for their injuries. So do not rely on minimum policy limits to protect you and your assets, especially if you have significant assets, such as multiple vehicles, real property, etc.

2. Cheap Insurance Policies Often Do Not Provide Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage. The absolutemost insurance coverage, other than liability coverage, is uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM). UM/UIM provides you with protection when you are hit by one of the drivers who are not insured and in many hit-and-run accidents, where you simply are unable to obtain the other party’s insurance information as they flee from the scene.
But cheap policies do not include UM/UIM coverage. It is not required by law. But it should be, and it is certainly in your best interest to have this kind of coverage.

It is not uncommon for uninsured motorists or “hit and run” drivers to inflict a serious property and bodily damage to the other driver. And as you may expect, people who don’t have the respect and responsibility to have liability insurance and/or to stop at the scene of the incident instead of running away, also tend to be the most reckless drivers who put themselves and others in dangerous situations on the road.

So, be sure to add UM/UIM coverage to your car insurance policy.

3. Cheap Insurance Policies Do Not Provide for Med-Pay. Another useful additional coverage not included in cheap insurance policies is med-pay benefits. These benefits are paid to anyone injured in an accident, regardless of fault. With many people living without health insurance, this benefit is extremely valuable. But it is not included in the cheap insurance policies. The best part about this coverage, that it provides important coverage for minimum extra-cost.

4. Cheap Insurance Policies Do Not Provide Rental Reimbursement. Rental reimbursement coverages covers your expenses associated with renting a vehicle when your care is being repaired after an accident. Usually, this kind of coverage is limited to 30 days, but this is usually long enough to repair the damage to a car. This coverage is especially important if you live in a suburban area and no convenient access to public transportation. In this case, you will often be forced to rent a car, and paying a daily rental fee without the expectation of being reimbursed can amount to a significant expense, which can be easily avoiding by including this coverage in your insurance policy for a small fee.