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Down or Knocked Out in LA? Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer 1
It’s easy to get hurt in a big city like Los Angeles. The city ranks near the top of every statistic such as automobile wrecks, workplace accidents, pedestrian injuries, violent assaults, and other likely causes of personal injury. If you sustain a serious injury, the costs can be astronomical. From the minute the ambulance picks you up at the accident scene to your initial treatment in the Emergency Room and hospital stay, if required, to any ongoing care or long-term rehabilitation you need, the medical costs start adding up. If the injury causes you to miss work, you will lose income. A debilitating injury could even leave you unable to continue your job and career.
Those costs don’t even include the emotional trauma and psychological harm the injury could cause. You may have suffered excruciating pain from the injury. It may have been so humiliating that your psyche and self-esteem may never recover. The injury may not allow you to return the affections of your spouse and children, meaning they will suffer as well.
Was Someone Else at Fault?
If your injury was caused one or more other people acting negligently, there is a good chance they can be made to compensate you for the financial loss and emotional damage you sustained. To prove negligence, you must first establish the standard of care the defendants owed you. For example, the driver of a car owes all other drivers on the public roads a standard of care defined by the traffic laws.
Next, you must prove that the other person breached that duty of care to you. For example, a car driver must drive according to those laws and exercise reasonable care to prevent a collision. If the driver operates the car in a manner not allowed under the law and causes a wreck, it would be considered negligence in most cases.
However, proving negligence is not enough. You must also show that your injuries or financial loss resulted from the defendant’s breach of duty. Consider that just because a car driving by is operated illegally doesn’t mean the driver is responsible for you stubbing your toe on the sidewalk. And finally, the financial damages you claim must be tied to the injury. That reckless driver may have hit your car, but claiming that it will cost $50,000 to repair it cannot be substantiated.
With all of those elements of negligence satisfied, you should be able to persevere at trial. However, there is one other requirement that must be met before you can expect to receive compensation: if defendants do not have insurance, they must have money or other assets that you can seize to satisfy the judgment awarded you by the court. You can sue a broke defendant and win a huge judgment, but you’ll probably never collect a dime.
One option when you’ve been injured by a negligent, but broke, defendant is to bring other defendants into the litigation – in other words, seek out someone with “deep pockets.” Examples might include the employer of someone who injures you while working, such as the driver of a commercial truck, or the owner of a bar who overserved a patron who later drives drunk and injures you. In California, plaintiffs can allege contributory negligence by defendants, such that the accident would not have occurred but for the defendant’s negligence in hiring the bad driver or overserving the intoxicated patron.
Settle or Go to Court?
More than 80% of the personal injury lawsuits filed are never tried in court. Instead, the defendants in many cases are covered by liability insurance, and their insurer negotiates a settlement with the plaintiff. In most of the cases that are settled, the victim did not require legal counsel because the amount of damages claimed was too low and the evidence supporting a finding of negligence by defendants was overwhelming. The insurer will usually just pay the claim without a fight.
However, if you suffer a serious physical injury, your claim for damages will be significant, and the insurer will have more motivation to deny liability or delay your payment. There are arguments commonly heard from insurance companies trying to deny liability or delay payments:
- The damage to vehicles involved in the accident were too minor
- The victim receive too little or excessive treatment
- The victim has a similar pre-existing injury
- There were extended gaps in the treatment received
- The victim chose to receive alternative care such as chiropractic or naturopathy treatments
In this situation, you need an attorney – a qualified and experienced personal injury attorney. Insurance companies are experts in negotiating settlements and will always seek to minimize any payout. If you approach them without the assistance of legal counsel and without specific legal training, your chances of getting a fair settlement offer are nil.
By hiring a knowledgeable and reputable personal injury attorney, you will have an expert to:
- Assess the seriousness and extent of your injuries
- Collect accident scene evidence, witness statements and information, and police and medical reports
- Provide expert guidance at every step of the process
- Negotiate with all defendants
- Represent you in court should negotiations with the insurance company fail
Understand: studies have shown that insurance companies make higher settlement offers to injured plaintiffs with legal representation than those made to plaintiffs representing themselves. If you have a significant claim for damages, you should hire a competent personal injury attorney.