When you meet with a personal injury attorney for a consultation about your injury claim, it is important to bring as much information as you can so that the attorney can evaluate your case.

The following is a list of documents that are important to keep and bring to your personal injury consultation.

1. Police or Incident Report

If there is a police or incident reported associated with your injury claim, obtain it as soon as possible and bring it to your consultation. If you are unsure as to whether there is a report or you just don’t have it yet, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Edward A. Smith can help find out if there is a report and get it for you.

2. Medical Documentation and Provider Information

If you were injured, most likely you sought medical care with either your family physician, an urgent care facility, hospital or clinic. It is important to write down the contact information for any doctor that you received treatment from. Often, after an auto accident, a person feels overwhelmed and stressed and may not always remember all of the details. Medical providers often give discharge records or care instructions, prescriptions or medical referrals for x-rays or to another specialist. It is best to keep all accident related medical documentation in one place so that when it comes time to meeting with your Sacramento personal injury lawyer, you will have all the information readily available.

3. Insurance Information

Your personal injury attorney can determine what is covered under your insurance policies if you bring your policies with you to the consultation. Oftentimes, there is coverage available to an injured person for medical costs or lost wages under their insurance polices that a person may not be aware of. This includes auto insurance, health insurance and home owners or renters insurance.

4. Communication or Correspondence from the party who injured you.

If the person who injured you or their insurance company has sent you letters, e-mails, voice mails or even text messages, bring a copy or recording to your consultation.

5. Photographs

The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is particularly true in personal injury cases. Photos of the damage to your car, the accident scene, your injuries or any other evidence will help your claim.

6. Bills and Receipts.

If you claim any expenses associated with your injury claim, you need to keep those bills and receipts. These include bills and receipts for any medical treatment you received even if it has already been paid including receipts for prescriptions or crutches. Also, bring any repair bills or invoices for any damage to your vehicle, rental car receipts and any other accident related expense.  If you are not sure whether an expense is related to your injury claim, the best policy is to save the bill or receipt and bring it with you to your consultation.

7.  Lost Wages

If you missed work as a result of your injury, even if you used vacation time or sick leave, you need to bring your pay stubs, W-2 forms and any off work slips given to you by a doctor or hospital. If you are self-employed you need to bring invoices and income tax returns.

Even if you don’t have any of the above information, contact the personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Edward A. Smith for a free evaluation of your injury claim and we can quickly gather these items for you.

A severely injured client with  a forthcoming surgery came in to see me the other day to find out how he should best proceed in moving his case forward. He wondered if it was worthwhile to retain a personal injury lawyer  if the at fault parties insurance was limited in amount.

 

That was a good question, and I’m writing today to explain how this Sacramento Personal Injury Attorney goes about finding the insurance the other driver has.

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The first thing, I do is to send a letter to the other party’s insurance asking the amount of insurance coverage is effect. The other party’s insurance cannot reveal the sum of insurance that was in effect without the consent of their insured.  The insurance company is supposed to write their client asking permission to revel policy limits. If the client consents and if the other driver, doesn’t have enough insurance to cover the injury, I will encourage the potential  client to contact the other insurance directly,  request a Dec Sheet showing policy limits and to settle the case for such policy limits themselves. It’s not fair to take a fee on cases that the insurance company will clearly pay without a lawyers involvement.

 

The problem is that many insurance companies dig in their heels and refuse to reveal policy limits or even ask their insured’s consent as they are supposed to do. Alternatively, some insureds have the mistaken idea that if they don’t reveal their policy limits, it will somehow prevent their being sued or otherwise help their case.

Actually, as will be explained, failing to reveal policy limits leaves them in a very bad position where they are certain to be sued. But that leaves the injured party consulting me at a loss as to whether there is enough insurance to cover the medical care needed.

 

IF the insurer refuses to reveal policy limits after I ask them to do so in writing, I will send one reminder letter giving them a last chance to have their client reveal the limits or else I will be forced to file suit. In the letter, I let them know that if my client is forced to file a lawsuit and the insurance is later found to be inadequate to cover my clients injuries, we will not later be willing to settle for the policy limits but will need a contribution in excess of the policy from their insured.

At that point, if I hear nothing further, the client retains me..and I file a lawsuit.

If its later discovered that the insurance company never asked their insured to reveal policy limits, that insurance company is likely on the hook for any verdict in excess of the policy.

California allows discovery of insurance policy limits once litigation starts. Basically, the lawyer for the injured party send questions to the  at-fault party requiring him or her to answer under oath,the sum of liability insurance they had in effect at the time of the accident, as well as any umbrella or excess insurance they had in effect.

If the amount is adequate to cover the past injuries and upcoming medical expenses, we proceed with the lawsuit (which can take 12-24 months to get to trial) while the client is proceeding with

medical care.

If discovery shows the amount is not adequate, we demand the insurance pay the policy with an additional contribution from the insured or my office will take the case to a jury. There are also some third party services that will find insurance information on at fault parties but they can be pricey.

Adequate Insurance limits is one of the first things an injured client should be concerned with.

A way to protect yourself against minimally insured or uninsured drivers is to obtain Underinsured and Uninsured Motorist coverage with high limits from your own insurance.

Unninsured/Underinsured motorist insurance protects you and I suggest that everyone purchase a high limit policy here.

There are also unusual Umbrella Policies that provide even more protection for drivers far and above their auto policy uninsured limits. Feel free to call me today and I will tell you what to look for.

If you’re seriously injured and don’t know where to turn, turn to me. I’m an experienced Sacramento  personal injury lawyer handling serious accident cases since 1982.

 

Call me Anytime for free, friendly advice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal injury victims, especially those who have been injured as a result of a rear-end collision, often suffer from painful injuries as a result of a whiplash type injury.  Whiplash is a common injury to the neck and upper back caused by a sudden back and forth motion of the head. This sudden violent snapping motion puts enormous strain on the neck and upper back muscles and ligaments. This type of injury is commonly referred to as hyperextension/hyperflexion injury neck sprain or strain, myofascial injury  or cervical strain or sprain.

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Symptoms related to a whiplash type injury caused by an auto accident may include the following:

• Neck pain and stiffness
• Decreased range of motion
• Tenderness
• Headaches
• Shoulder pain
• Weakness to upper extremities
• Burning, tingling sensation in the arms
• Blurred vision
• Irritability
• Fatigue
• Dizziness

In severe cases of whiplash, the jerking motion is so violent it can cause injury to the joints, discs and nerve of the neck or upper back. Here is more information on neck and back injuries.

Some people recover relatively quickly from a whiplash injury while others have chronic symptoms that can last several years. If you think you suffer from a whiplash injury, it is important that you seek medical attention right away so that the healing process can begin.

If you have questions about whether an Sacramento personal injury lawyer can help you, please contact our office. Our attorneys are ready to answer your questions and will provide you with a free case evaluation. Call the Law Offices of Edward A. Smith at (916) 921-6400.

DO NOT … select an attorney who is does not have specific experience with personal injury cases.  An attorney who does wills, trusts, bankruptcy or real estate will in all likelihood have no experience with personal injury cases.  Personal injury law is complicated and involves many rules and practices unique to the subject. You are risking the value of your claim if you choose an attorney without experience and specialization in personal injury law.

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DO NOT select an attorney who does not go to trials, arbitrations, or mediations.  Most attorneys who advertise that they handle personal injury cases have never seen the inside of a courtroom. Having the ability to see a case to trial is important because insurance companies are aggressively trying to save money and their goal is to force a settlement.  If the insurance company is aware that your attorney never goes to trial, they will take advantage of this and make very low offers to settle your case.  An attorney without trial experience is known to be bluffing, which allows the insurance companies to see his bluff.  The attorney without trial experience will pressure  you to accept less once she determines the insurance company is not going to increase its low offer.  If your attorney is unable or unwilling to push the case to trial, and the insurance company is aware of this, it will harm the value of your case.

Even the best attorney cannot make an insurance company settle for more money than they are willing to pay.  Some insurance companies as a matter of policy never pay fair value until they are “at the courthouse steps”.  This is partly because they want to hold onto their money and collect interest on it until the very last minute.  An attorney can prepare the case well and if the insurance company is still making an unreasonable offer to settle the attorney can recommend that the client go forward with  litigation (file a lawsuit in court) in hopes that a more rational actor in the form of the insurance defense attorney or a more senior adjuster will become involved in the case.   Ultimately, its always the juries that determines the real value of the case, not the insurance companies.

 

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DO NOT select an attorney without verifying his track record.  If you have serious injuries it is imperative that you know your attorney can deliver a substantial verdict or settlement. Ask your attorney how many times he has been awarded million dollar verdicts or reached million dollar settlements.  Ask if he or she is a member of the Million Dollar Forum, which is an association of lawyers that have resolved cases for a million dollars or more. Not every case is that valuable, but  if you have a good case, do your research to ensure your attorney has experience with high-dollar cases.

DO NOT hire an attorney who is not a member of national and local trial lawyer groups such as the Consumer Attorneys of California and the American Association for Justice.  Successful personal injury attorneys associate with and share information with other top-tier personal injury attorneys. Insurance companies today have created a very difficult environment.  They are not opposed to using cheap tricks and nefarious methods to make injured people appear greedy and like they are out for a quick buck.  In such an environment, it is critical to share current information regarding the insurance companies’ latest tactics.

DO NOT hire an attorney without adequate resources to properly pursue your case.  When you interview an attorney, take notice of his or her office space… does it look like they are doing well financially?   Another question to ask is whether the attorney has a sufficient line of credit or assets necessary to properly prepare your case – a large case, handled well, is often expensive to pursue.  Expert witness testimony is required to prepare a case property.  Doctors may have their depositions taken and later appear in court.   The expense in taking a large case to mediation, arbitration or trial can often exceed $100,000.  Make sure your attorney has the financial resources to compete with the insurance companies’ deep pockets. If your attorney is not willing to spend money on properly pursuing your case, it would be prudent to look elsewhere.

DO NOT hire an attorney that does not urge you to speak with his or her prior clients.  If an attorney is skilled and comes highly recommended why would there be any problem allowing you to communicate with his or her past clients?

If you are seeking a Sacramento personal injury attorney with experience, referrals and a verifiable track record, please DO contact us at autoaccident.com.

As a holistic personal injury lawyer, I see literally hundreds of people each month suffering from the physical and emotional after-effects of trauma.

Bessel van der Kolk MD, is a psychiatrist who has treated traumatic injuries for decades and is a well known author of several very readable books on PTSD and the effect of severe trauma on the injured person and their families.

I’m very pleased to recommend Dr. van der Kolk’s newly published book entitled:
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma available on Amazon (including Kindle).

The Doctor explains the science behind how stress affects the brains feedback loops and suggests that innovative treatments including neurofeedback, mindfulness techniques and yoga can go a long way in helping along the healing process.

Good read. Recommended.

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Crash! You are in the wrong place at the wrong time, and through no fault of your own find yourself on the side of the road, injured, with a damaged vehicle, because some other driver was negligent. The experience is frightening, and you may be in pain and confused. Luckily, you find out that the negligent driver has insurance, and you are properly insured, so you figure the process of getting your car fixed and your medical bills taken care of will be fairly simple. I mean, that is what you pay the insurance company for, right? Unfortunately, today may be just the beginning of months, even years, of inconvenience and frustration.

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Dealing with the Insurance Company

The first thing you may discover is that the helpful insurance company of your imagination is far from the reality. Phone calls are not answered or returned, your questions are given “non-answers”, the other party’s insurance claims that you were at fault even though it was clearly the fault of their insured. You have questions about whether you should fill out the forms the insurance company has sent. You have questions about whether you should just take the money they are eagerly offering you. The confusion of dealing with insurance companies is one of the main reason people seek a personal injury lawyer.

Finding a Personal Injury Attorney

It may seem a daunting task to find the right personal injury lawyer. Two of the factors that may help you find a good attorney are: years of experience and client reviews. Once you choose an attorney to meet with, be sure to ask about their fees (most of the time the contract is contingency – meaning you do not owe a fee unless there is a monetary recovery), and whether you will be out of pocket any money for the costs of pursuing your case (you should not).

Once the Case is Out of Your Hands

Once you make the decision to hire an attorney, you are likely relieved that you no longer have to deal with the insurance companies. But it is still frustrating to hear from your personal injury lawyer that the insurance is offering half of what was expected to settle your claim. The insurance companies may make you feel like you have done something wrong – they question whether you started treating with a doctor soon enough, whether you treated too often, whether you really needed to take time off of work. Fortunately, if you have done your research, the experienced personal injury attorney will know all these games and be able to counter the unreasonable position of the insurance company. Still, very often the case requires that a lawsuit be filed because the insurance company will not offer a reasonable settlement amount.

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Patience

Once a lawsuit is filed, it is almost as if the case starts over. The file moves from the insurance company to an attorney representing the insurance company. Some of the phases of litigation include discovery – where documents and questions are exchanged and depositions are taken, negotiation, then perhaps arbitration or mediation. If negotiation and alternative dispute measures fail, the case will move toward trial. The frustrating thing about the litigation phase of a lawsuit is how long it takes to bring a case to trial. It requires patience, but be assured that if you have chosen a well-reviewed, experienced personal injury attorney, the work is being done in order to bring your case to a successful conclusion – and this takes time!

When a person who has been in an auto accident calls a personal injury lawyer, the lawyer or his staff will conduct a short interview to get the facts of the situation. In short, this will include questions regarding the facts surrounding how the collision occurred, where it occurred, the injuries and the treatment a person has obtained since the date of accident until the phone call. If a police report was taken, the office will also request the Traffic Collision Report number.

car accident.PNGThe personal injury attorney’s office will also ask questions regarding auto insurance coverage – both of the person who caused the accident and the insurance coverage of the injured party. Often, an injured party will readily report to the personal injury lawyer the auto insurance coverage of the person at fault. However, at times some injured parties resent questions when asked to provide information regarding their own auto insurance coverage.

A personal injury lawyer has good reason to ask if the injured party was carrying auto insurance coverage at the time of the accident. In California, voters passed “Prop 213.” This means that California state law requires all drivers to have auto insurance. Failure to carry auto insurance at the time of an accident will limit recovery rights. An attorney needs to know this immediately to be able to properly evaluate and handle the injured persons claim.

Besides asking the injured victim if their auto insurance was in effect at the time of the collision, a personal injury lawyer will ask questions regarding the coverage limits the injured person has with their own insurance carrier. Why? In most instances, the auto insurance information provided by the person who caused the collision is accurate and said policy was in effect at the time of the accident.

However, at times the person who caused the accident may inadvertently be late in making their auto insurance payment. In other words, even though they provided auto insurance information at the time of the accident this in itself does not guarantee coverage. If it is determined that the responsible party had no auto insurance coverage in effect at the time of the collision, a personal injury attorney will proceed with an uninsured motorist claim through the injured parties own auto insurance.

A personal injury attorney also will ask regarding the auto insurance coverage of the injured party when there are multiple cars involved and/or many injured passengers. For instance, if the person who caused the accident has a minimum policy of $30,000.00 per accident and there are five injured people seeking recovery under this minimum policy, the policy may not adequately cover every injured person’s claim in its entirety. An attorney will ask about your own auto insurance coverage at the initial intake to determine what other options exist – for instance, an underinsured motorist claim – should this be the situation.

Besides asking questions regarding auto insurance, a personal injury lawyer may ask questions regarding health insurance coverage or the use of any program such as Medi-care or Medi-cal. This helps the personal injury lawyer understand what other entities may have rights to recovery on your claim.

If you have any questions regarding the intake process and the questions presented to you, feel free to ask for an explanation. The Law Offices of Edward A. Smith is an experienced personal injury firm that handles auto accident claims, pedestrian claims, trucking incidents, slips and falls or any injury stemming from an animal. Please feel free to ask any question that concerns you during the intake process.

United States courts are not yet in agreement regarding the rights of privacy guaranteed individuals versus the rights of the attorneys who may request social media content during the discovery process of a legal matter. This issue continues to be debated in different types of cases such as personal injury law, employment law, criminal law and especially in family law.

It is not surprising that during the mudslinging that occurs in family law court that the unflattering social media content of an ex-spouse is often requested to be allowed to be brought before the judge. However, many may wonder why in a simple personal injury claim, would any insurance company or their attorney want a person to produce the content of their social media sites?

When a person has suffered a severe injury that is chronic and permanent in nature they may suffer a degree of depression or emotional distress. The depression may be due to the pain they are experiencing, due to their inability to engage in activities they used to, due to the grave nature of their injury, for example, the loss of a limb, the loss of mobility of a limb or body part, or due to the adjustment of seeing doctors on a weekly basis, the adjustment of getting using a cane or wheelchair, or for a plethora of other reasons. The lawsuit filed in behalf of an injured person may include compensation for the emotional distress their injuries caused.

The lawyer of an insurance company may attempt to claim that the photos or posts a person puts on social medial is a reflection of the emotional state of the injured person and may therefore argue before a judge that they have a right to this evidence. A personal injury lawyer will fight for their client’s right to privacy.

A personal injury lawyer will fight defense lawyers on these discovery ‘fishing expeditions’ because they recognize that an injured person, in an attempt to communicate with their friends on social medial that they are attempting to feel hopeful or positive about their situation may write, ‘Feeling pretty good about life today.’ The insurance company may use this same post on social media to say that the injured person was not suffering from depression since they posted they ‘felt good.’ They may then try to say that since the person ‘felt good’ this means they had in fact recovered from from their injuries and therefore any medical treatment that was obtained after the date posting that they ‘felt good’ was unnecessary and therefore they, the insurance company, should not have to pay for the medical treatment incurred.

Another scenario, perhaps a person is invited to a wedding of a loved one. They then get in an accident perhaps weeks or days prior to the wedding. The day of the wedding arrives. The injured person does not physically feel well or perhaps is still in great pain due to their injuries. However, the injured person may choose to attend the wedding despite the pain because the person does not want to miss the major life event of a family member or friend. They may feel their attendance is way to demonstrate to the friend or loved one that they are loved and supported. Or it may due the sense of responsibility that they had committed pre-collision and do not want their loved one to have to change any plans already set up with airline companies, catering companies, etc. Photographs are then taken at the event. In this day and age, before the couple has even finished saying ‘I Do’ photos of the event are promptly uploaded on social media sites where the people captured in the photos are then ‘tagged’. Social media now left a public trail of what the injured person was doing on that date. Not a big deal right? It was just a wedding.

Well, when photographs are taken at such happy events, regardless of the degree of pain
one is experiencing, one smiles so that the photos commemorating such events demonstrate the heartfelt emotion of joy for the loved ones nuptials. However, insurance companies may attempt to use such photos as an attempt to persuade a jury that the smiling person in photo is not injured. They may reason that the smile is indicative that the person was not in pain or they may go further and claim before a jury that the injured person’s attendance at the wedding demonstrates that the injury did not impact the person’s personal life in any way because if it had then they injured person would not have been present. Such an argument leaves out the complex emotional reasons why the person was present at the wedding despite their pain or injury.

Both examples demonstrate that a simple post or photo on social media can be twisted before a jury. The issues surrounding social media and the rights of privacy versus the rules of discovery will continue to work its way through the legal system for many years. At present, some courts have ruled in favor of producing social media content and other rule against it.

Acer_aspire_4930G.jpgWith ever changing rulings, attorneys advise their clients to be cognizant of the impact social medial has on the world today. If one ever finds themselves in the middle of a family law matter, a personal injury matter, a criminal matter or an employment matter, lawyers will advise their clients to refrain from making any negative or positive comments regarding their matter in any way shape or form. A lawyer will also advise their client to not comment on any of the persons involved involved in the matter, the judge, the insurance companies involved or the lawyers involved as these posts may have a negative impact their legal claim.

If you have hired a personal injury lawyer this subject matter may arise if your claim proceeds to trial. An experienced personal injury lawyer will represent your rights during the discovery process and will fight attempts of an insurance company to rummage through private social media posts by filing a motion on your behalf.

Photo Attribution: By Jeff777BC (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Post traumatic arthritis is a form of osteoarthritis ( wearing away of cartilage in the joint) that is caused or aggravated by trauma.

It is estimated that 12 percent of all cases of osteoarthritis are post-traumatic in origin.

Post-traumatic arthritis can be caused by auto accidents, falls, athletic injuries or other forms of physical trauma.

Symptoms of post-traumatic arthritis are joint pain, joint instability or spurring of bone.

Diagnosis is typically made from X-Rays or MRI which show a wearing away of cartilage.

New treatments for post-traumatic arthritis include Platelet Rich Protein Injections where the patients own blood and plasma helps the healing process along as well as amniotic membrane stem cell injections which is a cutting edge way to stimulate the healing process.

Severe cases may require joint replacement surgery.

While post-traumatic arthritis can occur in many parts of the body, it is especially prevalent in knee injuries where 57% of all individuals suffering trauma to the knee later develop arthritis.

Post-traumatic arthritis can result from an acute joint injury, a meniscal or ligament tear, or an intra-articular fracture,
It can develop in as little as 6 months after a traumatic accident.

Personal injury attorney’s should focus efforts on developing the costs of future medical care, which may be substantial any time arthritis develops following an auto accident or other trauma.

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More and more people every day are riding their bicycles to work in Sacramento. The recent recession, rising gas prices, and a focus on environmental issues are likely some of the reasons for this trend. Perhaps just seeing more bicycle commuters on the roads gets others thinking that they could do the same. There are so many reasons to try a Sacramento bike commute:

  • Bicycling to work obviously saves costs on gasoline and automobile maintenance.
  • Sacramento is home to the wonderful American River Bike Trail, which is a bicycle commuter’s dream, connecting several suburbs to workplace-dense areas.
  • Exercise, fresh air and sunshine!
  • Mental health: pedaling along bike lanes and paths is more appealing than sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
  • Sacramento has perfect weather for bicycle commuting with our limited rainfall.
  • New green bike lanes – these are pretty cool, check them out here.

With all these reasons, it is hard to imagine why we are not all bike commuters. Some people are concerned about the safety of bicycle commuting. Unfortunately, due to inattentive drivers, those concerns are valid. But there are things one can do to decrease the chances of being involved in an accident.

  1. Light up your bike – install lights at the front and rear of your bicycle, especially if your commute occurs during low-light times such as dusk or dawn.
  2. Wear reflective or bright clothing.
  3. Equip your bike with side mirrors to increase your visibility.
  4. Signal when you intend to turn.
  5. Choose your route carefully – the bike trail is great, but not always possible, so choose wide streets, streets with slower traffic, and/or less-traveled back roads.
  6. Ride defensively. The best way to think of this is “ride as if invisible”.

Of course even the most careful rider could find herself involved in an accident. If this has happened to you or anyone you know, please contact the Sacramento personal injury attorneys at autoaccident.com.