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What if You Are Injured by Road Debris?

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Archive: Sep 2020

What if You Are Injured by Road Debris?

No one expects that they will be involved in a car accident. However, the careless or negligent actions of other drivers often lead to accidents that cause property damage and injuries on the roadways. But what about accidents that occur because of debris on the roadway? Accidents caused by debris do occur, and they can cause serious injuries to those inside the vehicles. There are innumerable types of debris that can lead to serious accidents. When this type of incident does occur, who is ultimately responsible for property damage and injury expenses?

Types of debris that can cause accidents

As a driver, you need to be aware of not only other drivers on the roadway. You must also be vigilant and watch out for dangerous conditions on the road itself. This includes various types of debris that can be on the roadway. Potential roadway debris can take on many forms, including the following:

  • Fallen trees or branches
  • Furniture
  • Mattresses
  • Tire treads from semi-trucks
  • Lumber or scrap wood
  • Scrap metal
  • Cargo from a tractor-trailer
  • and more

Depending on the size and weight of the debris on the roadway, accidents involving these items can range in severity. In some cases, these items will get caught in the undercarriage of a vehicle and cause damage. These items can also become airborne and crash through the windshield of an unsuspecting driver. In other instances, drivers may crash in an attempt to swerve around debris in the roadway.

Who is responsible for these accidents?

There may be various parties that could be held liable in these instances, though proving liability is often immensely difficult. For natural roadway debris (trees, water, etc.), there may be no party liable, particularly if the debris has not been in the roadway very long. However, state or municipal authorities could be held liable if they knew about debris in the roadway and failed to remove it in a timely manner.

In other cases, drivers who fail to secure items in or on their vehicles can be held liable if debris causes an accident. However, proving an at-fault driver’s liability can be difficult. Unless the injured party is able to get the license plate number of the vehicle, more likely than not, the driver will never be found.

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM)

Uninsured or underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage is incredibly beneficial in these situations. In California, this type of insurance is not mandatory, but it is highly recommended. If an injured driver has uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage and the liable party cannot be found, this coverage could provide payments for medical bills, lost income, and property damage coverage.

If you are hurt in an accident or sustained property damage caused by roadway debris, and you are unable to find the liable party, contact your insurance carrier and inquire about your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

Make sure to call the police

If you or somebody you care about is injured in an accident caused by roadway debris, you should call the police and ensure that they complete investigation into the incident. Having a police report will be beneficial for any insurance claim, and the police will be able to assist in finding the at-fault driver, if at all possible. Additionally, you need to make sure that you seek medical assistance for any injuries following an incident caused by roadway debris. Contact an Orange County personal injury lawyer if you are seeking compensation for your injuries.

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Do I Need to Go to Court After a Car Accident?

Car accidents can be scary and confusing for everybody involved. In some cases, accidents only result in property damage or minor injuries. However, it is not uncommon for more serious injuries to occur. Most vehicle accidents are resolved through a settlement with insurance carriers, but it may be necessary to take a car accident case to court if an insurance carrier refuses to offer a fair settlement or denies a claim. Whether or not you need to take your car accident case to court will depend on various factors related to your particular situation. Here, we discuss some of the following reasons you may need to go to court in the aftermath of a car accident.

1. The insurance carrier will not settle

By the time you reach the stage where a lawsuit is necessary, you and your Orange County personal injury attorney will have likely tried to get the other driver’s insurance carrier to agree to pay a fair settlement. If they deny a claim or continuously refuse to settle for a fair amount, filing a lawsuit may be the last resort to obtaining the compensation you are entitled to. Insurance carriers are notorious for offering low settlements. Remember, most auto insurance companies are “for-profit” entities and they what do what they can to not pay out large amounts of money for claims.

2. The at-fault driver does not have insurance

It may be necessary to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver if they are underinsured or uninsured. If the other driver does not have insurance, or their coverage is insufficient to pay for your expenses, then the driver is going to be wholly responsible for the costs. However, taking an uninsured or underinsured driver to court can be problematic. These drivers rarely have enough money or assets to draw on in order to recover adequate compensation. Your options may be limited about how much compensation you ultimately receive in this scenario.

3. You receive a summons for a traffic or criminal case

In some cases, the at-fault driver is given a traffic citation or even a criminal charge for their conduct that led to the accident. If you were a witness to the traffic violation or criminal offense, you may receive a summons to testify as a witness in court.

There are various steps before a trial

As we mentioned above, most car accident cases are settled before they go to trial. Insurance carriers do not like to go to trial for car accident cases. If you take the insurance carrier to trial and win, they will have to pay a significant amount more money than they want to.

Even if a lawsuit is filed, there are several steps that take place before an actual trial. This includes the “discovery phase” of the suit in which both sides will have a chance to obtain and exchange information relating to the case. There will also be ample opportunity for attorneys on both sides to negotiate a fair settlement before a full trial is scheduled. Even after a lawsuit has been filed, most cases will be settled before the jury hears the case.

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Types of Damages You Can Recover in a Personal Injury Case

A personal injury case is a civil action you can bring against someone for allegedly causing your accident and injury. It seeks to claim financial compensation from the defendant for his or her negligence. A successful personal injury case in California could reimburse you for several different types of damages. Damages describe both the losses you suffered because of a defendant’s negligence as well as the financial compensation you could receive to make up for your losses. Understanding the types of damages that may be available to you could help you accurately estimate the value of your case.

What Are Compensatory Damages?

Compensatory damages describe the losses you incurred because of somebody else’s negligence. When a jury awards compensatory damages, it does so to make a victim whole again. The goal of this type of damage award is to restore the victim to the state he or she was in before the accident. If you qualify for compensatory damages in California, a jury could order a defendant to pay for both past and future losses associated with your accident. It will be up to you or your personal injury attorney to prove these losses through a preponderance of the evidence (enough evidence to prove them more likely to be true than untrue). Your compensatory losses will fall into two categories: special and general.

What Are Special vs. General Damages?

The other word for special damages is economic damages. Special damages describe the financial losses you have due to someone else’s negligence, recklessness or intent to harm. Special damages are relatively easy to calculate, as you or your attorney will use evidence such as receipts, medical bills, repair estimates and pay stubs to accurately gauge how much money you lost because of the accident. A special damage award could reimburse you for many economic losses.

  • Medical expenses
  • Medications or medical devices
  • Surgery and rehabilitation
  • Emergency care
  • Mileage for medical care
  • Live-in care
  • Property damages
  • Totaled vehicle replacement
  • Lost wages
  • Legal fees
  • Out-of-pocket costs

The other type of compensatory award is general damages. General damages are losses the average person would experience in the accident in question. They are intangible, non-economic losses. Examples of general damages during a personal injury case in California are physical pain, suffering, humiliation, inconvenience, emotional distress, mental anguish, psychological trauma, lost quality of life and loss of consortium. General damages are harder to determine than special damages. It is up to a jury to decide how much a victim deserves in general damages based on the specifics of the case.

What Are Punitive Damages?

The majority of personal injury cases in California end with compensatory damages. Some, however, may also recover punitive damages. Punitive damages describe an additional type of award a judge has the discretion to give in California. A judge may grant punitive damages if a defendant is guilty of malice, fraud, oppression or another wrongful act. Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant rather than reimburse the victim.

How Much Is Your Personal Injury Case Worth?

The value of your personal injury case in California will depend on the amount and extent of your damages. It will be up to you or your Orange County personal injury lawyer to calculate an appropriate damage award based on your past losses as well as foreseeable future losses. Working with an attorney can help you accurately calculate how much your case is worth.

With this information, your lawyer can negotiate with an insurance company for a fair and full benefits award. If the insurance company refers to offer what your attorney is asking, your attorney can take your case to trial in California instead. A trial may result in greater compensation than an insurance settlement, depending on your case. Contact an attorney in Southern California today to ask about the value of your case.

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What Are Punitive Damages?

If someone’s negligence injures you in California, you have the right to request financial compensation from that person’s insurance company. The most common type of award for a personal injury is compensatory damages. Compensatory damages make a victim whole again by reimbursing him or her for economic and non-economic losses connected to the accident. The other type of award, punitive damages, is less common in personal injury claims in California. You may be eligible for punitive damages from a defendant, however, in certain circumstances.

Legal Definition of Punitive Damages

The term punitive means intended to punish or penalize. Punitive damages are designed to punish a defendant when the circumstances of a personal injury case make doing so appropriate. Some, not all, personal injury cases in California end with punitive damages given to a plaintiff. Their purpose is to prevent the defendant – and others in the community – from committing the same wrongdoing again. A judge may grant a punitive damage award, therefore, to teach a defendant a lesson. Punitive damages may also arise when the victim’s injuries are so severe or catastrophic that the judge believes compensatory damages are not enough to make up for the losses.

When Can You Sue for Punitive Damages?

Negligence is someone’s failure to prevent an accident or injury when a reasonable person would have in the same situation. If negligence gave you an injury in California, the negligent party may owe you money for your damages. Most personal injury cases settle between the victim and the insurance company without going to court. Insurance settlements will not include an amount awarded for punitive damages. Some cases, however, deserve more money than an insurance company is willing to give.

Many insurance carriers minimize the values of claims to protect themselves from having to pay large settlements. If an insurance company is refusing to offer a settlement that accurately matches your injuries and losses, you may need to go to court in California for fair compensation instead. A personal injury trial is where a judge may award you punitive damages if the circumstances of your case make you an eligible recipient.

When Will a Judge Award Punitive Damages in California?

In California, the law permits the collection of punitive damages during a civil claim that involves a defendant’s fraud, oppression, malice or duress of the victim. If the defendant is guilty of an illegal or wrongful act, he or she may have to pay the injured victim punitive damages in addition to compensatory. You or your lawyer can ask for a punitive damage award during a personal injury trial in California. The judge will then assess the defendant’s actions for fraud, oppression, malice or duress and may punitive damages accordingly.

The amount of punitive damages given to a plaintiff during a personal injury claim is entirely up to a judge’s discretion. In California, unlike many other states, there is no cap on punitive damages. The courts do not limit how much a plaintiff can receive in punitive damages. However, the Due Process Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution prohibits punitive damages that are grossly excessive or arbitrary. Speak to a personal injury attorney to find out how much you may be able to recover in punitive damages.

When to Contact a Personal Injury Attorney

If a defendant in California is guilty of gross negligence, malice, intent to harm, fraud or another type of wrongdoing in connection to your accident and personal injury, contact an Orange County personal injury attorney for assistance claiming the damages you deserve. An attorney can help you negotiate for a fair settlement from an insurance company. An attorney could also represent you at trial in California, if necessary. If a lawyer believes you are eligible for punitive damages, he or she can make this plea to a judge during your injury trial. Working with an attorney can help you obtain full and fair compensation for all of your losses.

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Questions to Ask Your Doctor After a Personal Injury

A personal injury can be painful, confusing and debilitating. You deserve answers about your diagnosis, prognosis and right to recover through the civil justice system. A major part of recovery – physical, emotional and financial – is working with your doctor. Asking your physician the right questions can illuminate your rights and legal options after a serious injury. Gain insights into your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit by asking your doctor specific questions after an accident.

What Is Injured?

First, ask your doctor exactly what part of you is injured. This may seem obvious based on where you feel pain after an accident, but the actual limb or body part injured may surprise you. You may feel pain in your upper arms, for example, with a whiplash injury to your neck, or tingling in your lower limbs with a spinal cord injury. Be sure to find out exactly what is injured, such as which fingers you have fractured or what part of the brain sustained an injury. This can help you give more in-depth and accurate information to an insurance company.

What Is Your Exact Diagnosis?

Do not leave the hospital without understanding your exact injury diagnosis. Have your doctor write down the diagnosis verbatim so you do not misremember it during conversations with an insurance claims adjuster. The insurance company will ask for your specific diagnosis, including the part of the body injured, the type of injury and the symptoms you are experiencing.

What Is Your Prognosis for the Future?

One of the most important questions to ask your doctor is your prognosis for the future. Your doctor should tell you whether or not you are likely to make a full recovery from your injury. If so, ask how long your recovery will take, as well as how long your doctor anticipates your pain and suffering will last. If your doctor believes you will have long-term or permanent symptoms – including scarring or disfigurement – make a note of this as well.

What Treatments Will Be Necessary?

Obtain a detailed treatment plan from your physician, as well as a basic timeline for your recovery. Ask what treatments the doctor recommends, such as surgery, therapy, psychological therapy, rehabilitation or medications. Stick to your treatment plan exactly. If you deviate from the plan, the insurance company could use this as a reason to deny benefits.

Can You Return to Work?

Ask your doctor whether or not you can return to work with your injury. Describe what you do at work to your physician. If your doctor recommends taking time off of work, you could be eligible for lost wage compensation from the party that caused your accident. Request a written opinion from your doctor as proof that you cannot return to work until further notice or until your date of maximum medical improvement.

What Was the Cause of Injury?

A physician can obtain a lot of information about an accident based on an analysis of a physical injury. Before you leave, ask your doctor for a written assessment of how he or she believes your injury happened. While you will already have described your accident to your doctor, the doctor can confirm your story based on the type or severity of the injury. This testament from your doctor could provide medical evidence that your injuries were not pre-existing.

What Can You Use as Proof of Injury?

Finally, ask your doctor for written statements, copies of x-rays, copies of your medical records, test results, a written treatment plan and other documents you can use as evidence to prove the existence of an injury. During your personal injury case, an insurance company will ask for proof of your losses and injuries. You can use documentation from your doctor to support your insurance claim. It is important not to give an insurance company permission to access your full medical records. Instead, contact an Orange County personal injury lawyer to help you provide only the information an insurance company needs to fairly and accurately assess your injury claim.

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