Category: Understanding Personal Injury

When Should I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you suffered an accident or injury, you are probably wondering if you should hire a personal injury lawyer. Personal injury lawyers deal with a variety of different practice areas including car accidents, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and slip and falls. They know the laws and can accurately represent you to make sure that you get the compensation that you deserve. It can be difficult to know when in the process you need to hire an attorney.

Here are some tips to make sure you get the representation you need; at the time you need it.

Do You Have a Case?

This is the most important step in making a claim, but it is often the most overlooked. Before you can even file a personal injury claim, you must be able to show that there was an actual injury that was caused by someone else. You must also be able to prove that because of the injury you are entitled to some sort of compensation.

There must also be a way to get compensation. For example, if the person who caused the injury is uninsured, it may be difficult to obtain any sort of monetary payment from them. A personal injury lawyer is trained to look at a set of facts and make sure all of these elements are met. They can also consult with you and determine what type of case you should file and when you should file it.

What Are the Time Limits?

There is a statute of limitations for many injuries in California. This is a time limit that dictates how long you have to file certain personal injury claims. For example, in California, most bodily harm injury claims have a statute of limitations of two years after the injury. This means that you have two years to file a personal injury claim from the date of your injury. You will not be able to file a claim after two years.

Medical malpractice personal injury claims must be filed within three years of the injury. However, you may not discover your injury until years after you had surgery. If this is the case, you are allowed to file a claim up to one year after you discover your injury. Meaning, even if you discover your injury several years after the statute of limitations has passed, you still have one year to make a claim.

Consulting a lawyer to find out what the statute of limitations is for your case is an important step. If you wait too long, you may be barred from any recovery. Lawyers also know of ways to possibly extend the time frame. For example, California allows for tolling. This is a delay or pause of the clock that is running on your time limit. Tolling may be an option if there are circumstances out of your control that make it impossible for you to file your claim before your time runs out.

Do You Have to Deal With Insurance Companies?

If you were injured, you more than likely have to deal with an insurance company. The company will request all records that are related to the accident or injury. This can be a drawn-out process.

For example, if you were injured in a car accident, you may be seriously hurt and in a lot of pain. While you want to recover, the insurance company wants to quickly close your claim. If you miss one document or don’t fill something out completely, your claim may be denied or may take longer than usual. This can be detrimental if you are depending on insurance money to pay medical or car repair bills.

It is important to remember that insurance companies are not lawyers working on your behalf. Their bottom line is to save the company money and to provide you with as little compensation as possible. They may raise your rates even though you are not to blame for the accident. This is where a personal injury lawyer can help you. They can act as your advocate with the company and make sure you are heard and that you get maximum compensation.  

What Other Factors are There to Consider?

In California, legally any person can file a personal injury claim without a lawyer. This may be a good option if the injury is minor or insurance is not involved. Be warned though, there will still be a lot of documentation needed and you will still need to provide evidence. If you choose to go this route, a judge will not give you sympathy because you are not an attorney. They will expect you to be as prepared as if you had representation.  

 It is important to meet with an attorney early in your claim. Usually, a personal injury lawyer will provide a low cost or free consult to hear all of the facts of the case and decide if they can help you. If they take your case, they can help you figure out what type of claim to bring and what the time limits are. They can also help you deal with insurance companies and get the compensation you need to recover. 

What Should I Wear to Court?

We’ve all heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” However, the truth is that first impressions matter and can give the wrong impression if care isn’t taken. There are places that simply require a higher level of care regarding how you present yourself. One of those places is a court of law. 

Established as a core value of the foundation of our country, our freedoms, and our democracy, the courtrooms in America deserve respect. Dressing appropriately sends the message that you take the matter seriously and that you have respect for the courtroom, the judge, and the legal system. 

Learning how to dress for court can make a substantial difference in your first impression and how you’re perceived by everyone in the courtroom.

What Not to Wear

Many people have similar questions. Can you wear jeans to court? Can you wear tennis shoes to court? Do you have to wear a three-piece suit to court? First, you need to know what not to wear to court.

Clothing

  • Sleeveless shirts, muscle shirts, sundresses, strapless dresses, crop tops, tops with spaghetti straps, tight tops, anything you would wear out to a club, revealing clothing, shorts.
  • Exercise outfits, yoga pants, t-shirts, yard work or painting clothes, athletic clothes.
  • Clothing that is too tight or too large.
  • Bare legs or bare shoulders.
  • Hats.

Shoes and Accessories

  • Flip flops, athletic shoes, open-toed shoes, beach shoes.
  • Lots of jewelry that makes noise or is flashy.
  • Sunglasses.

 Hair and Hygiene

  •  Hair: Dirty, wet, messy, hairnet, curlers, strange colors.
  • Hygiene: Smelling like you have not bathed, smelling like cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol, too much cologne or perfume, a dirty appearance, unshaven, extremely long nails, dirty nails.
  • Hide tattoos if possible.

What To Wear to a Courtroom

Now that you know what not to wear to a courtroom, you should familiarize yourself with how to dress for court appropriately. First, all clothing and appearance should be conservative and modest. Stereotypical church clothes are always an excellent choice: modest, clean, and proper. 

Anything you may wear to a nice, formal social luncheon or dinner would likely be appropriate. All clothing should fit properly and be tidy and neat. Your appearance absolutely does matter, whether you think it should or not. Some options for your courtroom appearance could include the following suggestions.

 Men

  • Suit with a tie.
  • Long-sleeve button-down collared shirt with nice dress or khaki pants.
  • Sports coat.
  • Belt (or suspenders) to keep pants on correctly.
  • Dress shoes.

 Women

  • Women’s business suit.
  • Nice, modest, appropriate dress.
  • Conservative, modest, neutral-colored pant suit.
  • Conservative blouse or top with long dress pants.
  • Conservative jewelry. Remove any piercings.
  • Conservative, closed-toe shoes.

 Hair and Hygiene

  • Men: Shave or trim your facial hair, brush your teeth, deodorant, cover tattoos.
  • Women: Wash hair, hair pulled back, or put up appropriately neat and clean nails, and only neutral nail polish, deodorant, conservative makeup if any, cover tattoos.

Additional Appearance Suggestions

While the above suggestions are important, there are some additional considerations to think about as you prepare for your courtroom appearance.

  • In some areas of the country, certain brands are associated with gangs and gang activity. If you are aware of these brands, avoid wearing them in the courtroom to prevent any appearance of association with illegal gang activity.
  • Although you should dress conservatively and appropriately, you should also dress comfortably. If you wear too constrictive or uncomfortable clothing, you may fidget and sweat more, which could potentially cause the jury or judge to wonder if you are lying or uncomfortable with your testimony.
  • Remove any clothing or other items (such as buttons or keychains) that could indicate any kind of political affiliation. People have strong opinions about politics, and you do not want someone to make judgments against you based on your political beliefs.
  • Leave cell phones in the car or turn them off completely. While a cell phone is not technically “attire” per se, these devices seem inherently part of most people’s lives. Resist the temptation by not bringing a cell phone even into the courtroom.

Choose Your Courtroom Attire Carefully

We have all heard the saying that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Whether you are in court for personal injury, financial suit, criminal charges, or any other matter, how you appear in court will determine your first impression. 

The people who will be deciding your case, and perhaps your fate, will be judging you on your appearance as well. They have limited information regarding you and your case. As a result, they’ll likely make snap judgments about you based on your appearance. 

Make sure you present yourself in a conservative, appropriate, and clean manner. Always be polite, courteous, and observe all the rules established in proper courtroom decorum. 

By dressing appropriately, and acting responsibly, you have another way to illustrate to the judge and jury that you take your case, the courtroom, and the justice process seriously.

What is Comparative Negligence?

Determining liability after a California car accident can be difficult. Fault and liability are often heavily disputed, requiring the need for thorough investigations into the crash. Why is it so important to find out who is responsible for causing an accident? In California, anyone who contributes to the cause of an accident can be on the hook for damages. If you’ve been injured in a crash, you’ll want to know everyone who can be held financially responsible for your injuries.

Contributory vs. Comparative Fault

There are two primary types of fault: contributory and comparative. Some states embrace the law of contributory fault, which bars anyone who is responsible for an accident from recovering compensation for their injuries. In contributory negligence states, you are only entitled to an award of damages if you played no role in your accident or injury. However, you could still be on the hook for damages if someone else was injured in your accident.

Some states, including California, embrace the rule of comparative fault, which is generally considered to be more lenient and victim-friendly. There are two important things you need to know about comparative fault:

  1. Anyone who contributes to the cause of an accident can be held financially responsible for damages, and
  2. You are not barred from recovering compensation for your injuries if you shoulder some of the blame for your injury.

Apportionment of Fault

What happens when more than one person is responsible for causing your accident and injury? California law explains that responsibility for damages will be apportioned between responsible parties. This basically means that 100 % of your damages will be divided between anyone who caused your accident. In order to determine how much each at-fault party will be responsible for paying, it is necessary to determine their role in causing the accident. The larger their role, the greater their share of responsibility for damages.

Example #1: A, B, and C are involved in a crash at a Los Angeles intersection. An investigation shows that B was texting at the time of the crash, while C attempted to speed through a yellow light. A sustained serious injuries in the crash and has suffered $100,000 in damages. It’s determined that B and C were equally responsible for causing the accident. As a result, B and C will both be responsible for paying half of A’s damages (or $50,000 each).

Example #2: A, B, and C are involved in a Los Angeles car accident. A suffers extensive injuries in the crash and has damages of $100,000. An investigation finds that B was drunk at the time of the crash and C was driving on a suspended license. As a result, B is assigned 90% of the fault, while B assumes the other 10% of the blame. B would be responsible for 90% of A’s damages ($90,000) and B would be responsible for 10% of A’s damages ($10,000).

Fault of Victim

Victims who contribute to their own accident are barred from recovering compensation in states that embrace the rule of contributory negligence. In California, however, a victim is not barred from recovering compensation as long as they share the blame with another person. In other words, victims are only prohibited from recovering damages if they are 100% responsible for their own harm.

While victims are not barred from recovering damages, the amount they can get is reduced by their own degree of fault. This can apply to circumstances that (a) contribute to the accident or (b) aggravate the severity of their injuries. The more responsibility they shoulder, the less they’ll be able to recover.

Example #1: A, B, and C are involved in an accident. A suffers significant injuries in the crash and has damages of $100,000. The investigation finds that A, B, and C were all speeding at the time of the crash. A’s ability to recover compensation will be reduced by her own degree of fault. As a result, she will only be able to get 66.6 percent of her accident-related damages. B and C will share equal responsibility in paying these damages.

Example #2: A and B are involved in an accident, and both suffer extensive injuries in the crash. Each has damages of $100,000. An investigation finds that A is 70% responsible for causing the accident. As a result, A will only be able to recover $30,000 in damages ($100,000 reduced by 70 percent fault) from B. At the same time, B will be able to recover $70,000 in damages ($100,000 reduced by 30 percent fault) from A.

Do You Need More Info?

If you’ve been involved in a car accident you should contact an attorney. Determining fault and liability can be difficult, but an attorney can help to make sure that your case is handled properly. Visit our guide on how to find a good personal injury attorney for more information.