Personal Injury FAQs
Find the Answers You Need
After being involved in an accident or suffering a serious injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, you likely have a lot of questions about what comes next. At Bral & Associates, we understand that this is probably a confusing and stressful time for you and your family. To that end, we’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about personal injury we see here at the firm and provided helpful answers for you to browse. Take a look at our personal injury FAQs here, or contact us directly to request a free and confidential consultation with one of our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers today. We are available 24/7 to assist you.
What should I NOT do after an accident?
After any accident or event that leaves you injured, there are several things to NOT do in order to protect your rights and ability to seek compensation.
If you are involved in an accident or otherwise injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, do NOT do any of the following:
- Give any statements (written, recorded, or oral) to anyone concerning your accident or injuries without first speaking to an experienced attorney
- Make any incorrect statements or guesses about prior injuries or accidents to any doctor who treats or examines you; if you don’t remember past injuries or accidents clearly, say so.
- Change your address or employment without notifying your attorney
What evidence should I give to my attorney?
While your attorney will be able to gather a great deal of evidence in your case, there are some things you can do to help us in this regard. We ask our clients to do the following:
- Inform your attorney immediately of any change of address, telephone number, or employment
- If your vehicle was damaged, try to obtain pictures before you get it repaired. Use your cell phone or a digital camera to take photos of the damage.
- Save all pill bottles, casts, braces, and any other items from your doctors
- Give us any pictures and videos of the accident or accident scene that you or anyone else has taken for you.
- Be sure to obtain and save all receipts itemizing any and all expenses you incurred as a result of your accident. Receipts must be dated and contain legible and complete vendor identification.
- Inform us of anything you think has a bearing on the case, including extensive medical treatment or hospitalization.
What are five big mistakes people make after an accident?
After a serious accident or injury, it’s important to avoid making mistakes that could harm your health and your future ability to recover compensation.
With that said, here are five big mistakes people often make after an accident/injury:
- Not seeing the doctor when they are in pain
- Not doing what their doctors tell them
- Not keeping their doctors’ appointments
- Discussing their cases with anyone other than their attorneys or doctors
- Failing to tell their doctors about medical problems due to the accident
Do I really need to do everything my doctor tells me to?
Yes; be sure to do everything your doctors tell you to. There is never a reason or excuse to miss a doctor’s appointment. By missing an appointment, you are saying to the doctor and insurance company that you aren’t hurt enough for it to matter. This may harm your claim. It is important for your doctor to have up-to-date information on your condition and know how you are feeling. Each time you go to the doctor and report that you are still in pain, your doctor makes an entry in his or her records. Some clients get discouraged and do not see their doctor even though they are having pain, but this can be very detrimental to your case.
Our job is to recover compensation for the pain and suffering that you have endured. But not going to the doctor is a good way to prove that you are not hurting. If you are in pain and you do not see a doctor, the insurance company and the jury will not believe that you are in pain. It is very important for you to work hard to get well and to go to all of your appointments.
What are the first steps in filing a personal injury claim?
The first step in filing a personal injury claim is scheduling a free consultation with an attorney. During this initial interview, we will gather general information about your case. We will also provide you with materials regarding things you should—and should not—do. We will also request that you sign certain authorization forms, which will allow us to obtain your medical records and other necessary information.
Next, we will notify the person who was responsible for your injury and/or their insurance company that you have retained us as your attorneys. We will also send requests for your chart and billing information to all of the doctors and hospitals involved in your care.
Should I talk to my own insurance provider after an accident?
Do not talk about your case with anyone except your attorney at Bral & Associates and your doctors. If your own insurance company wants to talk about your case before they pay your medical bills, please refer them to us.
I’m being asked to sign various things after the accident. Should I?
You should not sign anything from anyone, including the other person’s insurance provider or your own insurance company, until you check with us first. We will obtain any necessary information from employers, schools, or other persons involved in your case.
How will I be able to pay my medical bills while my case is ongoing?
While your case is pending against the insurance company of the person who caused your injury, we try to arrange to have your medical bills paid by your own insurance company. This could be from the medical payments provision of your automobile insurance policy, your health insurance policy, or, if applicable, through worker’s compensation insurance. Please be sure that all medical bills related to your injury are sent to our office so that we may forward them to the appropriate insurance company.
Do I need to keep any records of my losses?
By keeping records of your losses, including both financial costs and non-economic damages, you greatly help us in building your case.
Please be sure to record the following:
- Lost work time and wages
- Other expenses resulting from your injuries, such as transportation, home care, etc.
- Pain and suffering
- Your physical limitations
It is important to make your entries on an ongoing basis. A summary of your losses at the end of each month will not be as helpful to us as an ongoing list. Copies of checks and receipts of payment, as well as the above records, will be very helpful when the insurance company or an attorney asks you to recall your pain, physical disabilities, and any out-of-pocket expenses you have sustained.
What if I don’t have any insurance?
Sometimes our clients are involved in accidents in which there is no medical payments insurance, workers’ compensation, or private health insurance. In such cases, your doctor will expect to be paid by you at the conclusion of this case. Often, they will require you to agree in writing to have us pay them directly from the proceeds you receive. State laws sometimes permit health care providers to file a “lien,” which must be paid out of the proceeds of your case. If your doctor asks you to sign what is called a “lien letter,” be sure to contact our office. In some cases, it may not be appropriate for you to sign such an agreement.
What is subrogation?
If any insurance company pays some of your medical or other expenses arising from your injury, the law provides “subrogation.” This means that the insurance company stands “in your shoes,” so to speak, and can recover some or all of the amount paid to you by the liable party. If this is the case, the company is usually required to pay their proportionate share of the attorneys’ fees and costs in connection with the recovery. This is handled on a case-by-case basis.
Will I be investigated by the insurance company?
When a claim is filed by an injured person, insurance companies routinely conduct a detailed investigation into the injured person’s background. It is not uncommon for an insurance company investigator to park a surveillance van near your house and videotape your activities. These investigators work very hard to obtain videotapes of claimants lifting heavy groceries or engaging in strenuous physical activity. However, these same surveillance tapes have been useful to corroborate our client’s limitations, including the use of canes, crutches, etc.
If you believe you are being watched, please call us and try to avoid the camera. Do not exaggerate your limitations or pose for the camera.
What will happen to my personal injury case if I file for bankruptcy?
If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, you should know that you may lose all rights to your personal injury case. The bankruptcy court can take over your case, settle your case, and give your settlement money to your creditors—and you will receive nothing. Be sure to talk to your lawyer before filing for bankruptcy.
Why do personal injury cases take so long?
We cannot make your claim until after the doctors have given us reports stating exactly what your medical condition is and what they expect it to be in the future; in other words, until you have reached “maximum medical improvement” (MMI). Many times the doctors will be very slow in making these reports. We may even, on occasion, ask you to contact your doctor to speed up this report. If we try to settle your case before your medical condition is stabilized, you may lose money that you might be entitled to for a condition that did not show up until after your case was settled.
It is important to know that your case will not be settled until the damages have been determined and all investigations to determine who is liable have been completed. It generally takes several months to gather the necessary information. If a trial becomes necessary, it can take several years to complete a case. One of the most difficult requests we make of you is to have patience. We will work as hard and fast as possible to settle your case quickly.
What is the value of my case?
It is impossible for us to tell immediately how much money, if any, you will recover in connection with your case. There is no formula and each case is unique. In cases involving serious injury, the ultimate recovery is often related to the amount of insurance coverage available, as well as the nature, extent, and duration of your injuries, along with an assessment of liability. As your attorneys, we feel it is our primary duty to obtain an amount of money that will fairly and justly compensate you for your injuries. We will make every effort to do this by locating all sources of money. We will advise you of our evaluation in this regard.
What damages can I recover in my personal injury claim?
In general, most states allow recovery of damages for the following:
- The nature and extent of injury, including whether the injury is permanent, and the amount of disability
- Medical expenses, both already incurred and reasonably certain to be incurred in the future, including mileage to and from the doctor or a hospital
- Wage loss (past and future) and damage to property (including your motor vehicle and other possessions)
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium (past and future) for your spouse
Will I need to file a lawsuit and go to court?
It may be necessary to file a lawsuit to obtain an adequate recovery. This is a legal decision that should be made by your attorney with your input. Before filing suit in your case, we will obtain your permission and explain to you why we believe a lawsuit should be filed.
Although a lawsuit may have to be filed, settlement is always possible. Negotiations continue and only a small percentage of lawsuits actually go to trial.
What steps are involved in bringing a case to trial?
The following steps are involving in bringing a personal injury case to trial:
Pleadings: Pleadings are the documents each party files in court that form the basis
of a lawsuit. This is intended to be general information only.
- Complaint or Petition: A lawsuit is filed against an opposing party by filing a document in court known as a complaint or petition. The person who brings the action is the plaintiff (you). The person against whom the action is brought is the defendant. The petition is a statement of facts alleging the names of the parties and alleging why the conduct of the defendant entitles the plaintiff to recover damages.
- Summons: Once the plaintiff’s petition is filed, a “summons” is issued to be served on the defendant by an officer of the court, usually a deputy sheriff or process server. This informs the defendant that a suit has been filed and that a response must be made within a given period of time or a judgment will be taken against him.
- Answer or Motion: The response filed by the defendant is called an answer, which is prepared by the attorney for the defendant. Alternatively, if a defense attorney feels there is a fatal flaw with the lawsuit, they may file a motion to dismiss the complaint or to strike portions of the complaint.
Discovery: Once an action is filed, both sides have a right to “discover”
facts concerning the opposing party’s case. Normal discovery proceedings
include written interrogatories, depositions, production of records, and,
sometimes, medical examinations.
- Interrogatories: Each side may serve written questions on the opposing party, called “interrogatories.” We will serve interrogatories on the defendant on your behalf, and the defendant will serve interrogatories on you. You are required to answer these questions within a prescribed period of time in writing and under oath. Our staff will assist you in preparing your answers.
- Depositions: A deposition is an oral and transcribed statement, under oath, which may be used by either side in a lawsuit. It has the same effect as testifying at trial. It is used to learn as much as possible about the other side’s claims or defenses. Those present are the parties concerned, their lawyers, sometimes an additional witness or two, and a court reporter who records the questions and answers. The lawyers normally agree in advance where the deposition will be held. It is usually in the office of one of the lawyers. You are required by law to give a deposition. This is not something in which we have a choice. Because of this, we will need your full cooperation. Prior to the deposition, your lawyer will go over the facts of the case with you and answer any questions you might have. YOUR DEPOSITION IS OFTEN THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR CASE. It is important that you be prepared well in advance of the deposition date.
What do I need to know before giving a deposition?
In giving a deposition, there are a few rules to follow:
- Always tell the truth, even if it hurts your case.
- Only answer the questions. Do not make any voluntary statements or speeches.
- Think before you make any answer to any questions. If it concerns a matter about which you do not know or a detail you do not remember, you can say so. However, keep in mind that once you have stated that you do not know or remember, it’s hard to change your testimony at trial.
- Always be polite.
- Frequently, the other attorney will ask you questions that will seem to have no bearing upon the case. Nevertheless, it is your duty to answer these questions, notwithstanding the fact that they may irritate you. Never conceal prior injuries or prior illnesses. Remember, the other side has the means of obtaining such information.
What is mediation?
There are occasions when the parties submit the dispute to “mediation.” In mediation, the parties meet with an independent third person, usually an experienced lawyer or retired judge, who assists the parties in arriving at a settlement. The results are not binding. It is informal and less expensive than a trial. If this is an option in your case, your lawyer will discuss it with you.
What if I wish to file a claim against a government entity?
Any injury claim, whether it stems from a car collision or another event that involves the government, is subject to special rules. The government entity involved may be the state, a city, a county, a local government, or the United States federal government. Generally, a Notice of Claim must be filed with the appropriate government agency very soon after the accident/your injury. If you believe that the government may be involved in your case, please notify us immediately.