Why Should I Hire Peach & Weather for My Car Accident Claim?
Founding partners Timothy W. Peach and William W. Weathers have more than 60 years of combined professional experience practicing civil law in California. With a diverse track record of successful cases behind them, Peach & Weathers offer a fresh approach to every new case our firm accepts. Our extensive legal experience means we are able to discern key variables in a personal injury claim that less experienced attorneys may overlook.
When we accept a new client and represent them as their Redlands car accident attorneys, we take time to learn as much as possible about their lives and the impact their experiences have had. Car accidents can leave people with painful injuries, permanent medical complications, and significant financial losses. Our goal is to help our clients recover as much as legally possible following car accidents caused by negligent drivers.
Essential First Steps to Take After a Car Accident in Redlands
Car accidents are sudden and scary. After an accident, it’s not uncommon for drivers to be completely rattled and unable to think clearly. Some drivers suffer serious injuries and are unresponsive, at the mercy of the first responders and emergency services who arrive at the scene. If you experience a car accident and are able to get up and move around, you should keep a few best practices in mind.
First, do not move if it hurts to do so. Even if you think you only suffered a mild injury, moving around could make it much worse very quickly. Additionally, the adrenaline in your system will dull your pain sensations. You may feel completely unscathed after an accident, and then the next day, you will be unable to get out of bed because your entire body hurts. The forces of a car accident can damage internal organs, bones, muscles, and the soft tissues throughout the body. Only move if you are able to do so safely, and do so slowly to check yourself, your passengers, and other drivers involved in the accident for injuries.
California law requires drivers involved in crashes to call 911 and report accidents when they result in significant properties or bodily harm to anyone, regardless of how seemingly minor some injuries may seem at first. A good rule to remember is that if there is any doubt as to whether you need to call 911 after an accident, err on the side of caution and call. If you are able to safely move around, try to take some photos of the accident scene before moving your vehicle, if possible. You may need to clear off the road quickly to prevent traffic jams, but these first few pictures could be invaluable to a future insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.
When the police and other emergency responders arrive at the scene, answer their questions politely and accurately, but do not admit fault. Even if you think you were partially to blame for the crash, admitting any kind of fault or saying anything that could be construed as an admission of fault could complicate your legal recovery. Wait for the police to say you are free to go, and then seek medical care immediately. If you suffered serious injuries, the emergency responders will likely take you to the hospital.
The Importance of Seeking Medical Care Following a Redlands Car Accident
As previously mentioned, it’s not uncommon for people who experience car accidents to not notice any physical pain or injury until the following day. Some injuries do not result in immediately noticeable symptoms, and car accidents may aggravate preexisting medical conditions. You must seek medical care as soon as possible after your accident. Even if you think you only sustained minor cuts and scrapes, there are two main reasons why you should make seeking medical care a top priority:
1. Your doctor can identify hidden injuries, such as internal organ damage, that may not be painful enough to notice yet. Seeing a doctor as soon as possible helps to minimize your risk of developing serious medical complications from your accident and increases the likelihood of catching hard-to-find injuries as quickly as possible so you can receive appropriate treatment.
2. Failing to seek medical care immediately after the accident will reflect poorly upon a future insurance claim or lawsuit, especially if you intend to claim compensation for medical expenses and your pain and suffering. The court may view your delay in seeking treatment as a sign that your injuries were not as severe as you claim and cause an insurance company to heavily scrutinize a claim for coverage.
After receiving medical care for your injuries, your doctor will give you a medical report document that will be invaluable to your future legal proceedings. Whether you intend to file an insurance claim against an at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy or pursue a car accident personal injury claim, this medical report will be crucial for proving the extent of your injuries and medical expenses.
Handling Insurance Claims
It’s not uncommon for drivers to dread dealing with insurance companies following car accidents. Even when a claim is relatively small, many insurance companies and their claim adjusters will look for any and all justifications they can find to reduce their financial liability on a legitimate claim for coverage. California requires drivers to maintain personal auto insurance coverage, and an at-fault driver is liable to cover any damages their negligence causes to other drivers.
If you intend to file an insurance claim to recover your damages after a car accident in Redlands, it’s a good idea to contact a Redlands car accident lawyer to represent your interests and assist with your claim. Your attorney can help you draft your initial claim to the insurance company. Once the insurer notices you have legal representation, the chances of the insurer pushing back against your claim will lower significantly.
Your attorney can also provide you with guidance for dealing with insurance claim adjusters and insurance company investigators. All insurance companies have the right to investigate claims for coverage to ensure they are legitimate, but they must do so in good faith. If an insurance company’s employee engaged in any unethical, deceptive, or manipulative behavior in the handling of your claim, your attorney can help you explore your options for legal recourse against insurance practices conducted in bad faith.
Starting Your Personal Injury Lawsuit
Available insurance coverage should be the first step toward recovery for anyone injured in a car accident. Unfortunately, not all drivers in California carry adequate insurance coverage to fully cover the cost of damages after an accident, and some drivers don’t have insurance coverage at all. If you are unable to secure full compensation for your injuries and economic damages from an insurance claim, a Redlands car accident attorney can help you take the next step and build a personal injury lawsuit against the party responsible for your accident.
A personal injury lawsuit begins when a plaintiff or injured party names the party responsible for their damages in a formal Complaint. This document will contain the full outline of the plaintiff’s claim of negligence against the defendant as well as a complete breakdown of the damages the plaintiff is claiming in their lawsuit. This Complaint is filed with the local courthouse, and then a court process server will officially serve the Complaint to the defendant named within.
The defendant may agree to settlement negotiations
or fight the claim. If the defendant acknowledges their responsibility for the plaintiff’s claimed damages, or if there is clear and convincing evidence readily available that proves the defendant is fully liable for the claimed damages, it’s in the best interests of the defendant to proceed with settlement negotiations as quickly as possible. The longer these negotiations continue, the more the defendant must spend in legal fees. The same applies to the plaintiff, but most personal injury plaintiffs pay their legal fees to their attorneys as percentages of their case awards.
Proving Negligence in a Car Accident Claim
In the event a defendant does not agree to settlement negotiations and contests the Complaint, the case will proceed through civil court, and the litigation process begins. Once the personal injury lawsuit has started, it’s up to the plaintiff’s legal representatives to prove that the defendant named in the Complaint was negligent and therefore responsible for the damages claimed in the Complaint.
Proving negligence starts by identifying the defendant and establishing the duty of care they should have fulfilled in the situation in question. California law requires all drivers to operate their vehicles safely, to complete necessary maintenance in a timely manner, and to abide by posted traffic signs and signals at all times on California roads. The plaintiff’s Redlands car accident attorney must show the court that the defendant violated this duty in some way. Some of the most common causes of car accident lawsuits in California include:
● Moving violations. Speeding, running a red light, failing to stop at a stop sign, or neglecting to use your turn signals when turning or changing lanes can all potentially constitute negligence when such actions cause accidents.
● Vehicle maintenance issues. When a vehicle owner fails to address a known mechanical issue that causes a failure on the road, other drivers may suffer in a resulting accident. Additionally, manufacturers of defective auto parts may bear liability for some accidents if their defective products directly caused those accidents.
● Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol. It is illegal and incredibly dangerous for anyone to operate a vehicle while under the intoxicating effects of alcohol or any other illicit drug. Marijuana is legal for adult recreational consumption in California, but it is still illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. California drivers who consume cannabis must keep this in mind and refrain from driving while high.
● Distracted driving. Cell phones are a leading cause of distracted driving accidents, so much so that the state of California has enacted strict laws prohibiting the use of mobile devices behind the wheel. Talking on the phone, “rubbernecking” at accidents or other roadside events, or simply failing to watch where one is going could all potentially lead to distracted driving accidents.
● Road construction. If the state Department of Transportation must perform roadwork or roadside construction, the Department and its employees must ensure the area is as safe as possible for drivers, adjusting the flow of traffic if necessary. If a DoT employee failed to execute their job duties correctly or a road construction crew failed to properly mark a dangerous area of the road that caused your accident, you may have grounds for a claim against the government agency responsible. This will be a difficult case with strict deadlines and filing requirements, so it is especially important to secure legal representation when facing such a lawsuit.
Ultimately, if a car accident occurs due to the negligence of one or more parties, it’s up to the plaintiff’s legal team to prove their negligence and the causation between that negligence and the plaintiff’s claimed damages.
Pure Comparative Negligence in California
In some car accident claims, plaintiffs may bear partial responsibility for the damages they suffered. Most states operate under modified comparative negligence statutes that allow plaintiffs in such situations to still recover damages, but they will lose a percentage of the case award equal to their percentage of fault. Most states with modified comparative negligence laws bar plaintiff recovery if the plaintiff’s fault for the claimed damages is deemed to be 50% or more.
California has no such limit. Under California’s pure comparative negligence statute, a plaintiff can still potentially recover damages even if a case reveals they were up to 99% at fault for those damages. However, the higher the plaintiff’s fault percentage turns out to be, the more vulnerable the plaintiff is to a counterclaim from the defendant.
Potential Recovery for Your Redlands Car Accident Damages
Due to California’s pure comparative negligence laws, it is essential to hire an experienced and reliable Redlands car accident lawyer who can minimize your liability and maximize your recovery. Car accidents can cause many types of injuries, including:
● Broken bones.
● Skull fractures and traumatic brain injuries.
● Soft tissue injuries to the tendons, muscles, and ligaments.
● Internal organ injuries.
● Spinal cord injuries, some of which may result in partial or total paralysis.
The personal injury laws of California allow personal injury plaintiffs to recover compensation for any and all medical expenses they incur due to the actions of negligent drivers. Your Redlands car accident attorney will help you gather evidence, including your medical report and hospital invoices, that prove the full extent of your medical expenses resulting from your accident, both short and long term.
Your car accident lawsuit could also potentially yield compensation for the damage to your vehicle, such as the cost of necessary repairs or full replacement of your vehicle if totaled. While auto insurance may sometimes provide enough to cover the cost of necessary repairs, this may not be an option if the vehicle is a total loss.
Plaintiffs in car accident lawsuits can also receive compensation for the physical pain and psychological suffering they experience due to their accidents. California courts use different systems for calculating pain and suffering compensation. In many cases, the court will multiply the plaintiff’s claimed medical expenses by a certain amount to determine an appropriate amount of pain and suffering compensation.
As a general example, a plaintiff who incurred $50,000 in medical expenses for painful injuries such as bone fractures and traumatic brain injuries could receive two or more times this amount in pain and suffering compensation. It’s also possible the court may award continuing “per diem” pain and suffering compensation until the plaintiff reaches maximum medical improvement from their injuries.
Sometimes the court decides that a defendant’s behavior has exceeded the scope of typical negligence
. If a defendant was grossly negligent or engaged in any illegal activity that contributed to the car accident in question, such as dangerous evading police pursuit after the commission of another crime or driving under the influence, the court may award the plaintiff punitive damages in addition to their compensatory damages.
California does not place a limit on the amount a plaintiff may receive in punitive damages from a civil lawsuit. Typically, the judge overseeing the case will decide on an appropriate amount based on the nature of the defendant’s behavior and the overall wealth of the defendant.
Wealthier defendants pay much more in punitive damages as the court wants to ensure it is, as the name suggests, an effective punitive measure to deter similar behavior in the future.
Settlement Vs. Litigation in Car Accident Claims
If you are entering the legal process to recover compensation for your recent car accident damages in Redlands, you may be understandably worried about facing a heated and protracted court battle. While litigation is possible in any civil lawsuit, the vast majority of personal injury cases, including those resulting from car accidents, are settled outside of court. Settlement negotiations provide both sides of a lawsuit with an expedient way to settle their dispute without incurring extensive legal fees due to the months and years litigation can potentially require.
While settlement is the more common and most often preferred method of handling a car accident claim, settlement may not always be in the plaintiff’s best interests. If there are multiple defendants in the claim, or if liability is not entirely clear, or if the plaintiff has not had adequate time to fully assess the entire scope of their damages, litigation may offer a better recovery. However, plaintiffs must understand the risk involved in taking a case to trial. Unlike settlement, which can offer some amount of guaranteed compensation, there is no guarantee that a trial will yield as much as the plaintiff hopes to recover.
A good Redlands car accident lawyer will carefully assess a client’s car accident claim and determine whether settlement or litigation is the preferable route to the plaintiff’s recovery. If you are unsure whether you should try to settle your matter in negotiations outside of court or take your case to trial, your attorney can be a valuable resource and let you know what to expect with each option.