According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 39.5 million people seek medical attention every year for an accident causing injury. Of these, about 29.4 million have injuries severe enough to warrant a visit to the emergency room, and 169,936 have injuries so severe that it results in death. This makes personal injury the third leading cause of death in the United States, only behind heart disease and cancer. If you’re one of these unfortunate few and somebody else is to blame, you have a right to seek compensation for your injuries. And you should.
If you have recently been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact an Orange County personal injury attorney at the Crockett Law Group to learn about how we can help you maximize your settlement. Call our personal injury firm in Orange County at (800) 900-9393 for a free consultation.
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What Qualifies as a Personal Injury Case?
If you’ve been injured due to somebody else’s negligence, you may have a personal injury case. There are all kinds of personal injury cases we see, both in terms of the types of accidents and in the types of injuries.
Some of the most common personal injury accidents we see near Orange County are:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Scooter accidents
- Dog bites
- Slip and falls
- Ridesharing accidents
Types of Personal Injuries Our Lawyers Handle
Some of the most common injuries we see from victims of these Orange County personal injury accidents include the following:
The spine is one of the most sensitive parts of the body, and trauma to any part of the back can cause lifelong problems. In fact, back injuries are the leading cause of prolonged disability, with victims losing a substantial amount of time from work and other activities. Some back injuries are so severe that they cause paralysis, requiring the victim to use a wheelchair for mobility. But that’s the exception, not the rule. Even less severe back injuries warrant compensation for the pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life when it’s been caused by somebody else’s negligence.
Millions of people sustain fractures and broken bones from accidents every year. Most of these accidents are not anybody’s fault, such as slipping on soap in the bathtub or tripping over an item that you dropped on the floor of your home. Some of these fractures can be very serious, impacting your ability to earn income and enjoy life. That’s why California allows people to sue drunk drivers or other types of negligent or reckless individuals who cause serious injuries to others. It’s important to know that you can collect a substantial amount of compensation that can help you pay medical bills, reimburse you for lost earnings and provide you with cash for your pain, suffering, and mental anguish.
Bruises and Lacerations
Many types of accidents can cause lacerations and bruises, including car accidents, bicycle accidents, boating accidents, slip and falls, and construction accidents. Some lacerations and bruises are minor and can heal on their own, but others may require stitches or surgical repair. Some lacerations and bruises never heal properly, leaving the victim with unsightly permanent scarring, and bruises can indicate the existence of serious internal injuries. It’s important to get proper medical treatment in a timely manner to avoid complications that can worsen these conditions.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 1.1 million Americans sustain burn injuries each year. The Mayo Clinic defines a burn as “damage to the skin or deeper tissues caused by the sun, hot liquids, fire, electricity, or chemicals.” Burns are one of the most painful types of injury, often requiring a significant amount of medical treatment in order to achieve a full recovery. If you’ve sustained a severe burn, you could be wondering how you will pay for all of your medical expenses while recuperating and unable to work. If you’ve sustained a serious burn through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to collect a substantial amount of compensation.
High-speed collisions, rollovers, truck accidents, falls from heights, and other tragic accidents can cause life-altering catastrophic injuries. Victims often endure years of expensive medical care, surgeries, and rehabilitation, but are unable to achieve a full recovery. If you, or somebody you love, has sustained a catastrophic injury due to the negligence or recklessness of another person, pursuing a legal claim is the best way to get the financial compensation that your family cope financially with the tragedy.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 20,000 workers a year sustain traumatic eye injuries, and car accidents, slip and falls, unsafe products, medical malpractice, and other types of accidents cause many more. It’s not surprising that people consider loss of vision to be the most devastating loss of a sense. Learning how to accomplish basic daily activities with reduced sight or blindness can take many years of practice, and many great joys in life like seeing flowers and mountains can be gone forever.
Foot and Ankle Injury
Foot and ankle injuries are a leading cause of disability in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics over 50,000 foot and ankle injuries a year happen on the job, and from other types of accidents. Foot and ankles injuries not only prevent victims from working at many types of employment, but also decrease the enjoyment of life that comes from jogging, dancing, and physical hobbies, as well as making it more difficult to maintain a proper weight.
Hand & Wrist Injury
Hand and wrist injuries can be painful and debilitating. The human hand is an extremely complex appendage that is designed to enable precise small muscle movements. When wrists and hands are injured in car crashes, pedestrian knockdowns, bicycle accidents, and falls, it can require a great deal of medical treatment, rehabilitative services, and possibly surgery to restore the hand to its prior level of dexterity. Recovery can be expensive and prolonged, taking a toll on the finances of the entire family.
Herniated Disk Injury
One of the most painful types of spinal injuries is a herniated disc injury. Herniated discs can cause chronic pain that lasts for many years or even for a person’s entire life. Some herniated discs are caused by degeneration as a person gets older, but they can also be caused by trauma due to an accident. Car accidents slip and falls, and construction accidents cause herniated disc injuries that can result in long term disability and a substantial reduction in the ability to enjoy life.
Internal injuries caused by accidents can cause long-term disability, loss of enjoyment of life, and even death. Many of these injuries could have been prevented if greater care had been used by drivers, property owners, product designers, and other responsible parties. Internal injuries are often asymptomatic until a raging infection or other severe symptoms appear days, months, or even weeks after the injury was sustained. If you’re been involved in an accident or incident and have unexplained symptoms, you may be suffering from internal injuries and you should seek medical treatment immediately.
Knee injuries are one of the most common debilitating injuries from car accidents, falls, construction accidents, assaults, and other types of negligence, recklessness, and intentional acts. High-speed impacts, rollovers, and head-on collisions can cause catastrophic injuries to the knees that are life-altering, but less serious accidents can still cause knee injuries that can lead to long term disability. Some knee injuries will heal on their own and others will require multiple surgeries and years of rehabilitation.
Loss of Limbs & Amputation Injury
High-speed traffic accidents, head-on collisions, rollovers, falls from up high, and industrial accidents can cause catastrophic injuries that cause a person to lose a limb. Losing a limb can have permanent life-changing repercussions for the victim and their entire family. Your home may have to be reconfigured to accommodate your disability and you may retrain for a new type of work. Out of pocket medical expenses for state-of-the-art prosthetics and rehabilitation can be astronomical. Victims of catastrophic injuries such as the loss of a limb require enormous amounts of money to rebuild their lives in the best way possible under the circumstances.
Neck Injury & Whiplash
When you lose a limb due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional act of another person, it’s possible for victims to collect a substantial amount of compensation. An experienced Orange County neck injury attorney can help you collect money for medical expenses, current and future lost earnings, pain, suffering, and mental distress. Call the Crockett Law Group today to schedule your free consultation and learn more.
Nerve Damage Injury
More obvious injuries like fractures and dislocations get more attention, but millions of Americans suffer from nerve damage caused by car accidents, falls, sports accidents, and construction accidents. Nerve damage can happen on its own or alongside other serious injuries such as fractures, brain damage, and amputations. Nerve damage can be painful, cause extended or permanent disability, and reduce the ability to carry out the normal functions of daily life. Victims of nerve damage do not only have reduced incomes, the pain and reductions in function also impair a victim’s ability to enjoy time with their family and recreational activities.
According to the National Center for PTSD, close to 10% of the population will suffer with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives. The condition is most well-known for affecting soldiers that come home from war, but many other types of trauma can also trigger the onset of this disorder. Accident victims often suffer from a combination of physical and psychological injuries, but it’s also possible to suffer from PTSD after an accident even if you did not have a physical injury.
Scarring and Disfigurement
There are very few things more devastating than an accident that causes severe facial injuries and scarring. Feeling confident about one’s appearance is so important for personal and professional success that many victims suffer from psychiatric problems in addition to their physical injuries.
Facial scars can also have an actual impact on a person’s ability to be hired for a job. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, interviewers are so distracted by facial scarring that they don’t listen carefully to what the applicant is saying, and they’re often passed for jobs. That’s why facial injuries and scarring are considered one of the most catastrophic injuries a person can suffer due to an accident.
Shoulder injuries are one of the most traumatic injuries, especially for victims of car accidents, sports accidents, and falls. Shoulder injuries can range from minor soft tissue damage that heals quickly on its own, to fractures and torn ligaments that can require surgery to repair. Serious shoulder injuries can sometimes result in a significant period of disability or a permanent reduction in range of motion of the shoulder.
Soft Tissue Injury
When you go to an emergency room after an accident, they will x-ray any part of your body you complain about to rule out fractures. If you don’t have any fractures they will smile and release you, telling you that you have only sustained “soft-tissue” injuries. This doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods because soft-tissue injuries may still require physical therapy and even surgery if they do not heal on their own. It’s important to seek medical attention for soft-tissue injuries if they are not healing on their own, causing you to lose time from work and limiting your ability to enjoy recreational activities.
Spinal Cord Injury
There are few events in life more devastating than an injury that causes paralysis. Victims of paralysis that lose the use of their legs are not candidates for prosthetics and must learn to live without the ability to walk. Injuries to the cervical spine can cause paralysis from the neck down, often leaving a person fully conscious of their inability to walk, feed themselves, or even breathe on their own. The psychological consequences can be as severe as the physical limitations and the cost of care is astronomical.
What Makes a Good Personal Injury Case?
A good personal injury case is made up of three key ingredients: clear liability, serious injuries, and deep pockets.
That’s not to say that all the stars need to align in order for you to have a satisfying outcome. In fact, rarely is that the case. But the value of your claim tends to become more limited when you’re missing too much of any one ingredient.
Let me give you an example. Suppose you get hit head-on by a drunk driver on the 405 freeway and the other driver admits complete fault for the accident. Liability is clear. And suppose you sustain a traumatic brain injury as a result of hitting your head against the window. You have serious injuries. But suppose the at-fault driver is unemployed and only insured with a $15,000 bodily injury policy. Although the value of your personal injury case is obviously high, you’re limited in your ability to collect.
Clear liability occurs when fault for the accident isn’t being disputed. Think of someone running a red light and then apologizes for causing the accident. Or think of someone who is caught on camera performing a “California roll” through a stop sign. Liability in either of these situations seems pretty clear.
The reason having clear liability is so important for a good personal injury case is because California is a “comparative fault” state. This means that your recovery is reduced by your percentage of fault for an accident. So if you’re 50 percent at fault for an accident, then your settlement would be cut in half. Your recovery will be at maximum value when the other party is found to be 100 percent at fault for the accident.
It probably goes without saying that without injuries, you don’t have a personal injury case. And the more serious your injuries are, the more valuable your personal injury case is.
Compare these two accidents:
- Suppose someone is involved in a serious car accident that ends up in the Orange County Register because their car rolls over multiple times and is so badly damaged that it’s not even recognizable after the fact. Luckily the driver walks away with just a scratch to their arm, but no other injuries and nothing requiring medical treatment.
- Suppose someone is involved in a seemingly minor rear-end accident that results in just $2,000 of property damage. Unfortunately, the driver sustained terrible whiplash that required extensive medical treatment, and eventually surgery. The driver in accident #2 is going to have the better case.
The deeper the defendant’s pockets, the more you’re able to potentially recover. I sometimes have to tell my clients that they’re twice a victim: first in terms of being injured because of somebody else’s carelessness, and again in terms of being pigeon-holed by what that person was insured for.
Most personal injury claims go through the at-fault person’s insurance carrier. If the at-fault person can’t be located or simply wasn’t insured, you might not have any source of recovery. Most people who have assets worth protecting purchase insurance. Similarly, the at-fault person might have only purchased minimum insurance coverage. They, too, probably don’t have any assets worth protecting, or else they would have bought a larger insurance policy. Therefore, you may be limited to collecting whatever amount they were insured for.
Can I Claim Injury Compensation If It Was My Fault?
I touched on this a little bit in the previous section, but California is a pure comparative fault state. This means that you can seek compensation for your injuries even if you were as much as 99 percent to blame for causing the accident. You cannot, however, seek compensation if you were 100 percent at fault for causing the accident.
This is how it works. A percentage of fault will be assigned to you and to the other party involved in the accident. Your settlement amount will then be reduced by your percentage of fault for the accident.
For example, let’s say that you were injured in a motorcycle accident in Orange County, CA, that was 10 percent your fault. If your injury claim is valued at $100,000, you’ll receive a settlement of $90,000 instead. This settlement figure accurately reflects the proportion of your damages that were caused by the other person’s negligence.
I’m grateful for the pure comparative fault system we have here in California. Some states, in contrast, follow a pure contributory fault system instead. This includes states like Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Alabama, and the District of Columbia. Under this system, you wouldn’t be able to collect anything at all in the example I gave above where you were found to be 10 percent at fault for the accident. You would have to show the other person was 100 percent to blame for the accident or else you’d be barred from recovering any damages. That’s pretty harsh when you compare it to California, isn’t it?
Should I Pursue a Personal Injury Claim?
If someone else is responsible for causing your injuries, then you should pursue a personal injury claim generally speaking.
You’ll first want to consider the ingredients we discussed above what makes a good personal injury case: (1) clear liability; (2) serious injuries; and (3) deep pockets.
But in addition to that, you’ll also want to consider the fact that personal injury cases will test your patience.
- Confusing: Personal injury cases can be confusing because you’re unfamiliar with the claims process.
- Daunting: Personal injury cases can be daunting because of all the information and documentation you’re required to collect.
- Frustrating: Personal injury cases can be frustrating when the other side isn’t being truthful or is questioning your truthfulness.
- Inconvenient: Personal injury cases can be inconvenient because they require your participation when you have a personal and work life to attend to.
- Insulting: Personal injury cases can be insulting when the other side makes a lowball settlement offer.
- Tedious: Personal injury cases can be tedious because of how long they sometimes take to resolve.
With all that being said, if you were injured and someone else is to blame, you deserve to be compensated for that. After all, you’re going to require medical treatment and accumulate medical bills anyhow, so why not be reimbursed for them, right? And having an Orange County personal injury attorney in your corner at least helps make the process a little less confusing and frustrating.
How Does a Lawyer Help in a Personal Injury Case?
You probably want to know what the process will look like if you do decide to move forward with a personal injury case. I’m going to walk you through the standard timeline of a personal injury case from the time someone decides to hire our legal services.
Maybe you’re the type of person that doesn’t like doctors’ offices, so you don’t go see one even though you know you’re injured. Or maybe you don’t go see a doctor because you don’t realize right away that you’re injured. Either way, you should go see a doctor after an accident. The first thing you should do after being involved in any type of accident is to seek medical attention. The medical records serve as your evidence in a personal injury case.
Investigating the Claim
Your injury attorney will investigate the claim while you’re busy treating for your injuries. This includes taking your statement, taking witness statements, collecting photographs and video footage, obtaining a copy of the traffic collision report, opening up claims with insurance companies, communicating with health insurance, requesting employment records, running background searches, etc. Your focus should be on getting healthy while your personal injury lawyer handles the rest in the background.
Obtaining and Reviewing Medical Records
Once you’re finished treating for your injuries, your personal injury attorney will request all of your medical records and bills from each medical facility you’ve seen. Your attorney will then review each medical record to help them establish a narrative for your personal injury case in the form of a demand letter.
Sending the Demand Package
Once your personal injury lawyer has written a demand letter asking for a settlement amount and compiled all of your medical records and bills in the form of exhibits, they’ll send this demand package to the at-fault party, or their insurance company, or their legal counsel. The other side will then have a deadline (e.g., 30 days) to appropriately respond to your demand package.
Negotiating a Settlement
The other side might simply accept your demand, in which case negotiations aren’t even necessary. If the other side doesn’t accept your demand but makes a reasonable starting offer, your attorney will enter into negotiations and hopefully settle your injury claim. However, if the at-fault party refuses to negotiate or simply makes bad offers, then a lawsuit may be necessary.
Filing a Lawsuit
A majority of personal injury cases in Orange County are capable of settling out of court. But sometimes filing a suit is necessary to get the other side to take your claim seriously and make a reasonable settlement offer.
Negotiating Medical Bills
Once you’ve reached a settlement, whether that be out-of-court or after filing suit, your personal injury attorney will begin the final phase of your case—negotiating your medical bills down.
This entails reaching out to each medical provider you saw for your injuries and verifying whether there’s any outstanding balance. The bill might be owed in full because you don’t have health insurance or because the medical provider refused to bill your health insurance. Or the bill might have an outstanding amount that represents your co-pay, deductible, or co-insurance. Either way, your lawyer will negotiate the amount due on your behalf.
This entails reaching out to your health insurance, which may have a right to reimbursement for medical bills they paid for on your behalf. Remember, the at-fault person is compensating you for your medical bills. So, if your health insurance paid for your medical bills and the defendant is now paying for those same bills, then this is called a double recovery and the law doesn’t like that. Therefore, your health insurance may seek reimbursement from your personal injury settlement for bills they paid for on your behalf. Your attorney will negotiate the reimbursement amount due to your health insurance.
How Long Does It Take to Resolve a Personal Injury Claim?
There might be nothing more frustrating for clients than how long it can take for a personal injury claim to settle. Part of the problem lies in the fact that clients and attorneys usually have very different definitions of what is a “long” amount of time. The client is basing their definition off of what they’ve heard from friends and family and the attorney’s professional experiences might tell a different story. That’s why it’s important for your attorney to be sensitive to this fact and do a good job communicating how the facts of your particular case might affect the timeline differently than you might have realized.
You’ve probably also heard that no two cases are alike, and it’s true. There are so many factors at play that affect the length of time it takes to settle a personal injury claim. Even two claims that seem nearly identical in every single way can have very different timelines simply based on who the defendant was insured with and how large their policy is.
For example, suppose two 30-year-old women both sustain the same catastrophic injuries after being attacked by a pit bull in Anaheim, California. For one of them, the dog owner is insured for $500,000 with Allstate Insurance, and for the other, the dog owner is insured for $100,000 with Farmers Insurance. Chances are that the claim against Allstate is going to take substantially longer to settle than the claim against Farmers; Allstate is notorious for forcing claimants to file suit to get what they deserve, especially when they have a larger policy to protect.
Because there are so many factors that affect the timeline of a personal injury case, the range can be quite wide. With that being said, I’ve gone ahead and calculated the average time it’s taken me to settle personal injury claims in Orange County over the years. Personal injury claims in Orange County take 12 months on average to settle from the date of being injured.
Your claim might take longer if it can’t be settled out of court and instead has to be litigated. Just keep in mind, though, that the statute of limitations limits the time you have to file a lawsuit. The statute of limitations for a personal injury case in California is generally two years from the date of being injured. It’s important that you consult with an Orange County personal injury lawyer to make sure your claim is protected.
How Much Is a Personal Injury Case Worth?
Before moving forward with your personal injury claim, you probably want an answer to the million-dollar question: how much is my claim worth?
There are four elements to proving any personal injury claim
- Breach of duty
We won’t discuss the details of each element here, but just know what when you are asked how much your personal injury claim is worth, you’re really asking what your “damages” are.
Deciding what your “damages” are worth is traditionally the province of a jury. However, only about 3 percent of personal injury cases actually ever go to trial according to the American Judges Association. A majority of personal injury claims settle sometime before that for an amount that is an estimation of what a jury might think your claim is worth.
This estimation is a cumulation of a bunch of different categories that are added up to one lump sum. These are the different categories of damages that you’re entitled to recover from in a personal injury case in California:
- Medical Bills
- Lost Wages
- Lost Earning Capacity
- Pain and Suffering
- Emotional Distress
- Physical Impairment
- Loss of Enjoyment
The value assigned to each of these categories can be subjective to some degree, but none more so than pain and suffering. Because pain and suffering are so subjective, the range of value for any one personal injury claim can vary quite a bit.
With that being said, I’ve gone ahead and calculated the average settlement amount for personal injury claims that I’ve settled in Orange County. The average settlement for a personal injury case in Orange County is $35,000. However, the outcome of each personal injury claim depends on the facts of the case and many other factors, so no lawyer can guarantee a positive result for any particular claim.
Are Personal Injury Lawyers Free?
Personal injury lawyers in Orange County work on a “contingency fee” basis. A contingency fee arrangement is where an attorney only gets paid contingent upon winning your case. An attorney who loses your case by failing to secure a settlement gets nothing. But an attorney who successfully recovers money on your behalf takes a percentage of your total settlement.
The agreed-upon percentage that a personal injury lawyer takes from the recovery varies from attorney to attorney. You’ll want to ask this question during your consultation. Most personal injury attorneys in Orange County have contingency fee agreements that entitle them to take 1/3 of your total recovery. However, the percentage will probably be higher if your case has to be litigated, usually 40 percent.
For example, let’s say you have medical bills that cost $15,000, lost wages that total $5,000, and pain and suffering that’s valued at $10,000. You ultimately settle your personal injury claim out-of-court for $30,000. Your personal injury lawyer in this hypothetical would take $10,000 from your $30,000 settlement. But if your personal injury lawyer obtains the $30,000 settlement after filing a lawsuit, he would take $12,000.
This contingency fee arrangement is in contrast to other types of attorneys who use a retainer fee arrangement, like divorce lawyers. A retainer fee agreement is where a client is required to pay the attorney an upfront fee in order to retain their services. This type of agreement will also usually contain the lawyer’s hourly rate. You don’t pay a personal injury lawyer by the hour.
Schedule a Free Consultation With an Orange County Personal Injury Attorney
As personal injury lawyers, we regularly represent the interests of victims who have been treated unfairly by an insurance company. Crockett Law Group is committed to handling your injury claim from start to finish and will fight to make sure that you receive the money you deserve. If you’ve been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, contact Crockett Law Group to speak with a personal injury attorney at (800) 900-9393.