Compensation services we offer
Medical bill compensation
If you are even moderately injured, you likely sought medical treatment, for which you now have medical bills. These medical bills were incurred by you as a result of someone else’s actions, and they are therefore responsible for paying these costs for you.
Common vehicle accident injuries give rise to emergency room bills, chiropractor/orthopedist/physical therapy bills, x-ray and MRI bills and other, more specialize treatment bills. There are usually two phases to accident injury treatment: immediate diagnostic care and treatment and long-term rehabilitation. You have a legal right to compensation for both.
If you are very injured, your medical expenses can balloon to very high figures quickly. One crucial piece of information to know once your medical expenses get above about $5,000 is the extent of the at-fault person’s insurance coverage. In California, the minimum policy required to be carried by all drivers is $15,000 per person, $30,000 for the whole accident for bodily injury damages and $5,000 for property damage. Above $5,000 in medical expenses means that your claim is getting close to being worth $15,000, and the at-fault party might not have sufficient insurance to cover the full extent of your damages. For this reason, we recommend everyone carry at least $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This means that if you are hit by an uninsured motorist (no insurance at all, driving illegally) or someone simply carrying a minimum policy, you won’t be left in debt for an accident that someone else caused.
Loss of income compensation
Automobile accident injuries can cause you pain and injury such that you are not able to work for a period of time. This lost income is another form of economic harm that you have suffered because of someone else’s action.
If you cannot work because of your pain and injuries, you should talk to your doctor about the nature of your job and seeing if he or she thinks that you should rest instead of going back to work right away. If your doctor believes that, he or she will give you a note. This note is very helpful in getting your loss of income claim paid for by the at-fault party’s insurance company. The other important piece of the puzzle is a letter from your employer detailing the time you missed and your rate of pay.
Not only are the dollars you did not get paid collectable, but also the paid sick, personal and vacation time that so many injured people are forced to use due to accident injuries. After all, this was deferred compensation that someone else’s action caused you to have to use.
Loss of earning capacity
Sometimes an injury is so severe that you can no longer perform the work you were doing before the accident. Effectively, you have been displaced from your profession, all due to someone else’s actions. If your injury is such that you are demoted, or face no realistic probability of promotion, then you are entitled to the difference between what you would have made over the course of your working life had the accident injuries not happened, and what you will in fact make in your permanent disabled state. If you are rendered unable to perform any aspects of your prior career, then you would also be entitled to compensation for having to be retrained for another career. If you are completely disabled, then you are entitled to your loss of earnings from the remainder of your working life.
Property damage compensation
Your vehicle was likely damaged if you were in an accident. You are entitled to compensation for that damage, either through it being repaired or you being given the cash value if the vehicle is beyond repair (“total loss” or “totaled”). Additionally, you are entitled to a rental vehicle for the time which your vehicle is in the repair shop or the being “totaled out”. If you do not need or want a rental, you are entitled to the temporary loss of use of your property.
Additionally, the accident may have damaged or destroyed items within your vehicle, such as a child’s car seat or pair of glasses. Or perhaps you had just put new tires on your vehicle, the benefit of which you have now lost out on. You are entitled to additional compensation for these additional items.
As a complimentary service, we will handle your property damage claim for no fee to allow you to focus on getting healthy and getting back on your feet as soon as possible.
Pain and suffering compensation
Often, the worst part of any accident injury is the actual pain you suffer through while you heal, and the permanent pain you suffer from injuries that never fully heal. These harms, called “pain and suffering,” are generally the largest part of any jury award, and thus, the largest part of any settlement. Pain and suffering is subjective, and can be difficult to quantify. While you are likely all to aware of many of the harms you are suffering (pain, mood changes, exhaustion), some are more difficult to connect (depression, weight gain, relationship conflicts). We can help you connect all of the dots to most fully reflect the impact your injuries have had on your life.
Other foreseeable harms
While the above-mentioned means of recovery are the most common, they are not the only ones available. Any harm that you suffer is compensable, as long as it is foreseeable. Almost any harm that you suffer as a result of an automobile accident is foreseeable because it actually happened, and therefore, you can recover for it.
What to expect
Our goal and our job is to help you get back to where you were before you were injured – physically, mentally and financially.
First thing’s first – let’s get your car fixed. We handle this task for you because we know you are in pain and have many other things on your mind. We will coordinate getting your auto inspected and fixed as quickly as possible. We will also help get you into a rental vehicle so you have a way to get around while your vehicle is in the shop. If your car is totaled, we can help make sure you get the maximum cash value for your car. We do all of this for no fee, ever!
Next, let’s get you healthy. We can help you get the treatment you need without you having to go out of pocket. This is called treating on a lien, and the doctor defers getting paid until a settlement has been reached in your case. Thus, you never go out of pocket for your medical treatment until your settlement provides you the means by which to pay for your care.
You can expect that we will do the work for you and that we will be readily available to answer any questions you might have. Our staff and attorneys are very client-oriented, and you will never experience what so many people experience with other attorneys never calling them back because that is simply not how we work.
You can also expect top-notch results from our attorneys. We will fight to get you the results you deserve! Our promise to you is that we will do our best to make this situation as easy and as bearable as possible for you.
I just had an accident – what do I do?
Right after an accident, you will likely get an adrenaline rush that will make it difficult to think clearly about what to do next. If you are in need of immediate medical assistance, call 911. The police and paramedics will come to your aid. The paramedics will get you to the hospital, and the police will conduct the necessary investigation.
If you do not need immediate medical care, the police will likely not come to the scene, so you will need to do the investigation yourself. The information you will need will revolve around 2 themes: identifying the other person’s insurance information so that you can open up a claim and gathering the evidence to prove your assertion that the other person was at fault. With the high resolution of cell phone cameras, people are often exchanging information by taking pictures of each others’ license and insurance card. Also, get their phone number. You should also take a picture of the other person’s license plate so that the vehicle can be identified. Try to take pictures of the vehicles before you move them to aid in reconstructing the exact mechanism of the accident. Finally, take pictures of all the visible damage to each vehicle.
You should also check to see if the other driver is ok, but try not to talk about the specifics of the accident. If the other person readily admits fault, ask if you can take a short video with your cell phone to that effect. Often, if you suggest that or calling the police and letting them sort it out, a person will opt to allow the recorded statement so as to avoid having to wait for the police to come.
In the time following the accident, you may be contacted by either your insurance or the other person’s insurance and asked to give a recorded statement. Try to avoid doing so, especially for the other party’s insurance. As friendly as they are, they are trying to get you to say things that they can later use against you regarding fault and/or your injuries. Definitely do not state that you are not injured until a doctor renders a medical opinion.
Help! I need treatment but I don’t have health insurance/my health insurance doesn’t cover what I need. What do I do?
If you are not at fault for an accident that caused you injury, the at-fault party should, and will eventually, be the one to pay for your medical bills. However, accident cases can take some time to work through. To avoid you having to go out-of-pocket during this the time which your case is progressing, many health care professionals will front the treatment, opting to get paid when your case settles. This is ideal for you because you get the treatment you need now, and the doctor gets paid for this treatment when the case is resolved.
How long is my injury claim good for?
In California, you have 2 years to file a lawsuit for bodily injury before the statute of limitations expires. This means that you may treat for your injuries and see how your case develops for 2 years before a lawsuit must be filed to preserve your right to make a claim. Even after the lawsuit is filed, you may continue to seek treatment, however you must file a lawsuit within 2 years of the date of your injury or you will lose your right to recover.
This limit, however, is significantly shorter when you are making a claim against the government. For instance, if you were in an accident with a city bus or you tripped on a sidewalk hazard, your case would be against the government. In that case, you must first file a government claim with the appropriate government entity. You have only 6 months from the date of your injury to file this claim, or you lose the right to bring your claim. Upon filing of this claim, your claim will be reviewed and either (1) accepted, (2) rejected or (3) not responded to. If your claim is accepted, then you can engage in settlement discussions, but you must still file the lawsuit within 2 years of the injury if the case is not resolved within that time period. If your claim is rejected or not responded to within 45 days (presumed rejected), then you have 6 months from the date of rejection or presumed rejection to file a lawsuit. If this lawsuit is not filed, you will lose your right to bring your claim.
What does the insurance company look at when evaluating my claim?
Insurance companies are highly centralized and standardized. In evaluating your claim, they input into a computer a number of variables that are specifically related to your claim, such as the amount of damage to the vehicle, the doctors’ injury diagnoses and the cost of your medical treatment. They then compare these input to things like the average cost of equivalent treatment for providers in your area and the size of jury verdicts for similar cases in your area. Finally, they also examine how much it would cost to defend a lawsuit relating to your claim, and the likelihood of success in defending that lawsuit. The result of this assessment is a target settlement range. If they accept liability in your case, they will come in on the low end of that range. The job of any lawyer is to get them to the top of that settlement range, then make an argument for additional settlement funds to be authorized by bringing you and your case to life, and then present that top offer to you with the choice of acceptance or filing a lawsuit.
I hurt part of my body in this accident that I have had prior issues with/injuries to, what does that mean for my claim?
In an accident, the at-fault party is responsible for all injuries suffered by the other party. This includes new injuries as well as aggravation and compounding of old injuries. Prior injuries, whether related to a prior motor vehicle accident or something else, can weaken the tissue surrounding the injury, leaving it more susceptible to re-injury.
Even if a prior injury leaves your body more fragile than it ordinarily would be, your claim is not negatively impacted. In fact, these prior injuries often shed light on why you may be suffering so much pain even though your accident appears relatively minor.
What if I didn’t have vehicle insurance at the time of the accident?
You might think that it if some hits you, the fact of whether or not you have car insurance is irrelevant because, well, they caused the accident! Conceptually, you would be correct, but unfortunately, under Proposition 213, your case is in trouble. Under Prop 213, if you did not have car insurance, you are precluded from recovery pain and suffering damages. This means that you can only get your medical bills, property damage and lost income damages. You will receive nothing for the pain you went through for your injuries. Not surprisingly, it was the insurance companies who sponsored Prop 213.
Accident injury law in California
Your right to recover for automobile accident injuries is afforded by the civil laws of California. California gives a right to recover to anyone injured by someone else’s “negligence,” or carelessness.
To recover for someone else’s negligence, you must show that the other person behaved in an unreasonably careless manner, that that carelessness caused the accident, and that the accident caused you harm – physical, mental, emotional, financial or otherwise.
Whether or not that other person was careless while driving is usually determined by the California Vehicle Code. The California Vehicle Code is very specific, and has rules that govern almost every accident scenario, including rear-end accidents, left turn accidents, pedestrian crosswalk accidents and more.
California Vehicle Code Section 22350 puts the rear car at fault for a rear-end collision, even if the front car braked suddenly. This also applies to the first car that starts a chain reaction of more than 2 cars.
California Vehicle Code Section 21801 puts the burden of safety on the car turning left into the right of way of straight-traveling traffic.
California Vehicle Code Section 21750 allows drivers to pass slower moving traffic to the left of that traffic.
California Vehicle Code Section 21804 states that the vehicle turning onto a street from another street has the burden of only doing so when it is safe to.
California Vehicle Code Section 20016 gives police officers the right to transport injured people to the hospital, and relieves them of liability for any harm they may cause in doing so.
California Vehicle Code Section 21658 states that one may only change lanes when it is safe to do so. If an accident happens during a lane change, it is presumed that the lane change was unsafe.
Relevant Injury Case Studies
The cervical range of motion of elderly females is 27% less than that of young females; elderly males have 31% less cervical range of motion than young males (age group studied was 62-74 years). (13) Barzeley, M.E., Scientific Automobile Accident Reconstruction, N.Y. Matthew Bender Co.
Head restraints reduced the frequency of reported whiplash injuries by only 14%. Studies done on adjustable head restraints find that 70% were found in the down position. (13) Barzeley, M.E., Scientific Automobile Accident Reconstruction, N.Y. Matthew Bender Co.
A review of 40 patients who sustained neck injuries in road traffic accidents revealed that the incidence of residual symptoms of whiplash is 62%. The mean duration at follow-up was 12.5 years post-trauma. The review was of 40 patients consisting of 26 victims of whiplash and 14 from non-whiplash mechanism of injury. All claims had been settled within 2 years of injury. Of the whiplash group, 16 of 26 (62%) suffered protracted neck complaints. Only 2 of 9 non-whiplash injury victims (14%) remained symptomatic to some degree. Of symptomatic patients, 44% had to change permanently lighter work and 62.5% have had to modify their leisure activities. (26) Hodgson, S.P. and Grundy, M., Whiplash Injuries: Their Long-Term Prognosis and Its Relationship to Compensation, Neuro-Orthopedics 14, pp. 88-91.
Low back pain has significant prevalence throughout the general population a level of 25-42% being noted, it has a positive age relationship. (1)
The claimed level of back pain after injurious road traffic accidents varies between 27.4% and 60%. (11, 12)
In a study of low back pain caused by traffic accidents, accident vectors did not contribute to the presence of low back pain: the rear-impact group had a 44.4% prevalence, side impact 37.7%.
Regarding the neck, head inclination was not of relevance to suffering a neck injury of any form of back injury: those with an inclined head sustained 88.9% neck pain, 11.1% mid back pain, 41.7% low back pain as compared to 89.8%, 7.5% and 40.6% in the neutral group.
The study found that being braced at impact was not related to the percentage of low back pain when compared with the non-aware group (40.5% vs. 40.6%) the same was true with neck pain (90.1% vs. 89.8%) and mid back pain (9.5% vs. 7.5%)
In the same study, 5.5% of the subjects had low back pain without a neck injury, 72.2.% had a past medical history of low back pain, this compared with a 52% past history in the group with both neck pain and low back pain. (Beattie, N and Lovell, M., Injury, Int. J. Care Injured, 41 (2010) 144-146.)
Why Dunn, Carpio & Turner?
Our firm has a 40 year track record of helping that who have been injured in car accidents recover full and fair compensation. We have handled almost every imaginable scenario, and can help get you the recovery you are rightfully owed.
We work on a contingency basis, which means that you never pay out of pocket for our work, and we don’t get any fee if we do not recover for you. We will also handle getting your car fixed for no fee as part of our commitment to getting you back on your feet.
Our attorneys will communicate regularly with you about the progress of your case, and will be readily available for any questions you might have. Keeping you informed and making sure we are always on the same page is key.
We offer free consultations, so call us with any questions you may have and we can help you understand your options and the strength of your case.