You’ve been hurt in a car crash on the 210 Freeway or you’ve slipped and fallen on a wet floor at a grocery store, thrown out your back and now you can’t work.
Christopher Brandlin, a civil law attorney who practices personal injury law, said that might be a good time to consult an attorney.
“You need to have someone who is experienced in this type of matter to give that person a general idea of what they can expect and how they can calculate what they should be receiving as part of a settlement,” Brandlin said. “And that only happens if liability is clear.”
So, what is an example of an accident with clear liability?
“A rear ender on the freeway is a clear liability,” he said. “But then again, the person who did the rear ending might try to say it was due to an unsafe lane change made by the other driver.”
Brandlin added: “In many cases, it is necessary to request the police report to verify liability.”
Brandlin also said that the average person who gets injured has no idea how to navigate the world of insurance companies and the medical system, often leaving him or her at a severe financial disadvantage.
“The person who is settling the case — either through himself or through his insurance company — usually tries to take advantage of the lay person,” he said. “The average person usually doesn’t have a good idea as to what he is entitled to. The lay person often just knows about the process from watching TV and might think he is entitled to $1 million just because he was in a fender bender.”
All while some who are injured overstate their value when proceeding into a settlement, Brandlin said there are those who really want nothing to do with the whole process. And those are the people who really need an attorney, otherwise they may waive their rights to bring a claim in the future if they try to file a claim a few years later.
“Some people just don’t want to deal with this,” he said. “And that’s a real good reason for retaining an attorney. If you hire an attorney you don’t have to deal with the day-to-day communications with an insurance company or the liable party or any kind of third-party adjusters. The attorney and his staff will do that for you.”
And while your situation might look clear cut to you, Brandlin said there are many different factors that are present when figuring out a proper settlement.
“The reality is you have to take into account a lot of information from a lot of different sources,” he said. “You have to look into the severity of the injury or injuries sustained in the accident as well as the amount of their treatment, whether there was any permanent damage, such as scarring or limitations for the rest of their life. They may or may not need surgery here. So, there are a lot of factors that come into play.”
So, how much can someone expect if liability is found? Brandlin said while it is fair, for example, to estimate two- to three-times your medical bills to be part of the settlement, there are always ways for insurance companies to get around that.
“You have to consider what was actually paid on those medical bills,” he said. “Maybe your bill is $5,000 but the insurance has a contract where they only pay a few hundred dollars on that bill. So, the liable party or the insurance company for the liable party will factor in only the expenses of what is actually paid on the bill, not what was billed.”
In addition to being injured, Brandlin said what often happens is that the person cannot work. So, what happens then?
“You would be entitled to a loss of earnings,” he said. “And that has to be documented by some type of medical provider, and you may need pay stubs or a letter from your employer as proof. You would use that as part of your demand package that in addition to all your medical expenses\ you would ask for a loss of earnings of whatever amount that is.”
Another reason Brandlin said why hiring an attorney is a good idea is because it makes your case stand out when dealing with insurance companies who often are trying to pay the minimum and walk away.
“They definitely take it much more seriously,” he said. “I know this from experience.”
And how much does a personal injury attorney cost? Brandlin said nothing initially.
“It’s typically on contingency,” he said. “If you don’t win your case, you don’t pay anything.”
If persons would like to discuss any aspect of civil law, including civil litigation and personal injury, they can phone Law Offices of Christopher P. Brandlin at (310) 421-4218 or log onto www.brandlinlaw.com.