Over 15,000 automobile accidents in San Diego a year leave many injured and unable to pay their bills.
If you’re one of them, you need us.
We’re expert attorneys in the field of car accident injuries. We can help you get the compensation you deserve, just like we did for our client, Lahib. Hear what he has to say…
Just what compensation from your accident are you entitled to?
Property damage: This includes damages to your car and other personal property.
Past & Current Medical Bills: If you were seriously injured in an auto accident, or even if you only suffered minor injuries, you are entitled to full compensation.
Future Medical Bills: You may not be fully healed, or you may have injuries that have long-term effects that need ongoing medical treatment. We are well-versed on what those may be and what their potential value is. We’ll fight for these for you.
Current and Past Lost Wages: If you could not work because of your injuries, you are entitled to seek recovery for any and all lost wages.
Future Lost Wages: While ongoing lost wages are easy to calculate, future lost wages are not. Will you be able to work next month or next year? It’s not always easy to predict. We know how to get you the maximum amount you are entitled to.
Pain and Suffering: This is not easy to put a value on, but here again you are entitled to compensation for any pain and suffering you have to endure as a result of your car accident whether it be physical or mental. We will seek to recover money for all the pain and suffering you have already endured, and that which you may have to endure in the future.
Loss of enjoyment: If you are no longer able to do the activities you once enjoyed because of your injuries, you deserve compensation.
Be careful! Though entitled, with one simple misstep you can lose it all.
First, insurance companies want you to believe your case is worth less than it is.
Dealing with the aftermath of auto accidents is never easy. Complicated insurance policies and new comparative fault systems lead to increasing confusion about the rights of the car accident victim. As a result, some victims sign away a lot of their due compensation to insurance companies in exchange for a small payment, not understanding that they may be entitled to more when a negligent driver causes harm on the road.
Insurance companies often try to pay a token settlement to accident victims, but these are often not enough to even begin to pay for the expenses associated with an accident.
You don’t need to settle for less. With our expert attorneys on your side, we can help you get more.
Then there’s you. There are 20 ways you can ruin your car accident claim.
With the insurance company trying to hard to give you less than you deserve, you need to try hard to not give them anything they can use against you. Here are the common mistakes accident victims make that can completely blow their case.
Click the + to get the details.
Never admit fault in a car accident even if you think you’re at fault because subsequent investigation may find your only partially at fault or not at fault at all.
In many instances, the at-fault driver will try to convince you not to call the police. The at-fault driver may even tell you he or she is at fault and his or her insurance company will pay for everything. You then trust that person and don’t call the police. The at-fault driver then calls his or her insurance company and says you were completely at fault. Now you don’t have a police report with an investigation into what caused the car accident and a decision as to who was at fault. You’ve now given the at-fault driver’s insurance company a reason to deny your claim or, at least, offer you much less money on your claim.
One of the biggest mistake you can make after a car accident is not going to see a doctor immediately. It’s very important to seek prompt medical attention, not only for your health and well-being, but also to document your injuries as soon as possible. If you delay getting medical treatment, it could be devastating to your case because the insurance company will take the position that you weren’t hurt after the crash or you were hurt less than you say you were. They might even argue your injury resulted from some other cause other than the car accident. Don’t let the insurance company diminish your claim or try to shift the cause of your injuries. Seek immediate medical attention.
If you don’t have a doctor, we can provide you with a list of doctors we work with in San Diego and surrounding areas who will treat you right away without you paying until the end of the case. That means you could get immediate medical care for your injuries and the doctor will be paid at the end of your case from the proceeds of your settlement.
It’s vitally important to follow your doctor’s recommendations and treatment plan after your car accident. Having a gap in your treatment could be fatal to your case because the insurance company will argue that your injuries have resolved once you stopped treating, or that they were minor to begin with because you weren’t following your own doctor’s treatment plan. If some event happens in your life where you must take a break from treatment, such as a death in the family or a vacation, make sure you let your doctor know so that he can document your file so that you have an explanation for the gap in treatment. Then resume with your medical care as soon as you can.
This is one of the most common traps people fall into when trying to make an auto accident injury claim. Some people don’t remember having previous injuries, while others think they can outsmart the insurance company or the defense attorney. Both always fail miserably. Insurance companies share information and have databases that know if you’ve been injured in previous accidents. Insurance defense attorneys are legally permitted to subpoena your prior records and will know about your previous injuries. At a deposition, they will ask you if you’ve ever had a pre-existing injury to the same body part that is now injured in hopes that you say “no”. Once you say “no”, they can now paint you out to be a liar to the jury. CACI jury instruction number 107 is an instruction the jury will hear. It says “However, if you decide that a witness did not tell the truth about something important, you may choose not to believe anything that witness said.” If you are caught in a lie, a savvy insurance attorney is going to argue to the jury that they should disregard your entire testimony.
Watch out for this mistake. Take the time to think far back if you’ve ever complained to any healthcare provider about the same body part that’s now injured in your case. The insurance company may get these intake sheets and then use it against you at trial.
Here’s how the cross examination may go.
“Ms. Doe, do you remember filling out the intake sheet at Dr. Smith’s office?”
“This is your signature on the intake form, true?”
“You were asked if you had any pre-existing injuries to your neck, true?”
“And you answered ‘No’, true?”
“That wasn’t a true statement was it?”
Now they’ve made you out to be untruthful. And that is devastating to a jury.
One of the worst things you can do is not tell the truth when your asked a question about your case. Remember, the way the insurance company will attack you is to make it look like you’re not telling the truth. They do this because they know jurors don’t like to award compensation to someone who isn’t truthful. Even if you think telling the truth may hurt your case, it could be far worse if you get caught in a lie. Your credibility at every stage of your case is crucial to a successful outcome.
Don’t exaggerate your injuries. Juries won’t believe you and neither will your own doctor. That will ruin your case. Be truthful at all times.
If you don’t tell the doctor all of your injuries, the doctor’s report will not mention all of your injuries which makes it very difficult to prove your unmentioned body part was injured in the accident.
Here’s what the cross examination at trial may look like.
“Ms. Doe, you treated with Dr. Smith for your back injuries?”
“When you saw Dr. Smith two days after the accident, isn’t it true you never complained of neck pain?”
How bad does this look that you didn’t tell the doctor you had neck pain? It’s devastating! Make sure you tell your doctor all of your injuries, even if the injury is minor, so at least you document the injury and so that if it gets worse, the insurance company can’t argue that you never mentioned it before.
Remember that the insurance company is looking to find ways to attack your truthfulness. They are looking for you to say different things to different doctors at different times so they can label you out to be a liar. Try to be consistent with all of your doctors. If you’re treating with a podiatrist for your foot injury, let them know you also have neck pain.
The at-fault driver’s insurance company may call you after the accident and ask you to give a recorded statement. They want a recorded statement for several reasons.
- First, if fault is at issue, they may get you to make a statement that supports their position that you caused the accident.
- Second, if fault is not at issue, they want to pin you down on your statements about your injuries. Let me give you an example.
Suppose Jane is involved in a not so uncommon rear-end auto accident on Interstate 15 in San Diego on January 1 and injured her neck and back. The next day, on January 2, an adjuster calls her to take her recorded statement. During the recorded statement, the adjuster asks Jane to state all of her injuries. Jane’s back hurts much more than her neck so she says ”I’ve got bad back pain”. The adjuster then asks Jane to rate her back pain on a scale of 1 to 10. Jane says “it’s a 5 out of 10″. The adjuster then asks, “Have you told me about all of your injuries?” Jane says “yes”. Then, a week later, Jane neck pain gets worse and she notices she’s got shooting pain (now an 8 out of 10) running from her lower back down to her right leg.
If the case goes to court, here’s what the insurance defense attorney will likely argue to the jury. “Ladies and gentlemen, we asked Jane in a recorded statement the very next day if she had any injuries from the accident. She told us that she had back pain and the level of her back pain was a 3 out of 10. When we asked her if she had any other injuries, she said no. She never told us about any neck pain or any pain running down her right leg and now she claims it’s an 8 out of 10.”
The defense attorney will make Jane out to be an exaggerating liar who sees this as an opportunity to make money.
All this could have been avoided if Jane simply didn’t give a recorded statement.
- Third, they want you to make inconsistent statements. During your case, there will be several instances when you make statements about your case. You might make a statement to the police at the scene. You might give a recorded statement to the insurance company. Each time you treat with a doctor, you make a statement about your injuries. If you file a lawsuit, they may take your deposition and you will make statements during the deposition. The insurance company has the right to send you to their doctor to be examined prior to trial who will take your history. If the case proceeds to trial, you will take the stand and make statements. During all these times you make statements, the insurance company will be looking for inconsistent statements you’ve made so that they could argue to the jury that you’re not being truthful and that they should disregard your entire testimony. In fact, there’s even a California Jury Instruction (CACI 107) which says “However, if you decide that a witness did not tell the truth about something important, you may choose not to believe anything that witness said.”
Beware if a friendly insurance adjuster calls you after an accident. These people are highly trained and you should never speak to them. In California, you’re not under any legal obligation to give the other driver’s insurance company a recorded statement, so don’t do it.
At our office, our attorneys control the information the insurance adjuster receives and we give them only what we want them to see.
The insurance company may ask you to sign a HIPPA medical authorization which would allow them to get copies of your confidential medical records so that they can go on a fishing expedition through your past medical records to try to find injuries that are similar to the injuries you’re claiming were caused by the accident so they can argue your injuries were pre-existing and not caused by this car accident. They are not entitled to this information.
Here’s an example. Suppose Jane saw her doctor six months before her accident because she slept wrong and had some back pain. The doctor’s report from six months ago states “Patient complains of lower back pain”, but doesn’t mention anything about the cause which was that Jane just slept on it wrong. Six months later, Jane is rear ended in an auto accident and complains of lower back pain. If the insurance company gets Jane’s previous records, they will argue the car accident didn’t cause Jane’s lower back pain, that it was a preexisting injury evidenced by a doctors report six months before the accident.
This is another way they diminish your claim so don’t sign any paperwork that the insurance company gives you.
After a car accident, if you’re able to photograph the evidence, you should. For instance, if there are shards of glass from a headlight that were in the number two lane, take a photo of the shards which shows they are in the number two lane. This way, if the at-fault driver argues you came into his number one lane and crashed into him, you’ve got the evidence to prove otherwise.
Also, many car accident victims sustain bruises over their bodies which should be photographed and preserved as evidence. This is especially important in minor impact cases where the insurance company argues your injury is a soft tissue whiplash injury. The bruising shows the severity of the trauma to the injured area.
There are time limits which apply to bring a lawsuit. In California, absent certain exceptions, you have a two-year statute of limitation to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. If you delay beyond two years, you may be time barred and forever lose your rights to bring a claim.
If you make one or more of the above-mentioned mistakes before you hire a personal injury lawyer, these mistakes could significantly devalue your case. Insurance adjusters and their attorneys are trained to evaluate claims. Remember, insurance companies are not in business to pay you compensation, their goal is to maximize profits for their shareholders. You might be offered offer a quick settlement in exchange for a written release that closes your case. The offer is usually far less than what your case is worth because they don’t want you to hire an attorney so that they can pay you less money for your injuries.
An experienced personal injury attorney is in a better position to evaluate, handle and negotiate your case on your behalf. In many instances, certain laws apply when you hire a lawyer that allow you to substantially reduce your medical bills and save you money. If you’re looking to hire a lawyer for your personal injury case, give me a call and I’ll meet with you one on one to give you honest and accurate advice.
There will be many opportunities throughout your case where you will make statements. Maybe you gave a recorded statement before you hired a lawyer for your car accident case. Every time you saw a doctor you gave a statement about your injuries that will be documented in your records. You may even have your deposition taken where you’ll be asked many questions under oath. You may be required to be evaluated by a doctor hired by the insurance company who will take a history of you by asking you many questions which will then be recorded into a medical report. Finally, if your case goes to trial, you’ll make even more statements if you testify before a jury. Think about all the statements you’ve made about your injuries and your case. The lawyer for the insurance company will look for any inconsistencies you made at every stage and point those out to a jury and argue that you weren’t being truthful because your statements were inconsistent. Make sure that you keep in mind that every time you make a statement, whether it’s to your doctor or someone else, that you’re being consistent.
People either forget they were involved in a car accident because it happened long ago or think that if they say they were in a previous accident, it will hurt their case. Insurance companies all share information about who’s been in auto accidents that you were involved in in the past, so if you’re asked if you’ve been in a previous accident, tell the truth. They already know the answer and they’re hoping you say no so that they can attack your credibility and diminish your case.
Don’t gamble with your settlement
There is too much that can go wrong if you try to handle your case by yourself. So we advise all car accident victims to consult with a personal injury lawyer before accepting any settlement whatsoever – and definitely before you speak to an insurance agent. The right personal injury attorney understands the legal system and their clients’ rights and can help them obtain the compensation they truly deserve versus a token settlement that does not cover their needs or acknowledge their pain and suffering. (In the event of death in car accidents, these cases may fall under the umbrella of “wrongful death,” in which case family members should seek restitution with the aid of an attorney. See our San Diego Wrongful Death Lawyer page for more information.)
The attorneys here at the Elia Law Firm in San Diego are experts in car accident injuries as they relate to liability and understand how frustrating an auto accident can be for victims and their families. We’re committed to helping our clients fight for justice and compensation – and back up that commitment with a long background in injury law and an excellent reputation in the legal community both in San Diego and the surrounding areas.
Have you been hurt in a car crash in San Diego, El Cajon, La Mesa, Chula Vista or any other San Diego surrounding town? Don’t delay – you may have limited time to retain an attorney and file a civil lawsuit. Don’t wait. Call today.
Call (619) 444-2244 today or submit the form on this page for a free consultation. No fee until we win!
More information about car accidents in San Diego
The statistics are staggering, and despite recent improvements in car crash ratings and public awareness of auto safety, car accidents remain one of the biggest causes of death in the United States. Every year more than 2.5 million Americans are injured, and over 40,000 killed in traffic accidents. In San Diego alone, there were over 15,000 car accidents in 2013 according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Many severe auto accidents take place at high speeds and on major roads like Highway 5 going in and out of San Diego.
The severity of a car accident depends on a variety of factors including safety belt use, road conditions, auto repair issues, and time of day. In just a moment, the occupants of a vehicle that sustains an auto accident can see their trip turn from routine to devastating. The injuries suffered from auto accidents are as varied as their victims. Everything from bruises and scrapes to broken bones, whiplash, facial disfigurement, paralysis, traumatic brain injury, and death can await an auto accident victim. And gaining competent medical treatment is often only the beginning of the victim’s long struggle for justice and compensation for issues such as ongoing medical care, pain and suffering, necessary psychiatric intervention, lost wages, and the need for vocational rehabilitation.