Personal Injury/Wrongful Death

Personal Injury is an area of the law dedicated to compensating individuals who have been physically or financially harmed by another’s negligent or willful conduct. When we refer to someone’s conduct as “negligent,” we are generally speaking about someone who was acting carelessly and caused another person harm. This means that you may be entitled to compensation even if your injury was the result of an accident. However, “negligence” is also a legal term that carries many implications for your personal injury case. It is vital to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine whether you will be able to meet the burden of proof in bringing your personal injury claim.

Victims in a personal injury case may be able to recover money damages for lost wages, property loss, medical expenses, future lost income, and pain & suffering, depending on the situation. Your attorney will be able to explain what damages you may be entitled to.

What is a "serious injury"?

“Serious injury” is another way to describe personal injury. Types of serious injuries may be caused by:

  • Automobile, boating, and aviation accidents
  • Tourist injuries
  • Medical malpractice/negligence
  • Public/municipal transit injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Burn injuries (including caustic burns)
  • Amputation
  • Dangerous conditions

Why should I hire a lawyer?

A serious or personal injury claim requires you, the injured party, to meet the burden of proof. To meet the burden of proof in your injury claim, you will have to offer evidence that it is more likely than not that you were injured by the wrongful actions of another person—this is called a “preponderance of the evidence” and is what the jury will be instructed to look for.

If you are also seeking punitive damages for pain and suffering, the burden of proof is even higher. You will have to show by clear and convincing evidence that the other party acted with malice or fraudulently, meaning they knew what they were doing was wrong or false, that it would probably cause you harm, and they did it anyway.

It is very difficult to meet the burden of proof without the help of an attorney.

Personal injury claims also have statues of limitations. Without the help of an attorney, you might miss the deadline for filing your claim. If the deadline passes, no matter how good or fair your claim is, you will not be able to recover for your injuries.

What is "wrongful death"?

If a family member is killed because of another person’s negligence, this is a wrongful death. Your family, as next of kin, may be entitled to compensation for the loss of your loved one.

Who qualifies as "next of kin"?

People who are “next of kin” for purposes of being able to recover compensation for wrongful death are spouses, children, parents, domestic partners, and siblings. Your lawyer will be able to tell you who the next of kin are in your particular situation, and will also be able to explain the order of priority for each person’s claim.

What Kind of compensation am I entitled to?

If you have a valid wrongful death claim, and if you are next of kin to the deceased, you may be entitled to compensation for:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical expenses incurred prior to death
  • Loss of the decedent’s income
  • Loss of child support and household support
  • Loss of retirement and medical benefits
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium (available only to the surviving spouse or domestic partner)

Is there a time limit for filing my claim?

YES! Like in every area of the law, there is a time limit on filing your personal injury or wrongful death claim. This time limit, called the statute of limitations, will depend on the specific circumstances of your claim—the state in which the accident occurred, how it happened, who is involved, and other factors. For example, claims against most governmental entities in California must be filed with the correct agency within 6 months of the date of loss. This is why you must immediately contact an attorney when you feel that you have been injured by someone else’s actions. Your attorney will be able to determine the statute of limitations for your case and whether there is still time to make a claim.

If You've Been In An Accident

Being in an auto collision can be a very traumatic event. The shock that often comes after the impact itself can easily leave people at a loss. However, even in a stressful situation such as this it is crucial to stay calm and collected. Most individuals don’t realize it but the most important things you can do to protect yourself happen during the moments immediately following the accident. Here is a list of some basic rules to follow:

1. Stop. If you have been involved in an automobile accident, you are required by law to stop. If you don’t, you may be charged with a hit and run. Leaving the scene of an accident can be a very serious charge, much more so than a ticket.

2. Assess the scene. If it is safe to do so, move your car to the shoulder, out of the way of traffic. Do not attempt to move someone who is seriously injured. If someone is seriously hurt, call an ambulance and allow the paramedics to handle the situation.

3. Call the Police. Dial 911 and inform them that there has been an accident. Also tell them if there are any injuries. If you believe the other driver may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, inform the officers at the scene or the 911 operator.

4. Gather information. Information you should gather immediately following an automobile accident, if possible, includes the other driver’s name, address, phone number, date of birth, driver’s license number, insurance company name and policy number, car make, model, and license plate number.

5. Take pictures. Take as many pictures as you possibly can; of all the cars involved in the collision, the road, the traffic conditions, the position the cars were in when the accident occurred. Taking pictures is a vital part of scene re-creation that will help you prove your case further down the line. Plus, with the widespread availability of camera phones, there is no reason not to have all the evidence you need right in your pocket.

6. Speak to potential witnesses. If there are witnesses who saw how the accident occurred, take down their information and ask them to stay until the police arrive. If they are unable to wait, give the police the witnesses’ information.

7. DO NOT admit fault. Even if you believe the automobile accident is your fault, don’t volunteer to take the blame, agree to pay for damages, or sign any statement that assigns blame without being advised to do so by an experienced personal injury attorney. Many times an investigation will reveal that what you initially thought was your fault in fact turns out to be someone else’s.

8. DO NOT speak with the other driver’s insurance company. Although you should inform your own insurance company of the accident, you have no obligation to speak with the other driver’s insurer. You should also NEVER agree to give a recorded statement. If there is an adjuster for the other insurance company who attempts to assess the damage to your vehicle, do not speak with them about how the accident occurred.

9. Get a medical check-up. We recommend that you and your passengers get a medical check-up following an automobile accident. Some injuries are not immediately apparent, and a physical performed by your physician or other qualified medical professional can check for injuries that went unnoticed right after the accident. Because of the shock caused by a serious auto collision, many people do not begin to experience symptoms until later that day, or even several days or weeks afterwards.

10. Talk to an attorney first. Before speaking to an insurance company lawyer about how the automobile accident happened, make sure to first consult with a personal injury attorney about your case.