Personal Injury FAQ
Your Questions Answered by Our Orange County Personal Injury Attorney
How does the current economic crisis affect your insurance claim?
Insurance companies typically make a portion of their profits from investing
the premiums paid by their policyholders. Insurance companies invest in
the stock market and other markets that historically offer a good rate
of return. Consequently, when the return on their investments suffer,
so does their ability and willingness to pay claims. Along with other
factors, what this means to the claimant is that insurance companies are
now, more than ever, tightening their belts and disputing even more claims.
So, when researching what law firm should best represent you, make sure
you know that law firm understands the big picture and is willing and
prepared to fight hard to maximize your claim.
How to select the right law firm
Not too big, not too small, make sure you find a law firm that is just
right for you. Choosing the right law firm is extremely important because
not all law firms are created equal. Some of the distinguishing factors
to look for include finding attorneys that provide personal attention
and do not merely shift the case to someone else to perform the work.
Also, listen to your instincts and ensure that the attorneys are honest
and up front with you.
We are willing to provide direct answers to your questions. Finding an
attorney can be similar to finding the right physician, it is a relationship
that is based on trust, confidence, and open communication. Beware of
attorneys that promise specific results and tell you what you want to
hear, just to obtain your business. We invite you to meet one our attorneys
in person so we can show you firsthand, the commitment of Cohn & Swartzon,
P.C. to our clients.
How increased vehicle safety may affect your claim.
The days of the large, heavy steel cars are quickly coming to an end. Nowadays,
cars are being designed and constructed with crush zones, where the car
itself helps absorb the energy of a front or rear impact instead of the
passengers. Cars also have numerous air bags to further protect the passengers.
Thus, as a matter of simple economics, it is less expensive for the insurance
industry to fix or declare a car a total loss, than it is to pay potentially
hundreds of thousands in medical bills alone, thereby saving the insurance
industry a tremendous amount of money.
With safer cars, the insurance industry also attempts to categorically
argue, often without a medical examination, that your injuries could not
be as severe as you claim. This is simply not always true. Make sure the
law firm you hire understands the dynamics of an automobile crash and
the impact on the passengers, and as with Cohn & Swartzon, P.C., has
mechanical experts available to counter the insurance company's arguments
What is a release of claims?
A general release is a written agreement whereby a claimant releases (or
gives up) some or all claims he or she may have against another person
or entity in exchange for something, usually the payment of money. This
is generally a short form that is used to settle property damage or
personal injury claims. It is extremely important to read and understand the exact terms
of the release before signing, so you do not release or up give claims
you may have. For example, in settling your claim for property damage
to your vehicle, make sure you are not giving up your rights to pursue
a claim for your personal injuries which can be easily included and hidden
within the release agreement. When in doubt, always have a law firm such
as Cohn & Swartzon, P.C. review the release before signing.
Is a personal injury settlement or judgment taxable?
Sometimes, a personal injury award or settlement can have tax consequences,
such as if a portion of the award or settlement is to compensate you for
past, present or future loss of earnings. It is important that the law
firm you select be aware of these potential consequences and that you
seek the advice of a certified public accountant (CPA) and possibly even
a tax attorney to understand how an award or settlement may impact you
and your family.
Can I change lawyers?
Often, people who are injured or are grieving a loss, retain the first
lawyer they see, then later realize they made a mistake. However, attorney
retainer agreements are not like normal contracts, clients can switch
lawyers at any time, for any reason. At Cohn & Swartzon, P.C., we
welcome new clients who might be unhappy with their current lawyer and
can make the process fast, easy and embarrassing by contacting the first
attorney directly on your behalf.
Are you properly insured?
One of the most important things as a driver or vehicle owner, especially
in California, is to make sure you are properly insured. There is a common
misconception that car insurance is “one size fits all” and
if you have “full coverage” you are totally protected and
have nothing to worry about. This is not correct. It is one of those things
you just do not think about, until AFTER something bad happens. Insurance
is important to protect you and your families assets.
If you’re at fault in an accident that's covered by your policy,
and other people (or property) are injured or damaged, Liability coverage
helps protect you from the cost of these damages. However, if you are
involved in an accident, and the other party incurs monetary damages that
exceed your policy limits, you
may be held personally responsible to pay for these damages. This may force
you and your family into economic turmoil.
You may be forced to sell your home, car, or valuables. With proper coverage,
you can guard the valuable assets you’ve worked hard to collect
(such as your home, retirement funds, stock or bond investments, etc.).
Without proper coverage, these assets could be lost. In cases of accidents
involving these factors, it is best to have an experienced personal injury
law firm like Cohn & Swartzon, P.C. working with you to protect your
legal rights and assets.
At a minimum, everyone in California should have some Uninsured/Underinsured
Motorist Coverage. Generally, Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
should be the same (or similar) limits to your liability coverage. Uninsured
motorist coverage will allow you to be covered when you have an accident
with someone who does not have insurance but is legally responsible for
This type of coverage also applies to hit and run situations as well. An
underinsured motorist policy will allow you to be covered when you have
an accident with someone who has liability insurance with limits that are
lower than your uninsured motorist coverage limits. In cases of accidents involving
these complicated types of insurance, it is best to hire a firm like Cohn
& Swartzon, P.C. that understand these issues.
What to do first after injury.
The first thing to do after an injury, regardless of the cause, is to assess
your situation. If there is any doubt, call 911 for help as many injuries
may be worse than expected. Regardless of how you feel after the accident,
it is always a wise decision to consult with a medical provider to determine
the extent of your current injuries and assess possible future injuries.
Many people feel fine right after a
car accident, slip and fall or other accident. Soon after, however, then realize they
are hurt. Waiting can cause further injury which could have been avoided
by seeking medical attention. After an injury, you must focus on protecting
your health and legal rights.
Insurance Company Tactics.
Delay, Deny and Defend. Insurance companies are in business to make money and please its shareholders.
These companies systematically deny coverage of valid claims in order
to boost their bottom line, often rewarding employees for denying valid
claims. People often make the mistake of thinking they can simply handle
claims with insurance companies on their own. What they don’t realize
is that insurance companies attempt to delay even dealing with claims
in hopes that the average person will give up and just go away.
These companies systematically deny coverage of valid claims in order to
boost their bottom line, often rewarding employees for denying valid claims.
Insurance companies (even a claimants own insurance company) routinely
take advantage of unrepresented claimants with falsehoods, false promises
and false facts. These companies use “insurance speak” to
They improperly provide “advice” and use strong arm tactics
to get claimants to go away or to agree to a settlement for pennies of
what the claim is worth. Even if you think you are successful at dealing
with insurance adjusters, they may simply be setting you up to defend
a case against you, even if the other person is 100% at fault. You need
a law firm like Cohn & Swartzon, P.C. who understand the insurance
company tactics and will properly handle your claim to maximize your recovery
and fight for you.
Beware of settling insurance claims too early.
Even if you are able to get a settlement offer from an insurance company
for your injuries, pain or even your property damage, they might be trying
to settle quickly because they know that you are entitled to additional
recovery. If you settle to early, you may be forever barred from any additional
recovery, even you have additional injuries, pain or have discovered more
damage to your property related to the same accident. Have lawyers like
Cohn & Swartzon, P.C. make sure you receive every penny you deserve.
What is a contingency agreement?
A contingency fee is an agreement whereby the client pays no fees unless
and until there is a recovery in the lawsuit. Such fees are usually based
on a percentage of the proceeds. Such agreements may also be dependent
upon various factors including the nature and complexity of the matter,
the risk involved, the cost in pursuing the matter, and the likelihood
of success. The benefit of a contingency agreement is two-fold. First,
you don’t receive a monthly bill from your attorney for the time
spent on the case. Second,
if there is no recovery, there is no fee! At Cohn & Swartzon, P.C. you will never pay any fees if there is no recovery.
Replacing seat belts and car seats after an accident.
Many people have no idea that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
(NHTSA) recommends that any seat belts that were in use (either by a passenger
or installed car seat, occupied or not) should be replaced. In fact, many
automobile manufacturers recommend (review your manual) replacing all
seat belts in their cars after an accident, whether they were utilized
by a passenger or not.
Seat belts, like car seats and airbags, are considered by NHTSA to be single‑use
items and should be replaced after a crash. These are damages that the
responsible party should be responsible for paying (or your insurance
company if the at fault party was uninsured) pursuant to Insurance Code
sec. 11580.011 and Vehicle Code sec. 27362.. At Cohn & Swartzon, P.C.,
we realize that there are many important recoverable costs, such as costs
for seat belts and car seats, that our clients are entitled to receive.
What is GAP insurance?
Gap insurance insures a person for the difference between what you owe
on a vehicle and what an insurance company determines is the vehicle’s
fair market value. This insurance is a must for someone who is considering
purchasing a new vehicle since a new vehicle depreciates right after it
is driven off the dealer's lot. Depending on the policy, Gap insurance
usually covers accidents and thefts, but not all policies are the same,
so it's a good idea to evaluate the coverage being offered before
purchasing Gap insurance.