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Frequently Asked Personal Injury Questions
Cohn & Swartzon is happy to provide answers to common questions that injured parties have before they secure legal representation. If you don’t see your question answered below, please contact us and we’ll be happy to answer it for you.
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 suffers, 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 will best represent you, make sure you know that the firm understands the big picture and is willing and prepared to fight hard to maximize your claim.
Not too big, not too small – make sure you find a law firm that is just right for you. Choosing the right 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, ethical, and upfront with you.
At Cohn & Swartzon, 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 of our attorneys in person so we can show you firsthand our commitment to our clients.
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 airbags to further protect 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. Make sure the law firm you hire understands the dynamics of an automobile crash and the impact on the passengers. At Cohn & Swartzon, we often have bio-mechanical and accident reconstruction experts available to counter the insurance company’s arguments against you.
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 give up claims you may have, or agree to things you may not be aware of. 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 review the release before signing.
Sometimes, a personal injury award or settlement can have tax consequences. This is true 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.
People who are injured or grieving a loss often retain the first lawyer they see, only to realize later that they made a mistake. Attorney retainer agreements are not like normal contracts, however; clients can switch lawyers at any time, for any reason.
At Cohn & Swartzon, we welcome new clients who might be unhappy with their current lawyers. We make the process fast, easy, and seamless by contacting the prior attorney directly on your behalf.
One of the most important things for a driver or vehicle owner to do, 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. Unfortunately, it is also one of those things you don’t think about until AFTER something bad happens. Insurance is essential to protect you and your family’s assets.
If you’re at fault in an accident that is 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, income property, 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, those 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 cover you when you have an accident with someone who does not have insurance but is legally responsible for your injuries.
This type of coverage also applies to hit-and-run situations. An underinsured motorist policy will cover you 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 and experienced firm that understands these issues.
The first thing to do after an injury, regardless of the cause, is to assess your situation. If there is any doubt about the seriousness of your injuries, 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 accidents. Soon after, however, they 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.
Delay, Deny and Defend. Insurance companies are in business to make money and please 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 dealing with claims in hopes that the average person will give up and eventually just go away.
Insurance companies (even a claimant’s own insurance company) routinely take advantage of unrepresented claimants with falsehoods, false promises, and false facts. These companies use “insurance speak” to confuse consumers.
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. that understands the insurance company tactics and will properly handle your claim to maximize your recovery.
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 too early, you may be forever barred from any additional recovery, even if you have additional injuries, pain or have discovered more damage to your property related to the same accident. Hiring the right attorneys can ensure you receive every penny you deserve.
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., we operate on contingency, and you will never pay any attorneys fees to Cohn & Swartzon if there is no recovery.
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.
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.
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Cohn & Swartzon take cases on a contingency basis, which means that we don’t get paid unless you do.
Contact us anytime for a free consultation to discuss your case. We treat every client and prospect with the care, respect, and dignity you deserve.