After practicing personal injury law for over 20 years, you start to see patterns with respect to how people handle, or should I say mishandle, their medical care after an auto accident. Here are 10 mistakes people make when dealing with medical care after a car accident:
1) They don't get medical attention immediately after a car accident - If you are hurt, don't wait around. Go get examined by a doctor as soon as possible. Some people say, "Oh, I was waiting for the insurance company to tell me what to do." There is no such thing. Insurance companies aren't interested in your medical care. Frankly, they don't want you seeking medical care. They want to keep their money to themselves. It is up to you to get medical care. The insurance company is not going to arrange for it. Insurance adjusters and juries often believe that if you don't get medical care right away, then you must not be hurt that bad.
2) They hide their previous health conditions from doctors (and their lawyer) - If doctors ask you about your past medical history, you have to be honest with them. Hiding your medical history doesn't help anyone. First, doctors want to help you, and knowing your medical history may assist them in doing that. Also, failure to disclose your complete medical history will only come back to haunt you later on when the insurance company is reviewing your past medical history. I can't tell you how many clients tell me, "Oh, I never had back pain before!" Then, we review their past medical records and lo and behold, they complained of chronic back pain 6 months prior to the accident! In short, be complete and honest with your doctors (and your lawyer).
3) Discussing legal issues or lawsuits with their medical provider - The doctor's job is to treat your injuries, not to give you legal advice. Also, some doctors are reluctant to treat you if they learn you might be entertaining legal action in the future. Of course, you can tell them about the car accident and your resultant injuries, but you shouldn't get into deep legal discussions and strategy sessions with your doctor.
4) Their injuries are not properly documented - Juries and insurance companies aren't going to believe you are injured simply because you say you are injured. If something isn't in your medical records, it never happened as far as most insurance companies are concerned. Make sure your medical providers properly document EVERY injury and challenge you have from the accident. I tell clients to imagine the insurance adjuster sitting on their shoulder, writing down everything they say. The insurance adjuster will only consider what's in the records.
5) They skip medical appointments and physical therapy appointments - Again, if you skip appointments, insurance companies and juries will assume you're not injured - otherwise, you wouldn't miss your appointments. You may have a perfectly wonderful excuse, but now you have to explain things. Time spent explaining missed appointments isn't great for your case.
6) Forgetting to inform the doctor about how the injuries are affecting your work - You want to make sure your medical records reflect how, if at all, your injuries are affecting your work. Recently, I had a client who wanted a much bigger settlement than what I thought was reasonable. He told me about how much pain he had at work and all the difficulties he was having at work due to his injuries. Here's the problem - none of his medical records said anything about those difficulties. They were silent on the issue. It's hard to prove something was "significant" if it's not in any of the records.
7) Not taking the medications prescribed - I know that some medications can make you feel groggy or make your stomach upset. However, if you are having side effects, tell the doctor and perhaps he/she can prescribe something different. Simply not taking your medication as prescribed can be used against you - some will argue that you weren't getting better because you didn't follow the doctor's advice. Of course, do what's best for you, as there are always exceptions.
8) You stop treatment too soon - Most insurance adjusters and juries believe that if you stop medical treatment, you must be completely healed. We all know there are hundreds of reasons why you might stop treating, but your reasoning won't necessarily be adopted by the insurance adjuster. Just realize that if you stop treatment too soon, you might be hurting your case - especially if you have residual injuries.
9) Ignoring possible psychological injuries - Most injuries are physical. However, sometimes your injuries can be psychological. If you are having a particularly difficult time coping after a severe car accident, you might be experiencing tremendous anxiety or worse. Ask your doctor if seeing a therapist would be a good idea - at least for an evaluation or assessment.
10) Not keeping a journal - You should take the time to document how your injuries are affecting you. That way, when you visit the doctor's office, you will be able to tell the doctor how you are doing and what progress (or lack thereof) you are making. Those notes can also help your attorney when presenting your case to the insurance company.
In most cases, after an auto accident, parties exchange information with one another at the scene of the accident. In some cases, this is done between the parties without any police involvement, especially if there has been no injury and the property damage is minor. If someone was injured, the police may come to the scene to investigate. In that case, police officers often separate the parties from one another so they can get independent accounts of what happened.
The police officers usually will collect insurance information from each party. In many cases, that insurance information won't be shared with the parties at the scene. Instead, the officers will recommend you obtain the police report which will have all the information on it. The problem is that some police reports takes weeks, sometimes months, to be prepared and made available to the parties. This can be problematic when you are trying to get your car fixed or make a claim, and you effectively have no idea who to call because you don't have the insurance information.
Next, just because you obtain the insurance information (either at the scene or via the police report) doesn't mean the other party actually had insurance. According to the Insurance Research Council, about 15% of all California drivers are driving without insurance. Truth be told, I personally believe the number is higher but that's simply based on my unscientific anecdotal experience. In any case, don't assume the other party had insurance because there is a chance they did not.
Why don't people have insurance? Well, perhaps it costs too much and they've decided to forego the expense. In other words, they are taking the chance of driving without insurance. For some people, the cost of auto insurance is simply a financial burden. So they roll the dice and play the odds. Also, some folks don't have insurance because they forgot to pay their premium on time. In the meantime, they later find out their insurance policy had been canceled due to nonpayment of premium.
Also, perhaps the driver was engaged in fraud or deception with their company. I once had a case once where the responsible driver and his passenger decided to switch seats before the police arrived. Apparently, he wasn't supposed to be driving and he was concerned the police would catch him in the act. Well, since they changed seats and gave the insurance company false information, the insurance company later decided NOT to cover them for the accident since they had lied to the company about who was driving.
In some cases, coverage may not be available if the person was engaged in a commercial activity. For example, I had a case once where the responsible party was delivering a pizza for a local pizza restaurant. He had the pizzeria sign on his own personal vehicle. The insurance company decided not to cover him because he was engaged in a commercial activity (delivering pizzas), an commercial activities were prohibited by his policy. His insurance policy only covered him for personal use of his vehicle - not commercial use. Sometimes, insurance coverage is pulled if they find out the person driving wasn't supposed to be driving that particular car - he or she was an excluded driver on the policy.
The moral of the story is to make sure you have plenty of "uninsured motorist" coverage on your own auto policy because there is a decent chance the person who caused the accident may not have any insurance for one reason or another. Just because you are presented with "proof of insurance" at the scene of the accident doesn't actually mean the person had insurance. It's certainly a good sign, but there's no guarantee.
When you file a claim for personal injury against the responsible party's insurance carrier, you will usually be assigned an "adjuster" to help you with your claim. If your claim is for property damage, you will be assigned a "property damage" adjuster. If your claim is for injury, you will be assigned a "bodily injury" adjuster. In some cases, the assigned adjuster will handle both the property damage claim and the bodily injury claim.
Keep in mind that while the adjuster is "helping" you with your claim, their unspoken job is to save money for the insurance company. After all, you are not employing the adjuster. They are employed by the insurance company and that's really where their allegiance is. While many adjusters will certainly do their best to help you, it will be within their company's guidelines and parameters. If push comes to shove, don't bet on the adjuster siding with you. Once again, their allegiance and loyalty belongs to their employer...not you.
If you are dealing directly with any insurance company, most of the time the claims adjuster will try to get you to settle for a very small amount. Usually, it's far less than what you deserve. Oftentimes, these "lowball" offers are made shortly after your accident because they know you are probably upset, distraught, and generally confused. Sometimes you're simply not in a position to make a reasonable decision. They figure you will take whatever they offer you because you might be afraid you won't get anything at all. Also, insurance companies know claims can take a long time, sometimes years to bring a lawsuit against their client and win a judgment in court. They are betting you are more apt to take the money presented to at the beginning rather than wait years for something better. Whatever happens, do not make a decision on impulse. In most cases, there is no "emergency" and no reason to rush to settlement. Make sure you discuss your matter with an experience lawyer first.
Some adjusters will employ specific tactics to their advantage. Some will even try to convince you to call another insurance company - sending you on a wilde goose chase. Sometimes they won't return your calls or your emails. In some cases, they will argue that you "waited too long" to file a claim. If you are bringing a claim against your own company, there might indeed be time limits, but generally speaking, you don't have to bring a claim immediately. Keep in mind there is a difference between making a claim and filing a lawsuit. You must be mindful of the "statute of limitations." Technically you currently have two years in California to file a lawsuit for personal injury against the responsible party from the date the accident occurs, unless your claim involves a municipality or other public entity in which case other time limts may apply. Of course, this is the current law and may change.
The insurance adjuster may also tell you they can only pay for your "out-of-pocket" expenses. That is not true. Your out-of-pocket expenses are only part of your overall claim. If your bills were paid by a health insurance company, they may be entitled to reimbursement, but that is another issue. The insurance adjuster will also try to get copies of all your past medical records. To some extent, they are seeking to learn more about your injury. However, in most cases, they are simplly looking through your medical history for things to use against you. For example, if you injured your back in the car accident, they will find any mention of previous back pain from years ago and may make an issue of it. They will make mountains out of mole hills.
Talking with an experienced attorney will help you make an informed decision. Being represented by an attorney is not always recommended. However, it's always good to learn about your options.
Finding out what kind of car insurance you have and what specific coverage you have AFTER a car accident is generally not a good idea. However, that being said, it’s amazing to me how many clients I have who haven’t the foggiest idea what kind of coverage they have. Many of them tell me the same thing – “Oh, I have full coverage.” When I start to ask specifics, they give me the “deer in the headlights” look.
Auto insurance is hardly an exciting topic. However, you really should take a moment to review your policy to understand what aspects of coverage you actually have and what limitations there might be. It’s one thing to know you “have” car insurance, but an entirely different matter to actually understand what you have.
Here's a quick overview that may help you better understand what coverage you have:
Bodily injury liability covers you if you cause injury to another person due to a car accident. In California, liability coverage is required by law (known as “financial responsibility” laws). The minimum coverage is currently $15,000 which isn’t very much if you should do serious harm to another person. How much liability insurance you obtain should be partially based on the monthly premium but you should also assess how much risk you are taking if you’re not getting enough coverage. If your negligence puts a young child in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, do you really think his family will simply take your $15,000 policy and leave you alone?
You will also have property damage insurance to cover property damage causes to other vehicles. However, if you have a minimal policy, it may not be enough to cover damage to an expensive vehicle or if you cause damage to several vehicles. Again, be careful to obtain enough coverage. Consult with your insurance professional.
Remember bodily injury liability coverage protects other people, not your car. Therefore, it's a good idea to make sure you have property damage coverage to protect your car as well. We will discuss that in a few moments.
Medical Payments Coverage (MPC) usually pays your medical expenses and for the medical expenses of any passengers in your car. Basically, think of medical payments coverage as extra health insurance available to your under your auto policy. You probably don’t even know if you have it. In some cases, it can serve as “primary” coverage (you can use it right away) and in other cases, it might be considered “secondary” coverage (you can use it only if you don’t have health care insurance or you’ve exhausted your other available resources). Make sure you know which type you have before you go off running up medical bills.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM) covers you if you get injured by someone who didn’t have auto insurance. Why wouldn’t someone have auto insurance? Well, maybe they didn’t buy it. Maybe they didn’t pay their premiums and their coverage lapsed. Maybe they were conducting a commercial endeavor while driving a personal vehicle. Maybe they are an excluded driver on a particular policy. Just because someone presents you with their insurance card at the scene of an accident doesn’t necessarily mean they had insurance. This type of coverage only covers you for injuries (not for property damage), so you should ask your insurance company if you are coverage for property damage as well.
You should also know that in most cases, “uninsured motorist coverage” is equivalent to “underinsured motorist coverage” (UIM) which applies when the other party has insurance but it wasn’t enough insurance.
So let’s assume you have a $100,000 UM/UIM policy. If you are injured, and the other party has NO insurance, you have the entire $100,000 available to you. If you are injured and the other party only had $15,000 of insurance, that means you have another $85,000 available to you assuming you accept the $15,000 from the other party. Just because the benefit is “available” to you doesn’t necessarily mean your insurance company is going to pay it without proof of injury that merits payment beyond what you received from the responsible party. So if your case is worth $25,000 (assuming a fair assessment of your claim) and you got $15,000 from the responsible party, you would request an additional $10,000 from your UIM policy which would get you to a total of $25,000.
Comprehensive Coverage covers damage to your car if it is stolen, damaged by flood, fire or damaged by animals (such as hitting a deer while driving!). Basically, “comprehensive” means “comprehensive.”
Collision Coverage pays for damage done to your car if you’re involved in an accident with another vehicle or an object such as a pole. If you don’t have this coverage, your only chance to fix your car will be to pursue the insurance of the other person’s vehicle (assuming that person is responsible for the accident and he/she and their insurance companies agrees to it). Sometimes, you will think the other person is responsible (or perhaps they even apologized at the scene), but then they change their mind or their insurance company disagrees. If that is the case, then you will have fewer options since you can’t turn to your own insurance company to fix your car unless you have collision coverage. If your vehicle isn't worth very much, then getting collision coverage may not be the best idea. However, if you're out several thousand dollars after an accident, you might be wish you had it!
Rental Car Coverage provides you with a rental car if your vehicle is damaged in a car accident. This can come in quite handy if the other party had no insurance or if the responsible party’s insurance company is taking forever and a day to “investigate” the accident before admitting to liability. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of time. However, even if you have rental car coverage, be careful not to exceed the maximum amounts allowed. Your insurance company should make it clear to you what they cover and what they won't cover. Don't go renting an expensive Mercedes Benz for 3 months and expect your company to automatically pay for it.
Discuss these issues with your insurance broker and make sure you not only “have” insurance coverage, but more importantly, you actually understand exactly what you have and what you don’t have. If you've been injured in a serious auto accident, call our office at (661) 414-7100 to see if we can help.
After practicing this area of law for over 20 years (for plaintiff and for the defense), we have found these cases boil down to five major factors:
Whether or not you should hire a lawyer for your accident case involves many factors. Today, a potential client called our office and was wondering if he should hire a lawyer. His accident happened two months ago. I explained that he may have waited too long to hire a lawyer. He was angry because the insurance adjuster wasn't being reasonable with him. In fact, he told me that he got into a big fight over the phone with the adjuster.
Don't wait too long and then hire a lawyer just because you argued with the adjuster. Hiring "Mr. Lawyer" isn't going to make a big difference in most cases. Insurance adjusters aren't going to be afraid of you now that you've "lawyered up." In most cases, they couldn't care less. In fact, if the lawyer files a lawsuit, the case is likely going to get reassigned to another adjuster at some future date. So you're not going to teach the adjuster a lesson by hiring a lawyer. They simply don't care. The case will be reassigned, and they'll be happy to get it off their desk. In some cases, you will have the same adjuster on the case during litigation.
So, if hiring a lawyer isn't going to scare the adjuster into evaluating your case differently, why would hiring a lawyer sooner than later help? Here's why - an experienced lawyer can help you present your case properly - from the start. Oftentimes, people with little or no experience with personal injury cases make lots of mistakes at the beginning of their case.
Here are some common mistakes people make when they wait too long to consult with an attorney:
1) They think the insurance company is going to pay their bills.
2) They wait and wait for the insurance adjuster to return their call.
3) They think the insurance company is going to tell them what to do, so they wait too long and soon, too much time has elapsed. Delays will be used against you in most cases.
4) They get frustrated and then yell at the insurance adjuster - the very same person from whom they want a settlement check (yes, that's called "biting the hand that feeds you.")
5) They accept a small settlement when their case might be worth a lot more - or they think they need to settle right away.
6) They think they can handle their case on their own when they don't have a full appreciation of what they are doing. This is not the time to guess and "wing it."
7) They don't understand their rights and what the law provides.
8) They get stuck on matters of principal and fail to see the forest from the trees. In short, they don't understand the practical realities of personal injury cases. "Justice" and the way "things should be" get in the way of practical solutions based on real life situations. Basically, there's the "way things should be" and then there's the "way things actually are!" An experienced lawyer can guide you through this quandary and the blurred lines between what the law states and what the realities are.
9) They wait too long to get medical care.
10) They fail to take photos of injuries and damages.
These mistakes become problems for the client later on. For example, the client I spoke with today on the phone had not been to see any doctor for his injuries since the accident. Do you think any insurance adjuster is going to believe he was actually hurt? Even if he was hurt, he didn't take the right steps after his accident. A good lawyer can counsel you about the correct steps to take after an accident, not only to insure your recovery from your injuries, but to also take steps to present your case properly to the insurance adjuster. There is an "art" to this process and anticipating your opponent's arguments is part of the "game." Yes, it is a game.
In short, the main lesson is this: If you're thinking about hiring a lawyer, do so early. Consult with an attorney early in your case and ask them to guide you through the personal injury maze. Having an advocate on your side can help level the playing field - even if you don't hire the lawyer. Don't wait till you've made too many mistakes and think hiring a lawyer is going to correct all those mistakes. It may just backfire.
At the very least, get some good advice. If the lawyer pressures you into signing up as a client, just look for another lawyer who doesn't do that. A good lawyer will tell you if they can bring value to your case. I can't represent every client who walks through my door, but I often give them advice so they can be more educated. That's way I fill this website with articles, videos, blog entries, etc. By getting educated, clients can often make better decisions when it comes to their personal injury matter.
If you need help with your personal injury case, call our office at (661) 414-7100. We will let you know if we can help you.
Hello, everyone. This is Robert Mansour, and I'm making this brief video today from my office to discuss the issue of liability when it comes to personal injury cases. When clients call my office for the very first time after an automobile accident, one of the questions that I ask them is, "What happened at the scene of the accident?" Did the other party admit fault for the accident or did they come out of their vehicle and start yelling at them accusing them of causing the accident? If a prospective client tells me, "Oh, the other guy, he got out of his car and he started pointing the finger at me. He said I ran the red light. He told the police officer I ran a red light, and then I told the officer no, he ran the red light."
You see what you have there? You have a "he said, she said" or "she said, he said," or whatever you want to call it. The point is that when your opinion about what happened differs from the other party's opinion, you're going to have something called "disputed liability." If you have disputed liability, here's how that plays out - You go home and you call the lawyer's office, and the other guy, he calls his lawyer's office. Now you are both coming after each other and suing each other and making claims against each other. Or never mind that. Let's say, for example, you bring a claim. He calls his insurance company. He says, "No, no, no...that's not what happened at all. The other fellow caused the accident." The point is this: If the insurance company for the responsible party believes their client, they're just not going to pay you. They're going to dig their heels in the sand, and you're going to have disputed liability.
People say, "Well, yeah. That's what a lawyer is for. That's why I'm calling a lawyer." This is when I have to explain to the client that if you have disputed liability and the insurance company for the responsible party is not budging and they're not seeing it your point of view, you have to ask yourself at that point, "Is it really worth involving a lawyer? Is it worth me spending two years in court, spending thousands of dollars to pursue this person and bring a claim against them?" Frankly, you're not really going to be involving that person at all. It's really going to be between you and their insurance company most of the time. They may not even know that you're doing anything. It's all happening behind the scenes.
I tell clients that it might be worth the fight if, for example, you have injuries that are so severe that you are in a wheelchair for the rest of your life or you had major surgery as a result of the accident or some other significant injury. Then it might be worth two years of your time or more fighting in court with a lawsuit, paying thousands of dollars to go through this. If all you've got is some minor whiplash from the accident, I think you should think two or three times about bringing a claim against the other party because all you're going to do is dig yourself into a financial hole, at least conceivably. Then you end up worse off than you currently are.
Just because the other party is disagreeing with you doesn't necessarily mean you should file a claim. Even though it might not feel right to you and it might be upsetting and frustrating, but sometimes you just have to do the smart thing. One of the issues is liability. By the way, just because the other party admits fault to the accident doesn't necessarily mean that party's insurance company is going to agree with their client's assessment. They may disagree and they may still decide to fight you on the issue of liability. Then you have to weigh and balance your options, and decide whether it is a wise decision to bring a claim or not.
Thank you very much for watching this video. I hope you found it very helpful. If you have any questions regarding your personal injury case, please feel free to contact my office. Thank you very much. Call (661) 414-7100 if you need help with your personal injury case.
Hello everyone, today I want to talk to you about hospital bills and hospital bills that you incur after a car accident. My name is Robert Mansour, and I'm a personal injury lawyer in the Los Angeles area. When you get hospital bills from a personal injury accident where somebody caused harm to you and you got a serious accident, you went to the hospital, you're going to get some bills in the mail. Now, you can't ignore hospital bills. By the way, it's never just hospital bills. It's usually hospital bills. It's usually hospital bills, the emergency room physicians, the imaging center that took x-ray and CT scans of you, etc. It's also the ambulance bill. You're going to start to get several bills from a lot of different facilities and providers. ...Anesthesiologists, for example.
You get all these things in the mail and the temptation might be, "Oh, I don't have to pay this. The responsible party's got to pay it, I don't have to pay it." Yes, the responsible party is responsible for those bills, but they're not going to pay it. It is your responsibility to pay the hospital bills and emergency room bills and the ambulance bill. You might say, "Well, I have health insurance for that." Well, you're still responsible for the co-pays, the deductibles, and all of that. Just because the other party may have admitted fault for the accident still does not absolve you of the responsibility for paying for those bills. So, how do you pay for those bills?
Well, there's many different options. Number one, if you have health insurance, use that. Have your health insurance pay the hospital bills and the emergency room and the ambulance, etc. Keep in mind that you might have co-pays and co-insurance amounts that you have to pay, and deductibles that you have to meet. Then, keep in mind, that your health insurance company that just paid for all those bills, they have a right to reimbursement for what they paid out in many cases. You have to be very careful not to settle with the responsible party before you figure out whether or not you have to repay your health insurance company.
You also might be able to pay out of your own pocket, so if you don't have health insurance, you can just tell the hospital, "Hey listen, I don't have health insurance, can you treat me as a 'cash' patient?" A lot of providers will give you a discount if you are paying as a cash patient. Sometimes actually it's less than if you went through your own health insurance. Cash patient you pay out of your own pocket and you keep track of all that.
Finally, some people have something called medical payments coverage. Medical payments coverage is something available under your own auto insurance policy in many cases. In fact, you might have it and not even know it. That basically means that you have health insurance, kind of health insurance, under your automobile policy. How much do you have? You have to check. You can't just assume. Most people have two thousand dollars or five thousand dollars, in some cases, I've seen even more than that. Now, you auto insurance company will then pay for your health care bills and your hospital bills, etc. Keep in mind that your auto insurance company, just like your health insurance, has a right to reimbursement if you recover money from the responsible party.
Ultimately, you will claim all of these things when you bring a claim against the responsible party and their insurance company. The fundamental point for you to understand is that you are responsible for those bills. The hospital has provided a service to you and they expect to be paid. You can't tell them, "Oh, don't bother me - you guys go after the guy who hit me." That's not going to work. Please understand when you get bills in the mail, you get things in the mail from the hospital, from the ambulance, from the emergency room doctors, etc, you can't ignore those bills. You must make sure they get paid or you might be sent to collections or you could be ultimately sued to collect those amounts, so be very very careful and understand that that is your responsibility.
Thank you very much for watching this video. I hope you found it helpful. My name is Robert Mansour, if I can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact my office. Thank you very much.
Hello everyone! This is Robert Mansour. Today, I wanted to make a brief video about something that happened to me in the past on one of my cases, where it was a very good lesson for subsequent clients that I had. Here is what happened: I had a client who was involved in a moderate car accident, not a very big deal.
Her injuries were not that dramatic. Primarily what we call "soft tissue" injuries - pulled muscles, pulled ligaments, sprain and strain, etc. (things that eventually go away over time with some care and some physical therapy, et cetera.) She was upset with me because I wouldn't guarantee her $250,000 on her case.
She thought she was supposed to get $250,000. She had heard about a friend of hers or somebody, a relative that got a lot of money under personal injury case. She thought that was going to happen to her. I told her - I tried to explain to her that the old days when you saw bumper stickers on peoples cars that says, "Hit me. I need the money!" Those days are over.
If you don't have a significant injury, do not expect any kind of significant result. Generally speaking, soft tissue cases do not yield very big results. If clients are aware of that, then that's great. If they have unreasonable expectations about their case and they think they're going to get $250,000, that's probably not a very good idea.
Here is the thing. You have to have realistic expectations. By the way, she ended up hiring another lawyer who promised her $250,000, and I later learned that her case settled for a few thousand dollars tops. One of the things that you should do is have realistic expectations and realize that the hype of those late night TV commercials and all the promises and the stories you may have heard - many of them might be embellished.
There might be the occasional fluke case, where somebody got a huge amount of money for a very minor injury, but those are few and far between. That is the exception to the rule. I hope you found this video to be helpful. If you need more educational information, please visit my website at valencialawyer.com. Thank you very much! Call us at (661) 414-7100.
After a car accident, one of the most important things to do after getting medical care is obtaining the police report. If an officer came to the scene, you were likely given an informational card with the report number and information regarding who to contact to get the report. Sometimes, police reports are ready within a week or two. However, in busier cities (i.e., Los Angeles), it can take weeks to get a report. There is usually a nominal fee to obtain the report.
In cases where liability is disputed, or even if there is a slight question regarding fault, it is important to get the police report. I tell clients that even if you have been rear ended, it is helpful to have the police report. Even if the other party apologized profusely at the scene and several witnesses are on your side, I've learned not to come to any conclusions until I see that report. There have been numerous occasions when clients assured me there was NO WAY the police report would be against them - and then guess what? The report comes in and it's against them! There are several reasons obtaining the police report quickly after an accident are important.
First, the police report helps determine fault. While it is not dispositive of the issue, a police report in your favor will help you a great deal when making a claim against the responsible party. Insurance adjusters rely on police reports when determining fault. In fact, some adjusters won't come to any conclusion until they have the report in hand - even if their insured admits fault. That is not to say they always side with the police report. However, armed with a favorable police report, you are much steadier ground.
Second, if you complained of injury at the scene, a police report will probably have that information noted. That will make your claim for injury more believable given that you complained of an injury at the scene. If there is no mention of injury in the report, some insurance adjusters will use that against you.
Third, it is more difficult for someone to change their story if it has been documented in a police report. People often change their story later on...especially if they fear repercussions from a parent, spouse, or someone else. Perhaps they have too many moving violations on their record and risk losing their license....or fear an increase in insurance premiums. Some folks go home after an accident and reconsider their story for one reason or another.
Finally, if the police report is in your favor, you have more options regarding obtaining medical treatment. You don't want to incur medical bills that you need to pay without any reassurance that you will be able to pay them. You don't want to take unnecessary financial risks, assuming the other party will pay for medical care. If the police report is in your favor, you might have some more options regarding how you obtain treatment for your injuries.
If you have been involved in a serious car accident and you need some guidance, feel free to contact our office at (661) 414-7100 to see if we can help you.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,