After a severe car accident, your vehicle may be stored at a "storage facility." Usually your car will end up at a tow yard (or an auto body shop). Tow yards (and similar storage locations like body shops) usually charge about $50 to $60 a day for the privilege of "storing" your car. Basically, it's an expensive parking lot! In short, storage fees can be a big pain!
So here are some things to keep in mind about storage fees:
First you have to ask yourself: "Who is going to pay for the storage fees?" If you have collision coverage (your insurance company covers your own property damage), then report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible - the same day of the accident if you can. Tell them where your vehicle is so they can examine it as soon as possible. Your company is keenly aware of storage fees (they want to avoid them as much as you do), so they might tow your vehicle to their own storage location in order to reduce storage fees. Many insurance companies have their own storage locations, so they often try to get your car out of the storage facility quickly in order to reduce storage costs.
Basically, by contacting your insurance company quickly (i.e., right after the accident), you are putting the ball in their court. If you wait a few days, they might try to hold you responsible for storage fees due to your delay. Some insurance companies do everything they can to save a dime. They might only pay for storage from the date you notified them moving forward.
If you have collision coverage, you can still present a property damage claim to the other party's insurance company. However, this can lead to the following frustrating scenario we see all the time. Here's how it unfolds:
You contact the other party's company, and they tell you they need to "contact their insured/client" and they need to "investigate" liability. The problem is this can take several days or sometimes several weeks. What if their client denies fault. What if they can't get a hold of their client? What if they can't get a hold of witnesses who supposedly support your version of the accident? What if they want to review the police report, but the report won't be available for at least 2 months (especially common with the LAPD)?
All this can lead to delays. In the meantime, your vehicle is stilling in storage and incurring fees. So let's say 4 weeks later, the insurance company for the responsible party finally accepts responsibility. Guess what? They probably won't pay your storage during those 4 weeks! Why not? They will argue they acted reasonably and your storage costs were too high, or you didn't move your vehicle to a "fee free" storage location (like your home). If you're lucky, they might offer you "reasonable" storage fees of about 10 days, even if your car was in storage for over a month while you waited for them to figure things out.
Basically, if they drag things out (whether it's reasonable or whether they are simply incompetent), that is usually going to be to your detriment. Is that fair? Is that "justice?" Probably not. However, while you're waiting for them to do the right thing and while you're waiting for "justice," you are only incurring additional storage fees. If they never pay your storage fees, then you're basically stuck and may have little recourse short of filing a lawsuit. Now if you are bringing an injury claim, you can try to raise the issue of storage fees later on, but even then, it's a frustrating endeavor. Many times, people get preoccupied with "what's right" or what is "just," and this preoccupation does nothing but make them more frustrated. There is the way the world "should work," and then there's the way the world DOES work. Being keenly aware of the latter is better for you in the long run.
Now if you don't have collision coverage on your car, then you are unfortunately beholden to the responsible party's insurance company. In other words, your options are severely limited. If they admit fault quickly and take care of your car, that's great. However, if they start telling you it's going to take a while before they determine what they are going to do, you need to make some decisions about your car as soon as possible. Try to get your car out of the tow yard (or wherever it is). Remember, the storage fees are only getting higher every day. If your neighborhood allows it, get your car to your property and put a cover on it so it's not an eye sore! Do whatever you can so you don't get stuck with ridiculous storage fees. That's one of the downsides of not having collision on your car.
What is my recommendation? If you have collision coverage, I usually recommend using your own insurance company. They have a contract with you and a duty to act in good faith. The opposing insurance company doesn't have the same duty. They don't even have to return your calls! If you simply cannot afford the potential deductible that will be imposed on you, then go through the other party's company. However, if things start getting delayed, then go back to your company and get things moving. Dealing with storage fees is often very frustrating, but if you understand what's going on, and if you're aware of this dangerous fee, then you will be better prepared to handle it.
If you've been involved in a serious auto accident in Santa Clarita, Newhall, Castaic, Stevenson Ranch, Valencia, Canyon Country, or surrounding communities, feel free to call our office at (661) 414-7100 to see if we can help you with your accident case.
I got a call today from a very frustrated caller. She was injured after another car ran a red light and t-boned her vehicle. Unfortunately, she fell into the same trap many fall into after an auto accident - she assumed the insurance company would "take care of everything." After all, that's what the adjuster told her over the phone.
She didn't have health insurance so she contacted the responsible party's insurance company to ask for help with her medical care. A few days later, she got a letter from the insurance company that stated she could go to "any doctor or health care provider of her choosing." She was also told to present her bills to the insurance company after she concluded her treatment. They said they would "be there for her." She didn't consult with a lawyer, so she simply assumed she could go get whatever medical care she wanted, and they'd kindly pay for it. Big mistake!
Just because an insurance company says you can choose any health care provider you want doesn't mean they are going to pay for that health care. Their letter was technically correct. She could indeed go to "any provider" she wanted. I asked her, "Does the letter say they will pay for all your bills - no questions asked?" Of course, they didn't say that.
So she went and incurred nearly $10,000 of medical care on a soft tissue case (sprains and strains). Now she owes $10,000 to various doctors, and the insurance company for the responsible party has offered her a whopping $500 for her case. They said her medical treatment was excessive and unwarranted. This of course was no shock to me, but she couldn't believe it.
Truth be told, her bills were probably far too high, but that's not the lesson here. Here is the lesson: Don't get medical treatment and simply assume the other party's insurance company is going to pay for it. Insurance adjusters rarely accept the medical bills you send them at face value. Remember, their job is to "adjust" your bills (that's why they're called insurance ADJUSTERS.) Here's the big surprise - they ALWAYS adjust your bills downward! Expect them to slash your bills by at least 33% to 50% (sometimes more). So don't go racking up $10,000 in bills and assume they will pay. In fact, you should assume the opposite - assume they WON'T pay.
Keep your bills low and reasonable. When in doubt, find other ways to pay for your care so you're not stuck with a stack of bills while fighting with an unreasonable insurance adjuster. If you have health insurance, consider using it. If you have medical payments coverage under your own auto policy, consider using that too. You need to be mindful of your bills. Keep track and periodically ask your health care providers how much your bills are. Don't let the bills get out of control. There is nothing rude or wrong in asking about your bills. Your health care is not an "all you can eat" buffet.
It's a good idea to contact a personal injury lawyer and run your questions by them. Don't assume the insurance company is going to pay your bills. You may dig yourself into a financial hole. Talk to an experienced attorney about your options. Feel free to call us at (661) 414-7100 to see if we can help you.
You might think your personal injury medical bills are $50,000 or more. However, you might be surprised when the insurance company offers you $23,000 for your case.
You see, when it comes to presenting your damages in a personal injury case, it's not what you are billed that matters. It's what your health care provider accepted as payment in full. Therefore, even if a doctor bills you $1500 but accepts $250 from your health insurance company, all you get to present in your case is the $250 he or she accepted as payment in full.
Even if your doctor doesn't accept your insurance, you don't get to present whatever number you want and assume the insurance company is just going to accept what you send them. So if you send the $1500 bill to the adjuster, they might reject it. Remember, the insurance adjuster's job is to "adjust" your bill, so they will argue your doctor's bill is not "reasonable." In fact, if your doctor bills you $1500 but routinely accepts $250 for the same care provided, you might have a potential problem on your hands. The insurance company may argue his reasonable fee is actually $250 since he routinely accepts that amount for similar treatment.
Several important California court decisions have come down the pike in recent years. Each case continues to reinforce the basic fundamental issue that all plaintiffs must now accept - your bills are not what you think they are. You have to find out what your health care providers accepted as payment in full and that is what the adjuster will consider.
So if your hospital bill was $4000 but Medicare paid $900, then you're stuck asking for the $900. In many cases, you may find your "big" personal injury case isn't as "big" as you once thought. To complicate matters, your health insurance providers (including Medicare, Medi-Cal, etc) may insist on their right to reimbursement.
As such, more and more plaintiffs are finding that presenting a personal injury claim is much more difficult than they thought it would be. Medical bills are known as "economic" damages. More insurance companies are slashing these economic damages since medical providers are accepting a fraction of their bills as payment in full in most cases.
Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to focus on your "general damages," often known as "pain and suffering" damages. These damages are not about bills - they are about HOW an accident affected your life. You must document how the accident affects your daily life activities, school activities, work etc. "General damages" are becoming more and more important as economic bills are being slashed and reduced. Don't lose sight of your general damages.
Make sure your attorney and doctors are well aware of HOW the accident has affected your life. Make sure these issues are documented in your medical records. As I always warn my clients - If something isn't in your medical records, it's like it never happened!
Every so often I get a call from a prospective personal injury client who correlates the "bad" behavior of the responsible party with the value of their potential personal injury case.
For example, I got a call recently from a prospective client (Jennifer) who was rear ended in a mall parking lot. It was a low speed impact, and Jennifer was in mild discomfort. As it turns out, the responsible party (a young man in his 20s) was driving with an expired license and was rude to her at the scene of the accident. He wasn't a very nice guy.
Apparently, he also refused to provide Jennifer with his insurance information at the scene because, in his estimation, the accident was so "minor" and there was no visible damage to either car. However, after much heated discussion, he offered to pay for the damage himself because he did not want to "involve" the insurance companies. Jennifer felt he was hiding the ball and wasn't being honest with her. He reluctantly gave her his insurance information when she threatened to call the police.
She told me, "I can't believe this guy! He didn't want to give me his information...he was driving without a proper license...and he was rude to me! He probably doesn't even have insurance on top of that!" I told Jennifer that I understood her frustration. However, her focus on his "bad" behavior, while understandable, was probably irrelevant to whether or not she had a claim for personal injury worth pursuing. I explained, "Jennifer, I understand your concerns but whether or not the other party was mean to you, had no license, cussed at you, doesn't go to church on Sundays, or is rude to his own mother has very little to do with your case."
At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is this:
(1) Was he at fault?
(2) Were you injured?
(3) What is the likelihood of proving the injury to the satisfaction of a jury or insurance adjuster?
(4) Is there insurance available from the responsible party? If not, then is there "uninsured motorist" coverage? Is it worth going after him personally in court?
Jennifer was so focused on his rude and irresponsible behavior that she lost sight of the facts that actually matter most. She just wanted him to "pay for his actions." She wanted me to essentially "go after" this guy and "punish" him for his misdeeds! I explained that unless we can show he was drinking while driving (arrested at the scene) or doing something totally crazy, then our chances of seeking "punitive" damages (damages designed to punish someone for their actions) are little to nothing. Even though it might be a factor, his insurance company is not likely going to pay "punitive" damages. They don't cover him for that.
In most cases, if the responsible party admits fault, their "bad" or reprehensible behavior at the scene of an accident is generally irrelevant, even if it makes you angry or upset. Just because someone was a jerk at the scene of an accident, or was driving with an expired license, or doing anything else that was "bad" in your opinion, doesn't mean your case is necessarily worth pursuing. For example, if you got rear ended but there is minor or little property damage, then your case is probably not worth pursuing even if the defendant was the biggest jerk in the world at the scene.
It is certainly understandable to be upset with the responsible party for causing the accident, and especially being upset if they weren't obeying the law or were rude to you. That is a perfectly legitimate human response. However, when all is said and done, the focus should be on two things - liability and damages. Without clear liability and significant damages, discussing the bad or rude behavior of the responsible party won't get you very far with most juries and insurance companies. If the responsible party admits to causing the accident, his/her behavior after that won't matter much in most cases.
If you want more information or need help with your personal injury matter, please call our office at (661) 414-7100. We will let you know if we can help with your accident case.
VIDEO TRANSCRIPT: Hello everybody, my name is Robert Mansour. I'm a lawyer in the Los Angeles area, and one of my areas of practice is personal injury. One of the questions that I get at the very beginning of many cases is the client will call or they'll show up to my office and they'll say, “How much is my worth? How much can I get?” Usually, that's a warning sign. That's a client who might be thinking dollar signs, and that's not usually a good fit for me.
I tell the client, “Look. I don't know how much your case is worth. You just had the accident a couple of days ago. We don't know the nature and extent of all of your injuries. We don't know whether or not you're going to have any residual problem from the accident. We certainly have no idea how much your medical bills amount to, how much your future medical bills might be. We still don't even know if this has had an effect on your job or not whether you lost money from work, et cetera.”
Also, there are subjective issues that have to do with car accidents what's usually called pain and suffering. That's a little bit more intangible, and everyone's case is kind of different. For example, I had a case where my client was involved in a car accident. His economic bills were not that high, but he missed his father's funeral as a result of the accident. So here's a fellow on his way to his dad's funeral. Accident happens. He misses his own dad's funeral. That is very, very severe.
I had a case where an elderly lady loved to do gardening, and because of the accident she was no longer able to get on her knees and do gardening in her yard. This was a very big deal for her because she was losing something that meant a lot to her. She really enjoyed that hobby. So there are sometimes intangible factors that have to do with the value of the case.
Also, there's really no ledger of value of body parts. You can't just go and say, “Well, you hurt your hand. That's $35 or $35,000 or $10,000. You hurt your hip, you hurt your eye, you hurt your this.” There's no such schedule of pricing. There's no open market for body parts that we can use to kind of figure out what the value of your case is going to be. So a lot of it has to do with how the case progresses as well as intangible factors and then, of course, there's the issue of the insurance company that you're dealing with.
Sometimes there are issues such as insurance policy limits. You can't get any more from the other party because they don't have enough insurance. You may or may not have enough insurance at your end. Also, keep in mind that there are liens that might be placed on your case. For example, your health insurance company might expect to be repaid. Your car insurance company, if they've paid anything out they might expect to be repaid. Any doctors we might hire to assist us in your case, they expect to be repaid, and that might affect your final number.
As you can see, it is very difficult to just give people a number in the very beginning and say, “Your case is going to be worth x.” Frankly, that is a warning sign. I had a client one time. He showed and he says, “Listen. I'm not going to get involved in this unless you can guarantee me that I'm going to walk away with $15,000 in my pocket.” I said, “Well, we're not going to be able to work together because I cannot guarantee you that nor can I even speculate about that at this point.”
So, for me, generally the clients who come to my office are clients who don't have dollar signs in their eyes. They're not there because they think they won the lottery, but it is a question that does cross people’s minds. There's nothing wrong with knowing that all of these various factors go in to determining the value of your case.
Again, remember, you're always going to think your case is worth more than the other party's insurance adjuster is going to think. You're always going to think your case is more than perhaps 12 people in a jury box are going to think. In any event, I appreciate you stopping by and watching this video segment. Again, my name is Robert Mansour, and thank you very much for watching.
Please call (661) 414-7100 for a free case evaluation. We serve all of Santa Clarita and its communities of Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Castaic, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch, Palmdale, Lancaster, etc.
Proving lost earnings is more difficult than you think. You can't recover for "speculative" lost earnings. This affects folks who get paid on commission because it's hard to show you were going to get paid when commission is, by its nature, a hit-or-miss proposition. However, when it comes to lost earnings, you have to show concrete losses. You have to show you were GOING TO GET PAID but did not BECAUSE OF THE ACCIDENT!
Also, it helps to get verification of inability to work from your doctor. If you are unable to work due to your accident, do not leave your doctor’s office without written verification of your working status from your doctor – in other words, get a “note” from your doctor! Claims for lost wages from work are dependent upon your doctor’s written verification of your work status. It is your responsibility to get this information from your physician. Oftentimes, the lawyer's office doesn't get notice of these. Without such notes from the doctor keeping you off work, your claim for wage loss, if any, will be severely hampered.
If you are going to allege lost wages, you also need verification from your employer of the dates missed and your rate of pay. If you are missing work due to the accident, your employer (the person offering verification) should know WHY you are missing work. They need to know it is accident-related. Provide your lawyer with the name/address/phone of the person who can assist with verification of your lost earnings. If your claim is significant, providing tax returns from the past 2 or 3 years is helpful to show the decline after the accident. Insurance companies often won’t pay for lost wages unless they have verification from your employer AND your doctor. Otherwise, they will simply assume you just decided to stay home, eat ice cream, and watch Seinfeld re-runs. They don't pay lost earnings because you are a nice person.
Call (661) 414-7100 if you have any questions or would like help with your personal injury case.
When I was a defense lawyer for a major insurance company, one of the first things we looked for when defending personal injury claims was "gaps" in treatment. That means, we would look at every single date of treatment and try to find "gaps" of 10 days or more. Sometimes, we'd see gaps of 2 weeks or much more. We would use those against the person making the claim. Also, we would look to see when treatment commenced after an accident. We would sink our teeth into delays of over 10 or more days. Why do insurance companies use gaps in treatment and delay in commencement in treatment against you? Because they want to minimize your case. They will argue, "Well, if you were REALLY hurt, you wouldn't have waited 2 weeks to get treatment." Or they might say, "Well, if you were in any REAL pain, you would have treated more regularly without missing appointments etc."
The insurance companies will do anything they can to minimize your claim. My clients are often surprised by this tactic. My clients will say, "Well, I couldn't get in to see the doctor for a long time" or "I couldn't get a physical therapy appointment for a month..." The excuses are legitimate and understandable, but that doesn't mean insurance companies will be easy on you or "understanding." They simply don't care. They will use it against you because at the end of the day, they aren't really interested in compensating you. They are interested in minimizing their losses. Therefore, the lesson here is to commence treatment as soon as possible after an accident, even if you only suspect an injury. You don't want to take chances. Also, once you start treatment, be diligent about your health care and follow up visits. In all fairness, there are some insurance adjusters who do understand there are sometimes legitimate reasons for delays in treatment, but most of them won't see the big picture.
When it comes to damages in personal injury cases, there are two types. First, there are “economic” damages which are damages that can be proven with bills, receipts, invoices, etc. They are easily measurable (that’s not to say the insurance company won’t give you are hard time about those numbers). However, there are also “non-economic” damages also known as “pain and suffering” damages. They are sometimes also called “general” damages. These are more difficult to ascertain because of their inherently subjective nature.
General damages can be affected by many variables. Sympathy can play a factor. For example, a grandmother who can no longer play with her grandchildren might be entitled to more general damages than someone who doesn’t have the same situation. Another example where circumstances affect “general” damages was when a client of mine was unable to attend his father’s funeral because of a car accident. These are the kinds of things that are difficult to quantify but should be compensated. Another client of mine has a residual eye injury that may never resolve. He’s been told he’s a surgical candidate but there is no guarantee surgery will solve his vision problems.
When it comes to residual injuries, they can enhance the value of an injury case because someone has to live with a problem for their foreseeable future. Contrast that with someone who received soft tissue injuries from an auto accident and has fully healed. Juries are more prone to award “non-economic” damages where there is a genuine sympathy factor and/or a significant injury that won’t resolve itself or at the very least may affect the individual for years to come.
Surprisingly, there are times when “how much” just isn’t the most important issue for my clients. In fact, I would say most of my clients aren’t out to “get rich” by bringing a claim for personal injury. What they want is fair compensation, payment of their medical bills, protection from surprise bills, etc.
I recently was involved in a case where there was significant potential for a higher settlement. However, without getting into all the details, the client just wanted to settle because he was exhausted. For two years, he tried to handle the case himself and the insurance company for the responsible party strung him along. It has now been another year, and he’s reached his breaking point. Sometimes, just getting “done” with the matter is valuable to a client…in other words, they can potentially get a higher settlement but that’s not as “valuable” as putting the case behind them. I try to listen to my clients to make sure that whatever course of action we take, they are on board and in agreement. Sometimes, settling a case for less can be of greater value to you. Just make sure you communicate such to your attorney.
Hi, I'm Robert Mansour. Sometimes as part of your personal injury claim you might have a claim for lost earnings. Now let me make something clear - you can’t just stay home and not go to work just because you don’t feel well. You have to have a doctor’s note in most cases. Also, you have to be able to prove your lost earnings claim via tax returns, pay-stubs, and bank deposits. If you want to talk about lost earnings as part of your personal injury case, please feel free to contact my office. My name is Robert Mansour and thank you very much for watching.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch, Castaic and surrounding communities.