You’re driving along a busy street when suddenly you notice a car approaching rapidly from behind. It’s changing lanes erratically, barely missing other vehicles as it continues to approach you. Finally, you get hit from behind. You are stunned. You start to pull off to the side of the road when you notice the responsible vehicle is speeding away from the accident scene. They obviously have no intention of sticking around to exchange information with you. You suddenly get the eerie feeling that you are the victim of a hit and run accident. Whatever you do not chase the other vehicle. You might be tempted to do so in an effort to get the license plate number but that might be very dangerous.
The first thing you should do if you are involved in a hit and run accident is pull over to a safe place and write down as much information about the responsible party as you can recall. Ask any passengers you have to assist you. If you glanced at the license plate, try to remember as much as you can and write it down as soon as possible. Even having the make, model, and color of the responsible party's vehicle can be helpful. See if you can remember the direction it was headed right before the accident. Also see if you can notice any damage the car may have sustained.
Take pictures of your vehicle and all the damage from the accident. Try to take the pictures of the surrounding accident scene as well. Most cell phones will offer timestamp photos. Maybe you can even take a video. Ask any witnesses at the scene to describe what they saw and do your best to write down. Ask them for their names and contact information so you and your insurance company might be able to get in touch with them in the future.
Make sure you call the police. In some cases, the police may not come to the scene if no one is injured or if there is minor damage. However, many insurance companies require you notify the police and obtain a police report after a hit and run accident. If that is the case, make sure you file a police report at some point, either at the scene or later on at the police station. You want to make sure you follow the rules of your insurance contract.
Call your insurance company and report the accident soon after (maybe even the same day if you can). Make sure you are accurate and truthful. Provide any witness information to your adjuster along with the police information (report number, etc.). If you have uninsured motorist coverage, that could come in very handy if you were injured in an accident with a hit and run driver. In some cases, the police might be able to find the hit and run driver. There might be penalties imposed on the driver including serious penalties and fines.
Today I had the pleasure of meeting with a wonderful new client. A vehicle had crossed the center median and smashed into her car. She wanted to learn more about the personal injury process and what her options were.
I was explaining the personal injury process to her and stressing the importance of excellent documentation in her medical records. We spent a good part of our conversation talking about documenting the actual injuries from the accident.
FIRST YOU MUST MAKE AN EXHAUSTIVE AND DETAILED LIST OF YOUR INJURIES.
I asked her to start from the top of her head and move her way down her body. She mentioned the fact that she was having severe headaches, she had a nosebleed at the accident scene (along with nasal pain), pain in the right shoulder radiating into the right arm, pain in her upper back, pain in the right side of her mid back, and a bruise to her right knee. She had been to a doctor since the accident. I asked her if she had told any of these things to her doctor. She said she only told the doctor about the neck pain! I explained she would not be getting any points for anything that she failed to mention. You see, insurance adjusters are going to read your medical records with a magnifying glass, and they will only consider what’s in there. If you forget to mention something, that injury does not exist as far as the insurance company is concerned.
I encouraged her to make a list of all her injuries (no matter how minor) on a sheet of paper and the next time she went to the doctor, she was to make sure that those injuries were mentioned in her records. She wasn't lying or fabricating injuries. Clients need to recount ALL their injuries, not just the "main" ones. Wouldn't you want the insurance adjuster to know about ALL the injuries you had and not just some of them? Remember, the insurance adjuster's job is to minimize your case. If you fail to mention all injuries, then you are basically doing their job for them!
SECOND YOU MUST KEEP A LIST OF HOW THE ACCIDENT IS AFFECTING YOUR LIFE
Another exercise we did during our meeting was make a list of all the "effects" of the injury on her life.
To some extent, the value of your injury claim will be based on the following formula:
Severity of Injuries + Effects of Injuries = Value of Claim
She told me she had trouble bathing, trouble putting on her clothes, trouble concentrating at school, She literally was avoiding driving anywhere near the scene of the accident because it brought back so many bad memories. Of course, she had not mentioned any of these things to her doctor. Again, I stressed the importance of mentioning those things and making sure they are part of her medical record. Every time you get medical care after an accident, at every appointment, imagine the insurance adjuster standing in the room with you. I always tell clients to ask themselves the following, “What would I want the insurance adjuster to know about my accident?“ Whatever your answer is, you need to make sure that you articulate those things to your treating providers, physical therapists, etc.
Don't keep your injuries a secret! Don't keep the effects of the injuries a secret. This is not the time to be stoic. This is not the time to "tough it out." This is the time for documentation! Always ask yourself, "What would I want the insurance adjuster to know?" Then TELL YOUR DOCTOR about it so it actually ends up documented in your records.
When it comes to personal injury cases, your own medical history may come back to haunt you! What do I mean by that? Here are a few examples from some cases I recently handled:
I recently had a client who had a shoulder injury from a car accident. She eventually had surgery. Certainly, she had a significant injury since surgery was required. Everything in her medical records suggested injury from the car accident. For example, she complained at the accident scene of shoulder pain (as noted in the police report). At the hospital, she complained of pain to her shoulder. She endured painful cortisone injections to the shoulder which is something people generally won’t do unless they are having tremendous pain. Then she had the surgery and did weeks of rehabilitation. Again, people generally don’t do that unless they are truly injured.
Unfortunately, after reviewing this client's medical records over the last five years, we found that seven months prior to the accident, she had complained of shoulder pain in the exact same shoulder! In fact, the medical records indicated she had been having shoulder pain for six months prior! Of course, if you have surgery after an accident, the insurance company is going to want to see your medical records from the past. Generally, they want to see 5 to 10 years of medical records. Why do they want to see your prior records? Well, because many people try to blame pre-existing conditions on a car accident. In this particular case, my client had forgotten she had made that prior complaint. The truth is, the prior shoulder complaint may have been linked to a gastrointestinal problem that was causing "referred" pain. However, the notation was there, and you can bet the insurance company used it against her. They argued her shoulder pain probably pre-dated the accident and therefore, they should not be held responsible for it.
I had another client recently who was complaining of neck and back pain post accident. Eventually, after physical therapy failed, she had several cortisone shots to her neck and back. She assured me she had never had this type of pain before. Of course, I had to research her prior medical records because I wanted to make sure I was familiar with her past care so there would be no surprises.
Lo and behold, we found that two months prior to the accident, she had complained of the exact same problems to her neck and her back. In fact, the medical records indicated her prior neck and back pain were "chronic" and have been going on for well over three months (with radiating pain to her upper and lower extremities). That is not to say the client wasn't injured in the auto accident. I’m only raising these issues because we cannot ignore the historical medical records and how they might be used against us. A jury, a judge, or an insurance company is not going to like this kind of thing. The client was upset. However, I explained to her that her prior similar complaints found only 2 months prior to the accident could sink her entire case. She could then be on the hook for all our costs and all the defense costs.
Most people are already suspicious of personal injury accidents, and many people think accident victims are just trying to make a buck. The fewer uphill battles we have, the better. Pre-existing conditions that are denied (or sometimes forgotten, conveniently or otherwise) can destroy an entire car accident case.
Another client recently came to my office and explained he had smashed his knee into the dashboard as the result of a head on collision. Of course, this is a significant injury, and he told me he might need surgery. However, having worked for an insurance company myself, I asked him about his past medical care. He explained he did have prior complaints to the same knee. In fact, a few months before the accident, a doctor had recommended an MRI to the same knee. I explained that before I could take his case, and before he could make any significant decisions about whether or not he wanted to proceed with a car accident claim, the best thing we could do is obtain his prior medical records and study them carefully. After all, the insurance company is going to be pouring over them. It stands to reason that we should also be looking through them and learning what lurks in those records.
Here is the moral of the story: If you’re going to complain of any significant injury after an accident, and if you have similar issues in your medical past, they will certainly come back to haunt you. The insurance company will simply argue that your injuries pre-date the car accident and that you are simply trying to blame the car accident for all your previous problems.
If you have a previous problem, be candid about it and forthright. It could be that the car accident aggravated your previous problem or exacerbated an otherwise dormant injury. Then it becomes an issue of what kind of aggravation it was and whether or not you have a residual problem. Of course, sometimes it is difficult to ascertain whether or not you would have had the same problem even without a car accident (insurance companies always make that argument).
Ignoring your medical history or assuming no one is going to look at it, is one of the biggest mistakes I see clients make. If you have a significant medical history, it would be a great idea for you to obtain your own medical records so that you can review them before the insurance company does. That will help you outline your strategy and handling your personal injury case. Also, don't hide your medical history from your attorney. That doesn't do anyone any good! If you are not willing to confront your medical past, then perhaps you shouldn't be making a personal injury claim.
Hello. This is Robert Mansour. Today I wanted to make a brief video about uninsured motorist claims. If you get into an automobile accident and the other party either doesn't have insurance or the other party doesn't have enough insurance, you may have something under your own policy called uninsured motorist, or sometimes it's called under-insured motorist, and you'll see it. It's called UM on your policy. Or, you could just call your company and say, "Hey, do I have uninsured motorist?"
Now, as you can imagine that's very handy if the other party doesn't have insurance or doesn't have enough, but here's the deal: For uninsured motorists who apply, it's not just enough for you to have it, it actually has to apply. So what are some things that maybe would prevent uninsured motorists from applying? Well, you have to be able to prove that the other party was uninsured.
Let's say somebody did a hit-and-run with your car. They hit your vehicle and then they took off. You have no idea who they are, what the vehicle is all about, what the VIN number is, the license plate, you don't know the name of the person who hit you, you have no idea, the police can't track them down. Well, you may not be able to use your uninsured motorist. You might think that you can, but your policy might say that if your insurance company can't rule it out and can't determine for sure whether that party has insurance or not, then uninsured motorist doesn't apply, so to some extent, you've got to know who hit you.
Now, contrast that with somebody who hit you and the police got all the information and you have that person's information and when you check on it you find that they don't have any insurance. That's different from a hit and run where you cannot conclusively even prove who that person is.
Another thing that might prevent you from being able to use your uninsured motorist benefits is if the vehicle that caused the accident never touches your vehicle, never came into contact with your vehicle. Let's say you're driving along and somebody turns left in front of you, but you don't hit them. You turn to try to avoid them and you hit a pole or something. Then you say, "Well uninsured motorist. That person caused the accident and they didn't have insurance." Well, your insurance company might say, "Hold on a second. Because there was no contact between your car and the uninsured vehicle, we don't cover that."
Make sure that you understand not only that you have uninsured motorist, but realize that there might be some hoops that you need to jump through before that uninsured motorist benefit actually applies to your case. I hope you found this video to be helpful. My name is Robert Mansour and thanks for watching.
10 Things to do Following a Car Accident
1) Stop as soon as you can and move your vehicle only if it is safe to do so. There's no need to unnecessarily hold up all the other traffic. If the positions of the vehicles involved in the accident are important to preserve, take photos of the scene then move if it's safe to do so.
2) If anyone is injured, call 911 and inform the police. If there are no injuries, or relatively minor complaints, the police probably won't come to the scene.
3) If the accident involves a "hit and run" situation, most car insurance policies require that you inform the police within a specified period of time and to also inform your insurance company. Call your company or broker to check on those details. Otherwise, you may not be covered for the hit and run.
4) Try to get the names and addresses of all the people who were involved in the accident. Also try to obtain their driver's licence numbers and vehicle license plate numbers. These days, having a cell phone will make things much easier as you can simply take photos of plates and licenses. If you can, also take photos of any registration information. Oftentimes, the person driving a car is not necessarily the registered owner of the car.
5) Obtain names, addresses, and phone numbers of any passengers involved and any witnesses to the accident.
6) Make sure to take plenty of photos of the accident scene. Also, take several pictures showing the damage to your car. Make sure the photos you take are from several different angles and distances. Also, try to take photos of all the other vehicles involved in the accident. Sometimes, your car may not look so bad, but that's only part of the story. That's why it's important to take photos of all vehicle involved. Also, take photos of any injuries you might have.
7) Notify your insurance company and/or insurance broker of the accident. Keeping the accident a secret from your company may not be wise as many auto insurance companies require you to report accidents to them. If you don't, you might be in violation of your policy in which case you might be denied coverage should you later decide to make a claim or if a claim is brought against you.
8) If anyone involved in the accident was hurt, or if the damage to your vehicle exceeds $750, you need to notify the DMV within 10 days of the accident. This is done by filing an SR1 form. This form can be downloaded from the DMV website. The more information you have, the easier it will be to fill out the form. Ask your insurance company and/or broker for help if you need assistance.
9) If you are injured, you should get medical attention as soon as possible. Your health and well being are very important. This is not the time to be brave and stoic.
10) Consult with an experienced personal injury attorney if you want to review your legal options.
Sometimes, the most devastating effects of a car accident may have nothing to do with your physical injuries. Sure, you might have some cuts, bumps, bruises, or perhaps worse. However, you may also have psychological effects from the accident that should not be ignored.
Some common psychological effects include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), adjustment disorder, anxiety, depression, or simply a general inability to emotionally and psychologically recover from an accident. I've seen it many times in my law practice.
Recently, while meeting with a client, he realized how emotionally scarred he still was from a severe car accident that happened nearly a year ago. He was involved in a head-on auto collision, and till today, he feels that someone else is going to hit him again. It's not just a general anxiety about driving (a common condition after an accident). He's especially affected while driving at night. Sometimes he finds himself swerving for no reason - avoiding "phantom vehicles." In fact, during our meeting, he started crying when we talked about the accident. He's still emotionally affected by the car accident.
Another client I had was tremendously affected by her car accident. She had never been involved in an accident before, and she had gotten violently rear ended by another vehicle. She locked herself in her room for days, crying because she was so depressed. She had to leave work early on several occasions because she couldn't cope. Her life was already chaotic, and the last thing she needed was a car accident. It was the "straw that broke the camel's back."
Another case I had involved a young teenager who was hit while crossing the street, on his way to school. The impact caused him to roll up onto the hood of the car, smash into the windshield (he broke it), and then he got thrown again to the asphalt. Essentially, he effectively got hit three times! Luckily, he had no major injuries, but he did have a great deal of pain in his knees and legs. This affected his ability to play soccer and enjoy his junior year of high school. After the accident, his parents noticed he "wasn't quite the same person." He was very sullen, no longer talking about his future, and generally withdrawn. This usually exuberant young man became quiet, sad, and depressed. He was afraid to cross the street and expressed no interest in learning how to drive. All his friends were getting their drivers licenses, and he had absolutely no interest.
Sometimes the victim of the accident may not be aware how they've been affected. In fact, oftentimes it is family and friends who notice the difference. Either way, it may be important to document these effects by getting a psychological or psychiatric evaluation. Getting a professional opinion may be helpful in presenting a clear picture of your accident case. Such an evaluation may shed light on exactly how the accident affected you (psychologically and emotionally). A professional can make specific recommendations for further care.
If you have questions about a personal injury case, please call our office at (661) 414-7100 to see if we can assist you. We serve Santa Clarita and its communities of Newhall, Canyon Country, Castaic, Stevenson Ranch, Valencia, and beyond.
After an accident, many of my clients and prospective clients are worried about their insurance rates going up. That is a natural and common concern. Here is the short answer: I don't know!
Insurance companies use all kinds of data to rate you as a driver. Clients are often surprised to learn that every insurance company comes up with its own rating system. Some use driving records, your experience as a driver, your credit score, where you live, the length of your commute, your driving history, the number of accidents you've had, the number of claims you've made, and the list goes on. I generally tell my clients that if the accident was NOT their fault, their insurance rates would probably not go up, but of course, I also told them that I couldn't guarantee such an outcome because I don't make those decisions. Insurance company underwriters make those decisions.
However, there is now an emerging trend, as reported by the Consumer Federation of America, that major insurance companies are now raising insurance rates even if you were NOT at fault. This is a major shift and even more reason why you might want to shop around for a new insurance company. So even if you are not at fault, some companies are inclined to raise your rates anyway. Perhaps they consider you a larger risk. I can't tell you why, but it seems more an more insurance companies are implementing this approach.
Certain insurance companies were singled out in the report. For example, Progressive Insurance, Farmers, and Geico were among the most aggressive in raising rates against their insured clients, even if they weren't at fault. State Farm, on the other hand, never raised rates on their clients in such cases. The study also found that lower income drivers were incurring higher rate increases than higher income drivers. On average, it seems rates went up about 10%. The report also notes that 18 million Americans live in areas of the country where auto insurance is basically deemed affordable by the United States Treasury Department’s Federal Insurance Office.
Certain states like Oklahoma and California don't allow such rate hikes (let's hope it stays that way). The study suggests people should complain to their insurance companies and should inquire if they raise rates even if you're not at fault. I tell my clients if they are not happy, they can take their business elsewhere. There is no shortage of auto insurance companies out there willing to insure you. It takes some time and effort, but using a good insurance broker who is knowledgeable about insurance can be very helpful. Also, a good insurance professional can better advise you about buying the right kind of coverage. Having insurance is great, but having the right insurance coverage is better.
To read the entire article, click here.
Hello, everyone. This is Robert Mansour, and I wanted to shoot a brief video today about the importance of making sure that your medical records accurately and fully reflect what you went through in your car accident, so not only should your medical records reflect all of your injuries, they should also reflect how the accident affected your daily life, so let's first start with the injuries. If you go to the hospital or the emergency room or the doctor or whoever, chiropractor, after an accident, you want to make sure that you walk in with a very detailed list of every single thing that was injured in the accident, no matter how minor. Here's why: An issue that may not seem significant on day 1 may become significant a few weeks later, so if you don't mention it on day 1 and then it comes up a few weeks later, an insurance adjuster might say, "Well, wait a minute. I think you fabricated that. That didn't really happen in the accident. That was something different."
You just want to make sure that you mention all of your injuries, because when the insurance adjuster is evaluating your case, they're going to look at your medical records very carefully, and they're going to see what did you complain of to the doctor, so you can't just say, "My neck." That doesn't really help. You've got to say, "My neck radiating into my shoulders, radiating into my upper back." You want to be very specific about what it is that your injury actually is, so make sure that you are very detailed about that. As a matter of fact, if the police officers come to the scene of an accident, it is very important to tell the police officer or the emergency personnel what your injuries were, because they will write that down in the police report, more often than not, and if your injuries are listed in the police report, it lends a lot more credibility to your claim that you were injured, and the consistency of those injuries across the board. Your injury complaints at the scene were the same at the hospital, were the same at the doctor, were the same at the physical therapist...
It's very important to be very complete about it. The next thing that you really need to make sure that you articulate is, what limitations are you having from the accident? When you go for physical therapy or you go to the doctor, and they say, "How are you doing? What's going on," and you say, "Well, not so good," or, "A little bit better," that doesn't really help paint a very good picture of what you're going through. So for example, you might say, "Well, I'm having trouble taking a shower. It hurts when I put my clothes on in the morning. I can't bend down to tie my shoes. I'm in excruciating pain on a daily basis. I can't even drive to work. I can't pick up my kids and play with them. I can't garden. I can't do X, Y, or Z. I'm having trouble doing chores at the house." I call that "putting ornaments on the tree," decorating the tree. The tree is the injuries, but the ornaments on the tree are how the injuries affected your daily life, your work, your schooling, your home life.
It is very important to articulate all of that to your doctors, because it's going to end up in the medical records, and that's what the insurance adjuster's going to be looking at. So the medical records are your opportunity to tell the adjuster the complete story of how the accident affected you. Not just the injuries, but the effects of those injuries. I always tell my clients, "When you go in for treatment after a car accident, whether it's for an evaluation, physical therapy, or anything like that, I want you to imagine the insurance adjuster sitting on your shoulder with a tablet, writing everything down that you say. They've got their clipboard right there, and they're writing everything down that you say to the doctor, so if you can imagine that, you're going to be more complete about it, because the adjuster's sitting there on your shoulder, basically being very skeptical that you were injured at all, as most of them often are. So this is your chance to be very complete about your injuries and how the accident affected you." I hope you found this video helpful. Thank you very much for watching.
Please call (661) 414-7100 if you've been injured in a serious car accident. Personal injury lawyer Robert Mansour helps clients involved in serious auto accidents in Santa Clarita, California and its surrounding communities.
A new study reveals that seven major intersections in the Santa Clarita Valley are among the state's most dangerous intersections. The accidents involve pedestrian and auto accidents. Santa Clarita was found to have a "higher than average" amount of accidents. (The city disputes these findings - see link below). The study found that the most dangerous roads in Santa Clarita were Newhall Ranch Rd, Bouquet Canyon Rd, Seco Canyon Rd, Sierra Highway, Soledad Canyon Rd, McBean Parkway, Langside Avenue and Whites Canyon Rd.
The most dangerous intersection in Santa Clarita was Sierra Highway and Soledad Canyon Rd. The second most dangerous intersection was McBean Parkway and Newhall Ranch Rd. The third most dangerous intersection in SCV was found to be Bouquet Canyon Rd and Seco Canyon Rd. The next most dangerous was Langside Avenue and Soledad Canyon Rd. In fifth place was Soledad Canyon Rd and Whites Canyon Rd.
Finally, rounding out the most dangerous intersection in the Santa Clarita Valley were Bouquet Canyon Rd and Soledad Canyon Rd, and Bouquet Canyon Rd and Newhall Ranch Rd.
Here is a link to the article in The Signal which cites the study.
If you've had a serious car accident in Santa Clarita, and you need guidance, call (661) 414-7100 to see if we can assist you with your accident case.
* UPDATE 11-28-16 Santa Clarita disputes findings of the study. Click here to read more.
Taking photos of your bodily injuries
Hello everyone. This is Robert Mansour, and today I wanted to shoot a brief video on the importance of taking photographs of your injuries. I recently had a client who was involved in a head-on collision. He's a 21 year-old gentleman, and he had some bruising to his knees and some bruising to his chest and to his hands, both in the palms of his hands and on his knuckles. He told me all about this bruising, and he explained it to me and it sounded really bad, but I told him, I said, "Did you take any photographs of your injuries?" He said, "Oh no, I forgot to do that."
Now, by the time he came to see me, all the bruising was gone. Now, why is it important to do that? Here is why. When you are dealing with an insurance adjuster, who is working for the other party in your case, you want to be able to tell the story as best you can. Now, you can tell somebody about your bruising, and you can point to some medical records that indicate bruising, but that's not quite as effective as showing someone. Show me, as the phrase goes. Show me, so I can believe it.
The truth of the matter is, many of the insurance adjusters are skeptical. There's a lot of people out there trying to game the system, trying to embellish their case, but if you can show somebody visually the injuries that you had, it is much more compelling that simply pointing to a notation in a medical record somewhere.
If you are injured in an automobile accident, make sure not to just take pictures of the vehicle. The vehicle is important, but you also want to document any and all physical manifestations of injury, bruising, scratches, redness. No matter how minor, take a picture. Have somebody in your family take a picture from several different angles as well and different lighting conditions. Sometimes a bruise may not show in a particular lighting condition, but perhaps from another angle or a different lighting condition, it does show better.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of taking pictures of your physical injuries after an automobile accident. Thank you very much for watching. Please call (661) 414-7100 to see if we can help with your injury case.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch, Castaic and surrounding communities.