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Burlingame, CA Personal Injury Blog

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Should I settle my case? How you decide.

Jacob Shapiro, Esq. of Shapiro Legal Group has counseled thousands of personal injury claimants on whether to settle their case.  Sometimes this decision comes when the choice is to either settle or file a lawsuit.  Sometimes this decision comes when the choice is either to settle or proceed with trial.  At any point, the decision requires cost-benefit analysis comparing two options.  It is akin to reaching a fork in the road and deciding which path to take.

Of course no one, even an experienced litigator, has a crystal ball.  No one can predict with certainty what a jury will do or even what will happen to a case during the pre-trial discovery process.   All one can do is use judgment to assess what the potential outcomes are and how often they will occur.  Settlement by contrast is usually more certain.  So there is always a choice between a more definitive outcome and a less predictable one. 

Perhaps the most important aspect to remember is that every case has a monetary result.  Whether positive, negative, or neutral, there will be an economic outcome to every case.  The goal is to have the best economic outcome with appropriate consideration for the risks involved in each option.

The best advice is to not make the decision based on emotion.  It should be an economic decision not an emotional one.  In addition, no choice can be made in the abstract looking at only one of the two options.  A settlement option may not be everything one would hope for but might be a better choice than a trial option putting thousands of dollars at risk.  On the other hand, there are times when going to trial, or filing a lawsuit, is the better option despite the risk because the settlement option is poor or the expected verdict range is substantially better.

Every case requires detailed analysis.  If you are considering whether or not to settle your case or hire an attorney please feel free to contact Shapiro Legal Group.     


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What to do at the scene of an accident.

At Shapiro Legal Group we hear countless stories of injured people who have been involved in an accident.  For many people this is the first time they have ever been involved in an accident and they don't know what to do.  Of course the number one priority is obtaining any emergency care at the scene.  As always medical care and your health are more important than legal considerations.  While no two accidents are exactly the same here are some general guidelines for the most common types of accidents which produce injuries. 

Automobile accidents - If there is sufficient property damage you are required to exchange information at the scene.  If physically able you should take pictures of the damage to the other vehicle as you may not see it again.  Pictures of your vehicle, and even the scene, are important although they can be taken later.  You should call the police.  Whether they will come and whether they will produce a report will depend on the jurisdiction.  Do not tell the police you are not injured if you do not know.

Slip/Trip and Fall accidents - You should determine why you slipped or fell.  If physically able take pictures of the scene.  The scene will likely be cleaned or altered permanently eliminating the ability to obtain what could be crucial evidence.  Many legitimate claims are lost simply because the condition at issue can no longer be shown to the jury.  Save your shoes putting them in a bag and do not wear them again as they are now evidence.

If you have been injured in an accident please feel free to call Shapiro Legal Group for a free consultation.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Automobile Insurance Coverages

Jacob Shapiro, Esq. of Shapiro Legal Group has represented over a thousand people injured in automobile accidents.  One commonality is how few people know what their insurance policy covers.  They know whether they have insurance but they don't know what they have.  Then when they are involved in an accident, and especially when they are injured in an automobile accident, they don't know if their policy applies.  In fact, a sizeable minority have a strong aversion to making a claim with their own policy.  After all it is the other driver's fault so why should my insurance company have to pay anything.

By law you are required to have bodily injury and property damage liability insurance.  This is what most of your premium dollars goes towards.  Because this is mandatory everyone gets it.  This coverage provides compensation to the other party, and pays for your defense, when you are at fault.  It doesn't help you with your injuries.  It is unfortunate that most people do not consider the types of coverage which help you, your passengers, and your family when injured in a car accident.

Two coverages which help you are a medical payment provision and uninsured motorist protection.  A medical payment provision covers you and your blood relatives living in your household for medical expenses for injuries caused by a car accident.  This could be as a driver, passenger, bicyclist, or pedestrian.  Uninsured motorist, or UM, covers the same class of people for bodily injury claims when injured by a driver without insurance.  If purchased in larger than minimal amounts, this could also provide Underinsured motorist protection.  It provides coverage if the person at fault does not have enough insurance.  After the policy maximum is obtained, if there are additional uncompensated damages then a claim can be made using underinsured motorist protection.

You should definitely consider purchasing these coverages as they are relatively inexpensive and can be very helpful.  If you are injured in a car accident they may provide your only realistic avenue for recovery.   You should still hire an attorney if the damages are significant.  If you have a question as to whether you have a claim on your policy when injured in a car accident you can call Shapiro Legal Group for a free consultation.      


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Property Damage - Cost of Repair v. Value of the Car

The health of the people involved is the most important question following an automobile collision.  At Shapiro Legal Group we specialize in helping people who are injured as a result of automobile accidents.  However, handling the damage to the vehicle is an unfortunate burden at a difficult time.  It is important to know what should happen and who you should go to for help.

If the person at fault has insurance you can contact their company to discuss your property damage.  You should not give any recorded statements.  You should make sure you take pictures before the vehicle is fixed.  The owner of the car is the one with the property damage claim.  The value of the claim is either the cost of fixing the car or the value of the car at the time of the collision; whichever is less.  For example, if an old car was only worth $2,000.00 it is inefficient to spend $3,000.00 fixing it.  This is called a "total loss".  On the other hand if the car was worth $10,000.00 then it will be repaired for $3,000.00.  If the insurance company accepts liability for purposes of property damage then you can get your car fixed without paying.

Unfortunately you may not agree with their evaluation or feel comfortable dealing with the other driver's insurance company.  If you have collision coverage you can work with your company.  You may or may not be charged your deductible based upon the information available at the time.  For example if your insurance company knows they will be getting reimbursed 100% by the other driver's insurance they may not charge you.  Otherwise they will recover your deductible when their reimbursement claim is processed with the other company. 

Most property damage claims are handled separately, and much earlier, than bodily injury claims.  Also most property damage claims do not require an attorney.  Nevertheless if you have a question regarding property damage feel free to call Shapiro Legal Group to discuss your options.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Defense Medical Exam - What to expect

At Shapiro Legal Group we litigate cases.  This usually occurs after attempts are made at settlement.  During the course of the litigation the insurance company, who is not a party but handles the defense of the case, has the opportunity to hire a physician to examine the plaintiff.  This is not a typical doctor visit as you would have with your primary care physician or orthopedic surgeon.  This visit is for the sole purpose of litigation.  There is no physician-patient relationship formed.  The doctor works for the insurance company, is paid by the insurance company, and has the job of working against the interests of the injured person.  

When our client at Shapiro Legal Group is required to attend this exam we commonly set forth acceptable conditions in advance of the appointment.  We also provide the client with a list of instructions to follow.  The visit itself is not all that different from a regular exam in that there is usually a history taken and then a physical exam.  In fact the history may be more extensive as the doctor is focused on issues of causation between the plaintiff's symptoms and the subject incident for legal purposes and not just diagnostic purposes.  In a few weeks the doctor will produce a report detailing the findings and opinions.

As for the honesty of the physician or the veracity of the report there is a range of results.  Sometimes the report will be fair and straight forward.  Other times the report will be extremely bias.  The profit motive should never be discounted.  After all, a doctor who does not give the insurance company what they want will likely find fewer job opportunities with that company. 

In short, the defense medical exam, often mischaracterized as an independent medical exam, is a litigation event like no other and a doctor's appointment like no other.  If you have a question about such exams please feel free to call Shapiro Legal Group for more information.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Do I have enough damages to hire a lawyer?

People who are severely injured know they need an attorney.  The risk of making a mistake with significant damages involved is far too high to not obtain experienced counsel.  If you or a loved one are seriously injured and you believe someone else may be legally responsible of course you should call experienced counsel, such as Shapiro Legal Group, immediately.

But what if you are more moderately injured?  Do you need a lawyer?  How do you know?  The guidelines we use at Shapiro Legal Group to decide whether or not to take a case are similar to the standards a prospective client should use to decide whether or not to hire counsel.  Will the injured person likely be better off by hiring counsel?  What we generally look for is whether the person had a course of treatment for their injuries.  If so they should probably hire counsel.  If not they should probably handle the matter on their own providing they have the communication skills and acumen to do so. 

For example, someone who is seen at the emergency room one time or goes to their primary care physician one time and receives no further care probably does not need counsel.  Of course they should not settle anything until they are comfortable with their physical condition and know they will not need further treatment.  Once you settle you are done even if you later determine that you suffered more injury than you previously thought.  You cannot go back and re-open your claim.  Finality is the benefit of the bargain for the insurance company.

On the other hand, if you are going to go through a regimen of physical therapy or chiropractic care these are courses of treatment and your damages will last on the order of months as opposed to days or weeks.  In these circumstances hiring counsel will likely be beneficial.  These are guidelines and every case should be evaluated on an individual basis.  If you would like to find out whether hiring an attorney is right for you feel free to call Shapiro Legal Group for a free consultation.    


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Can an accident be more than one person's fault?

Often an incident occurs solely because of the negligence of an easily identifiable person or entity.  The driver who runs a red light, the homeowner who fails to remedy a dangerous condition on their property, or the manufacturer of a defective product are a few common examples.  In other circumstances there are multiple causes of an incident and there are multiple people who are at fault.

For example, at an intersection collision what if one driver had the right of way but was speeding.  The other driver entered without the right of way but was not speeding.  Who is at fault?  Both drivers were negligent; one for improperly entering the intersection and the other for speeding.  Both acts of negligence have what is referred to as "but for" causation.  The collision would not have occurred but for each negligent act.  Both acts of negligence have legal causation as they were substantial factors in bringing about the collision such that legal liability should attach.  The answer therefore is both drivers are at fault. 

In California, fault is apportioned on a percentage basis among all negligent actors.  So fault for the aforementioned intersection collision could be 50/50.  Or it could be 60/40.  Or it could be any two numbers which add up to 100%.  This is ultimately the quantification of an opinion with no definitive right or wrong answer.  It is up to the jury or judge.

The rules for how the decision affects the plaintiff's recovery are very complex.  One certain effect is that if the plaintiff is one of the negligent actors responsible for the incident which produced their injury then the plaintiff's recovery will be reduced by the percentage of their own fault.  Whether a claim in such circumstances is worth pursuing requires careful and experienced judgment from an attorney.  If you have a question about apportionment of fault or causation please feel free to contact Shapiro Legal Group for a free consultation.

      


Monday, January 26, 2015

If I'm injured in a car accident does my property damage matter?

At Shapiro Legal Group, we assess personal injury claims arising out of auto accidents on a regular basis.  While Mr. Shapiro has handled over a thousand auto accident cases he has reviewed a number far greater accounting for all the cases that do not meet acceptable criteria.  Some cases are rejected because the potential client is fully at fault for the accident.  In other cases the person may not have sufficient damages to warrant the hiring of counsel.  These situations are relatively easy to explain and provide free advice. 

One of the more difficult circumstances is when the injured person is not at fault but there is little property damage to the vehicle they were in.  In fact, this may be the fact pattern most commonly fought over between the general public and the insurance companies.  Why?  Because both sides, from their perspective, can feel they are very strong at the same time.

The view of the injured person is self-evident.  "The collision was not my fault.  I am significantly injured.  I should be compensated by the insurance company for the driver who hit me."  Sounds pretty good.

The view of the insurance company is not as readily known to the general public.  They look at the matter based on whether the injured person will be able to convince a jury that they were injured from a collision that caused minimal damage to the vehicle.  They believe, based on prior success, that if you show a jury a vehicle with very little damage then the jury will think anyone in the vehicle could not have been very injured either.  They back up this perception with biomechanical and accident reconstruction experts who work for them regularly.  There are also scientific studies, including those funded by insurance company interests, which such experts often rely on to buttress their opinions.

Of course in reality you cannot look at the car and tell if a person inside was injured or not.  Sometimes the property damage can be extensive and a person inside can be unharmed.  Other times the force of impact does not damage the car and instead is felt far more severely by the occupants.  This is why modern technology favors crumple zones so the force is absorbed by the car instead of the passengers.  But if you show a jury two photographs, one with no visible damage and one that looks like an accordion, it is only natural to draw assumptions.

So in short the answer is yes.  Property damage does matter.  It will matter not just because of the value of the evidence in proving injury was caused by the collision.  It will matter because it will affect the perception of the insurance company and can make the difference on whether a case results in a settlement or trial. 

If you have been injured in a car accident and want your property damage assessed from a legal view regarding a potential personal injury claim, please call Shapiro Legal Group for a free consultation with Mr. Shapiro.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Premises Liability - If it is their property is it their fault?

At Shapiro Legal Group, we receive many calls and emails from people who are injured because they fell while on someone else's property.  There is no limit to the types of places we hear about from supermarkets, hotels, sidewalks, apartment complexes, even jail.  It is a classic joke that when an auto accident occurs both drivers are sure it is the other person's fault.  After all, a vast majority of drivers think they are above average.  But in reality the general public has a good understanding who is at fault in an auto collision.  This is because driving is governed by the rules of the road.  Most accidents occur because someone didn't follow the rules.  While the evidence available may not be sufficient to determine who is at fault, it is very rare to have every fact known but be unable to determine liability.

The public's general understanding regarding premises liability is usually not consistent with the law.  There are many people whose view is either too harsh or too lax towards the property owner.  For example, we hear from many people who think if they get hurt on someone else's property then that owner is responsible.  It doesn't matter if there was a dangerous condition on the property.  In fact it doesn't matter if there was anything wrong with the property at all.  Some people think the property owner is strictly liable, legally responsible without fault, simply because they own the location where the injury occurs.  This is certainly not the case.

Other people blame the injured person no matter what hazard they confronted.  "You should have watched where you were going" is a common refrain ignoring the responsibility by law which a property owner has to use reasonable care not to subject visitors to unreasonable risks of harm.  No matter how dangerous the condition an excuse can always be found for the property owner, even one who knew about the hazard and did nothing.

If you or a loved one is injured on someone else's property the best thing to do is call Shapiro Legal Group for a free evaluation.  If we don't think you have a case we will tell you.  If we take your case we will fight on your behalf to hold a property owner who is truly negligent liable for your damages.       


Friday, January 16, 2015

Loss of Earnings and Loss of Earning Capacity

If a person misses time from work because they are injured then one of the types of compensatory damages they can recover in a personal injury claim is Loss of Earnings.  Loss of Earnings is sometimes simple and sometimes complex.   For a worker earning an hourly wage in a 9 to 5 job this is usually not difficult to calculate.  However for a self-employed entrepreneur the loss may be difficult or nearly impossible to quantify.  Loss of Earnings claims are always better when supported by medical documentation.  This should be remembered whether a doctor's note is required by the employer or not.

Loss of Earning Capacity is actually a separate loss reserved for significant or specific injuries.  In a Loss of Earning Capacity claim the loss is based on the injured person being unable to continue in their pre-injury occupation.  Often this involves permanent injuries.  In some cases the personal injury plaintiff is permanently disabled and will be unable to work for the rest of the their life.  However in other cases they will be able to work but not in their prior occupation.  In such cases the Loss of Earning Capacity is the difference between what they were making and what they are now worth as a worker in the job market.  For example, suppose a court reporter makes $60K/year and then permanently injures her wrist.  She may still be able to work at many occupations but cannot perform the physical dexterity necessary to continue her career as a court reporter.  She may be worth $30k/year in the job market and now has a lower earning capacity than she had previously.  The Loss of Earning Capacity claim measures and compensates for the difference as a result of the injuries sustained.  If you or a loved one have questions about Loss of Earnings or Loss of Earning Capacity as a result of a personal injury that is someone else's fault you should contact Shapiro Legal Group for a free consultation.      


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

2014

Shapiro Legal Group is proud to announce that 2014 was a banner year for our firm.  Not just because of a stellar year in trial court but because of the numerous injured people we were able to help.  This included providing assistance with finding medical care, helping to get medical expenses paid, and of course increasing our clients' financial recoveries from their claims.  While the economic advantage of hiring counsel is beneficial, the piece of mind of having an experienced attorney handle the matter while the injured person focuses on their health and their recovery cannot be overstated.  We hope we have an equally successful 2015 and hope that you do as well.  

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