Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorneys
We Handle Serious Personal Injury Cases in Los Angeles
Personal injuries can occur anywhere and to anyone. You may slip on a wet floor while shopping or get hit by a car while crossing the road. In California, personal injury laws cover numerous accidents. At El Dabe Ritter Trial Lawyers, our Los Angeles injury attorneys assist clients with the following personal injury cases:
We believe in a higher level of service and results, which comes from our belief in providing the best service. If you are the victim of an injury, contact us today.One of our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers will be able to meet with you and your loved ones to discuss your case and your options, and help answer any questions you may have.
Personal Injury Statistics in Los Angeles
The Greater Los Angeles area has a population of 19 million people inhabiting its 34,000 square miles. With so many people spread all over this economic hub, it is no wonder that accidents happen regularly. Many of these accidents result in personal injury, which may vary in severity. In 2015, approximately 39,708 people suffered personal injuries from traffic accidents. These accidents claimed more than 260 lives in 2016 in Los Angeles.
Additionally, the number of accidents in LA is higher than that of other cities in California. In 2013, Los Angeles recorded a total of 67,534 accidents, according to the California Department of Public Health. This number was over two and a half times that of San Diego. As the numbers indicate, residents of Los Angeles stand a high risk of falling victim to personal injuries.
Common Personal Injuries in Los Angeles
Accidents can leave you with injuries. Depending on the nature of the accident, they may be mild pains that resolve in a few days or severe injuries that require extensive treatment and rehabilitation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, slip and fall accidents cause about 40.5 percent of total traumatic brain injuries in the country, while 14.3 percent result from traffic accidents.
After an accident, you may incur personal injuries such as:
Personal injuries require immediate medical attention. Following an accident, call 911 or go to the hospital even if you don’t feel any pain or have no symptoms of serious injury.
What is a Compression Fracture Back Injury?
A compression fracture injury mainly occurs as a result of excessive pressure on the vertebra, physical injury or an impact. If any of these circumstances causes a bone to collapse, then the condition is known as a vertebral compression fracture. Sudden pressure or impact on the back can cause a compression fracture.
If you or a loved one has suffered a compression fracture, then you need to consult with a personal injury lawyer. A compression fracture can have far-reaching consequences. You deserve full compensation so that you receive good medical treatment and make necessary adjustments. A deeper understanding of compression fractures will shed more light on why you need to seek legal expertise from our compression fracture back injury lawyers when filing a claim.
Compression fractures can be sustained in accidents such as car accidents. Most fractures are sustained in motor vehicle accidents where the fracture is often combined with other injuries such as an upper bone fracture or whiplash. Slip and fall accidents can also lead to back compression fractures. The elderly are generally more prone to slip and fall accidents, because their bones are more brittle and delicate.
Slip and fall accidents are compensable. In most cases, the owner of the premise or residential building can be held liable, however, the victim must prove negligence. In as much as you have suffered an accident, you still need to determine liability. This involves complex legal procedures and elements. This is why it is best to let a personal injury lawyer handle your case.
What are Symptoms of a Compression Fracture?
People who have suffered a compression fracture complain of acute back pain that can escalate into chronic pain. Other symptoms include loss of height, loss of muscle and crowding of the internal organs. Patients may also suffer the following vertebral fracture symptoms:
- Restricted spinal mobility
- Sudden or sharp back pain
- Intense pain when standing or walking
- Pain when lying on your back
- Disability or deformity
A compression fracture may start as mild back pain, however, with time, it may develop into chronic pain. In fact, most patients are not aware that they have a compression fracture because it mainly manifests as back pain. If you have been injured in an accident and have suffered a spinal injury, it is important to get an MRI or a CT scan. Do not simply dismiss the pain because it can get worse over time.
If you have a stress fracture, you may occasionally experience sharp back pain, and you should get it checked right away. Fairly routine activities such as lifting or bending can also be strenuous and occasioned with pain. A compression or vertebral fracture must be correctly diagnosed.; failure to do this can lead to complications in the future.
Treatment should also be administered immediately so that the back does not deteriorate. Spinal injuries and fractures can be life-altering and in some cases, patients are unable to make a full recovery. Compression fractures and other vertebral fractures are not easy to diagnose. In most cases, the victims need to undergo a series of tests. These tests are expensive and time-consuming.
California’s Comparative Negligence
Under the negligence laws in California, individuals and institutions are liable for the injuries they cause others, even if the damage was not intentional. This provides victims with the right to file a compensation claim for a personal injury caused by the negligence of a specific party. When it comes to how much one may recover, this varies due to California’s comparative negligence laws. Suppose an accident occurs between a pedestrian and a motorcycle driver in downtown Los Angeles.
If the pedestrian was jaywalking and was considered to be 30% at fault for the accident, they will only be able to recover up to 70% of the total damages involved. While every case is different, it’s crucial to understand your rights and do all you can to maximize your compensation.
What Should I Do Following an Accident in Los Angeles?
Filing your personal injury claim is just the first step in a lengthy legal process. The success of your lawsuit is highly dependent on everything you say or do after your accident. Although our team of experts will do most of the heavy lifting, there are several things you can do to help us ensure that you get the best results.
- Get Immediate Medical Assistance: Regardless of whether your injury is mild or severe, the probability of you making a recovery hinges on you getting an early evaluation. Some injuries may not surface until a few days after the accident, some may be immediate. When receiving medical attention, keep detailed medical documentation to prove that you were injured and examined by a doctor. This includes official prescriptions and diagnosis papers written by your doctor. You will need them to prove the severity of your personal injury and its connection to your accident.
- Collect and Preserve Evidence: Along with your medical documents, you need to collect and preserve other vital pieces of proof. Take pictures, videos, and witness statements of the accident if at all possible. Don’t repair any defective car parts or dispose of anything material to the accident.
- Contact the Police and Your Insurance Company: You should report the accident and have the authorities evaluate the scene. While you should report the accident, you should be aware of what you say to the police. Keep from saying anything that may be incriminating, can be used to show you were responsible for the accident, or any other incriminating information. During this time, you should also contact your insurance company to let them know what happened.
- Call Our Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyers:Contacting our experienced firm as quickly as possible will allow more time to work with the other parties involved. We will be able to fully evaluate your claim, conduct an investigation if needed, handle all negotiations, and build a strong defense strategy to help you recover fair compensation. With three law offices throughout Southern California, our firm he prepared to help you wherever you may be.
- Minimize Your Social Media Activity: What you post on your social media about your accident could be used to undermine your case. Try to stay off social media platforms throughout your case proceedings.
- Follow Your Doctor’s Recommendations: If your doctor recommends you go back for a checkup, or get specific medications, do it. Failing to abide by your healthcare provider’s orders could be misconstrued as an unwillingness to get well. Insurance providers may even argue that your injuries were not severe if you refuse to be treated or follow up.
What Damages Can I Recover?
Personal injuries have significant repercussions on a victim’s life and that of their family. Your compensation claim should cover every injury, damage, loss, or expense you suffer as a result of your accident. Our personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles can help you recover compensation for physical damages, non-physical injuries, and punitive damages. Damages are typically categorized into two groups: economic and non-economic damages.
Typical compensation for losses includes compensation for:
- Accident-related medical bills, both present, and future
- Loss of earning ability or income
- Personal property damage
- The cost of retrofitting your vehicle or home to accommodate a permanent disability
- Cost of rehabilitation or physical therapy
- Price of property repair or replacement
- Accident-related transportation costs
Economic damages or “compensatory damages” in personal injury cases do not have a cap, and the jury or judge can award any amount they deem necessary and reasonable. You may also be entitled to damages that cannot be measured in terms of money, such as mental anguish, emotional distress, and pain and suffering. These damages or losses are referred to as “non-economic losses or damages” and according to Civil Code – CIV Section 333.2, (b) “In no action shall the number of damages for noneconomic losses exceed two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000).”
Loss of Consortium
This is a less common form of compensation. Plaintiffs have to prove that their accident or injury resulted in a negative impact on their relationship with their spouse/partner. If you are unable to maintain a normal sexual relationship or are unable to maintain a healthy emotional relationship, these could be grounds for loss of consortium damages. The damages for loss of consortium go directly to the affected spouse or family member, rather than the plaintiff.
How Much Money Can I Expect to Get in a Settlement?
When you are preparing to make a personal injury claim, you are probably wondering how much your case will be worth. At the very least, your case will be worth the economic damages you have suffered, including current and future medical expenses, lost wages, reducing earning capacity, and loss of future income. Any damages beyond this point are difficult to determine because every injury case is unique.
While an exact value can’t be assigned to your case, an experienced personal injury lawyer can give you a good idea of what you can expect to receive in a settlement.To better understand the value of your case, a good starting point is understanding how insurance companies determine the value of claims to begin negotiations. Most insurance companies use a damages formula explained below.
When you make an injury claim, the adjuster working for the insurance company company will negotiate with you or your injury lawyer to determine a fair settlement amount. To determine a starting point for negotiations, the adjuster will probably start by adding up your medical expenses, or medical special damages. This amount will then be multiplied by a factor of 1.5 to 3 if you have fairly minor injuries that resulted in a full recovery or up to 5 if you suffered long-lasting, very painful, or serious injuries. Lost income will then be added to the figure.
There are several factors that can increase the value of your injury claim. The damages formula will increase based on:
- The length of your recovery
- The amount of pain you suffered
- How invasive or long-lasting the condition
- How visible and serious any permanent effects or scars are (Facial scars, for example, increase the value of your claim more than scars on your legs)
- How obvious the medical evidence in your case. Hard injuries like fractures generally have higher general damages than soft tissue injuries that don’t show up on medical tests
Remember that this formula is just used to determine a starting point for negotiating your claim. Your injury lawyer will represent you throughout this process to present evidence, protect your rights, and seek a fair settlement that fully compensates you. Most injury cases settle before trial or even before a lawsuit must be filed, but it is sometimes necessary to go to court and seek a jury verdict.
Are Medical Bills Included in a Bodily Injury Claim?
Following a loss, you can expect the other party’s insurance carrier to reach out to you. Even during the investigation phase, it’s not unheard of for the third party carrier to extend a contingent offer for your bodily injury claim. The exploratory conversation generally entails your version of the loss, a description of your injuries, treatment, and lost wages, as well as a brief calculation on the adjuster’s part.
When liability has been resolved, they will likely extend an offer during this initial conversation as a way to set your expectations. Accepting this settlement is not full and final, but signing/cashing the check and/or any release will be binding. As indicated previously, a bodily injury claim generally entails three components: 1)medical bills, 2) lost wages, and 3) pain and suffering, otherwise know as general damages.
Even if you carry health insurance, your medical bills are included in the calculation of your bodily injury claim. How much you see of those bills in the bottom line greatly depends on your health insurance and its administrator. For example, if you carry Medicaid, Medicare, or Tricare, the government (either federal or state), will put the third party carrier on notice of a lien. A lien is essentially a hold on your settlement funds, that declares to all involved parties that the insurance carrier has paid your medical bills and has rights of recovery.
Some private health insurance carriers employ third party administrators to pursue liens against the third party insurance carrier. During conversations with the liability insurance carrier, they may skim over this liability and if your affairs are not in order when it is time for final settlement, you may find yourself responsible for these liens. This is when it’s important to have someone on your side, to traverse the insurance landmine and make sure you recover fairly when it is time for the disbursement of funds settled upon in your bodily injury claim.
As a third party claimant, when you pursue a bodily injury claim against a liability carrier they will not pre-authorize treatment. Instead, they will likely tell you that they will consider reasonable and customary charges and treatment. For that reason, you could also be left with balances on bills considered to be excessive in cost or duration. So, just by virtue of having incurred these bills as a result of their policyholder’s negligence, does not mean that the liability carrier will automatically include all of your medical bills. Instead, they will review these items and “cut” bills, often utilizing terminology that is confusing to the layperson. Again, this is when having an advocate to negotiate on your behalf can mean additional money in your pocket.
In short, medical bills are considered in a bodily injury claim. It is beneficial, however, to have a personal injury attorney to review and assist you with your claim to have a liaison available to traverse the industry lingo and argue the hefty cuts to these bills or discuss settlement outside of any potential liens generated by these medical bills. Ultimately, the adjuster is trained to close a file quickly and within the company parameters. Your LA personal injury lawyer has your best interest in mind and works only within those guidelines set during consultations.
Submitting A Claim for Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are most commonly awarded in civil matters, especially those related to personal injury claims. These damages are meant to deter a defendant from repeating the same act again while punishing them for committing it in the first place. They go beyond the standard compensatory damages that typically are awarded in civil suits involving personal injury, which are supposed to help the plaintiff offset the cost of the injury and any associated debt that built up as a result. For instance, a plaintiff might be awarded compensatory damages in order to pay for medical bills or to make up for lost wages. Any punitive damages would then be added to the compensatory damages. It is up to the court to determine if the punitive damages should be awarded based on the details of the case.
When To Claim Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are typically awarded as a result of extremely reprehensible conduct on the part of the defendant. There are many civil and tort scenarios in which punitive damages would not be awarded, like breach of contract. The court must submit a claim for the punitive damages that will be analyzed and scrutinized thoroughly in order to determine the validity of the claim. In order for punitive damages to be awarded, the following conditions must be met:
- Another form of damages must first be awarded to the plaintiff. It is not possible for punitive damages to be the only form of damages.
- The action that caused the incident must have been the result of malice and not neglect. Accidents rarely result in punitive damages.
- The value of the punitive damages claim must be relatively proportional to the value of the original damages, whether compensatory or nominal.
The issue with many punitive damages claims comes down to the value of the claim and whether or not it is relatively proportional to the primary damages, since ‘relatively’ is a subjective term. Courts must decide if the damages amount is actually appropriate.
There is no technical legal limit for the value of punitive damages, but that doesn’t mean claims should be made for outrageous sums. In strictly general terms, the standard ratio of 4:1 is accepted by most courts. That typically means a court won’t award punitive damages for greater than four times the value of the primary damages. While it technically would be legal for a court to issue punitive damages at any ratio, most courts agree that anything over 4:1 isn’t relatively proportionate.
How Much of My Time Would a Lawsuit Involve?
The length of time that it takes to complete a lawsuit will vary by case. However, a typical case that results in a settlement offer can take between 18 months and two years to complete from the initial filing of the lawsuit. Cases that go to trial or cases that involve class action lawsuits will take a longer period of time to complete.
There are several factors that lead to settlements and lawsuits taking an extended period of time. While this may be a little disheartening for some, it is often beneficial to the injury victim. The time line of a case will be based on the following situations:
- Response Rates. The response rates of both parties to the lawsuit will determine how long the case extends. Under the laws of each state, both parties have 30 -45 days to respond to the requests of the other party. It is not unusual for the insurance companies to wait until the last minute to respond, or wait until the last day to request an extension. This delay tactic is used to try to discourage the person seeking compensation from the insurer.
- Medical Information. Most attorneys want the medical care provider to indicate that you have reached the fullest recovery possible for your injury. This protects the client and their health. In the past, many victims of injury have settled quickly on a case only to have further health issues arise that are related to the accident and they no longer had the ability to seek compensation for these problems.
- Negotiations. Many times the negotiation process can take time to complete. It is rare for both parties to settle on a figure during their first meeting. Your attorney is going to make sure that your rights are protected as an injury victim and any settlement that they are going to agree to on your behalf must be fair and complete.
Deciding Whether You Should Sue or Settle Your Claim
An accident may leave you with neck, back or head injuries that may never fully heal. While you deal with the pain caused in the aftermath of a wreck or a hard fall, you also have to decide how you will hold the party that caused your injuries financially liable. In some cases, it may be easier to settle than to pursue a lawsuit. How do you decide which path to take?
Ideally, a lawsuit will be a last resort that you use as incentive for the other side to offer a fair deal sooner rather than later. In the event that both sides are talking and a fair deal can be reached, it is generally better to settle out of court. For you, the main benefit of settling is that your money gets to you faster. This means that you can pay bills and have money to live on until you get back to work. The main benefit for the other side is that there is generally a confidentiality clause in most settlements, which means there is no need to formally accept responsibility.
A trial could drag on for several months or years. In the meantime, you are faced with paying medical and other bills while also facing the possibility of testifying in your case. If you are called to testify, you could be asked to spend hours answering questions about events that you may not remember. Therefore, it may be in your best interest to settle the case and obtain closure as opposed to dragging it out and dealing with the stress longer than you need to.
The Insurance Adjuster Asked Me To Record A Statement. Should I Do It?
If you’ve recently been in a car accident, you can expect the other party’s insurance adjuster to contact you soon to provide them with a recorded statement. For your own protection, your answer to this question should always be no.
Here’s what you need to understand regarding the other party’s insurance adjuster – he has one job, and it’s not to make sure that everyone gets compensated appropriately according to what actually happened.
His job is to minimize the amount of money that his insurance company pays on your claim and his client’s claim, which means the best result for him is pinning the liability for the accident on you. If he can’t do that, he’ll attempt to at least create enough doubt that it was his own driver’s fault. Giving a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster puts you in a no-win situation. If there’s nothing that the insurance adjuster can use against you, then he simply won’t use your statement at all. In the more likely scenario that the adjuster finds something to use against you, you’ve just weakened your own claim.
Many people fall into the trap of thinking that they’ve “got nothing to hide” or that they’re “just going to tell the truth.” This line of thinking isn’t going to help you. The insurance adjuster will be looking for ways to strengthen his own case, and will ask questions that are designed to trick you into making a response that hurts your case. When every word you’re saying is being recorded, it’s often a simple task to find something that can be used against you. Once an insurance adjuster has your recorded statement, they can compete it to other statements you’ve made regarding the accident to look for any contradictions or inconsistent information.
Inconsistencies are common when retelling what happened in an accident. You may tell a police officer who arrives at the scene your version of events when you’re still full of adrenaline from what happened, but then remember other details later when you’re thinking more clearly. While it’s completely normal for your story of what happened to vary a bit, especially when you’re telling the story multiple times that are days or weeks apart, an insurance adjuster can use any inconsistencies to claim that you’re not being honest.
In the event that you sue the other driver and the case goes to court, the defense attorney can use your recorded statement while cross examining you. If you don’t remember exactly what you told the insurance adjuster during that statement from months ago, you could end up contradicting yourself, at which point you’ve become an unreliable witness. If it’s your own insurance company asking you to provide a recorded statement, you likely need to provide a statement to comply with your insurance policy.
Ask your insurance adjuster if this is the case, and if so, have them point out where it says this in your policy. It’s smart to ask your insurance company to provide you with reassurance in writing that they won’t share your recorded statement with the other driver’s insurance. They should have no problem agreeing to this, since there’s no way that sharing your statement with the other side could help your case.
When asked to give a recorded statement by the other driver’s insurance adjuster, don’t make the assumption that it can’t hurt you. Truthful statements have come back to bite drivers many times. Instead, consider – can it help you to provide a statement? It can’t, because the person taking the statement is only looking for ways to weaken your claim, not strengthen it.
Questions During a Personal Injury Deposition
For individuals who are filing a personal injury lawsuit, there is already a lot of stress and strain involved in just dealing with the injury that is causing the lawsuit. But going through a personal injury lawsuit will never be an easy process just because of the personal nature of the case itself.
Here, the choice of personal injury attorney is critical, because a highly qualified and competent attorney can ease both the learning curve and the sometimes lengthy process of litigation. One key area where choosing the right attorney can really help is to prepare the plaintiff for the personal injury deposition.
Because the deposition is designed as a vehicle through which the defendant can gather as much information about the events leading up to the lawsuit as possible, the questions will likely be geared heavily towards details of this matter.
Questions are very likely to include the following:
- Questions about the incident, including date, time, place, witnesses, injuries.
- Personal questions about the plaintiff including age, work history, education, et al.
- Personal questions about health and fitness level and medical history prior to and after the incident.
- Questions about any medical evaluation and/or care received after the incident.
- Questions about how the incident has changed or impacted daily life.
- Questions about what occurred right after the incident.
- Questions about perspective, such as distance to/from, length of time, pain scales, degree of injury and similar others.
Five Important Objections in Personal Injury Claims
Under United States law, an objection is a formal protest that is raised in a trial, a deposition, or in another type of official legal proceeding. The purpose of an objection is to get certain testimony or evidence disallowed from the case. In personal injury claims, an objection may be leveled during discovery, during a deposition, or during litigation.
There are many different reasons why your lawyer may decide to raise an objection. Some of the most important legal objections are as follows:
- Ambiguous/Misleading: If you are in a personal injury deposition, you are under no obligation to answer questions that are ambiguous or otherwise misleading. Your lawyer can object to this line of questioning.
- Lack of Relevance: Relevance matters. One of the important legal objections is on the grounds of “irrelevance.” Irrelevant information can sometimes lead to misleading or unfair conclusions.
- Speculation: In personal injury claims, speculation is generally ill-advised. Often, in personal injury depositions, legal representatives for defendants and insurance companies will try to encourage general speculation — hoping they can draw out a statement that hurts the victim’s case. A Los Angeles personal injury lawyer can object to a speculative line of questioning.
- Hearsay: As a general rule, hearsay is not admissible evidence. A personal injury claim is not the place to litigate rumors, innuendo, or other unreliable/unsubstantiated information. Unless an exception applies, hearsay should be objected to.
- Badgering: Witnesses should not be badgered or intimidated. If an opposing attorney is badgering the injured victim or any other witness, an objection can be raised.
Can I Hire an Attorney From a Different State?
You may have gotten in a car accident in Nevada, but since you live in California, you might want to use a lawyer closer to home. Maybe you suffered a slip-and-fall accident in New York, but you want to be represented by a lawyer in Florida. Is this possible? Can you use an attorney from a different state?
Not necessarily. A lawyer’s areas of practice cannot cross state lines unless they are licensed to practice in multiple states. Lawyers are licensed by a state agency in each state, so their practice is limited to states in which they have passed the bar exam. To see if a lawyer is licensed in your state, you can search for their name on the American Bar Association website.
It is illegal and considered a serious violation for non-lawyers to act as lawyers or for lawyers to attempt to practice law in states where they are not licensed. There are two main exceptions:
- Lawyers are allowed to provide services in another state if they will not be going to courts, such as arbitration and mediation.
- Out-of-state lawyers can also represent clients in another state if they will be working with a local lawyer. This is allowed under the “pro hac vice” process.
What to Consider Before Choosing an Out-of-State Attorney
If you do decide to choose an attorney from another state to represent you, there are several things to consider:
- Costs. When it comes to the cost of hiring an attorney, location is a huge factor. Attorneys in states such as California, New York, and Florida will charge more than lawyers in states such as Kansas or Iowa. Plus, some lawyers operate differently. While many work on contingency, others utilize flat fees, retainer fees, and hourly fees.
- Familiarity with the law. Sometimes it is better to work with both a local lawyer and a subject matter expert rather than a local lawyer who has to spend a lot of time researching the law. This allows both lawyers to focus on what they do best and saves you money.
- Travel costs. While many cases can be handled remotely, sometimes court appearances are necessary. If you do choose a lawyer from a different state, they may have to travel to you. This means that you may have to pay for airfare, transportation, lodging, and meals. These costs could add up quickly, so keep them in mind.
Representing Injured Children and Their Families in Los Angeles
By their very nature, young children are incredibly curious. If you take your eye off of a child for even a split second, they may end up climbing on the furniture or an appliance. According to a study conducted by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), children tend to suffer injuries due to appliance defects, televisions, and more. A 2022 CPSC report shared the following statistics:
- 71% of child fatalities involved a television
- 62% of fatalities of all age groups involved a television
- 55% of fatalities involved people being crushed
- Head-related injuries accounted for 66% of fatalities
You may wonder who can be held liable for your children’s injuries. Generally, appliance injury-related claims are brought against product manufacturers or appliance installers. Though, other negligent parties can sometimes be held legally liable as well.
Notably, stove tipping, television, dresser, and other accidents can be prevented. A very inexpensive safety product called an ‘anti-tip bracket’ can keep appliances from tipping over and severely injuring children and adults. In addition, a properly designed appliance should not be able to be tipped by small children. If your child was injured, our experienced child injury attorneys in Los Angeles will help you determine who bears liability for the accident. Your family deserves justice
What Is a Waiver of Liability?
If you have signed a waiver prior to entering a private property or participating in a certain activity, you may assume that you have waived all of your rights, and that if you suffer an injury, the party who asked you to sign the waiver cannot be held liable for your harm. While this may be true in certain cases, it is very important that you have your case reviewed by a Los Angeles personal injury attorney before you draw any conclusions. While you may waive your right to a personal injury lawsuit in some cases by signing a waiver, in many instances, a party can still be held liable for harm caused to another as a result of the party’s negligence.
For many different activities, especially recreational ones in California, a participant may be asked to sign a waiver of liability before they can participate in the activity. These waivers are common at gyms, trampoline parks, amusement parks, water parks, and in regards to various activities, such as taking a surfing lesson, skydiving, youth sports, and more. While the language of a waiver of liability, and the scope of the waiver, can vary on a case-by-case basis, in general, a waiver of liability is a contract between the participating party (consumer or recreational participant) and the company or facility providing the recreational opportunity (i.e. owner of trampoline park) that states that the participant is knowingly waiving their right to file a lawsuit against the other party should they suffer an injury, and that they are engaging in the recreational activity at their own risk.
By having participants sign waivers of liability, companies attempt to evade being held legally responsible should something go wrong and a participant suffers an injury.
Laws About Waivers in California and Requirements of a Valid Waiver
Most waivers of liability are enforceable, which means that should an injury occur, and the participant knew of the risk of that injury and yet engaged in the activity at their own risk (and signed a document stating this), the other party cannot be held liable for their harm. However, in order for a waiver to be enforceable in California, it must be valid. A California waiver of liability is valid and enforceable when:
- The activities that are covered by the release of liability are unambiguously stated and explained, as are the risks that the person is taking by participating in said activities;
- The rights that the person who is signing are waiving are explicitly stated;
- The types of accidents and injuries that could happen, and for which liability is waived, are clearly stated; and
- The person who signed the release of liability did so knowingly without deception or while under duress.
This means that if you are harmed on the property of another or when using the property/recreational equipment of another, you may still have a claim even if you signed a waiver of liability if you can prove that the waiver was not valid or that your injuries fall outside of the scope of what was stated in the waiver.
Can a Tenant Sue a Landlord for Falling Down the Stairs?
Property owners and landlords in California are required to maintain their property in a safe condition. Should they fail to uphold this duty, they could create dangerous conditions such as worn stairs on the property. This could expose tenants to the risk of accidents. The injured tenant may then be eligible to seek damages from the landlord.
Can a tenant sue a landlord for falling down the stairs? The answer generally depends on several factors, such as the duty of care owed to the tenant. Premises liability laws in California define when a landlord can be held liable for a tenant’s injuries. Generally, the potential liability of a landlord differs across two distinct time periods, including:
- Before Passing Possession
A landlord is expected to ensure the premises are safe before giving possession to a tenant or upon lease renewal. They are required to conduct an inspection and fix any discovered unsafe conditions. If they fail to fix a condition, including one they should have discovered, they can be held liable for tenant injuries resulting from the condition.
- After Passing Possession
Once the landlord gives a tenant possession of premises, they lose the right to enter the premises without permission. They wouldn’t be aware of all the dangerous conditions that arise after the tenant moves in. They cannot be held liable for accidents arising from such conditions.
California premises liability law holds that a landlord is not liable for any injuries caused by conditions that came into existence after they passed possession to a tenant. However, there are exceptions to this rule. A landlord can be held responsible if they had knowledge of the dangerous condition as well as a right to repair it or the accident occurred in a common area that the landlord has complete control over, such as stairs, hallways, ad elevators.
Proving a premises liability case in California is the responsibility of the victim. This is referred to as the burden of proof. Generally, you have to establish the following elements to sue your landlord for a slip and fall accident:
- They owed you a duty of care as a tenant
- They failed to uphold that duty by not maintaining the staircase in a safe condition
- This failure or inaction was the direct cause of your injuries
Does the Type of Car Accident Affect My Settlement Amount?
Following a car accident, a person who has suffered physical injuries, property damage, or/and noneconomic losses (such as pain and suffering) maintains the right to file a claim for damages against their own insurance company, against the insurance company of the at-fault driver, or directly against the at-fault driver. The purpose of doing so is to recover monetary compensation for the value of damages suffered. Here’s what you should know about how the type of car accident in which you’re involved could affect your settlement, as well as other elements that will indeed have an effect on the amount of money that you walk away with.
Two of the biggest elements that can affect the amount of money that you walk away with at the conclusion of a car accident claim are fault and the degree of injuries that you suffer. While these two things are independent of the type of car accident, the type of car accident in which you’re involved could have an effect on both of these elements.
- Fault. Depending upon the type of accident in which you were involved, fault may be harder or easier to prove. For example, if you were involved in a head-on crash while your vehicle was lawfully traveling down a roadway and another vehicle, traveling the wrong way down the same roadway in an illegal manner, collided with your car, fault is clear: the other driver was obviously to blame. However, if you are in a side-swipe or T-bone accident, exactly which driver failed to yield, had the right of way, or otherwise acted negligently may be debatable. Because California is an at-fault car accident state, in order to recover compensation from the other party’s insurer, you must be able to prove that the accident would not have occurred but for that party’s fault – this may be complicated depending on the accident type.
- Degree of injuries. While there is no set rule about what type of accident can lead to a serious injury–for example, a person who is in a rear-end collision could, hypothetically, suffer a more serious injury than a person who is in a head-on collision–there are some general trends regarding accident type and injury severity. Generally speaking, rear-end crashes are less serious than are other accident types, and head-on crashes and rollover collisions are two of the most deadly collision types. Because the type of accident in which you are involved could have an effect on the degree of your injuries, and because the degree of your injuries will have an immediate impact on the value of your claim, the type of accident in which you’re involved could have an effect on your settlement.
While the type of accident in which you are involved may have an effect on things like fault determination and the degree of injuries you suffer, which in turn may have an effect on your overall settlement offer, accident type is not the primary influencer of a settlement. Instead, in addition to the degree of injuries and the ability to prove fault (which can be affected by the existence of various evidence types, including eyewitnesses’ statements), factors that significantly affect a settlement include:
- Value of economic losses. A person who is involved in a car accident deserves to be compensated for the full value of their economic losses, including property damage expenses, medical expenses, lost wages, and more. While this is affected by the extent of injuries, in part, other things that may affect thing include the harmed person’s salary and income prior to the accident (and their inability to earn this income post-accident), the value of the vehicle involved in the accident, and more.
- Value of noneconomic losses. Not only does a person maintain the right to seek compensation for their economic losses, but their noneconomic losses as well, which refers to the degree of the individual’s pain, suffering, and emotional distress. This may be primarily affected by the degree of injury, but also on the change in quality of life or lifestyle that the person suffers as a result of the accident, which can vary on a case-by-case basis.
- Types of insurance and value of insurance policies. Even when fault is clear, injuries are severe, and losses are significant, a person cannot recoup the settlement that they deserve if the proper insurance policy does not exist or there is not enough coverage offered by an insurance policy. Indeed, the type and value of insurance available is one of the biggest factors that affects a settlement amount.
- Adherence to claim rules and regulations. Finally, remember that the insurance company must be notified of the accident within a certain amount of time, the claimant must be able to prove the various elements of a successful claim (duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages), and any lawsuit must be filed within the statute of limitations. Otherwise, the value of a claim may be diminished, or a claim may be barred entirely.
I Have Been Asked To Release My Medical Records To The Other Driver’s Insurance Adjuster. Should I Do This?
No one thinks about how they’ll handle a car accident if ever they’re involved in one. Most people get into their cars on a daily basis assuming they’re safe and sound, but few understand just how terrifying and confusing it is to become the victim of an accident. Few things leave you feeling as inadequate or unprepared as being hit by someone else and wondering what happens next. There’s police reports, insurance calls, deductibles, potential lawsuits, damages, and so much more associated with an accident. If you suffer injuries, that’s just one more issue you’re worried about.
If you are injured in a car accident, it’s not clear how to handle the situation. You know you shouldn’t be responsible for paying medical bills from your injuries if someone else caused your accident, but you’re unsure how to handle this. The best thing you can do is contact a personal injury attorney. Then call your insurance company and ask them how you should handle this situation. They can guide you through the process if you’re using them to pay for the damages to your car and your health while they seek repayment from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Most insurance policies cover medical bills up to $10,000. That’s not much if you’re injured seriously. One surgery or a few nights in the hospital for your recovery can cause your medical bills to soar much higher than that, and you become responsible for the additional costs even with your own health insurance in use. This is why you must know what you’re entitled to, what to say, what to do, and who you should talk to about your medical needs.
Many insurance adjusters will call victims and ask them to release their medical records. They’ll claim they need these records to help them gather the evidence they need to make payment to you to cover medical bills. Never, ever provide medical release to the other insurance company. This company does not need your medical records, and signing them over to them could hurt you.
You are not required by law to release your medical records to anyone following an accident. When you do, the insurance agency goes through all your records. They’re not going to stop at just the records associated with your accident. They’re looking for any records from your childhood on that might allow them to get out of paying you for your medical bills. Any injury you suffered at any point in your life could be used as grounds for nonpayment.
For example, if you were involved in a minor car accident and treated for whiplash when you were 17, the other insurance company could use that information to deny paying your medical bills on the basis your whiplash was a pre-existing condition and not one caused by this accident. You don’t want your own medical history used against you in a car accident case.
If you have any questions about what’s legally required of you, it’s time to call an attorney who specializes in personal injury cases. Our office is here for you any time someone asks you for something and you’re unsure how to proceed. Don’t sign over your medical records, and don’t assume you are required by law simply because someone with some authority told you it must be done.
The Importance of Having a Waiver Reviewed by a Skilled Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney
If you have signed a waiver of your right to sue and a release of liability and you suffer an injury, you should not automatically assume that you have no legal rights moving forward and no recovery options; you may still have a case, and the recreational provider may still be held liable depending upon the situation. Indeed, it is for this reason that before you assume a lack of ability to bring forth a claim, you have the waiver and your case reviewed by a skilled Los Angeles injury attorney. You may still be able to bring forth a claim for damages, despite the fact that you have signed a waiver, against the at-fault party if:
- Your release of liability was buried in a lengthy document and you were unaware of what you were signing;
- The party who asked you to sign the release is guilty of gross negligence;
- The release contained ambiguities;
- The type of accident in which you were involved or injury you suffered is not named in the release; or
- The release was unconscionable or you signed it under duress or deception.
Contact Our Injury Attorneys in Los Angeles Today
We know how difficult time is following a serious accident. Life is stressful. You may be out of work. You are more than likely facing mounds of medical bills and trying to discuss the incident with your insurance company. Let our experienced personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles help you.
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