Motor Vehicle Accidents - Catastrophic Injury

Motor vehicle accidents cause the loss of time, property, health and even life. Such accidents occur because of elements including driver error, negligence, manufacturing defects and dangerous weather. No matter what the specific cause or result, a crash can turn a normal day into a prolonged struggle. Speaking with a lawyer can help you sort out your rights, your options and your future. Contact an attorney to find out more. In the meantime, gather and preserve as much evidence as possible as to the cause of the accident.

When you have been in an auto accident, you may have a sense of who caused it. Issues of fault, however, can be complicated by who acted when and which laws governed the situation. If the other driver was negligent, you may have to prove that the driver breached a duty of care to you and that the breach caused your damages. The assistance of an attorney can be immensely valuable at this time, whether you are battling an insurance company, seeking compensation for your injuries or defending yourself in court.

Frequently Asked Questions about Motor Vehicle Accidents

Q: I have been in a motor vehicle accident. Should I go to a doctor?

A: If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, you should see a doctor right away. Firstly, you should see a doctor for your own well-being. You may not be able to discern the extent of your injuries yourself; a small ache could be something significant, or it could be nothing at all. Only a doctor can tell you for sure. Secondly, you should see a doctor because if you decide to bring a legal claim against the at-fault driver or another party, you will need documentation of your injuries and what you did to fix them.

Q: Are there parties other than the at-fault driver against whom I can take legal action?

A: If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, there may be parties other than the at-fault driver who share responsibility for what happened. If the accident occurred because the other driver was drunk, and a business served alcohol to the visibly intoxicated driver before the accident, your state’s dram shop law may allow you to hold the business liable; this varies from state to state. If a defect in one of the autos caused or worsened the accident, the vehicle manufacturer may be responsible for the injuries that resulted. Or a third party may have left debris in the road or caused one of the drivers involved in the accident to undertake a risky driving maneuver to avoid collision. Finally, if the owner of the car driven by the at-fault driver negligently allowed the driver to use the car, the owner may be liable, too.

Q: Do I have to go to court if I want to recover monetary damages?

A: Maybe. Your case may settle even before your attorney files a lawsuit; on the other hand, it may go all the way to a trial and a jury verdict. The majority of lawsuits are settled before they get to trial, but what happens in your case depends on the facts, the law and the parties involved.

Q: If the accident was my fault, can I still recover compensation?

A: Some states have no-fault insurance laws. This means that you may be able to make some recovery of economic damages from your own insurance company. In other states, if your fault is found to be over a certain level, it is more difficult to recover compensation. An attorney in your state can advise you on the rules in your area.

Q: How much is my personal injury case worth?

A: Your attorney can speak with you about this, but even attorneys can’t necessarily pinpoint what your case is worth until it is close to a resolution. Many factors, including the circumstances of the accident, the state of the drivers involved and the insurance companies influence the outcome. So do your medical bills, your loss of income and the nature of your injuries. An experienced lawyer can work with you to decide whether to pursue legal action and how to proceed.

Q: How soon do I need to bring my legal claim against the other driver?

A: It is best to speak with an attorney right away. The time limits for taking legal action vary by state, and they may also be affected by insurance policy specifics. The nature of your injuries may even change the amount of time you have to bring a claim.

Q: What if the insurance company offers me a check right away?

A: Before you accept anything — or sign anything — from an insurance company, be sure that you are aware of your legal rights and options. Accepting a check may mean that you are giving up your right to sue later on if you need extra medical care or you have to miss a lot of work. Consult an attorney before you negotiate with the insurance company.

Q: What if the other driver, who caused the accident, has no insurance?

A: Even though your state may require all drivers to carry a certain level of auto insurance, that doesn’t mean that everyone follows the law. This is why some states require insurance companies to offer drivers uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. If your insurance policy has this feature, then it may compensate you for some of your losses.

Q: What is a "catastrophic" injury?

A: A catastrophic injury or illness usually occurs suddenly and without warning. Injuries that are considered catastrophic, due to the enormous impact they have on the lives of the individuals who experience them, include the following: brain injury, spinal cord injury, accidental amputation, severe burns, multiple fractures, or other, neurological disorders. A catastrophic injury or illness very often causes severe disruption to the central nervous system, which in turn affects many other systems of the body. In addition to possible loss of movement, sensation, and communicative and cognitive abilities, the injury or illness may impact respiration, circulation, skin, the urinary system, the gastrointestinal system, and other body systems. Management of such an injury is complex and requires the expertise of a team of health professionals including physicians, consultants, nurses, therapists, and counselors. Clearly, the long-term needs of someone who has experienced this type of injury far surpass those of individuals with less severe injuries. Individuals may recover from some catastrophic injuries if they receive proper, early medical treatment; however, others may experience permanent disability, significant suffering, and reduced life spans.

Injuries are often called "catastrophic" when the physical injuries to a person are especially severe, and require extensive medical treatment. The injuries may involve damage to a person's central nervous system, and this may affect other bodily systems or functions. Catastrophic injuries include:

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Paralysis
  • Brain injuries
  • Amputations
  • Burns over a large portion of the body
  • Loss of an eye
  • Injuries to the nerves in the chest, shoulder, and arm (brachial plexus)
  • Multiple fractures

In addition, many people who suffer catastrophic injuries also suffer depression or other emotional problems because of the limitations put on them by their injuries.

Q: Are catastrophic injuries permanent?

A: Not all catastrophic injuries are permanent. Those injuries that are not permanent will usually take a very long time-months, or years-to reach a full recovery. In some cases, especially those involving children, the actual extent of the injury may not be known until much time has passed after the accident. Emotional injuries may also be a problem for a long time after the physical injuries have healed. The effects of a catastrophic injury may linger for a long period of time.

Q: What may cause a catastrophic injury?

A: Catastrophic injuries may be caused by almost any type of accident. Catastrophic injuries may result from

    * Motor vehicle collision
    * Construction accident
    * Fires
    * Sports injuries
    * Farm machinery accident
    * Workplace accident
    * Defective product

Almost any accident can result in catastrophic injury. It is the misfortune of the victim that decides if an injury is catastrophic.

Q: What kind of compensation may I recover for my injuries?

A: An injured person may be awarded compensation, or damages, for:

    * Medical expenses
    * Future medical expenses
    * Expenses to care for the injured person
    * Lost income
    * Loss of income in the future
    * Pain and suffering
    * Loss of enjoyment of life
    * Loss of consortium, or spousal relations

In some cases, an injured person may be able to collect punitive damages, which are meant to punish a person who acted badly. Punitive damages, if any, would be in addition to the damages listed.

If you read reports of verdicts or settlements in catastrophic injury cases, you may be struck by the large amounts of money involved. Remember that this money is meant to pay for many different, and expensive, things: extra medical care, lost wages, pain and suffering. A catastrophic injury takes away part of a person's life, and money damages are the law's way of attempting to pay for that loss.

Injuries that are considered catastrophic, due to the enormous impact they have on the lives of the individuals who experience them, include the following: brain injury, spinal cord injury, accidental amputation, severe burns, multiple fractures, or other, neurological disorders.
Personal Injury Damages
   
The most significant issue to most people involved in a personal injury claim is the issue of damages. Obtaining fair and just compensation for injuries you have sustained is the primary concern at the Law Office of Steven L. Weiner & Associates. By using our experience and the extensive resources available to us on your behalf, we focus on achieving the highest possible monetary recovery for you.

When a judge or jury finds the defendant liable for wrongful conduct in a personal injury case, the issue then becomes what types of damages are due to the plaintiff, and in what amount. 

As you know, if you suffer a personal injury you'll likely require medical attention and may need rehabilitation, all of which costs substantial sums of money. You may lose income (and have to use up "sick time") because of the injury, and you may continue to lose income while treatment and recovery takes place. You may have sustained property damage to your car and other property.

Since you can't drive your vehicle while it is being repaired, you may have to rent one, and car repairs and rentals can cost money. You may also lose the ability to perform various activities of normal daily living, for a while or permanently. You may also endure significant pain and suffering, which may be ongoing as well.

The law permits you to seek recovery after an accident to "make you whole again." The central concept is that you should be compensated in a manner that, as best as the law can arrange, places you back in the same position as you were before the accident. In most personal injury actions the plaintiff must have been injured in some way to be entitled to damages.

For example, in negligence cases, we must prove that you suffered injury (some type of physical, emotional or monetary harm) for the defendant to be required to pay compensation to you. However, with some intentional torts (such as battery, assault or trespass) we may only have to show that the defendant engaged in the unauthorized conduct, without proving that you suffered actual physical harm, in order to recover damages (though damages in these situations are often nominal absent serious injury).

Three basic kinds of damages are awarded in personal injury cases: compensatory damages, punitive damages and nominal damages.

In all matters involving personal injury it is essential that measures be taken promptly to preserve evidence, investigate the accident in question, and to file a lawsuit prior to the deadline imposed by the statute of limitations. If you or a loved one is a victim of personal injuries, contact the Law Office of Steven L. Weiner & Associates now. Your consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to accept your case, we will work on a contingent fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary award or recovery of funds.
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Each California auto accident attorney and insurance dispute lawyer at the Law Office of Steven L. Weiner & Associates provides comprehensive legal advice and lawsuit representation to clients across Central and Northern California, including Walnut Creek, San Francisco, San Jose, San Mateo, Oakland, Pleasanton and Los Angeles. Our network of legal and medical professionals can independently assess your injuries and get you the best medical care available, with no out-of-pocket expenses.

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If you have been seriously injured by the negligent actions of another person, you need to contact the Law Offices of Steven L. Weiner & Associates* today for a free consultation and maximum compensation for medical bills, lost wages and long-term care.
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