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Car Accidents FAQs

California Rules of the Road for Construction Zones Road Work Ahead

It is important for all drivers to know the California rules of the road for construction zones. We are living in a state where the interstate highway systems are constantly being upgraded and expanded. Major construction projects like the expansion of the 405 freeway between Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley typify the massive scale that these projects take on and the potential for motor vehicle accidents involving serious bodily injury or death if speed restrictions and other rules are not obeyed.

What are the Main California Vehicle Code Sections Applicable to Construction Zones?

California Vehicle Code §21370 authorizes the California State Department of Transportation (CALTRANS) or any of its “authorized representatives” (e.g. construction contractors) to, “restrict the use of and regulate the movement of traffic” for the safety of motorist and the safety of workers who are engaged in any improvement project of the interstate highway system in the Golden State.

Most often this authority is used to either redirect the flow of traffic including reducing the number of travel lanes or to reduce the speed limit of areas abutting a state highway that is being constructed or improved.

California Vehicle Code §22362 states that it is a prima facie violation of the basic speed law to travel in excess of any posted signs within 400 feet of a highway building area and that the limits can be set as low as 25 miles per hour.

California Vehicle Code §42010 provides for enhanced penalties and fines for speed violations in and around “Safety Enhancement Double Fine Zones”.

California Vehicle Code §565 Restricts the use of “special construction equipment” like certain types of road graders, pavers or earth moving equipment on highways except by special permit.

Common Types of Highway Construction Area Traffic Collisions

The above rules are in place for a reason as most traffic mishaps occur based upon unsafe lane merges and speeding through stretches of road adjacent to highway development projects. These common scenarios include the following:

  • Trying to “beat out” traffic including other passenger vehicles, trucks and other heavy equipment to a single lane of travel that is merging down from multiple lanes.
  • Speeding and losing control in tight turns or corners in and around signage that indicates an upcoming turn or merge.
  • Losing control of the vehicle from jerking the wheel when coming on and off of uneven pavement due to a rate of speed that is too high for these roadway conditions.
  • Striking fixed objects including barriers, signs, and construction equipment which often causes a car to spin out of control and into the flow of traffic behind the vehicle.
  • Hitting workers that are on foot in and around the area.
The Importance of Prompt Investigation of Injury and Death Claims in and Around Construction Zones

There are many variables as to causation for any accident or injury claim on a public highway or thoroughfare. These variables increase dramatically when the collision occurs within a close proximity to a area of a roadway that is being improved or constructed. The determination as to who may be found negligent and liable for the costs associated with bodily injury or wrongful death in these cases is sometimes quite complex. These incidents usually involve multiple parties including private entities, businesses and even government bodies. In the case of claims against the government for negligent supervision or maintenance of a work zone, there are issues of governmental immunities (i.e. special provisions of law that exempt government entities from civil liability in certain instances) as well as shorter statutes of limitations (the time limit for filing claims). Claims against CALTRANS or other government entities usually must be filed within 6 months of the incident under California law and a lawsuit filed within a short time-frame afterwards depending upon whether the initial government tort claim is accepted or rejected. Likewise, the scene of the accident can change very quickly following the incident just simply due to the nature of the construction project.

For all these reasons, it is imperative that any person injured in this type of traffic mash-up consult with and retain a personal injury attorney that is experienced in handling these types of claims. The lawyer can hire investigators and accident reconstruction experts to examine and photograph the scene, analyze construction plans and traffic flow data, and research the various persons or entities that may be legally responsible for payment of money damages. Any delay in obtaining this information through the assistance of a quality injury lawyer can be devastating to the value of any claims the injured person(s) or their family (in the case of a fatality) may have.

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Do I Need a Lawyer for My California Uninsured Motorist Claim?
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Do I need a lawyer for my California Uninsured Motorist Claim? Despite the California mandate for all drivers to have automobile insurance, some drivers fail to carry coverage. Others have only the minimum liability coverage amounts that are mandated under the law and are underinsured when the accidents in which they are involved are serious. If you are seriously injured in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver in Los Angeles, an experienced personal injury lawyer may help you with your underinsured or uninsured motorist claim with your own insurance company. There are some important things that you should understand about these types of coverage and why it might be important for you to have legal help with your claim.

Types of Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage in California

Under California law, all drivers in the state are required to purchase insurance that offers minimum liability amounts. You must carry a minimum of $`15,000 of bodily injury coverage per person up to a maximum of $30,000 if two or more people are injured. If someone is killed in an accident, the coverage amounts are the same. In addition, your liability coverage must provide a minimum of $5,000 for damage that you cause in an accident to the property of others.

Because these liability limits are low, this may not be enough coverage to pay for all of the damage and losses that may be caused by an accident. As a result, California mandates that insurance companies offer uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to people at the time that they are purchasing their policies. If you decline these additional coverage options, the insurance company must have you sign a written waiver that states that you were offered the coverage but turned it down.

According to the California Department of Insurance, there are three primary types of uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance. Uninsured motorists bodily injury insurance offers coverage for you and your passengers for injuries that you suffer in an accident up to your liability limits when you are in an accident with a motorist who is not insured. Underinsured motorist coverage offers a limited amount of coverage for your injuries when you are involved in an accident with a motorist who does not have enough insurance to pay for your injuries. Finally, uninsured motorist property damage coverage pays up to $3,500 if you are in an accident with an uninsured motorist who is at fault and who is identified.

Scenarios

There are several accident scenarios in which your UIM or UM coverage might come into play. As we previously noted, uninsured motorist coverage is important in cases in which you are struck by a driver who does not have insurance. In order to prove that the driver is uninsured, you will first need to ask the driver for his or her insurance information and then contact any company that he or she claims is the insurance company. If the company says that the driver is uninsured, you will then need to file a form SR-1 to report the accident and a form SR-19 with the Department of Motor Vehicles. If the DMV verifies that the driver is uninsured, you may then file a claim with your own insurance company.

You might also have an accident that is caused by a driver who has minimum liability insurance that is not enough to pay for the medical costs that are related to your injury. In this scenario, your company would first use up the at-fault driver’s policy limits before turning to your own. For instance, if the driver who hit you had a policy with a limit of $15,000 in bodily injury coverage, and you have reasonable medical expenses that exceed that amount, you would be able to file a claim with your company for the difference up to your UIM policy limits.

If you are struck by a hit-and-run driver, you are allowed to report the accident and file a claim with your insurance company. You will then be able to recover damages from your own insurance company up to the policy limits of your uninsured motorist coverage.

Examples of how Insurance Companies try to Deny UM/UIM Claims

There are several things that insurance companies may do to try to dispute UM and UIM claims, including the following:

  • Deny that you have coverage without providing proof with a valid, written waiver as required by California Insurance Code 11580.2
  • Hit and Run Scenario: Deny that your vehicle was physically contacted by another vehicle, deny that you filed a police report or deny that the incident ever happened
  • Attempt to reduce the value of your claim by arguing your “comparative fault”
  • Attempt to reduce the value of your claim by arguing that your medical expenses were not reasonably necessary or are “too high”
  • Attempt to reduce the value of your claim by denying the cost of future medical care
  • Attempt to low ball the value of your general damages for not only physical pain but emotional distress and disruption of lifestyle
  • Arguing that your injuries resulted from pre-existing medical conditions instead of your accident

It is important to remember that insurance companies, including your own, are driven to increase their profits and to reduce their losses. Unfortunately, many companies use tactics to try to avoid paying valid claims that are made by their own insureds. This makes it very important for you to talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer soon after your accident.

Importance of Getting Help From an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

It is important for you to get help from an experienced personal injury attorney soon after your accident in Los Angeles with an uninsured or underinsured driver. You should avoid making recorded statements with insurance adjusters or representatives who contact you about your accident. The purpose of asking you to make these types of statements is to try to get you to say something that the company can use against you in your claim. You should likewise avoid signing anything from the insurance company without first reviewing it with your attorney. Companies commonly ask injured victims to sign blanket medical authorizations. The companies then use blanket authorizations to search through your medical records in an effort to find an earlier condition or incident that they can blame for your injuries and symptoms. Contact a Los Angeles personal injury attorney who has experience with handling UM and UIM claims today.

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Five Steps to Take After a Los Angeles Auto Accident

There are certainly more than five steps to take after a Los Angeles auto accident but, here are five useful things to remember. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides that there were 3,074 traffic fatalities in the state of California during 2014. 633 of those fatalities occurred in Los Angeles County [1] alone.

If you are involved in an automobile accident, you may have injuries along with some or all of your passengers. During stressful times like this, it is difficult to remember what steps to take immediately after a collision occurs.

What Should You Do After a California Collision?
  1. Safety: After an automobile accident, your vehicle may be damaged or even in the path of traffic. If the accident was relatively minor and the cars are moveable, consider driving your vehicle over to a safe location on the side of the road. If you or anyone at the scene was injured, or if it would be dangerous to move your car, then exit the vehicle as quickly as possible and move to a safe location on the side of the road that is a safe distance away from the accident scene.
  2. Police: Be sure to call the police for assistance. Even in minor traffic incidents, the police can help to redirect traffic, if necessary, and to prepare accident reports. Depending upon the extent of any injuries, it may also be necessary to request medical attention.
  3. Exchange Information: Exchange your name and insurance information with any other drivers involved in the collision. You will also want the license plate numbers of any other vehicles. It is not necessary for you to provide any further personal information regarding your home address or your injuries.
  4. If you are safely able to do so, try and take pictures of the individual cars as well as one of the entire accident scene. Photographs of the damage caused to your vehicle as well as any road debris may be helpful to prove your claims for damage. (see tips on how to document the motor vehicle collision scene and property damage with your smartphone click here).
  5. Make Calls: After you have received any needed medical treatment, it is important to contact your own insurance company and to provide them with all of the details regarding the collision.
Los Angeles Automobile Accident Lawyers

When you need an attorney who will fight for maximum compensation for any car accident claim in California, call the Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC, APC, Statewide at our toll free number: 866-966-5240. Consultations are always free, there are no up front fees or costs, and we never charge a fee until we recover money for you.

References

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How do I Handle My Medical Bills After a Car Accident in California?
Medical Bills Past Due

How do I handle my medical bills after a car accident in California? As an attorney that has been representing victims of auto accidents in the Golden State for over 20 years, this is one of the questions that I get asked a lot. Unfortunately, it is a question without a simple answer because there are a lot of factors that go into how to deal with health care related expenses that stem from being injured in a motor vehicle accident. These involve issues of legal fault, various types of insurance coverage and provisions and other practical aspects.

Importance of Seeking Prompt and Proper Medical Attention After a Car Accident

Your health should be your number one priority after being injured in a car wreck. If I see one mistake that many people make, it is worrying about who will pay the medical bills and how they will get paid instead of simply getting the medical attention needed. When you get involved in a motor vehicle crash and you experience any type of visible injuries such as cuts, bruises, broken bones or even just physical pain in your neck, back or extremities, it is always advisable to at least get checked out by a medical professional. Never hesitate to accept an offer of emergency medical transportation via ambulance from the scene of the accident or fail to go see a doctor upon the onset of pain in the days following the incident. Not only is this advisable from a health standpoint but, auto insurance carriers in California tend to use alleged “delay in treatment” as one of the major excuses for denying a claim or attempting to reduce the settlement value of your case.

Am I Still Entitled to Emergency and Other Necessary Medical Treatment in California if I Don’t Have Health Insurance?

The short answer here is, yes. Under both state and federal law, hospitals are required to provide emergency treatment to stabilize the medical condition of any patient injured in a motor vehicle collision. However, if you do not have medical insurance, you will be billed directly by the medical providers for the services rendered. While many hospitals have discounts or ability to apply for a waiver of bills, there is nothing legally requiring these medical providers to treat people free of charge. This means that people without health insurance can and do get billed directly for services rendered. They also do not get the benefit of contractual reductions required by medical insurance companies or legally mandated reductions for medicare or Medi-Cal rates. Technically, you can be billed for the full amount and you can be sent to collections or sued for failing to pay these bills.

If you Have Health Insurance, how do the Medical Bills get Handled?

If you have health insurance including private health plans, Medicare, Medi-Cal, Covered California or any other health care program including “Obamacare” programs, the medical provider is required to bill insurance but, may demand that you pay any co-payment amount “co-pays” or meet a deductible. What payments are made or what you are required to pay directly as an individual varies depending upon the terms of your insurance policy or health plan. One of the major issues that come up is when a person is transported by an ambulance or treated at a facility that is “out of network” for their health plan. Other times, medical providers simply attempt to collect the full amount from the patient without ever attempting to bill their health insurance. Still other times, medical providers attempt to “balance bill” or “surprise bill” patients even though they have already been paid by health insurance at the contractual rate (a practice which is prohibited by California law but, still takes place too often). Even if the health insurance provider is billed and pays out money, the health insurance policy can (and often does) assert “subrogation rights”. This means that they can demand to be repaid all or part of what they paid out on your behalf if they find out that you will be recovering money from a third party (or that person’s auto insurance carrier).

If you Have “Medical Payments” Coverage With Your own Auto Insurance Policy

Many auto insurance policies in California have what is called Medical Payments coverage (or “med-pay”). This provides for payments of medical expenses up to a certain policy limit amount. It is usually a fairly low amount (most times less than $10,000) but, it certainly provides for another means to get the bills paid. Most (if not all) of these provisions also come with “subrogation rights” (or the right to claim reimbursement if you are awarded a settlement or judgment from the other party or their auto insurance carrier).

Medical Treatment on a Lien

Some medical providers (including quality specialists like Orthopedic Surgeons or licensed physical therapists) can and do agree to treat patients with no upfront charges but, an agreement to pay the medical bills out of the proceeds of a personal injury settlement. This may allow for a person with no health insurance or a health insurance provider unwilling to approve treatment, an option to get necessary medical care including therapy, possible surgery or procedures such as epidural injections and even medications based upon a written agreement to pay for these services at the time of settlement of their car accident case. You should keep in mind that these agreements usually require payment regardless of the outcome of the personal injury case. Also, most medical providers are not willing to enter into a treatment on a lien basis unless and until an attorney has referred the patient and verified the validity of their legal claims to recovery.

Isn’t the Person who hit me Legally Responsible to pay my Medical Bills?

This depends upon issues of legal fault. California is an “at fault” insurance jurisdiction, which means that if a party is found to be legally at fault in an accident, their insurance company is required to pay all “reasonable and necessary” medical expenses. Most often legal fault is determined based upon a negligence standard which means that both the driver and potentially the registered owner may be held liable for payment of medical bills incurred as a result of their negligent acts. Most often, whether someone was negligent will hinge upon a violation of the rules of the road as set forth in the California Vehicle Code or based upon a general standard that every person should act in a reasonable manner in the operation or entrustment of their motor vehicle. Issues of Comparative Fault: The problem comes when there is a dispute as to fault. Legal fault in California can be apportioned to more than one person. This means that if an argument can be made that the person who hit you was at fault but, you or another driver was also at fault, the law can put a cap on recovery based upon the percentage of fault of each party. For example, if you get rear-ended by a vehicle that went out of control because another vehicle came swerved into them, the law may say that the party that rear-ended you is 60% at fault and the one that swerved is 40% at fault. If your total medical bills are $10,000, Party One would be responsible for $6,000 and Party Two for $4,000. Likewise, if you were not wearing your seatbelt, it may be that you are held to be 20% responsible for your injuries and their liability would be reduced to $8,000 (putting Party one on the hook for $4,800 and Party Two for $3,200). Arguments as to the “Reasonable Value” of the Medical Services: The other complicating factor is that the law requires responsible parties to only pay for the “reasonable value” of medical treatment. Because insurance companies are in the business of trying to pay out as little as possible, auto accident claims adjusters often argue that even though the bill is $1,000, it really shouldn’t have cost more than $800, for an X-ray or some type of treatment. California law further complicates things with a series of cases, most notably Howell v. Hamilton Meats Co., where the California Supreme Court held that the “reasonable value” of medical services is the amount paid by health insurance rather than the amount of the actual bill.

Why the Best Way to Handle Medical Bills After a Car Accident in California is to Seek out the Advice and Counsel of a Knowledgeable and Experienced Car Accident Attorney?

As you can see, there are many issues that must be analyzed to determine the best way to handle medical bills after a motor vehicle collision in California. A knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney can contact emergency medical providers and make sure that proper billing practices were followed. A good car accident lawyer can let bill collectors know that another party is legally at fault and request that collection efforts be suspended pending resolution by way of settlement or judgment. An experienced auto accident attorney can help an injured victim find medical care on a lien if they cannot afford to pay for the cost of treatment upfront. A quality accident and injury lawyer can analyze the legal issues of fault and arguments of comparative fault and what the “reasonable value” of the medical bills should be under California law. Attorneys do charge fees for their services but, can work with no upfront fees or costs on a contingency arrangement, can maximize the value of the claim at many times what you would be offered on your own and can negotiate reductions in medical liens on your behalf to net your more money. In the end, this results in a much higher overall settlement figure and a legal advocate to ensure that the injured party is not left “holding the bag” for medical bills after a car accident. For a free consultation on any car accident claim in California, call the toll free injury helpline at 866-966-5240.

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How Long Does it Take to Settle a Claim After an Automobile Accident?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 1,057 California traffic fatalities in 2014 involving passenger cars. Of the 3,074 total traffic fatalities [1] , 1,844 involved single vehicle accidents and 802 fatal collisions occurred in intersections.

After being involved in an automobile accident, it is natural to wonder how long it might take to settle a claim. Unfortunately, there is no one single answer or time frame that applies to all car accident cases because each case has unique aspects that affect how long the settlement process will take.

Reaching a Settlement in California

There are many factors that can affect the time frame for reaching a settlement and not all factors are applicable to every case:

  1. Medical Treatment: In many instances it is necessary to complete medical treatment prior to discussing a settlement of the case depending upon the nature and severity of the injuries. In some cases, a single payment is made by the insurance company making it important to know the full extent of a person’s injuries and required treatment before reaching a settlement.
  2. Insurance: Each insurance company works differently. The particular insurance company involved in your case, as well as the type of policy involved, can affect the length of time to obtain a settlement.
  3. Witnesses: It may be necessary to locate and interview witnesses.
  4. Experts: Based upon the facts of the case, it may be necessary to hire and work with experts.
  5. Civil Case: In some instances it is necessary to file a civil complaint before a settlement is reached. This process can be lengthy based upon the complexity of the case as well as other factors. According to the American Bar Association [2] , in 2013, California joined the list of states requiring a demand within policy limits to trigger an insurer’s duty to settle.
Los Angeles Auto Accident Lawyers

Because the anticipated time frame for reaching a settlement after an automobile collision is specific to the accident, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney who can discuss the exact facts of your case as well as the nature of your injuries. If you have been involved in a California collision, call the Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC, APC, Statewide at our toll free number: 866-966-5240. Consultations are always free and we never charge a fee until we recover money for the victim.

References:
Client Reviews
★★★★★
I have known Steven for some time now and when his services were required he jumped in and took control of my cases. I had two and they were handled with the utmost professionalism and courtesy. He went the extra mile regardless of the bumps in the road. I can not see me using any other attorney and I would recommend him to any of my family and friends. Josie A.
★★★★★
Steven was vital during our most trying time. He was referred by a friend after an accident that involved a family member. While he was critical and lying in the hospital, Steven was kind, patient and knowledgeable about what we were going through. Following our loss, Steven became a tough and aggressive negotiator and made sure that we receive a huge compensation. I would refer Steven in fact, this happened 2 years ago and I still speak highly of his service. Cheryl S.
★★★★★
Mr. Sweat is a pitbull in the courtroom as well as settlement negotiations - You can't have a better equipped attorney in your corner! It is a pleasure working as colleagues together on numerous cases. He can get the job done. Jonathan K.
★★★★★
Because of Steven Sweat, my medical support was taken care of. Plus, I had more money to spare for my other bills. Steven is not only an excellent personal injury lawyer, providing the best legal advice, but also a professional lawyer who goes beyond his call of duty just to help his clients! He stood up for me and helped me get through the process. I would definitely recommend. I couldn't think of any better lawyer than him. MiraJane C.
★★★★★
I must tell anyone, if you need a great attorney, Steve sweat is the guy! I had an awful car accident and had no idea where to turn. He had so much to deal with because my accident was a 4 car pile up. Not to mention all the other cars were behind me and they were not wanting to settle in any way! He never stopped working for me and had my best interest at heart! Audra W.