Attorney Portrait Car Accidents

Seat Belt Laws in California

| Read Time: 3 minutes

Seat belts save lives. This simple fact is the reason that every passenger in a car in California must wear a seat belt, even when riding in the back seat. The California seat belt law is found in the Motor Vehicle Code § 27315 and is strictly enforced. Seat Belts are Required Under the California seatbelt law, no person can operate a vehicle on a highway unless the driver and all passengers aged 16 or older are wearing a safety belt. This law applies to passengers riding in the front seat as well as in the back. At a minimum, the seat belt should be a lap belt that crosses at the hips and upper thighs. If there is an upper portion to the belt, then it should cross the chest. The motor vehicle owner also must make sure to maintain that there are seat belts in the vehicle that works. This law also applies to anyone operating or owning a taxi. Penalties The seat belt law in California identifies the penalty that you will have to pay if the police pull you over and you are not wearing a belt: $20 fine for a first offense $50 fine for each subsequent offense Instead of paying the fine, you might be able to attend traffic school, where you will learn about traffic safety. Child Safety Seats Children have different safety needs, and for that reason, California has created separate seat belt requirements for children. Because restraints save lives, the state will require that you put your child in an appropriate car or booster seat. The type of seat you need will depend on several factors. Here are the details of the law: If your child is younger than 2, you should put them in a rear-facing seat unless the child is large for their age, e.g., 40+ pounds or 40+ inches tall. After age 2, they should be in a forward-facing safety seat. If your child is under age 8, then they must be secured in a booster or car seat located in the back seat. Children 8 or older, or any child that is 4’9” tall, can also be secured in a booster seat. If you choose not to use a booster seat, then but at a minimum,q the child must wear a safety belt. Children 16 or older must follow the seat belt law in California as described above. Some questions arise about when a child can move on from a car seat that has a five-point harness to a booster seat. California law does not lay out precisely when you should make this move. Instead, the state recommends that you take things slow. Graduating your child to a booster seat actually decreases the amount of restraint and safety they have, so California recommends that you keep your child in their current seat for as long as possible. California also provides some basic guidance: Your child is ready for a booster seat when they have surpassed the limits for a forward-facing harness, typically between 40 and 65 pounds. Children should stay in their booster seat until they are at least 4’9” tall and 8-12 years old. Remember that safety belts were designed for men around 165 pounds, so the belts are an awkward fit for smaller children. Seat Belts and Car Accidents California is a pure comparative negligence state. This means that the law recognizes that a car accident victim could have contributed to their accident or injuries. The victim can still sue, but their own negligence will reduce the amount of compensation they can receive. Under the state’s seat belt law, failure to wear a seat belt is not per se proof of negligence. This means the driver cannot point to your failure to wear a seat belt as automatically proving you were negligent. However, a jury can still use the fact that you were not wearing a seatbelt to find that you contributed to your injuries. For this reason, wearing a seatbelt not only protects you but protects your right to compensation in the event of a collision. Speak to a Long Beach Car Accident Lawyer At the Beliz Law Firm, we have helped countless accident victims get the compensation they deserve. Please reach out to us today for a free consultation. One of our Long Beach car accident lawyers will be happy to meet with you to discuss your case as well as your options for compensation. Call 562-452-3772.

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Attorney Portrait Car Accidents

What Time of Day do Most Car Accidents Happen?

| Read Time: 4 minutes

Car accidents can strike at any time. However, your chances of suffering an accident increase when there are more people on the road. For that reason, drivers should expect the most accidents to occur during rush hour traffic. And statistics bear this assumption out. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the most dangerous time to drive on the road is during afternoon rush hour traffic. Read on for more information about when your risk of getting into an accident is elevated. A Closer Look at the Most Dangerous Time to Drive Avvo looked at Fatality Analysis Reporting System data, provided by the federal government and broke down the number of fatalities according to the time of day in 3-hour increments: 1:00 am to 3:59 am: 4,019 fatalities 4:00 am to 6:59 am: 3,520 fatalities 7:00 am to 9:59 am: 3,345 fatalities 10:00 am to 12:59 pm: 3,864 fatalities 1:00 pm to 3:59 pm: 5,273 fatalities 4:00 pm to 6:59 pm: 6,201 fatalities 7:00 pm to 9:59 pm: 6,067 fatalities 10:00 pm to 12:59 am: 4,829 fatalities One thing that jumps out is how safe the morning rush hour period is compared to driving home from work.  For example, traffic fatalities early in the morning are very low. In fact, it seems that drivers are much more careful early in the morning. Indeed, fatalities are much lower in the 7:00 am to 9:59 am window than even in the 1:00 am to 3:59 am a window when fewer people should be on the road.  This could mean driving skills decrease as the day goes on.  Being drained from work may increase the chance of a serious accident while driving home.  Finally, darkness and visibility may increase fatal vehicle collisions. The Most Dangerous Day to Drive According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the most dangerous day to drive is the Fourth of July, based on a 2016 analysis. This should not be entirely surprising. As part of the festivities, many people enjoy far too much alcohol to drink, which impairs their driving ability. Also, because the weather on the Fourth is often hot, a driver will be even more impaired. With so many vehicles on the road, even sober drivers can become frustrated and engage in dangerous driving. Based on the same 2016 analysis, the other most dangerous days to drive include: January 1 September 18 August 2 August 27 July 5 October 2 Of the seven days of the week, Saturday is the most dangerous according to NHTSA. Actually, the weekend is when the most fatal accidents occur.  Less traffic with higher speeds may be the reason for the higher numbers.  Conversely, the safest day to be on the road is Tuesday. (Interactive Map) In 2016, the number of car crash-related fatalities were as follows: Sunday: 5,809 Monday: 4,883 Tuesday: 4,444 Wednesday: 4,695 Thursday: 5,002 Friday: 5,826 Saturday: 6,802 If you need to go on a long trip, then Tuesday or Wednesday would seem to be ideal days. Protecting Yourself The reason so many accidents happen on certain days and at certain times is that roads are congested. But you probably need to be on the road at the same time, along with everyone else. What can you do? Clearly, drivers should exercise extreme caution when driving during rush hour. Remember to leave enough room between you and other vehicles, preferably four seconds of time. Also be reasonable when someone is trying to merge into traffic. If possible, you can scoot into the other lane, leaving the room. You should also avoid drinking on holidays, since alcohol will dramatically slow down your reflexes and impair your judgment, thus increasing the likelihood of a crash. If you see someone driving erratically, report them to the authorities. If you are feeling fatigued, remember to pull over to the side of the road. Speak to a Long Beach Car Accident Lawyer Rush hour might be the most dangerous time to drive, but motorists and pedestrians can suffer a serious injury at any time. If you have been injured in an accident, you need compensation to help you cover medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. Your pain and suffering also warrant compensation. Contact the Beliz Law Firm today. Our car accident lawyers can help you get the compensation you deserve and are prepared to negotiate aggressively on your behalf. Call 562-452-3772 for a free consultation or send us an online contact form.

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Attorney Portrait Personal Injury

8 Questions to Ask a Personal Injury Lawyer During Your Consultation

| Read Time: 3 minutes

There are thousands of lawyers in California, and finding the right one for your case can take a little bit of legwork. Instead of just picking a name out of the phone book, you should obtain referrals and look at the lawyer’s website. The best lawyers should have websites free of grammatical errors and full of informative content. Helpfully, most attorneys offer a free consultation where you can meet and ask any personal injury questions that you want. At the Beliz Law Firm, we recommend that you ask the following questions to get a feel for whether a lawyer is right for you. Ⅰ. “How Much of Your Practice is Devoted to Personal Injury?” This is one of the most important questions to ask a personal injury lawyer. You want someone who has experience handling your type of case, not someone who dedicates their entire practice to divorce or probate matters. Though a lawyer does not need to practice 100% in the personal injury field, they should dedicate a large percentage of their practice to it. Ⅱ. “Have You Handled a Case Like Mine?” Personal injury is a large field. It encompasses car accidents, truck accidents, slip and falls, dog bites, and medical malpractice. If you were injured while riding a bicycle, you want to know how many cases the lawyer has handled involving bicycle accidents. All lawyers are capable of getting up to speed on the law. But by hiring someone experienced with cases like yours, you will get more efficient representation. Ⅲ. “What Do You Charge for Fees?” Of all the questions to ask a personal injury lawyer, questions about fees make people uncomfortable. There is no reason to feel that way. You should know up front how the lawyer charges for his or her services. Nearly every personal injury lawyer in California represents injured victims on contingency. This means that the lawyer does not require fees upfront, and they do not bill you every month. Instead, the lawyer only receives fees if you win your case. In that situation, you pay a percentage of your settlement or jury verdict to your lawyer, usually 33-40%. Lawsuits also involve many expenses, for things like copy, filing fees, transcription fees, and costs associated with expert witnesses. Lawyers differ on how they charge these fees, so ask for this information ahead of time. A lawyer should provide all fee information in writing. Ⅳ. “How Much are My Injuries Worth?” A key aspect of every case is valuing a client’s injuries. Clients can receive compensation for: Medical care Lost wages Property damage Pain and suffering At the consultation stage, a lawyer might not have all the information necessary to give you a number. But the lawyer can talk about her experience and how much other people with similar injuries have received. Ⅴ. “What is the Likely Outcome for My Case?” No lawyer can promise a result. However, a lawyer can use her experience to estimate your chances of success. Listen closely to how clearly the lawyer describes the legal issues. If the lawyer talks over your head, then it might be hard to work with this person. The lawyer might also point out what evidence you need to strengthen your case. Pay attention to whether the lawyer sounds honest and believable. Anyone who tells you your case is a “slam dunk” probably is not credible. Ⅵ. “How Many Cases Have You Taken to Trial?” The vast majority of lawsuits settle before going to trial. Nevertheless, sometimes trial is unavoidable. You should find out how many trials a lawyer has handled. If you end up in front of a jury, you don’t want someone completely inexperienced. Ⅶ. “Who Will Work on My Case?” Many lawyers employ all kinds of assistants—document clerks, paralegals, case managers, etc. A lawyer might also have junior attorneys who work under him. Find out exactly who will be working on your case. Ⅷ. “How do You Like to Communicate? Phone? Email? In Person?” Of all the questions to ask your personal injury lawyer, this is the most important. Many attorney-client relationships break down because of unclear expectations surrounding communication. You need to know upfront how often your attorney communicates and his preferred method. Some lawyers might send you an email or letter once a month. Others might pick up the phone and provide weekly updates, while others might only call when they receive an offer to settle. Also, you need to know how much time a lawyer takes to return calls. 48 hours? A week? And ask who you will speak to. Some lawyers are so busy you will only talk with a case assistant. Contact a California Personal Injury Lawyer Today At the Beliz Law Firm, we practice personal injury law. Our experienced attorneys have negotiated with some of the state’s most powerful insurance companies, and we know how to win. To talk with a member of our team, please

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Attorney Portrait Car Accidents

Who is Responsible for Uber or Lyft Accidents in California?

| Read Time: 3 minutes

For immediate help from an experienced car accident lawyer, reach out to Michael Beliz today. California is a “fault” state, meaning that drivers who cause accidents are financially responsible for them. Injured victims can make a claim for compensation with the at-fault driver’s insurer for things like medical care, lost wages, and pain and suffering. These same rules apply if you are struck by an Uber or a Lyft driver, or if you are a passenger in an Uber or Lyft. Sometimes the driver responsible does not have any insurance, or they do not have enough to cover the full cost of your injuries. In these situations, you will need to check whether uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) coverage is available. Below, let’s look at some common scenarios. You are Injured as an Uber Car Accident Passenger Here, the driver responsible for the crash is responsible for compensating you. This might be your Uber/Lyft driver or it might be another motorist who struck you. Either way, you will make a claim with the responsible driver’s insurance company. Currently, the amount of Lyft or Uber passenger insurance is $1 million, which should certainly cover your injuries. Things can get tricky, however, if another motorist struck you but is uninsured. Helpfully, your ridesharing company should have underinsured motorist insurance for $1 million, which will kick in to cover you. You are Struck by an Uber or Lyft Driver In this situation, the Uber or Lyft driver is responsible for your injuries. It doesn’t matter whether you are another motorist or a pedestrian. In an Uber or Lyft driver car accident, you make a claim with the driver’s insurance. However, the amount of insurance available will depend on whether the driver was logged in the ridesharing app and whether they were actually transporting a ride: If the driver was not logged into the app, then the only insurance available is the personal insurance they carry on their vehicle. This is really no different than being struck by a person who doesn’t drive for Uber. Hopefully, the driver should have the minimum liability insurance required by California, which is $15,000 per person in bodily injury liability. If not, you might be able to use your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, if you have it. If the driver was logged into the ridesharing app and looking for rides when they struck you, then the Uber driver should have at least $50,000 in liability insurance up to $100,000 per accident and another $30,000 in property damage. Uber also carries $200,000 in excess liability coverage. If the driver had accepted a ride when he or she hit you, or if they actually had passengers with them, then the maximum amount of insurance applies. Uber drivers should have $1 million in liability insurance and another $1 million in uninsured/underinsured motorist injury coverage. You are an Uber/Lyft Driver Struck by Another Motorist In this case, you need to make a claim for compensation with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. You should get this information soon after the crash and report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles, as is required by state law. Confused after an Uber or Lyft Accident? Reach Out to Us Today Injured motorists and pedestrians need compensation to help them piece together their lives after an accident. At the Beliz Law Firm, we are well-versed in the complexity of Uber and Lyft car accidents and understand who you need to file a claim with. In this difficult time, you should focus on getting well and being with your family. Let us do the heavy lifting of obtaining the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys, please call us as at 562-452-3772 or send us a private message. Please avoid delay. Injured victims have a limited amount of time to make a claim after an accident.

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Attorney Portrait Car Accidents

 What’s the Average Settlement for a Pedestrian Hit by a Car?

| Read Time: 3 minutes

Car accidents can cause devastating injuries, especially to pedestrians. Unlike motorists, pedestrians have no protective barrier between them and the car that strikes them. As a result, pedestrians often need tens of thousands of dollars in medical care, and they are at higher risk of suffering permanent injuries. Injured pedestrians also can miss months of work, which makes obtaining compensation that much more critical. After your accident, you might wonder about the average settlement for a pedestrian hit by a car. In reality, there is no “average” settlement amount. Because settlements are usually confidential, no one has collected this information to come up with a believable number. The better course is to focus on the factors that go into calculating your settlement amount. Calculate How Much Your Medical Care Costs The purpose of a settlement is to make you “whole.” Basically, this means the settlement should put you in the position you would be in had you never been involved in an accident. One factor we look at it is how much money your medical care has cost. With minor injuries, like sprains or strains, you might only need a couple thousand dollars in medical care, possibly less. For serious injuries, like traumatic brain injuries or bad burns, you could need much more. It is very easy to calculate the cost of medical care. Find all bills and receipts and add up the amounts. Remember you can receive compensation for things like rehabilitation, prescription drugs, and supportive devices such as crutches or wheelchairs. You might also receive compensation for transportation to the hospital or doctors visits. Add Up Your Lost Wages Another economic loss associated with car accidents are lost wages. If your broken leg or concussion causes you to miss work, then you can receive the wages you would have earned had you not been injured. Look at your pay stubs and calculate the amount. You can even receive lost wages if you are self-employed—provided you can establish what you would have earned with reasonable certainty. For example, if you had to cancel some contracts while you recovered, then you can probably receive their value in compensation. Estimate Your Pain and Suffering If you are a pedestrian hit by a car, settlement negotiations should include discussion of your intangible losses, like pain or emotional distress. The simple fact is that accidents cause some losses that are hard to calculate in dollars and cents. Nevertheless, these losses are very real. Many of our clients report a serious reduction in the quality of life after getting struck by a car. The amount you can receive usually depends on the seriousness of your physical injuries. A sprain that causes a couple of weeks of discomfort probably will not earn you much in pain and suffering. But an injury that prevents you from enjoying your favorite hobbies or playing with your children may be worth much more. When clients suffer permanent, life-changing injuries like paralysis, they can receive a considerable amount for pain and suffering. Analyze the Driver’s Insurance Policy The driver’s insurance policy will usually act as a ceiling to the amount you can receive. Regardless of how much money the accident has cost you—and regardless of the severity of your injuries—the fact is it is very rare for you to get more in a settlement than the driver has in insurance. California only requires that drivers carry $15,000 in injury liability insurance per person, and many drivers only carry the minimum. If your injuries are worth $50,000, you still might need to settle for $15,000. Of course, you can file a lawsuit as a pedestrian hit by a car but, again, you will probably not get more than the policy limit in compensation. Call an Experienced Pedestrian Accident Attorney in Long Beach Negotiating a settlement is complicated, and you need someone experienced to represent you. At the Beliz Law Firm, we have gone up against many of the state’s largest insurers, and we know how to get a favorable settlement for our clients. By hiring us, you will get an advocate who knows how to build these cases the right way and who is not intimidated by insurer dirty tricks. To find out more about whether we can help you, please contact us right away. We offer clients a free consultation, which they can schedule by calling 562-452-3772.

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Attorney Portrait Car Accidents

What to Do After a Hit and Run Accident

| Read Time: 2 minutes

California has strict laws against fleeing the scene of an accident without providing contact information. Unfortunately, too many drivers flee, breaking the law in the process and leaving you with property damage or, worse, physical injuries. If you have suffered damage in a hit and run car accident, you should follow these tips before reaching out to a hit and run lawyer. Get Medical Treatment If you were in the car when it was struck, you should check to make sure everyone is okay. If someone needs help, contact 911 and ask for an ambulance. If injuries are less serious, you might drive to the hospital yourself later, but it is important to get prompt medical treatment because not all serious injuries are apparent or visible after a car accident. Note Details about the Car that Struck You You might have been in a store when someone struck your car, in which case you might not know anything about the offending motorist. However, if you were in the car when it was hit, you should collect as much information as possible: The car’s make and model; The car color; The license plate number; What the driver looked like; and Anything else that stands out, like a bumper sticker or a burnt-out taillight. Check with nearby witnesses who might have seen more than you did. Get their names and contact information as well as what they saw. If you were struck in a parking lot, then surveillance videos might have captured the motorist before they fled. You can stop into a store and ask if they have video of the parking lot. Give them the date and time of the accident. Report the Accident California law requires that you report car accidents to the DMV within 10 days if the accident caused $1,000 or more of damage or if anyone was physically injured or killed. If you do not file this report, your license can be suspended. Check if Insurance Applies California is a “fault” state, meaning the driver at fault for an accident pays for your injuries and damage to the vehicle. Unfortunately, if a driver flees, you won’t be able to make a claim with their insurer unless you find the driver. Nevertheless, you might carry insurance that will cover you, such as: Collision insurance, which can pay to repair your car. Medical payments, which can pay for medical care. Uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) bodily injury coverage, which can pay for medical care, lost wages, and pain and suffering. However, these forms of insurance are voluntary in California, meaning you might not have them. If not, your only chance of receiving compensation is to find out the driver who hit you so you can make a claim. Confused about What to Do in a Hit and Run? Contact Us Today At the Beliz Law Firm, our hit and run lawyers have helped countless clients get the compensation they need. If you identify the driver, we can help make a claim with his or her insurance company. If you have UM coverage, we can work with your insurer to get you full and fair compensation for your injuries. To schedule a free consultation, please call us today, 562-452-3772.

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Attorney Portrait Personal Injury

What is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in California?

| Read Time: 4 minutes

The personal injury statute of limitations California can vary from case to case depending upon the type of injury and how it happened. If you recently suffered a personal injury in California, it is extremely important to understand how the statute of limitations can affect your claim and, in some cases, bar you from seeking recovery if you fail to file your lawsuit on time. In the meantime, if you have questions about filing a personal injury lawsuit, you should contact a California personal injury attorney as soon as possible. What is the Statute of Limitations in California? After getting hurt in an accident in California, you might have heard that you need to be careful of the statute of limitations. What is the statute of limitation in California, and how does it apply to personal injury cases? In short, the statute of limitations is a time window in which a plaintiff is allowed to file a lawsuit. For many personal injury claims, the statute of limitations begins “running” when a person suffers an injury, but there are some situations in which the limitations period can be paused, or “tolled” as the law describes it. We will provide you with more information about the specific statute of limitations for many different types of personal injury cases in California. General Personal Injury Claims Based on a Theory of Negligence Under the California Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1, the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is two (2) years from the date of the injury. In most cases, this statute of limitations applies to claims that arise under a theory of negligence. As the California Courts explains, this statute of limitations applies to cases in which “the defendant hurts you with or without intending to hurt you,” and it can apply to “personal injury accidents, wrongful death, assault, battery, intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress, wrongful act, or negligent act.” Once two years have passed, if a plaintiff has not filed a claim, then the statute bars her from filing a personal injury lawsuit to recover. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For some cases, the statute of limitations is much shorter (meaning that the plaintiff needs to file a claim even sooner), and sometimes the statute of limitations is tolled (giving the plaintiff additional time to file a personal injury lawsuit). Personal Injury Claims Against a Government Employee, Entity, or Agency The statute of limitations is much shorter than two years when the plaintiff wants to file a lawsuit against a government agency. Depending upon the specific facts of the case, the statute of limitations is often six (6) months from the date of injury, although sometimes it can be one year from the date of the incident. This is the timetable that the plaintiff must abide by to file a claim with the government agency. If the claim gets denied, the plaintiff can then file a lawsuit. Often plaintiffs do not realize that their claim is against a government agency, and thus they miss the filing deadline and are barred from seeking compensation. This is one of the reasons that it is extremely important to begin working with a personal injury attorney as soon as you get hurt. Medical Malpractice Claims in California California medical malpractice cases, or medical negligence claims, also have a different statute of limitations. Under California Code of Civil Procedure § 340.5, the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim is three (3) years from the date of the injury, or one (1) year from the date the plaintiff “discovers, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered the injury, whichever occurs first.” In other words, if the plaintiff knows about an injury or should have known about an injury caused by medical negligence, then the statute of limitations may be only one year. Otherwise, the statute of limitations cannot be more than three years. There are rare exceptions to this rule. Other Ways to Toll a Statute of Limitations There are some situations in which the statute of limitations may be paused or tolled. While tolling the statute of limitations is not possible in most cases, some of the following factors may allow a plaintiff to obtain additional time to file a personal injury lawsuit in a California court: Plaintiff is under the age of 18; Plaintiff is outside the state of California or outside the country; Plaintiff is in prison; or Plaintiff currently lacks mental capacity. It can be extremely complicated to toll a statute of limitations, and it requires assistance from an experienced personal injury attorney. You should never assume that you can pause the statute of limitations in order to file a claim outside the statutory time window. More often than not, plaintiffs are barred from recovery when they do not file a lawsuit within the limitations period. However, if the statute of limitations has already run out on your case, you should still speak to a California personal injury lawyer to determine whether there is a way to seek compensation. File Your Claim On Time With Help From a California Personal Injury Attorney Determining the statute of limitations personal injury California can be complicated for many accident victims, and misjudging the statute of limitations can result in the plaintiff being barred from obtaining compensation through a civil claim. As such, it is extremely important to discuss your case with a California personal injury lawyer soon after the accident. Your personal injury attorney can examine the specific facts of your case and can ensure that your lawsuit is filed before the California personal injury statute of limitations time period runs out. Contact The Beliz Law Firm to begin working with a dedicated advocate on your case.

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Attorney Portrait Personal Injury

How Long Do Slip and Fall Injury Cases Take to Resolve?

| Read Time: 5 minutes

When you get hurt in a serious slip and fall accident, you are probably wondering: how long does a slip and fall case take to settle? The short answer is that slip and fall accidents can take varying times to resolve, and the timetable for any given slip and fall case in California or elsewhere depends upon the facts of the case. At the same time, however, slip and fall claims tend to have similar elements, and it can help for slip and fall injury victims to understand the process of filing a premises liability claim in order to have a better understanding of the length of time for any given slip and fall case or settlement. Example of a Slip and Fall Injury Case in California How long do slip and fall settlements take? In order to provide you with more information about this question, we want to give you a hypothetical example of a slip and fall case that we will use to tell you more about how the premises liability settlement process works. Here is an example of a slip and fall case: Joe was grocery shopping at a local supermarket. He was wearing shoes with a leather sole, which tend to be somewhat slick on flat surfaces, but he came directly from work. Joe usually wears his leather-soled shoes when he makes any stops on his way home from work, and he has never had any problems in the past. Joe knows he needs only a handful of items on a grocery list, including a new bottle of olive oil. He heads down the aisle with oils and other cooking supplies, carrying a shopping basket that is relatively heavy since it is filled with other grocery items. The floors in the supermarket are an off-white color, so Joe does not notice that a bottle of olive oil spilled on the floor. Clearly, someone cleaned up part of the spill previously—there are no signs of a broken bottle, and only the olive oil remains on the floor. Joe is rushing down the aisle to grab the oil he needs because he realizes he is late to pick up his child from daycare. While rushing down the aisle, Joe slips and falls on the oil. As a result of the slip and fall, Joe breaks his wrist and suffers a concussion. Because of the concussion, he needs to take several days off from work, and he also needs extensive surgery and follow-up medical treatments to repair the multiple breaks in his wrist. How is Joe’s slip and fall case likely to proceed? Demand Letter and Insurance Negotiations Typically the first step in a slip and fall settlement is to send a demand letter to the property owner to seek compensation for losses through insurance. The supermarket in the example above likely has insurance, and Joe’s premises liability lawyer could attempt to negotiate with the insurance company for a fair slip and fall settlement. In order to convince the insurance company to offer a fair settlement, the demand letter usually needs to make clear that Joe would win a slip and fall lawsuit because the facts of the case meet the essential factual elements of a premises liability claim: Supermarket owner or manager (the defendant) controlled the property where Joe slipped and fell; Supermarket owner or manager was negligent in failing to properly clean up the oil spill in the aisle; Joe (the plaintiff) suffered harm as a result of the defendant’s negligence; and Supermarket’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing Joe’s injury. In some cases, the defendant’s insurance company will negotiate a fair settlement, but in other cases, the plaintiff will need to file a premises liability lawsuit. When an insurance company makes a fair settlement offer, a slip and fall settlement can occur very quickly—within weeks to a couple of short months after the accident. However, when a plaintiff needs to go to court, the timetable for a settlement offer becomes much longer. Filing a Premises Liability Claim in California A plaintiff has two years from the date of the slip and fall injury to file a premises liability lawsuit in California. This is known as the statute of limitations. As long as two years have not passed, Joe’s lawyer can prepare a complaint. The complaint will provide key factual information about the case, such as who is being sued, where and how Joe slipped and fell, and what kinds of damages Joe expects the supermarket to pay for his injuries. Damages in slip and fall cases typically include compensatory damages, which compensate a victim for losses. These can include economic damages (like lost wages and medical bills) as well as non-economic damages (like pain and suffering). Once Joe files a complaint, the defendant will be able to file a response, which is known as an answer. The answer typically involves the defendant admitting to or denying the statements in Joe’s complaint. In the answer, the defendant can also bring up any affirmative defenses, such as a comparative fault. Under California law, a plaintiff’s damages can be reduced if he bears some responsibility for the accident. In the hypothetical, the defendant might argue that Joe is partially to blame because he worse shoes with slippery soles and that he would not have slipped otherwise. At any point, after Joe has filed a complaint, the defendant can offer a settlement amount. If it is acceptable, Joe can take the settlement offer and end the case. If not, Joe’s lawyer can negotiate a better settlement, or the case can move forward. The longer a case remains in court, the lengthier the timetable before Joe receives compensation. Discovery and Premises Liability Trial Motions If a case moves forward without a settlement, it will go through a phase known as discovery (where both parties gather evidence), and then to trial motions. It can take quite awhile for the discovery process to conclude, as well as to set court dates and...

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Attorney Portrait Car Accidents

Who’s At Fault in a Car Accident?

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Nobody leaves their house or workplace and expects to get hurt in a car accident. However, traffic collisions happen very frequently in Southern California, especially since most residents rely on motor vehicles to get from one place to another. With more cars on the road, there is a greater risk of a collision. Who is at fault in a car accident? Many drivers who have been injured in motor vehicle crashes want to know how to tell who is at fault in a car accident. Fault in a California car accident depends on different factors. Determining Fault Initially in a Car Crash in California California is what is known as a “fault” state when it comes to auto accidents and claims. Some states are “no-fault” states, while other states are “fault” states. In a “fault” state, the police will typically assign fault to one (or more) of the drivers in a motor vehicle collision, and an injury victim can be eligible to file a claim against the responsible driver. When the police are called to the scene of an accident and write out a police report that identifies one of the drivers as the driver at fault, the police report becomes an important document in proving fault. When a driver files an auto insurance claim in a fault-based car insurance state, the driver typically has two options for property damages: File a 1st-party claim: this is a claim through the driver’s own auto insurance company; or File a 3rd-party claim: this is a claim through the auto insurance company of the driver who is at fault. There are benefits and limitations to each type of claim. When a driver files a 1st-party claim, she or he is responsible for paying the deductible even if she is not at fault. Then, that driver’s own insurance company attempts to recoup the deductible from the liable driver’s insurance company. A 1st-party claim can sometimes be quicker than a 3rd-party claim. When a driver files a 3rd-party claim, she does not have to pay a deductible, but the process can take longer. In addition, if the driver at fault has limits on the policy, the injury victim may be unable to obtain full compensation for her losses. In such a scenario, the injury victim may be able to file a lawsuit to seek damages for additional losses. For bodily injuries, the driver has to go through a 3rd-party claim first before doing a 1st-party claim. How to Prove Fault Based On Evidence at the Scene of the Crash After a crash, you probably want to know how to determine fault in a car accident. In addition to a police report, injury victims should gather the following evidence at the scene of a crash: Witness statements; Witness contact information; Photographs of the scene taken from multiple vantage points; and Photographs of injuries. In addition, the injury victim should seek medical attention. Medical records can also be used as evidence to prove that the other driver was at fault. Even if you believe you may have been partially to blame, never admit fault after a car accident. Comparative Fault and California Auto Crash Claims What happens if both drivers—the plaintiff and the defendant—are responsible in some capacity for the car accident? This is known as comparative fault, or contributory negligence. Under California law, a plaintiff’s comparative fault reduces her damages award by the portion of her fault, but it does not prevent her from recovering damages. For example, if a plaintiff (the personal injury victim who filed a claim) is found to be 10 percent at fault, her damages award will be reduced by 10 percent. Even if a plaintiff is found to be 90 percent at fault, she can still recover, but her damages award will be reduced by 90 percent. If the payout in a given case is $100,000, a plaintiff who is 10 percent at fault will have her award reduced by $10,000 and she will receive $90,000. If the plaintiff is 90 percent at fault, her award will be reduced by $90,000 and she will receive $10,000. Some states bar a plaintiff from recovery if they are 50 percent or more at fault, while others bar plaintiffs who are 51 percent or more at fault. There is no bar to recovery like this under California law. Contact a California Car Accident Attorney About Filing a Claim Were you injured in a serious car crash in California? You should speak with a Long Beach car accident attorney about filing a claim for compensation. Even if you think you may bear some responsibility for the collision, you may still be able to recover damages. Contact The Beliz Law Firm to learn more about how we assist clients in California with auto accident claims.

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Attorney Portrait Car Accidents

How to Determine Pain and Suffering in a Car Accident Case

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Car accidents can leave victims with mounting medical bills and other financial losses, like lost wages. But not all injuries are easy to value in monetary terms. For example, if a car accident leaves you paralyzed in your legs, you might still be able to work. Nevertheless, you have suffered a terrible loss to your ordinary way of life. In California, “pain and suffering” is the catchall term to describe certain non-economic losses you can be compensated for. However, it is not always easy to calculate how much these losses are worth. If you have been in an auto accident, pain and suffering damages might be substantial. What Does Pain and Suffering Cover in California? Each state defines pain and suffering differently. According to California Civil Jury Instruction 3905A, pain and suffering includes: Physical pain; Mental suffering; Physical impairment; Disfigurement; Loss of enjoyment of life; Inconvenience; and Emotional distress, including embarrassment or anxiety. After a minor accident, this pain and suffering might be temporary, clearing up after a couple of months. With particularly serious accidents, however, our clients can be permanently disfigured or disabled. How Do We Calculate Pain and Suffering? In one sense, no amount of money can ever make up for certain injuries. For example, if your brain injury permanently impairs your memory and ability to speak, then no money can ever make you whole. Nevertheless, you can’t get your old body back in a car accident settlement, so money is the best substitute. At the Beliz Law Firm, we use two different methods to estimate pain and suffering: the multiplier method and the per diem method. Multiplier Method This method is easy to understand. You take your actual economic losses—the cost of medical care, lost wages, and property damage. Then you multiply these amounts by a number usually between 1 and 5, with 1 being used for less serious injuries and 5 used for the most serious, like paralysis. To take an example, Karen might have suffered the following economic losses when she suffered an arm fracture in a T-bone collision: Medical care: $5,000 Lost wages: $3,000 Car damage: $2,000 Total economic losses: $10,000 Since her injury is moderate, you would probably multiply this amount by 2 and arrive at $20,000, which is a rough estimate of her pain and suffering damages. Add the $20,000 to her $10,000 in economic losses, and Karen could get around $30,000 in her settlement. Per Diem Method Per diem means “by the day.” This method assigns a daily value for pain and suffering, such as $200. If Karen’s broken arm caused her pain for three months, during which she was regularly seeing the doctor, then you might multiply $200 by 90 days to reach $18,000 for total pain and suffering. How do you arrive at the per diem amount? Actually, it might seem rather arbitrary. An insurance company might look at how much you earn a day and use that as the number. Your attorney could use some other number so long as there is a legitimate reason for doing so. Speak with Us Now After an auto accident, you need steady legal guidance to help you get the money you deserve. At the Beliz Law Firm, we have extensive experience with car accident settlement pain and suffering claims, and we want to use our knowledge for you. To schedule your free consultation, please reach out to us today.

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