Welcome to my website. My name is Michael Rehm, and I provide representation to those injured in accidents throughout California. If you have been injured in an accident, and you are reading this, you probably have several questions as to how to proceed from here. The reality is, in my experience, you are already heading in the right direction by looking into obtaining a lawyer. Here is some general advice that hopefully will keep you on the right track:
Get Your Personal Injury Lawyer ASAP:
If you have been injured through the fault of another, it helps to obtain your lawyer as soon as possible. First, it precludes the other sides insurance company from contacting you. It is a common tactic of insurance companies to intentionally call over and over, knowing you are in weak state, in hopes you will eventually grow tired of the constant hassle, and sign whatever they want you to sign. Once you have your personal injury attorney, and your attorney notifies the other sides insurance company of this, they will no longer contact you directly.
Second, in my experience it provides peace of mind that you no longer have to go this alone, and if you have any questions or concerns, you have someone you can trust to contact. It normally allows the person injured to not focus on the legal aspect of the accident, and to simply focus on getting healthy again. The less anxiety, the better.
Third, as your attorney, I would know the steps to immediately take to resolve the matter as soon as possible. Ordering medical and billing records, notifying MediCare or Medi-Cal (if applicable), obtaining information from your employer on lost wages are tasks that must be completed as soon as possible in order to ensure the most efficient resolution of your case. There is a lot that needs to be done in the beginning of these accident cases, and if there is a delay, it can set back settlement negotiations a significant period of time.
Understand the Anatomy of a Successful Settlement:
In order to have a successful settlement or judgment in court, there will generally be three main factors to consider. They are liability (who is at fault); damages (medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering) and the ability to collect on damages, specifically through insurance coverage of either your own personal uninsured or underinsured policy, or the other sides insurance coverage or assets.
Liability – This factor is pretty straight forward. Who caused the accident? The answer to the question can come from several different sources. The accident report is normally a good place to start, but it is not conclusive. Witness’s statements, and the statements of all parties involved in the accident are all part of how the determination is made. Many times, the accident report will contain all of the information relevant to who caused the accident, and the other sides insurance will not even challenge who was at fault.
Damages – Damages include, but are not limited to, medical bills, future medical bills, lost wages, future lost wages, and pain and suffering. Normally your attorney will order all of the itemized medical bills form the different treatment providers, and all lost wages documentation from your employer. There is no set formula for determining pain and suffering. If you read the jury instructions for pain and suffering, it simply says “you must use your judgment to decide a reasonable amount based on the evidence and your common sense.” The unknown element of what a jury would award for pain and suffering should be used to your advantage in settlement negotiations.
Collecting on Damages – Assuming you have the two factors above in your favor, the issue now becomes how to collect the money owed. If the other side has insurance, the issue is going to be how much insurance do they have? You are going to need to know the policy limit of the insurance coverage. The insurance company will generally refuse to provide the policy limit without obtaining their insureds permission first. They do not always obtain permission, but many times they do. If they cannot get permission, you have a right to the information once a complaint is filed in court. So, you might be forced to sue, depending on the case.
If the other side does not have insurance, hopefully you have uninsured motorist coverage, and then once again the question becomes how much? If the other side has a low policy limit, the question then becomes do you have underinsured motorist coverage, and how much? Underinsured coverage is not very well known, but it provides additional insurance coverage if the other side does have insurance, but a low amount of it.
Having a Lawyer is in your Best Interest:
Assuming you are working with an honest lawyer, I highly recommend it. Without a lawyer, you have no real leverage. The insurance company will have no incentive to take you seriously without an attorney. Even if you can handle everything on your own and have the ability to do the legal work to bring a lawsuit and conduct discovery and prepare for and conduct a trial, the other side will more than likely make you do just that. They take personal injury lawyers seriously because they know that we will sue, and if we sue, we have the ability to win, and win big.
Another point I would like to make on this topic, is that the good lawyers will not take more than you. There is a common fear from the general public that if you have a lawyer on your injury case, they will end up taking a large chunk of the profits, even more than the client will take home. It should not work that way, and it does not work that way with me. I do not make more than the client. I get a cut of the recovery and my costs in pursuing the case reimbursed. But that number will not be greater than the client will bring home, after all expense are paid, including the medical bills. I am not alone in this, and most reputable personal injury attorneys operate the same way.
This is a basic overview to hopefully shed some light on the process of a California Personal Injury Case. The law in this area is in depth, and the need for an attorney that understands the law is mandatory. If you would like a free consultation to learn more, feel free to give me a call at (800) 978-0754. Stay positive, and good luck.