San Jose Car Accident FAQ
Here at Bohn & Fletcher, we get a lot of questions about car accidents. That’s okay. It’s the nature of the business for our clients to ask us questions, and we’re always happy to answer them. But, there are some questions we get so often that we figured we might as well put them together into a Frequently Asked Questions list, to save our clients the time of getting ahold of us and save ourselves a little bit of time on the routine questions so that we can focus on the more complicated ones in person.
So, without further ado, here are some of the most common questions we field about car accidents, and our standard responses.
I Got Hurt in a Car Accident. Can I Sue Someone for Damages?
You’re going to hear this answer a lot from us, and from any lawyer worth his or her salt: “It depends.”
Not everyone who gets hurt in a car accident has the right to take legal action for damages. But, many do. Here’s the basic idea: if the car accident was anything less than 100 percent your fault, then you probably have the right to seek damages from the other at-fault party or parties. The more at fault the other party, the more of your damages that party would owe you. So, just as an example, if you suffered $100,000 in injuries in a car accident for which you were 10 percent at fault and the other party was 90 percent at fault, the other party could owe you up to $90,000 in damages.
Also, keep in mind that if your accident was of the single-car variety, you still may have a claim. Car accidents aren’t always caused by the other driver. Sometimes, someone who isn’t anywhere near the scene of the accident is to blame, such as when a car or car-part manufacturer puts an unsafe product on the road, a local government fails to keep the road safe for motorists, or even when a medical professional doesn’t warn you about the side effects of a medication that makes it dangerous to drive.
How Much is My Car Accident Claim Worth?
That’s also a difficult question to answer up front. No two car accidents are identical. The physical damage is different, the circumstances are different, the injuries are different…you get the point. For that reason, no two car accident claims are worth the same thing, necessarily. Two crashes that look similar from the outside might turn out to be worth vastly different amounts of money.
Plus, there’s sometimes a big difference between how badly damaged a person is by an accident and how much money is available to pay for it. A car accident client could suffer $1 million in damages, but if there’s no insurance or other source of payment, then it’s hard to say it’s a $1 million claim.
Here are just a few of the factors that go into figuring out the size of car accident claim and whether there are resources to pay it:
- The severity of the accident and its injuries;
- The age, pre-accident health, and income of the person injured;
- The probability of our client making a “full” recovery;
- The cost of achieving “full” recovery;
- The number of parties who have legal liability for our client’s injuries;
- Whether the parties with legal liability are people or corporations;
- The degree or recklessness involved in the accident; and
- The availability of insurance or assets to pay damages.
How Long Will It Take For Me to Get Paid?
Once again, it depends. We’ve seen some cases settle in a matter of weeks. We’ve been involved in others that have lasted years. Some of the duration of a car accident claim is out of your control, and some of it is 100 percent within your control. Here’s what we mean.
As a general proposition, there are three interrelated factors that play a role in how long it takes for a car accident claim to reach payment. We call them the “Three C’s:”
- Complexity – the more legally and factually complicated a case is, the longer it takes, generally speaking. Complications arise in many ways, from the number of parties involved in an accident to how difficult it is to investigate.
- Controversy – the more the parties disagree with one another about the facts or the law, or the more stubborn they are about reaching agreement, the longer a case will usually take.
- Cost – the more money involved in a case, the more time it typically takes to resolve.
Our clients usually don’t have much control over how complex a case is. And they only have some control over how controversial it is—that is, they only have the ability to decide how hard they want to fight, but not how hard the other side wants to. Finally, our clients have some control over cost, in the sense that ultimately they’re the ones to decide how much money they are willing to accept to “settle.” But, of course, our clients usually don’t have any say in how badly damaged they were by the accident in the first place.
At Bohn & Fletcher, we aim to give our clients the best possible advice on all Three C’s. Every client has his or her own priorities and needs. Our job is to be as responsive as possible to, and to find a resolution that best serves, those needs.
An Insurance Company (Not Mine) Offered Me a Settlement. Should I Take It?
Here’s a question we can give a definitive answer to. No, you should not accept a settlement offer from someone else’s insurance company, at least, not without speaking with an experienced car accident attorney first. Here’s why.
When an insurance company has a policyholder with legal liability for damages resulting from a car accident, that company is going to do everything it can to minimize the amount of money it has to pay out. Now, sometimes the easiest thing for an insurance company to do in that situation is to sit tight and hope the car accident survivor never comes forward with a claim. But, when an insurance company knows it’s on the hook for potentially big dollars, it might instead reach out to the accident survivor with a quick settlement offer.
Why do this? Because the insurer knows that car accident patients often find themselves in dire financial straits and need quick money. The insurance company hopes the accident survivor will take the money and sign a release that gets the insurer and its policyholder off the hook, legally speaking, for bigger damages down the road.
It probably won’t come as a surprise to hear that offers insurance companies make in those situations are pennies-on-the-dollar compared to what the claim is really “worth.” Which is why we tell people NOT to take those offers without talking to a lawyer first. Oftentimes (almost always, actually), getting a lawyer involved at that point will send a signal to the insurance company that they’re not going to get away with a lowball offer.
Of course, we understand if our clients want to take money quickly rather than wait for a bigger payday down the road. That’s their choice and we just do our best to give them sound advice. But, we always hope they come talk to us first, because once you sign a settlement agreement with an insurance company, there’s usually no taking it back.
How Much Is Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer Going to Cost Me?
Another easy answer: in most cases, zero. Like most lawyers who practice personal injury law, Bohn & Fletcher represents personal injury clients on a contingent fee basis. In a nutshell, that means we don’t get paid unless our client recovers money as a result of the work we do. Sometimes, when a case calls for an investment in expert witnesses and other services, we will even agree to invest our own financial resources. As personal injury lawyers, our aim is to make sure that people who have been injured get the legal services they need to recover the damages they deserve, no matter what their financial condition is when they come to us.
We’re always clear with our clients about how we deal with fees and costs, and we offer every potential new client a free consultation with a member of our team.
When Should I Hire a Car Accident Attorney?
Right away. From the moment a car accident happens, the clock is ticking on your legal rights. The sooner you get an attorney involved, the better the chances of gathering important evidence, making timely claims, and recovering every last penny of compensation that’s owed. If you wait too long to get a lawyer, you could lose your right to recover damages altogether.
Don’t wait. If you suffered injuries in a San Jose-area car accident, you need a lawyer to represent your interests. Contact the experienced, hard-working team at Bohn & Fletcher right way at (408) 279-4222 to schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation.