San Francisco Car Accident Lawyers
The majority of personal injury cases in California result from auto accidents. Here are some of the things anyone injured in an auto accident should know. While most (over 90%) of these cases settle before trial, or even settle without the filing of a lawsuit, much of the work in preparing and pursuing these cases is based upon how well the parties believe the case would do in court, and on whether the party at fault believes that the injured party will really try the case if a fair settlement is not offered. Our decades of successful experience as San Francisco car accident attorneys gives us the ability to quickly evaluate cases, so you will know whether a settlement offer is fair. We’re proud to have won significant jury verdicts and settlements for many clients who have been in car accidents, including:
- $2.1 million settlement for a 40-year-old Bay Area man who had a badly broken hip when the cab he was in made a left turn in the path of an oncoming car in Las Vegas. We retained local counsel in Las Vegas to assist with the case, at no additional cost to the client.
- A settlement of more than a half-million dollars for a client who sustained a badly broken wrist in a car accident in Vancouver. We hired local attorneys in Canada to help this San Francisco-based client.
- A settlement of $3.75 million for a client who was hit by a San Francisco street sweeper
- A $500,000 policy limits settlement for a client who was struck by a car, and needed knee surgery.
How Do I Get the Best Settlement in an Auto Accident Case?
Insurance carriers look at records of what other injured persons accepted for similar claims, as well as jury verdict reports. They also look at the reputation of the attorneys representing the injured person. They typically don’t take a claim too seriously if there is no lawyer on board, or if the lawyer handling the claim is one they know always settles. Since personal injury settlements are “full and final” when they are made, the settlement process should not be rushed. Settlement should not be attempted until you have had all the treatment you are going to have, or, if that is not possible, until your condition is stable, and your doctors have a handle on your expected future condition. Our strong reputation with insurance carriers and defense attorneys gives us the ability to settle cases, as they know we will stand up for our clients, and will take the case to court if the settlement offer is not fair. In some cases, the maximum settlement money will not be offered until there is a trial date coming up. Our firm is known as one which will take cases to trial if the settlement offered is not reasonable.
How Do I Know Whether I Need to go to Court Over an Automobile Accident Case?
In many cases, due to the complexity of the claim, a dispute about who is at fault, or simply the size of the claim, a lawsuit will be needed. We can help you determine when, and if, you case need to go to court. Although the great majority of lawsuits settle before going to a trial, this process can take many months, so it is important to determine when to get the lawsuit started. If it is clear that your case is headed to court, we will recommend an aggressive approach, and will seek your consent to file a lawsuit early in the process.
What Should I look For In A Car Accident Lawyer?
Competence, knowledge, lots of experience—those things are a good start. But what else? Someone who can relate to you, who you feel comfortable with. You will spend significant time, perhaps a great deal of time, working with the lawyer. Make sure you select someone you feel good about, someone you can talk to.
What Kinds of Injuries Are Caused by Car Accidents?
Auto accidents typically cause injuries such as spinal injuries to the upper and lower back, traumatic brain injuries, knee injuries, and lacerations. We have had a lot of experience in working with clients with these injuries, and have a considerable understanding of the anatomy and medicine involved. We can help you see that you get the best care possible, giving you feedback on the doctors you are seeing, what they are telling you, and the diagnostic tests and treatment you are getting. We know the best experts to hire to help prove your case, including those in medical charges, orthopedics, radiology, accident reconstruction, etc. Our personal injury attorneys are highly experienced in motor vehicle collision claims and can help you get the maximum compensation available for your injuries.
What If The Party At Fault Doesn’t Have Enough Insurance?
California’s minimum for bodily injury liability in car insurance policies has not increased in over fifty years! So, many cases have value that exceeds the at-fault party’s insurance limits. There are two potential ways around this problem: “underinsured motorist” coverage, and seeking an out-of-pocket contribution from the party at fault
Surprisingly, there are numerous cases with a fairly wealthy at-fault party, who has insufficient insurance coverage. It can be a long struggle, but these people usually pay eventually. We see it this way: if someone has to swallow a bitter pill about the accident recovery, why should it be the victim?
The other avenue to fair compensation for someone who is injured by a person with insufficient insurance is that person’s own “uninsured/underinsured motorist” coverage. This makes up the shortfall in coverage, up to the applicable limits. The carrier will see this as a non-fault accident for the victim, and rates should not increase from a claim of this type.
Traffic Collision Reports – The “TCR” in California
When the CHP or local law enforcement investigates an accident, they generate a report, called the Traffic Collision Report, or TCR. Both local police and the CHP use similar forms, laid out the same way. Whether or not a report is made, and the detail and complexity of the report that is created depends on the circumstances of the collision. In years past, police routinely would generate a collision report for even quite minor accidents. Now the bar is much higher, and in San Francisco, unless there is an apparently significant injury, any police who respond will only facilitate exchange of information. Often the San Francisco police will refuse to respond to an accident scene if a caller does not describe a significant injury, or other factors, such as cars requiring towing, damage to structures, etc.
Diagram of Accident Scene
When there is a report, the depth of information in it varies greatly, depending on how serious the officer thinks the accident is. Virtually every collision report has a diagram of the accident scene, which includes measurements of the subject roadway or roadways. Here are some of the typical things we see in those diagrams: identification and location of any accident-related debris on the roadway; a determination of the “AOI,” area of impact; drawings on the diagram of the scene showing the positions of rest of each vehicle, and markings showing the likely path they followed to get from the AOI to the point of rest.
The TCR will also contain summaries of statements that the involved parties and witnesses gave to the officer, sometimes including quotes.
Determination of Responsibility For The Collision
The part of the TCR that many of us want to see first is the determination of the Primary Collision Factor, or PCF. This is where the reporting officer determines who he or she believes is at fault. The PCF determination will always have a citation to the California Vehicle Code (CVC)—this is the law which the officer concludes the party at fault has violated. There is also a section for “related factors,” which can be used to partially blame another party, often citing the Vehicle Code for that person’s violation.
Insurance companies typically accept the conclusions of TCRs in dealing with claims. But keep in mind that the PCF determination is the officer’s opinion. This opinion is not admissible in court, and is not binding on anyone. At Callaway & Wolf, we have had numerous successful cases where the collision report found our client entirely to blame in the subject accident. This often happens when the client was on a bike or motorcycle.
Other portions of the TCR are admissible in court, as a business record. And, the inadmissible portions of a TCR can be used to “refresh the recollection” of a testifying officer as to certain matters. (In California, almost anything can be used for this purpose, so long as it is not shown to the jury.)
TCR Preserves Key Information
Other very important functions of TCRs are the documentation of both party’s contact information and insurance information, and the name and contact information of witnesses. Often reporting officers will now take digital photos of the accident scene, and may scout the surrounding area for any video cameras, so that they can seek to preserve any video of the collision.
How to Get the TCR After An Accident
This varies, depending on the law enforcement agency involved. For the CHP… Local police have their own policies; some charge, others don’t The length of time it takes for a report to be released is greatly variable as well. In a simple accident, with an agency that isn’t already backed up with reports and requests, the report could be available in just a week or two. For a major collision, involving a fatality, it could take months. There is always a requirement for a supervising officer sign off to approve the report before it’s released. They know that the greater the magnitude of the accident, the more likely that there will be litigation, with the reporting officer giving a deposition and perhaps even testimony in court.
In California, What Kind of Damages Can I Get in a Car Accident Case?
In a California personal injury case, you are entitled to be paid for the value of medical and other care rendered, for pain, suffering, and mental suffering caused, for damage to your car and any other property, for loss of earnings, and for other related expenses, such as home care, transportation expenses, etc. When a case involves a death, there is a different measure of damages, based upon the survivors’ losses, both monetary and physical. If you need help recovering money for damage to your car, this is always done free of charge for our clients who’ve been injured in a car accident in San Francisco.
What’s California’s Statute of Limitations for Auto Accidents?
California has a two-year statute of limitations for automobile accident cases. This limit runs from the date of the accident, and the case must be settled or filed in court before it runs. For cases involving a public entity, such as a city or county vehicle, there is a six-month claims period, so these cases will be lost unless a proper claim is promptly filed. Even though you may have plenty of time before your time limit is up, we can help guide you through the process from day one, helping to insure that the proper groundwork is done for your claim.
When Should I Hire a Lawyer For My Car Accident Case?
Attorney’s fees in these cases are contingent, meaning that they are a percentage of the recovery, and only payable when there is a recovery. Since the fee will be the same irrespective of when you hire a lawyer, you will get the most advice, service, and assistance if you hire the experienced car accident lawyers at Callaway & Wolf right away.
Does It Always Make Sense To Hire A Lawyer For My Car Accident Case?
No, not unless the lawyer can add value. If there are significant damages, and there is little insurance money available for the claim, a car accident lawyer might not be able to do anything to add value. We are conscientious about this, and do everything we can to avoid taking a case unless the client needs representation to be compensated appropriately. Callaway & Wolf will tell you if we don’t think you need a lawyer for your car accident case.
Contact an Experienced Auto Accident Attorney in San Francisco, CA
If you or someone you know has been injured in an auto accident, request a free consultation by calling 415-541-0300 to speak to a San Francisco auto accident lawyer at Callaway & Wolf. Or click here to contact us online for a free attorney consultation.