5 Tips for Choosing the Right Personal Injury Lawyer
As scary as it is to admit, you never know when you will need a personal injury lawyer. Nobody ever thinks they will find themselves in a scenario that requires an attorney, and most people don't expect to fall victim to a serious injury. Unfortunately, accidents and injuries happen to people every single day – even to careful individuals who have done nothing wrong. By nature, you can't prepare for an accident (whether that’s a car accident, a pedestrian accident, a slip and fall accident, or something else), but you can plan what you will do in the aftermath. One of the best things that you can do to protect yourself in the event of an accident is to find the right legal help – but that requires to you know how to choose a personal injury lawyer. Being prepared and knowing what questions to ask can make all the difference in your case, from the amount of money you’ll be able to recover for your injury to the level of stress you have to deal with throughout the legal process. Make sure you choose an attorney who will provide you with the level of support you need, as well as someone who is qualified to get you the best outcome possible for your accident case. To help you navigate the process of choosing the best personal injury lawyer in California or elsewhere, read the tips below. 5 Steps to Take in the Lawyer Selection Process Below are a few steps you should take when researching and evaluating attorneys for your personal injury case. 1. Evaluate their experience. The more experience a lawyer has in personal injury law, the more likely they are to succeed in your case. That’s because they’ve seen it all, so they know how to handle even the biggest obstacles, from proving the damages of highly complex, catastrophic injuries to seeing through the tricks of manipulative insurance companies. An accident lawyer with years of experience under their belt is likely already familiar with the kind of personal injury case you’re bringing to them. To properly assess an attorney’s level of experience, make sure to ask the following questions: Is personal injury one of the main practice areas they focus on as a lawyer and as a firm? (For some general-practice law firms, personal injury could be one of a dozen types of law they practice, meaning they only deal with these cases from time to time, and they might not have the right level of experience.) How many years has the attorney and law firm been handling these types of cases? Does the attorney have extensive trial experience? Are they well-recognized and well-respected in the personal injury law community? (This recognition might be in the form of professional awards, membership/leadership in personal injury or trial lawyer associations, etc.) Do they have experience handling the specific type of case you’re dealing with? (For example, if you suffered from a brain injury, does their firm have experience winning compensation in brain injury cases?) 2. Ensure they have a strong track record for success. Keep in mind that there are many attorneys who have years of experience but still do not actually have a strong track record of success. For example, they may be known for giving in to low-ball settlements from the insurance company, or they might not have proven results for winning the toughest, most high-value cases. As you consider an attorney, review their case results and ask these questions: Have they consistently recovered multi-million-dollar settlements and verdicts for clients? Do they have experience winning cases involving catastrophic injuries and even wrongful death claims, not just accidents involving minor injuries? Have they won any awards for their settlements and verdicts? 3. Pay attention to how they engage with you. Trust your judgment. The attorney-client relationship is important, so make sure that you like the way that you are being communicated with and treated by any lawyer you are considering hiring. It’s important to pay attention to the following: Are they ready and willing to answer any questions you have? Are they friendly and professional? Are they strong communicators? (Do they clearly explain the legal process, call you back promptly, etc.) Are they willing to travel to you as needed? Do they seem genuinely concerned about your well-being? 4. Understand their payment model. Make sure to read the fine print carefully when hiring a new attorney to ensure that you fully understand their payment model so there are no surprises later. A few good questions to ask include: Do they offer a free initial consultation? Do they work on a contingency-fee-basis? (This means you only pay the firm legal fees if they win your case. Additionally, your legal fees are taken out of your settlement, or paid by the defendant, so you don’t have any upfront fees related to your legal representation.) Can they provide a cash advance to cover costs before your settlement or verdict? 5. Consider what additional resources they offer. It’s important to think about the additional resources your prospective injury lawyer can provide. Some personal injury law firms offer a higher level of assistance with various elements of stages of the case, creating less hassle for you and a smoother experience overall. Make sure to ask the following: Do they have a network of medical professionals they can use to help you find the treatment you need? Can they help you find doctors who are willing to work on a lien basis so your medical expenses can be taken out of your settlement or verdict? Can they assist with additional services related to your case such as property damage valuation and liens negotiations (i.e., negotiating costs with your medical providers)? Why Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer in the First Place? After being injured in an accident or another incident caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be wondering if you actually need to hire a personal injury lawyer. The quick answer is YES, you do! Why? Because there will be an opposing party in your case that will be working against you, either to prove you were at fault for your own injuries or to give you the lowest settlement possible. In most cases, this opposing party will be the insurance company of the person or company that caused your injuries. Insurance companies deal with injury claims day in and day out, so they’re experts at using manipulative tactics to lower their payout to injury victims. This is why you need a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney on your side protecting your right to fair compensation. A good lawyer will investigate your case, prove liability by the at-fault party, and handle all negotiations with the insurance company on your behalf. They will also make sure you don’t get short-changed, fighting for the highest settlement or verdict to which you are entitled. But make sure you do your homework before choosing a lawyer. Not every personal injury lawyer will be qualified to get you the best result possible in your case. Remember to choose wisely using the tips in this article! About the Authors This article was written in collaboration by Wilshire Law Firm and Atkins Markhoff Adler (AMA Law). Wilshire Law Firm is an award-winning personal injury, employment, aviation, and class action law firm that has been ranked as one of the “Best Law Firms” by U.S. News & World Report two years in a row, in 2020 and 2021. The walks side-by-side with its clients, fighting to obtain maximum compensation on their behalf in California, throughout the United States, and even internationally. With extensive litigation experience and a strong track record recovering more than $850 million in settlements and verdicts for clients, Wilshire Law Firm is the firm that other lawyers refer their most challenging cases to. Wilshire Law Firm works on a contingency-fee basis, which means clients do not pay any legal fees unless the firm wins their case. AMA Law proudly serves clients throughout Oklahoma. As a full-service personal injury and accident law firm, the firm strives to help their clients make decisions that will benefit them in the long-term. The firm’s legal team understands that accidents happen, many of which are out of the victim’s control. With more than 100 years of combined experience, AMA Law has helped clients pursue legal action and damages for cases covering a wide range of legal issues. Specializing in personal injury, criminal defense, and drug injuries, AMA Law works tirelessly to help meet our clients’ various legal needs. Established in 1996, AMA Law brings an expert level of legal ability, dedicated work ethic, and unparalleled communication to each and every case.
Dozens Killed in Boat Fire off Santa Cruz Island
In one of the worst maritime disasters in California history, the 75-foot commercial scuba diving vessel Conception caught fire early Monday morning, appearing to claim the lives of dozens of passengers. A total of 39 people were onboard the Conception at the time of the incident—6 crew members and 33 passengers—with 5 crew members the only known survivors. Santa Barbara County officials did not expect to find additional survivors—as of late Monday night, 20 bodies had been recovered by Coast Guard crews. Conception, which had embarked Saturday on a three-day dive excursion off the Ventura County coast, was anchored on the north side of Santa Cruz Island when the blaze began Monday morning. Shortly after sunrise and just a few hours later, the vessel lay 60 feet below the surface, charred and inverted on the seafloor. Officials, however, stressed that it was too early to determine if negligence had contributed to the blaze. Truth Aquatics, the owner and operator of the Conception, is well-regarded within the diving community, and the boat was in full compliance following its most recent annual inspection by the Coast Guard. According to the Truth Aquatics website, the ship featured a built-in barbecue, although it remained unclear if this played a role in the incident.
Driving During an Earthquake? DON'T Do This
Credit: National Park Service (NPS) Photo Since the magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake in 1994, Los Angeles and Southern California have been lucky to avoid other major significant seismic activity. But that period of relative quiet ended with some fireworks on the Fourth of July in 2019 when a magnitude 6.4 quake in Ridgecrest, California, rocking communities from Las Vegas to Baja California, followed by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in the same area the next day, as well as numerous aftershocks. Because you never know when another big one is going to strike, it’s important to always be prepared, and that includes knowing what to do if you’re on the road when an earthquake hits. What NOT to Do When Driving During an Earthquake Most Californians know to drop, cover, and hold during an earthquake, but those rules go out the window if you’re driving when the quake occurs. Before the ground starts shaking and you’re left unsure of what to do, below are a few tips of what not to do in an earthquake while driving. Do NOT… Brake Suddenly: When you stop suddenly, you risk surprising other motorists and causing accidents. Sudden braking can lead to a rear-end collision and multi-vehicle pileup. Try to Out-Drive the Quake: Although it might be tempting to try this, you’re not going to be able to out-drive the earthquake. P Waves can travel up to 14 kilometers per second, which is significantly faster than whatever vehicle you happen to be driving. Get Out and Run: Do not get out of your vehicle and start running, either. Not only are you unlikely to escape the radius of a major earthquake, but large cracks, strong shaking, and fallen power lines, debris, glass, gas leaks, etc. are a recipe for disaster when you’re on foot. When you are in the car, you should avoid leaving it unless remaining in the car puts you at immediate risk. Drive Under or Over a Bridge: Bridges are at high risk for earthquake damage, especially during large earthquakes. You should avoid them if at all possible, including immediately after the quake. It is best to avoid driving over bridges if you notice shaking. Use Your Phone Unless Necessary: Avoid using your phone unless absolutely necessary, such as if you need to call 911 because you’re injured. It is important to keep lines clear so that emergency calls can go through and emergency personnel can communicate. Only use your phone if absolutely necessary. How to Avoid an Accident During an Earthquake The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services have partnered together to create a list of recommended protective actions that will reduce injury and damage in the event of an earthquake. If you’re hoping to avoid a car accident or motorcycle accident during an earthquake, you should do the following. DO… Reduce Speed Gradually: During an earthquake, reduce your speed gradually to avoid surprising other motorists and getting into a rear-end accident or multi-vehicle pileup. Pull Over: Pull over to the side of the road away from bridges, overpasses, power lines, and other hazards. If there is no clear space to pull over, keep driving until you find one. Park: Set your parking brake, turn your vehicle off, and leave on your seatbelt. Your car is a safe place to be during an earthquake, as long as it is not in the path of anything that could be dangerous, like a bridge, power line, or pillar. Turn on the Radio: During an earthquake, instructions from the government or local authorities are broadcast over the radio. Leaving your radio on is the best way to stay informed of the situation and avoid the risk of further danger. Wait: Occupants of a vehicle should remain in the car until the shaking stops. Only leave your car if staying in the vehicle poses an immediate safety hazard. Stock your car with emergency supplies or an earthquake survival kit to be on the safe side. Once the shaking has subsided, proceed carefully. In the wake of the Ridgecrest quake, and with the Big One still sure to hit California someday, planning for an earthquake has never been more important than it is now. For more information about earthquake safety and help with emergency planning, review FEMA’s Earthquake Safety Checklist. Additional Precautions to Take After the Quake Even once the strong earthquake has passed, it is important to act with caution. An earthquake can damage the integrity of buildings, roadways, and services. Once the shaking stops and it’s safe to drive again, you should proceed with caution. Drivers should make sure to avoid driving under or over bridges, near downed power lines, on highway ramps, or other structures that may have sustained damage during the quake. You should also be aware that earthquakes might have aftershocks. These can be dangerous. If you notice further shaking or tremors, it is best to pull over again. The biggest danger during an earthquake is not the quake itself but the environment where you are when the earthquake happens. More often than not, accidents and injuries during an earthquake result from damage to a nearby man-made structure or building. The highest death tolls from earthquakes in history, going as far back as 1556 and as recently as the 21st Century, are due to improper building conditions. Computer analysis suggests that an 8.0 earthquake in Los Angeles would cause about 10,000 more deaths during the day than it would at night because the population would be on freeways and in large buildings. While structures are a huge factor, injuries can also occur from accidents involving other drivers on the road, which could be caused by the shaking itself or by those drivers not taking the correct precautions for road saftey during and after an earthquake. Wilshire Law Firm: Experienced Car Accident Lawyers As experienced car accident lawyers, we do whatever we can to promote road safety, which is why we’re bringing you these helpful tips. While no one can know when an earthquake is going to strike while they’re driving, there are many types of avoidable motor vehicle accidents, including car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, pedestrian accidents, and more that are caused by another person’s negligence (i.e., traffic violations, drunk driving, distracted driving, etc.). When these accidents occur, our injury attorneys are here to help. Recovering more than $850,000,000 in compensation on behalf of our clients, we’re committed to helping injury victims get the best results possible in their cases. To find out how we can assist you, call us today at (800) 522-7274 or fill out our online form for a free consultation.
San Francisco – Home of Juul Labs – Bans Sale of E-Cigarettes
Want to smoke e-cigarettes? It just got harder to in San Francisco. Are smokers being driven back to cigarettes by anti-vaping laws? Or does the free sale of vaping products ultimately lead to more people smoking cigarettes? The city of San Francisco may be about to find out. The home of Juul Labs, which controls nearly 70% of the US vaping market, San Francisco will become the first US city to ban the sale of e-cigarettes following a vote by city officials on June 25th. The new legislation, which is scheduled to take effect early next year, makes it illegal for stores to sell the vaporizers and makes it illegal for online retailers to deliver to addresses in the city. Will the Move Work? Although critics of the move say that banning vape products will drive smokers back to cigarettes, anti-vaping activists believe that the new law will help curb e-cigarette use among high school students, which rose from 11.7% of students in 2017 to 20.8% of students in 2018. In addition, vaping critics claim that more scientific evaluations of vape products are necessary—something the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agrees with. Companies like Juul have until 2021 to submit their products for FDA review, a crucial step that may ultimately determine the future of vaping in the US. Will other California cities join San Francisco in banning e-cigarettes? Stay tuned.
Beware of Ambulance Chasers
After experiencing a traffic accident, many Southern California law firms will take advantage of your vulnerable state to send people called ambulance chasers, also known as “runners,” “solicitors,” and “cappers,” in the hopes of obtaining your case. An ambulance chaser’s number one goal is to secure you as a client for the law firm they represent through manipulation and/or trickery. In return, they receive compensation for every new client they bring to their employers. Employing ambulance chasing methods is not only unethical, but illegal! Why is ambulance chasing illegal? Ambulance chasing is illegal in 21 states as well as in Washington D.C., ensuring that you receive the best representation for your case. Though these methods are not illegal in every state, it does violate the American Bar Association’s Code of Professional Ethics, Canon 28, which does hold licensed attorneys accountable for soliciting clients. It may come as a surprise, but California only recently enacted a law to prevent ambulance chasing methods. In 2011, the Business and Professions Code Section 6152 was passed, making it illegal for “any person, in an individual capacity or in a capacity as a public or private employee, or for any firm, corporation, partnership or association to act as a runner or capper for any attorneys or to solicit any business for any attorneys.” A lawyer caught using runners or cappers can be fined up to $15,000 or spend one year in county jail. Oftentimes, victims of ambulance chasing schemes find that the lawyers they were recommended are not best suited to work on their case. As part of California’s crack down on ambulance chasing methods, the California Business and Professions Code 6154 was established, which allows “any contract for professional services secured by an attorney at law or law firm in this state through the services of a runner or capper is void.” A voided contract means your fees are recoverable. It’s important to note that it is not illegal for someone to recommend you a lawyer as long as there is no compensation for them doing so. As you can see, California takes ambulance chasing seriously to protect you from soliciting lawyers who may not be best for your case. How does a runner or capper find victims? How is it that a runner or capper knows when an accident has occurred within minutes of it being reported? They tend to use two methods to track down potential clients. Many runners and cappers use police and emergency electronic scanners to hear when and where an accident has happened in Southern California. Suddenly, an ambulance chaser is there at the scene to “help” you by referring you to their lawyer. The second method involves people known as “insiders.” For a few hundred dollars, an “insider” will give your information to a runner who will then use it to track you down. Typically, “insiders” who are on an ambulance chaser’s pay roll include: Police department employees Hospital staff Tow truck drivers Once they find you, they employ a variety of schemes in an attempt to convince you to bring your case to their lawyers. What are schemes that you should be aware of? Ambulance chasers use manipulative means that are meant to convince you that their lawyers are best suited to handle your case. They have been known to do all of the following: Pretending to be a witness: Showing up minutes after a traffic collision, an ambulance chaser may pretend to be a witness to your accident and offer advice as to what lawyer you should use. Runners will promise large financial recoveries: After enticing you to use their lawyer’s services, they will have you sign agreements and make commitments to use their employer’s services. Calling a tow truck: Pretending to help, runners will call a tow truck for potential clients. This allows their law firm to secure additional information about your accident. Sending letters: The action of sending letters to a client is not, in itself, illegal, but how they obtain your information to send you letters is. Ambulance chasers may appear friendly and helpful, but they are attempting to solicit your case on behalf of a firm that may not represent your best interest. Don’t be fooled by their grandiose promises or cave into their solicitous ways through phone calls and junk mail. If an ambulance chaser tries to persuade you to use their firm, report their employer to The State Bar of California.
How to Talk to Witnesses for Your Personal Injury Claim
Advice from Our Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Witness statements can make or break your personal injury claim. If you have no witnesses or do not want to name any witnesses, then you will look suspicious. Therefore, as soon as you call a personal injury lawyer, you should find witnesses and talk to them. The longer you wait, the more likely they are to give distorted statements because most people quickly forget the details of events that doesn’t actually involve them. Who can be your witness? A witness is a person who actually saw the accident happen. But he or she could also be a person who did not actually see the accident, but who arrived at the scene of accident soon after and saw that you were injured or had suffered damages. A witness could also be someone who heard an involved party talking about the accident implying that the accident happened due to the fault of someone other than you. How to approach witnesses? Talk to the people who are or were at the scene of accident. Introduce yourself. Ask them politely about what they saw and where exactly they were. Ask them if they would be able to give a statement. If they are unwilling or uncooperative, do not push them. You want them to be on your side, so do not say anything that might irritate them or scare them away. If the witness is someone you know, then things will be much easier. What to do if a witness refuses to talk? A witness may refuse to talk for reasons of his/her own. If that happens, then there is nothing you are can do. You cannot force him/her to talk or give a written statement. You cannot threaten him/her. You cannot bribe him/her. The only thing you can do is get a subpoena from the court once you have filed a lawsuit. A subpoena is a writ ordering a person to appear in a court. What to do if a witness agrees to talk? If a witness is cooperative and agrees to talk, then write down his/her name, address and phone number. Explain to him/her that you may need a written statement to corroborate the facts you have presented. With the consent of the witness, write down what he/she has told you as soon as possible. You can write it on the spot if you can. Send a typed copy to him/her, requesting him/her to review it and sign it, and then send it back to you. If a witness agrees with your version of what happened, but has reservations about getting involved (which often happens), then write down what he/she has told you and ask them to sign it. Don’t forget to get their name, address and phone number. What rights does the witness have? Even after agreeing to become a witness, the witness has the right to refuse to make his/her phone number public, refuse to give written statement, reject an in-person meeting, and refuse to take part in a recorded interview. However, you may politely request them to agree to these things. The witness can withhold as much personal information as he/she wishes. He is not required to revisit the scene of the crash if he/she doesn’t wish to. He/she doesn’t have to sign on any written document if he/she doesn’t want to. Once he/she has been interviewed by the adjuster, he/she doesn’t have to repeat himself/herself to any other representatives of the insurer. What can you NOT say to a witness? You can’t tell a witness to withhold any information that might put you in trouble. You can’t feed your witness statements that you want emphasized. You can’t instruct him/her to say the things that you want to be said. Your witnesses have the ability to make or break your case with what they say. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can help you gather witness statements to strengthen your claim.