Archive for the ‘ Personal Injury ’ Category

Proving Fault In Slip And Fall Accidents

Posted on: October 19, 2017 by in Personal Injury
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Did you know that falls – not traffic crashes – are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries? That’s right. Slip-and-fall accidents cause 41.5 percent of spinal cord injuries, and falls also cause traumatic brain injuries, head, back, and neck injuries, broken bones, and even internal injuries. If you are hurt in a fall on someone else’s property, do you have legal recourse? Can you be compensated? Keep reading, because a serious fall can happen to anyone.

Every year, thousands of people in California are injured, often seriously, from slipping or tripping and falling on a floor, stairs, or even on pavement that is – for whatever reason – slippery and hazardous. A cracked sidewalk or potholes in a parking lot can cause serious injuries. So can a rug, carpet, or floor mat that curls up over time. As you might guess, the elderly suffer the greatest number of slip-and-fall injuries.

In California, if you’re injured slipping and falling on someone else’s property, and if you can prove that the accident happened because the owner of the property was negligent, you are entitled to compensation for your medical costs arising from the injury, your lost wages due to your injury, and all other injury-related losses and damages.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO PREVAIL WITH A PREMISES LIABILITY CLAIM?

Winning that compensation is not always easy, however. You are not simply handed reimbursement, even when you are legally entitled to it. In Southern California, you’ll need to have an experienced Pasadena premises liability attorney representing you and advocating on your behalf. You’re about to learn what it takes to prevail with a premises liability claim arising from a slip-and-fall injury.

A premises liability case arising from a slip-and-fall injury, in effect, asks and answers this basic question: If the owner of the property had been more careful, would the accident have happened anyway? Obviously, a property owner is not necessarily liable for every injury that might happen on his or her premises. We are all obligated to be alert and aware of our surroundings.

Every premises liability case, of course, is different, but generally speaking, the law requires property owners to take “reasonable” steps to keep their properties free of hazardous conditions. The law seeks to balance the property owner’s general and reasonable obligation to keep a property safe with an injury victim’s own responsibility to be alert and aware.

WHAT MUST YOU PROVE FOR YOUR OWN CLAIM TO PREVAIL?

How is that balance achieved by the courts, and how are slip-and-fall cases resolved? Again, every case will have its own particulars and details, but to prevail with a premises liability claim, an injury victim – legally called the “plaintiff” – must show that at least one of the following three conditions existed at the time the injury occurred:

– The property owner or the owner’s employee should have known of the hazard, because a “reasonable” owner in the same circumstance would have known of the condition and repaired it.
– The property owner or the owner’s employee did, in fact, know of the hazard but did not repair it.
– The property owner or the owner’s employee caused the hazard.

They may not know the legal details, but most property owners generally understand that they are obligated by the law to keep their properties free of dangerous conditions. Thus, most premises liability claims are concerned with what a property owner “should have known” and what “reasonable” action the property owner did or did not take.

Frequently, the two key questions in these cases are:

– How long was the dangerous condition present before the injury occurred?
– Was that a reasonable amount of time for the owner the repair the condition?

Even when a property owner learns about a plumbing leak, a cracked sidewalk, or a creaking stairwell, it may take several days to repair the condition or to arrange for contractors to repair it. In the interim, a property owner should post warning signs or find another way to inform anyone who may be affected.

WHAT DEFENSES DO PROPERTY OWNERS USE AGAINST LIABILITY CLAIMS?

If you are injured and you accuse a property owner of negligence in a premises liability claim, in many cases that property owner will try to throw the blame back on you, the victim.

The defenses that property owners may offer against premises liability claims include:

– The victim was distracted and was not paying attention to his or her surroundings.
– The victim was in an area where the public is not allowed or expected.
– The victim was wearing improper or unsafe footwear.
– The hazardous area was marked by yellow cones and warning signs.
– The hazard should have been obvious to a normal, average person.

If you are injured in a slip-and-fall accident and your premises liability case goes to trial, California’s “pure comparative negligence” rule kicks in to determine the amount of compensation an injury victim can receive. Under pure comparative negligence, whatever damages a victim receives will be reduced by the percentage of the victim’s own fault.

Thus, if a jury determines that you were thirty percent at fault for your slip-and-fall injuries, and your total damages amount to $100,000, the property owner will only be liable for $70,000 – representing seventy percent of the fault for the accident and injury.

Although most premises liability cases are, in fact, settled out of court before a trial can begin, if you are injured in a slip-and-fall accident and your case cannot be settled out of court, a jury or judge will determine if the property owner should have known (or did know) about the hazardous condition that caused your fall and injury and if the property owner had or did not have a “reasonable” opportunity to repair it.

WHAT PROPERTY CONDITIONS CAN CAUSE SLIP-AND-FALL INJURIES?

If you own rental property, retail property, or any other private property accessible to the public, you need to make sure routinely that pavements and sidewalks are unobstructed and even, that rugs and carpets are flat, and that spills, leaks, and rainwater are cleaned up at once.

Slip-and-fall accidents can be caused by dangerous property conditions that include:

– wet, slippery, or newly-waxed floors
– rainwater that accumulates in doorways and walkways
– clutter and objects that obstruct walkways, hallways, and aisles
– doormats, floor mats, or rugs that are torn or curled
– aging, uneven, or damaged stairs, particularly wooden stairs
– craters, potholes, or cracks in sidewalks or pavement
– poorly lit or unlit parking areas and walkways

When you sustain an injury in any kind of accident in Southern California, seek medical attention at once, and understand that some injuries may be hard to detect at first. If you believe that another person’s negligence might be in any way responsible for your injury or injuries, after obtaining medical attention, discuss the case – promptly – with an experienced Pasadena premises liability attorney.

California’s statute of limitations for premises liability lawsuits is two years. If you don’t file your lawsuit within two years of the slip-and-fall injury, you will not be able to recover damages. At any rate, you don’t want to delay for two years after a slip-and-fall injury and then scurry to file a lawsuit before the deadline. Once you’ve been checked out medically, have your legal options explained to you right away by an experienced California premises liability attorney.

How To Claim Insurance For A Car Accident In California

Posted on: September 19, 2017 by in Personal Injury
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According to the National Safety Council, approximately 15,000 traffic collisions happen daily in this country. When you’re involved in a crash in California, you’ll need to take some steps at the crash site, and you’ll need to take some other steps as quickly as you can. There are also some things that may seem like the right thing to do but must be avoided. The following “do’s and “don’ts” are some tips to guide you through the claims process.

After a vehicle accident in California, filing your own claim and negotiating directly with an insurance company is usually not a problem – that is, if you’ve only sustained vehicle and property damage or minor scrapes and bruises – but if you’ve been genuinely injured by a negligent driver in southern California, it’s best to put your case immediately in the hands of an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney.

WHAT ARE “THE DO’S” AFTER A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT?

1. At the accident scene, summon medical attention first and at once if it’s needed for yourself or for others. If you don’t think you have been injured, have a doctor look at you anyway, and within 24 hours if at all possible. Call the police – you’ll eventually need a copy of the accident report. Trade your personal contact and insurance information with the other driver, take photos of the damages and the general accident scene, and try to get the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses.

2. Notify your auto insurance company that you’ve been in an accident. You’ll need to make that call immediately after the accident or immediately after receiving medical attention. Later, but before you speak with your agent or with an insurance adjuster, review your automobile insurance policy and make certain that you understand its provisions. Take notes regarding each discussion you have with an insurance agent or an adjuster, and get the names, titles, and phone numbers of everyone you speak to about the accident.

3. If you’ve been injured, go ahead and notify the insurer that you’ve been involved in a collision, but before you speak about the accident with an agent or an adjuster, consult with a reliable and experienced personal injury attorney who can explain your legal rights and options as a victim of negligence in this state.

4. Determine if you have applicable coverage under another insurance policy. Several types of policies might cover an injury claim. Check into the provisions of your homeowner’s policy, any umbrella policies you may have, and even your credit cards, which sometimes offer several types of insurance provisions.

5. If you choose to negotiate personally with your own insurance company or with the other driver’s insurance company, be completely and absolutely forthcoming and honest during all discussions and negotiations. A failure to be entirely honest might void your auto insurance policy or become a barrier to obtaining affordable auto insurance coverage in the future. Intentionally misrepresenting the facts to an insurance company could constitute insurance fraud.

6. Understand the distinction between “actual cash value” and “replacement cost coverage.” With replacement cost coverage, you may have to pay out-of-pocket for property damages before you receive reimbursement. California entitles property damage victims to the amount of the vehicle’s repairs, or if the vehicle is deemed a total loss, to its “fair market” (or “actual cash”) value.

WHAT ARE “THE DON’TS” AFTER A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT?

1. Until you are certain that you understand your automobile insurance policy’s provisions, don’t make any written or verbal statement to the insurance company. Again, if you’ve been injured, it’s always best to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer first.

2. Do not blindly accept the insurance company’s estimate of your damages. Some companies will ask you to agree to their own estimates, which may not, in fact, cover all of your costs. You have the right to have your vehicle examined and repaired by any mechanic who is certified in California. If the cost of repairs exceeds the insurance company’s offer, a repair shop will have to work with the insurer to ensure full payment. For this reason, it may be expedient to work with the company’s approved shop, which regularly deals with such circumstances.

3. This is absolutely imperative. Unless you are certain that you have been treated and compensated fairly and sufficiently, do not sign any waivers, releases, or any other insurance documents before consulting an attorney. If you agree to a settlement amount that is less than the actual worth of your damage claim, you will not be able to take any further legal action.

4. Do not overlook deadlines and time limits. Most auto insurance policies require you to file a claim within a specified period of time unless you can obtain a waiver – in writing – from the company. Many auto insurance policies also give you only a year to bring a lawsuit if you believe the claim hasn’t been handled properly. In any event, California’s statute of limitations gives you only two years to file a personal injury lawsuit and three years to file a property damage lawsuit.

5. Do not forget that your insurance company has a contract with you and a legal responsibility to provide the insurance coverage specified by its policies. When a claim has been undervalued, entirely denied, or unreasonably delayed, some accident victims may face serious financial hardship. Do not overlook an insurance company’s bad faith practices. Instead, discuss your options, which may include pursuing a bad faith lawsuit against the insurance company, with an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney.

WHAT IF YOU HAVE BEEN SERIOUSLY INJURED?

Traffic accidents involving negligent drivers who cause injuries generate thousands of personal injury lawsuits every year. Minor collisions are usually resolved quickly, and most insurance company employees are honest and hard-working professionals. Still, accidents in this state that result in serious injuries – or wrongful death – should be handled only by a reliable California personal injury attorney.

Whenever you travel on California’s streets and highways, wear your seat belt. Make sure that your tires, brakes, and lights work properly every time you get behind the wheel. Negligent drivers ruin innocent people’s lives, so if you are injured in this state by a negligent motorist, reach out to an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney, and put a skilled, committed advocate on your side from the very beginning.

Who Is Liable For Truck Accidents In California?

Posted on: August 15, 2017 by in Personal Injury
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According to a 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Transportation, every day in this nation, more than ten people are killed in a commercial trucking accident. Of those fatalities, about 83 percent are not the occupants of the commercial truck – they’re passengers in other vehicles or they’re pedestrians.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the annual cost to the economy of truck and bus collisions in the U.S. is $99 billion. Can these figures be reduced? What causes so many truck accidents, and who is liable for these collisions?

If you’re injured in a collision with a large commercial truck, the law – and the questions about what caused the crash and who is responsible – quickly gets complicated. Unlike most car accidents, many parties can be involved in a trucking accident – not just the driver of the truck but also the owner, the leasing company, contractors, subcontractors, and possibly other parties as well. If you are hurt in a truck crash and you need to seek compensation for your injuries, you will need to be represented by an attorney who knows the trucking industry and routinely represents truck accident victims.

Trucks by the thousands roll in and out of Southern California every day. Understanding how truck crashes happen and how the various parties involved are related can help an injury victim decide whether or not to file a personal injury lawsuit after a truck accident. This is a general overview of liability issues in truck accidents, but if you’ve been injured in an actual collision with a truck in Southern California, it is best to obtain detailed legal advice about any particular case by speaking with an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney.

HOW IS LIABILITY DECIDED AFTER A TRUCK ACCIDENT?

Can a truck’s owner or another party ever be deemed responsible for a truck driver’s negligent driving? Under California law, sometimes the answer is yes. If a truck driver’s negligence was unintentional and occurred within the “scope” of the driver’s duties, an age-old legal principle called “respondeat superior” (a Latin phrase meaning “let the superior answer”) can be applied, and the truck’s owner or owners can be held liable for injuries caused by a truck driver’s negligence.

Respondeat superior legally “imputes” a worker’s liability to the worker’s employer, as if the employer had personally committed the negligence. But applying respondeat superior to any specific trucking accident will hinge on the answers to these questions: Was the negligent driver an employee or an independent contractor? Was the negligence unintentional or intended? Did the carelessness and the subsequent accident occur within the scope of the driver’s duties?

An accident victim seeking compensation from a trucking company will have to prove the negligent driver is a company employee and not an independent contractor, because employers usually are not liable for the negligent actions of contractors. If a trucker was driving his or her own truck with his or her own insurance, and if a company does not withhold taxes from the driver’s pay, that truck driver is likely to be an independent contractor.

WHAT IS THE “SCOPE” OF A TRUCK DRIVER’S EMPLOYMENT?

Defining who is and who is not a legal employee usually isn’t difficult, but accurately defining what is and what is not within a truck driver’s “scope of employment” can be more problematic. Courts use a variety of elements to determine the parameters of a “scope” of employment, including an employee’s intention at the time of a negligent behavior, the nature, time, and location of that behavior, and the amount of independence typically allowed to the employee while performing his or her job duties.

How does all of this apply to a real truck accident? Let’s say that a trucker making a delivery rear-ends another vehicle. Because the crash happened while a delivery was being made, the trucker was acting within the scope of his or her employment.

However, if that same truck driver goes a mile out of his or her way to drive through a Starbucks or a McDonald’s before making the delivery, and if an accident happens as a result of driving that extra distance, the truck owner or company may not be liable since the accident happened “outside” the “scope” of the driver’s employment.

Employers generally are not responsible for intentionally wrong actions committed by employees – like an assault or a battery, for example. That’s because the principle of respondeat superior does not come into play in such cases, because such cases have nothing to do with the scope of employment or the cost of doing business. If a trucker crashes intentionally into a vehicle that cut him or her off in traffic, for example, an employer usually will not be held liable.

HOW IS THE TRUCKING INDUSTRY REGULATED?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates the trucking industry, along with a variety of federal and state laws that regulate and govern independent truck drivers as well as truck companies. The weight trucks may carry, the hours that drivers can work, and the training a truck driver must receive are just a few of the items regulated by law.

If you or someone you love is hurt by a trucker driving negligently, any violation of a federal or state trucking rule or regulation by either the truck driver or the company will be considered evidence that favors the victim and increases the likelihood that a victim’s personal injury claim will succeed.

Sometimes more than a single party will be liable for damages sustained in a truck crash. Leasing companies, contractors, and subcontractors are all part of the trucking business. If a truck’s brakes or tires were defectively manufactured, if cargo wasn’t properly loaded, or if a truck is improperly maintained, several defendants may share a percentage of the liability for causing a collision with injuries.

Personal injury cases are almost always settled outside of court, but if you are injured by a negligent truck driver and you file an injury claim, that claim may be harder to settle if multiple defendants cannot agree among themselves regarding who pays what.

Only a brief introduction to truck collisions and liability can be made here. If you or your loved one is hurt in a truck collision in Southern California, you’ll need frank and easy-to-grasp advice about your rights, your options, and your legal recourse. Let an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney offer the trustworthy legal advice that a truck collision victim in the Los Angeles area will need.

How The Insurance Company Will Try To Minimize Your Claim

Posted on: July 24, 2017 by in Personal Injury
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Insurance companies often try to reduce the amount they will pay for an injury claim – or reject the claim entirely – by using the same dubious and predictable tactics that some insurance companies been using for years. If you’re like most people – meaning you have little if any experience dealing directly with insurance companies – you might become frustrated and decide to just forget the whole business of seeking compensation, even if you’ve been seriously injured.

Insurance companies count on a certain percentage of people walking away from legitimate claims out of exasperation. Don’t be one of those people. If you are having trouble with an insurance company that is refusing to honor an injury claim, an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney can help. Below is a brief discussion of the most common ploys used by insurance companies to avoid paying injury victims who have legitimate injury claims.

HOW DO INSURANCE COMPANIES TRY TO AVOID PAYING CLAIMS?

1. By denying fault or liability: The immediate response of some insurance companies to any injury claim is a denial that any of their policyholders could be at fault. If you are injured, and the insurance company tells you that no coverage is available, have the insurance adjuster explain why – in writing. A letter of explanation should refer to the exact provisions that limit the policy’s coverage.

When an adjuster informs you that there is no coverage for your claim “according to the company’s attorneys,” don’t think you are defeated. You might even be sent a letter from a lawyer working for the insurance company. Don’t let yourself be bullied. One lawyer’s opinion is only one lawyer’s opinion. If the insurance company refuses to offer an acceptable settlement and your claim goes to court, the court alone will decide.

Alternatively, an insurance company might tell you to try collecting against a different policy – and from a different company – if several parties were involved in the accident. If you are injured by negligence in a traffic collision or in any other kind of accident, it’s usually best to speak first with an experienced personal injury attorney who can advise you regarding your legal rights – and avoid speaking to the insurance company entirely. In Southern California, let an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.

2. By using delaying tactics: An insurance company should process an injury claim within a reasonable length of time. Stalling is a typical tactic because if the company stalls long enough, some people will give up and the company pays out nothing. The company might claim that an investigation is “ongoing” or “still pending.” Some companies will even tell claimants that they are at fault for a delay because they missed a deadline, failed to send a notification, or some other technicality.

3. By alleging that your injury was pre-existing: An insurance company will sometimes make the charge that you weren’t really injured as you claim, but instead, you were already injured, and you saw the accident as a chance to take advantage of your pre-existing condition. This is why you must seek medical attention immediately after an accident, whether or not you think or feel that you’ve been injured. If you need to file an injury claim later, you’ll need to have complete medical documentation that confirms your claim.

4. By minimizing the payment of a claim: When an insurance company cannot entirely deny a legitimate claim, it may try to pay as little as possible. The company may try to reduce what it should pay by claiming that the injury victim was – himself or herself – at least partly at fault for the accident and injury. If you had vacation days or sick days due from your employer, an insurance company might try to avoid paying for the wages you lost while you were injured by saying those wages were already covered. In such cases, if you are the injury victim making the injury claim, let an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney advise and represent you.

WHAT IS BAD FAITH?

When a consumer in California purchases an automobile insurance policy, the insurance company becomes legally obligated to provide the coverage spelled out in the policy and to settle legitimate injury claims against the policy promptly and professionally. An auto insurance company that fails to meet their legal obligation may be operating in “bad faith” under California law.

A California injury victim whose bad faith lawsuit prevails against an insurance company may also in some cases be awarded part of his or her attorney fees along with the damages for the original, underlying personal injury claim. How can an injury victim know if an insurance company’s actions constitute bad faith? A personal injury attorney can probably tell you upon examining the details of your injury claim.

WHAT IF THERE REALLY IS NO COVERAGE?

In some cases, once you’ve read the provisions of the insurance policy and you’ve met with an insurance adjuster and a personal injury attorney, you might find that the company is right and the insurance policy, in fact, provides no coverage. In such cases, your injury attorney may be able to suggest other sources of compensation.

If a defective vehicle or vehicle part or a badly-maintained roadway played any part in the accident that injured you, you may be able to file a claim against the vehicle manufacturer or the entity responsible for road maintenance. If a crash involves a large commercial truck, a number of parties could share liability.

Candidly, if you have been seriously injured by someone else’s negligence in a southern California traffic accident – or any other kind of accident – dealing directly and personally with the insurance company is probably not something you should be doing. “Going it alone” might be fine if your only injuries were scratches, but when your health and future may be at stake, get legal help right away.

If a negligent Southern California driver has seriously injured you, speak to an experienced personal attorney before you sign any document, accept any settlement, or even make a statement to an insurance company. When you are recovering from severe injuries, an experienced personal injury lawyer can handle the legal work on your behalf while you concentrate on something even more important – getting your health back.

What Are California’s Negligence Laws?

Posted on: June 23, 2017 by in Personal Injury
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The Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School in New York defines the word “negligence” as the “failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. The behavior usually consists of actions, but can also consist of omissions when there is some duty to act (e.g., a duty to help victims of one’s previous conduct).”

Negligence is an action, or a failure to take action, when someone “owes” a legal “duty” to another person. For example, a supermarket’s managers and staff have a duty to maintain safe and hazard-free aisles for their shoppers. A shopper who slips on a spilled liquid that has not been cleaned up quickly and who thus breaks an arm or a leg may have a legitimate negligence claim against the supermarket, which failed its duty to the shopper.

WHAT MUST BE PROVEN FOR A NEGLIGENCE CLAIM TO SUCCEED?

Similarly, drivers “owe” the other drivers on the road a “duty” to drive soberly, and if an intoxicated driver injures you, you will probably have a strong negligence claim. Whenever the result of an accident is an injury, immediate medical attention must be your first concern. After seeing a doctor, seeing a personal injury lawyer should come next.

To prevail with a personal injury claim in the state of California, an injury victim (called the “plaintiff”) must prove each of the following elements about an accident in order ultimately to prove that the allegedly negligent party (called the “defendant”) was in fact negligent:

  • The defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, and the defendant breached that duty.
  • The breach of duty resulted in the plaintiff’s injury or injuries.
  • The defendant should have foreseen the possible result of the breach of duty.
  • The plaintiff suffered actual, quantifiable damages.

WHAT IS “SHARED” NEGLIGENCE?

The legal definitions of negligence do not vary much from one state to another, but when the negligence that causes an accident with injuries is “shared” negligence – that is, when both parties in an accident are partly at fault, which is quite common in traffic collisions – the law in California will allow an injury victim/plaintiff to sue for the percentage of damages that are allegedly the responsibility of the defendant.

Let’s say, for example, that you are speeding, but not excessively, and you drive as you normally would through a green traffic light. While it’s in the intersection, your vehicle is hit by a vehicle driven by an intoxicated motorist who was exceeding the speed limit egregiously.

A jury might decide that because you were speeding, you were 25 percent responsible for your own injury or injuries, but the other driver’s intoxication, excessive speed, and reckless running through a red light make that driver 75 percent responsible for your injury or injuries. Theoretically, that driver should then have to pay for three-quarters of your medical bills, lost wages, and related losses.

Everyone has a “duty” to drive carefully and to refrain from putting other persons in harm’s way. In some instances, however, there may be additional specific duties, such as the duty of a business owner, an innkeeper, or a taxicab driver to provide a safe, hazard-free location for conducting business.

Professionals such as physicians and attorneys are required to exercise the duties and to maintain the standards of care set by their professions and by their professional licensing boards. When a professional fails to uphold such a standard and an injury is the result, a professional person may be liable for medical or legal malpractice resulting from negligence.

When you file a personal injury lawsuit in Southern California with the help of an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney, lawyers on each side begin compiling and examining evidence in what is referred to as the “discovery” process. Discovery may include “interrogatories” (with witnesses answering written questions) and “depositions” (with witnesses answering questions in person and under oath). During and after the discovery process, personal injury claims are often settled by the attorneys in out-of-court negotiations. Rarely do personal injury cases actually go to trial.

WHAT ARE “DAMAGES” AND HOW ARE DAMAGES DETERMINED?

When a personal injury action is successful, the plaintiff receives what the law calls “damages” – compensation for current and future medical bills and for current and future lost wages and lost earning capacity. Damages may also include compensation for current and future physical pain, emotional suffering, and what the law calls the “loss of enjoyment of life.” The precise amount of the damages paid in any particular case will depend on the type and extent of the injury or injuries sustained.

Time limits called “statutes of limitations” are set by law to restrict the length of time someone has to take legal action after being injured by negligence. In this state, for most personal injury claims, there is a two-year statute of limitations, and although there are some limited exceptions, you must not wait two years to act.

If you are injured by negligence in Southern California, put an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney on the case at once. The sooner your attorney can review the evidence and talk to the witnesses, the more likely it is that your legal action will prevail.

A good California personal injury lawyer will give you frank, impartial legal advice based on years of personal injury experience. In fact, you might receive some advice that you didn’t expect. If you can’t prove your claim, for example, or if a defendant has no insurance or other resources to pay damages with, a personal injury attorney will probably dissuade you from filing a lawsuit.

When you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence, you have a genuine personal injury claim. If you can prove it, and if the defendant is insured or is personally able to pay damages, whether or not to proceed with a lawsuit is still your choice and yours alone.

With your attorney’s guidance, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of filing a claim. If you are injured by negligence, an experienced personal injury attorney will explain those pros and cons and will help you to understand how California’s complicated negligence laws apply in your own case.

What To Do When You’re In A Car Accident With The Police?

Posted on: May 28, 2017 by in Personal Injury
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In 2008 – the last time a precise count was conducted – there were 79,431 sworn peace officers working in the state of California. As you know, law enforcement officers routinely patrol southern California’s streets and highways, and they’re often moving quite rapidly in traffic.

Police officers must be skilled, experienced drivers, because when they’re barreling down a busy highway at eighty-five miles per hour, there is no room for error. Although the mission is “to protect and serve,” the tiniest driving mistake by a law enforcement officer can often be catastrophic to anyone in the vicinity.

With its multiple laptops, monitors, radios, and arrays of lights, the modern police vehicle – from the driver’s position – seems as if it’s designed intentionally to distract the driver. Police cars do end up in more than their share of accidents, and those accidents are too often fatal.

Using data from the years 1994 through 2002, researchers at the University of Washington have determined that every year in the United States, approximately three hundred fatalities occur in traffic collisions that involve police vehicles.

After you’ve been involved in any traffic crash, you have rights – especially if you were injured by someone who was driving negligently. Law enforcement officers do not have more rights than the average person and are not exempted from liability for personal injuries.

Even if the negligent driver who injures you is a police officer, in the state of California, you have the right to complete compensation after an accident for your medical care, lost wages, and any other accident-related expenses and losses.

WHAT IS SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY AND WHEN DOES IT APPLY?

Local, county, state, and federal governmental agencies and entities are in many cases protected against lawsuits by a legal principle called “sovereign immunity.” However, across the United States, sovereign immunity is not absolute, and in California, if you’ve been injured by a police officer who was driving negligently, and if you act swiftly, in most cases you’ll be able to pursue compensation for your injuries and for wages lost while you were injured. The first move is discussing your rights and options with an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney.

After any traffic collision, your health is absolutely the top priority, so you should obtain immediate medical attention – even if you don’t “seem” or “feel” injured. Adrenaline can sometimes mask the initial pain of an injury, and without medical attention, an injury that’s not immediately apparent could develop days or weeks later into a serious medical condition. A medical examination also provides evidence you’ll require in case you really are injured and need to file a personal injury claim.

State and local governments have established strict procedural rules for anyone making a claim against them for injuries. Those rules include short deadlines and precise requirements regarding what the claim must include. A traffic crash caused by a California police officer is what the law calls a “public entity” case, essentially meaning that you must act quickly to protect your right to sue.

Every personal injury case, of course, is different, and after a collision with a police officer, you’ll need the help of a good personal injury lawyer who can sort out the legal details and explain your rights and options.

WHAT IS AN “ADMINISTRATIVE CLAIM” IN CALIFORNIA?

In most cases in California, before a civil lawsuit against any government agency can be filed, an “administrative” claim must be filed with the agency itself within six months of the accident. After a claim is filed, the agency has 45 days to answer. If the agency denies the claim, the injury victim then has six months to file a personal injury lawsuit. If no rejection notice is received, the injury victim ostensibly has two years from the date of the accident file a lawsuit.

However, you can’t count on having two years to take legal action. There are a number of potential exceptions and exemptions in the law, and candidly speaking, when a California police agency is the defendant in a lawsuit, it can sometimes be difficult to determine precisely what the statute of limitations for a particular case actually is.

Clearly, if you’ve been injured in a traffic crash caused by a California law enforcement officer, take the case as quickly as you can to an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney, and then adhere to that attorney’s advice and recommendations.

Police officers are expected to honor and protect everyone’s civil and constitutional rights, but the truth is, cops aren’t any different from the rest of us. Most of them care about their jobs and reputations, and no officer wants to be suspended from duty or found liable for an innocent person’s injuries. When a police officer causes a traffic accident because he or she was driving negligently, don’t be surprised if the officer tries to shift the blame – onto you.

HOW CAN YOU HELP YOUR OWN PERSONAL INJURY CASE?

If your personal injury case goes to trial, you must be represented by a personal injury lawyer who has experience interrogating officers on the witness stand and undermining their testimony when it’s misleading or deceptive. However, before you even have time to speak to an attorney, you can help your case right there at the accident scene.

Take as many photographs as you can – or if you are incapacitated, have someone else take photos – of the vehicles, the damages, the general accident scene, any key traffic signs or signals, and your own visible injuries.

The right photographs can make or break a personal injury case. You should also try to speak with anyone who may have been an eyewitness to the accident and obtain names, phone numbers, addresses, and even emails and work addresses if possible – any way that you and your attorney can contact an eyewitness if his or her testimony is needed. If other people who don’t even know you testify that the police officer was driving negligently, your case will be strengthened immensely.

One final word: Police cars are often moving in pursuit of suspects at high rates of speed, and the accidents that happen at those speeds can cause some of the most catastrophic injuries. Accidents involving police vehicles too often cause severe spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, amputations, and other injuries that may require a lifetime of costly care and treatment.

If you or someone you love is injured in this way in an accident with a police car, make certain that you are represented by a California personal injury attorney who will fight tenaciously on your behalf for the maximum possible compensation.

Attorney Greg Vanni Recovers Settlement For Coma Victim

Posted on: May 20, 2017 by in Personal Injury
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Negligent, careless, and reckless drivers are the leading reason for traffic collisions. Defective vehicles and parts also cause a considerable number of accidents. In California, when you are injured because a motorist was negligent or because a vehicle or a part was defective, you can pursue a personal injury claim against the negligent driver or the negligent vehicle or parts manufacturer. But what if a poorly constructed road or poor road conditions cause a collision that injures you? Sometimes governments or government agencies may be held liable for a poor street design, negligent or careless construction, or a failure to keep streets maintained and safe.

On May 9, 2014, Los Angeles Police Detective Ernest Allen, Sr., a 27-year-veteran of the LAPD, was killed when a cement truck lost its brakes on Loma Vista Drive, picked up speed, left the road at a sharp curve, and crushed the detective’s personal pickup truck. The cement truck operator, Brandon Cascio, is now in a persistent vegetative coma. Only a week earlier, on May 2, another cement truck lost its brakes on Loma Vista Drive, and that driver, Eric Johnson, was also seriously injured.

WHY HAVE CRASHES ON LOMA VISTA DRIVE BEEN UNAVOIDABLE?

The City of Beverly Hills has known for decades that Loma Vista Drive has unusually steep and long grades that constitute a clear danger to anyone in the vicinity. Drivers must work their brakes constantly while driving downhill on Loma Vista Drive, and some vehicles’ brakes are inevitably going to fail. When a vehicle as heavy as a cement truck becomes a “runaway” vehicle moving downhill, the vehicle eventually reaches a speed that prevents the driver from negotiating that last sharp curve to the right on Loma Vista. A crash becomes unavoidable.

City workers, traffic experts, and local residents have been telling the City of Beverly Hills for nearly fifty years that substantial changes to Loma Vista Drive were absolutely imperative. Over the decades, as accidents have continued on Loma Vista Drive, the City of Beverly Hills has aggressively fought against lawsuits filed by injured drivers and passengers. The City has sometimes claimed immunity and has even contended that truck drivers are at fault for accidents on Loma Vista because they could have taken another route.

WHAT WAS THE OUTCOME OF BRANDON CASCIO’S CASE?

Brandon Cascio, Eric Johnson, and the family of Detective Ernest Allen jointly entered into a lawsuit against the City of Beverly Hills. Mr. Cascio was represented by Pasadena personal injury attorney Greg Vanni of Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell, and the case was settled early in May, just several days before a trial was slated to begin. Mr. Vanni and attorneys for Mr. Johnson and the Allen family recovered for their clients a $32.5 million settlement from the City of Beverly Hills.

If you’re injured in a crash caused by poor road construction or poor road conditions, let an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney at Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell review the conditions that led to the crash, determine what governmental body or agency may be liable, and fight aggressively for justice on your behalf. In such circumstances, do not speak to an insurance adjuster, accept a settlement, or sign any insurance papers before retaining the counsel of an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney at Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell.

What Is Insurance Bad Faith?

Posted on: April 28, 2017 by in Personal Injury
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If you are involved in a traffic collision, you probably expect an insurance company to provide compensation for the damages you suffer. You pay a great deal for insurance, and according to one advertising campaign, your insurance company is supposed to be where “You’re in good hands.” But if you suspect that an insurance company isn’t negotiating with you in good faith, what can you do?

Your insurance policy is a promise that you’ve paid for – a promise by your insurance company to provide you with insurance coverage when you need it. When you purchase a policy, the insurance company has a legal duty to provide that coverage and to negotiate and settle any claims you make in good faith. Don’t let an insurance company abuse you or operate in what the law calls “bad faith.”

Although the details of bad faith laws differ from state to state, the basic rule is that an insurance company must not look for ways to get out of its obligation to investigate your claim or to pay your claim. Each state regulates its insurance industry and insurance policies with precise legal requirements for starting and operating insurance companies, and most states have a “division” or “department” of insurance which enforces those regulations.

WHAT CONSTITUTES INSURANCE BAD FAITH?

When an insurance company does not take its own obligations to its policyholders seriously, you may have adequate grounds for legal action against the company – an insurance bad faith claim. Bad faith claims may arise from the specific actions or inactions of an insurance company. In Southern California, when an insurance company fails to meet its responsibilities, you may need to discuss your situation with an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney.

Listed here are some – but not necessarily all – of the reasons insurance companies may be sued for bad faith:

  • failing to negotiate for the settlement of a claim
  • failing to share important information with a claimant
  • failing to investigate a claim seriously
  • failing to explain the denial of a claim
  • failing to pay a claim without investigating
  • failing to attempt a reasonable settlement when liability is clear
  • failing to either deny or pay a claim in a reasonable amount of time
  • offering substantially less than the actual value of a claim

An auto insurance company has a number of legal obligations to its policyholders. Even a “third party” insurance company owes good faith to every injury victim who files a claim, but that duty is slightly less than the good faith that your own insurance company owes you, since you’ve actually purchased a policy from the company in advance of making any claim.

Thus, legal grounds for a claim of bad faith against a third party’s insurance company exist only if the company – or the adjuster representing the company – has deceived the claimant or interfered with the claim (for example, by withholding evidence or tampering with a witness).

CAN WRITING A LETTER TO THE COMPANY HELP?

When considering your own insurance company, a difference of opinion between you and an adjuster regarding the value of your claim probably does not constitute bad faith. But if the adjuster or company makes a low settlement offer and offers no reason for the low amount, or if the company has deceived you or otherwise treated you unfairly or unjustly, you might be a victim of insurance bad faith. If you believe that an insurance company or an adjuster is negotiating with you in bad faith, simply writing a letter to the company – or having your attorney write a letter – may result in some action.

If you write a letter to the insurance company, use the phrase “bad faith” and provide specific examples of the adjuster’s bad faith. A letter accusing the insurance company of bad faith often results in some action – and in a better settlement offer.

In other words, just the possibility of a legal claim may be enough to compel the insurance company to offer you a reasonable settlement. That’s because if you take an insurance company to court for bad faith – and you win – the insurance company could be ordered to pay you for damages beyond the amount of your claim, especially if the company’s conduct was particularly egregious.

Like every other company, an insurance company is in business to earn profits. When insurance companies faithfully provide the services they claim to offer, profits are fine, but no insurance company should ever be permitted to place profits above the legitimate claims of traffic collision victims. When an injury claim is rejected, undervalued, or delayed for no good reason, it can lead to serious financial burdens for injured policyholders who may be unable to work at the same time their medical expenses are piling up.

Historically in California, insurance companies maintained that it was bad faith to deny a claim only when the insurer already knew that there was no reasonable basis for denying the claim. That is, the companies claimed that only the intentional mistreatment of a policyholder should be legally actionable.

The insurance companies insisted that unintentional negligence in the handling of a claim did not constitute bad faith. In 1979, in the case Egan v. Mutual of Omaha, the California Supreme Court rejected that argument and determined that an insurance company’s negligence in the handling of a claim, in fact, does constitute bad faith.

HOW CAN YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE A VICTIM?

How can you know if you are a victim of insurance bad faith? You can file a complaint with the California Department of Insurance, but only by hiring an experienced personal injury attorney who routinely handles insurance bad faith cases will you be able to know if the insurer’s actions legally constitute bad faith and whether or not you have a case. In most states, if you sue an insurer for bad faith, you’ll have to finance the lawsuit yourself, but in California, the plaintiff who prevails in a bad faith action may be able to recover part of the attorney fees separately and in addition to the judgment for the original injury claim.

In Southern California, if an insurance company negotiates with you in bad faith, you’ll need to be represented by an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney who routinely and successfully represents the victims of insurance bad faith. Especially if you are recuperating from injuries, the last thing you need is an insurance company making your life even more difficult. All policyholders have the right to be treated with good faith by their insurance companies.

The State Of California Establishes New Laws Concerning Motorcycle Safety

Posted on: January 24, 2017 by in Personal Injury
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When a motorcyclist rides between lanes or tries to maneuver between lanes in a traffic jam, it’s usually a dangerous move. Truck and automobile drivers expect motorcyclists to be inside of a lane and not between two lanes. California, however, is now the first state in the nation to legalize the practice of lane-splitting after California State Assembly members approved legislation in 2016 authorizing the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to establish guidelines for motorcyclists to lane-split safely.

The legislation, Assembly Bill 51, sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Quirk of Hayward, was approved unanimously and signed by Governor Jerry Brown late in 2016. Assemblyman Quirk said the proposed law will have the immediate effect of reducing traffic congestion and promoting safety. “No issue is more important to me than roadway safety,” Quirk told the Los Angeles Times.

PRECISELY HOW IS “LANE-SPLITTING” DEFINED?

Lane-splitting has been a controversial topic in California for many years. It happens when a motorcyclist passes other vehicles by riding between them on the lane line. Technically, lane-splitting has not been either legal or illegal in California. Instead, it fell into a murky legal area where – for the most part – it was “treated” as legal by police agencies. But when the California Highway Patrol issued strategies for safe lane-splitting back in 2015, at least one California citizen disputed the agency’s right to create public policy independently. That’s when Assembly Bill 51 emerged.

Assemblyman Quirk’s first version of the legislation proposed that lane-splitting should be allowed only when a motorcycle is moving no more than 15 miles per hour faster than the surrounding traffic, and it banned lane-splitting at speeds over 50 miles per hour. However, a number of motorcyclists’ organizations opposed that language and particularly complained that the speed limit was too low. Others believe that lane-splitting is dangerous in all situations and opposed the proposal on that basis.

Assemblyman Quirk’s revised version of the bill sailed through the state legislature. It precisely defines what a “lane” is and leaves the rest to the California Highway Patrol. Nicholas Harris, speaking for the American Motorcyclist Association, said, “We think it’s a great idea. It will give the CHP the authority it needs to educate the drivers and riders of California on the safe guidelines.”

WHAT GROUPS SUPPORTED ASSEMBLY BILL 51?

The new statute defines lane-splitting as “driving a motorcycle … that has two wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, including on both divided and undivided streets, roads, or highways.” The statute lets the CHP determine when lane-splitting is and isn’t safe. The proposal gained support from the American Motorcyclist Association, the Motorcycle Industry Council, and the California chapter of ABATE, a group primarily noted for its vocal opposition to motorcycle helmet laws.

However, not everyone is pleased with the passage of Assembly Bill 51. San Diego resident Dave Jordan told NBC San Diego, “I think it’s crazy.” Kyle Hickey, a mother of three, fears that legal lane-splitting compromises safety and will mean more accidents. “No, I don’t think it’s in their best interest at all,” Ms. Hickey told NBC. “I’m in a huge vehicle, they’re on a very small motorcycle.”

Motorcyclists who are injured by the negligence of another driver may be able to win compensation for their medical costs, lost income, and other injury-related expenses. In Southern California, an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney can work to protect your rights and win the maximum compensation for a motorcyclists’ injured by a negligent motorist. Your attorney will see to it that the driver responsible for your injuries meets his or her full legal responsibilities.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcyclists in the U.S. are 26 times more likely to be involved in a fatal collision than automobile drivers and are five times more likely to be injured. Motorcycles comprise only about three percent of all vehicle registrations in the United States, but about 15 percent of the fatalities in highway collisions are motorcyclists or their passengers.

WHAT ARE THE LEADING CAUSES OF MOTORCYCLE COLLISIONS?

Lane-splitting can easily cause serious collisions because it reduces a motorcyclists’ maneuverability. It is impossible from some angles to see a motorcyclist between two automobiles, and a lane-splitting motorcyclist can easily move into a driver’s blind spot. When you operate a motorcycle, it’s always best to presume that other drivers cannot see you unless they indicate to you that they can. Lane-splitting is one of the top five reasons behind motorcycle accidents. Motorcyclists should also know the other leading causes of collisions:

1. Vehicles Making Left Turns: This is the riskiest situation motorcyclists must deal with. In 42 percent of all motorcycle-automobile collisions, someone was making a left turn.

2. Road Debris: Potholes, oily pavement, and unexpected objects on the road pose a serious safety threat to motorcyclists.

3. Inexperience: Becoming an experienced motorcyclist takes considerable time and effort. Until you master motorcycling, stay off away from busy streets and highways.

4. Negligence: A substantial percentage of motorcycle collisions happen because the motorcyclist rider was either speeding, reckless, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. While speeding and alcohol are responsible for all kinds of traffic crashes, the injuries in a motorcycle wreck are apt to be far more serious or even fatal.

If you’re injured in a motorcycle accident in Southern California, do not admit any fault or agree to any settlement prior to consulting a good personal injury lawyer. If you can, take photographs of your injuries and the vehicle damages. After a motorcycle accident, seek medical attention at once, obtain the other driver’s insurance information, and call the police – you’ll need a copy of their accident report. Keep and make copies of the accident report, medical records, and any other documents generated by the collision. Don’t even speak to an insurance adjuster; contact an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney who will do the negotiating on your behalf.

Motorcycles are popular and economical. They’re also great fun and delightful entertainment, but they entail serious responsibility. If you own a motorcycle, or if you are thinking about buying a motorcycle, consider taking a motorcycle safety course, never ride without a helmet, and make certain that you are clearly visible if you must ride at night. As the old saying goes, “The life you save might be your own.”

What To Do If Your Car Is Totaled And You Still Owe Money On It

Posted on: December 22, 2016 by in Personal Injury
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Any traffic mishap is inevitably a hassle and an aggravation, but if your personal vehicle is totaled in a Southern California traffic collision, it can genuinely disrupt your life, at least temporarily. It can get even worse if you are still paying for the vehicle, because in that situation, for many of us, the ramifications of a total loss can be financially devastating. Let’s consider what your options and alternatives are if you still owe payments on a vehicle that an insurance company deems “totaled” after it’s been involved in a collision.

When the estimated cost of repairing a vehicle surpasses 75 or 80 percent of a vehicle’s value, most insurance companies will decide that the vehicle has been totaled. Each company has slightly different rules and percentages, and every situation will be different, but generally speaking, a total loss is declared if the repairs will exceed 80 percent of the vehicle’s worth. For example, if a car is valued at $5000 but the repairs will exceed $4000, most insurance companies will declare the car a total loss and reimburse the owner for the full $5000 value. But if the same vehicle can be repaired for less than $4000, then the repairs will usually be authorized.

If you are the owner of the totaled vehicle, that $5000 check (or whatever the amount is in your own case) will name you as the payee. But if you are still paying off a bank or a finance company for the loan that you purchased the vehicle with, the name of that bank or finance company will also be on that check. Insurance companies will ensure that a bank or any other lien holder is paid first when an insurance company pays for a total loss after a collision.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU OWE MORE ON A VEHICLE THAN ITS TOTAL VALUE?

It’s a fact of life. Automobiles depreciate, and some lose their value faster than others. With that in mind, a vehicle’s value is determined by the market rather by than the amount of the loan or by any other guidepost. Factors such as total mileage, the condition of the body, and the popularity of the model determine a vehicle’s real worth – what you could actually expect to sell it for. In the United States, the standard resource for determining a vehicle’s worth is the Kelley Blue Book, which lists the value of most models – in a range of conditions – going back a number of years.

In the best-case scenario – if there can be a “best” case following a total loss – the amount you receive from the insurance company will exceed the amount you still owe, and you’ll be able to put the difference toward buying another set of wheels. But if the amount you still owe exceeds the amount you receive from the insurance company, that can be a worst-case scenario. You are still obliged to make the monthly payments until the loan is satisfied. The fact that the car is totaled, or that it’s worth less than you owe, does not alter the terms of the loan and makes no difference to the lender.

WHAT IS GAP INSURANCE?

“Gap” insurance (it stands for “guaranteed asset protection”) is an optional insurance coverage for newer cars that can be added to your existing auto insurance policy. (The definition of “newer” varies among insurance companies.) If you have gap insurance coverage, it may pay for the difference between the balance of a loan due on the vehicle and what you receive from the insurance company if the vehicle is deemed a total loss after a traffic collision.

There are several steps you must take immediately if you are involved in a traffic crash in southern California. If anyone is injured in the accident, make sure that paramedics are called to the scene. And even if you don’t feel injured, have a doctor look at you as soon as possible after a traffic accident. Many serious personal injuries are not apparent immediately after a crash and may not emerge as medical problems for days or even weeks. Seeing a doctor at once is also imperative in case you need to file a personal injury claim at any time after the collision.

Exchange information with the other driver or drivers at the scene, including personal contact information, driver’s license details, and insurance policy information. If you have your cell phone, take photos of the accident scene and the vehicle damages. If the damage is anything more than a trivial scratch or dent, try to obtain names and contact information for anyone who was a witness, and call the police. Get the names or badge numbers of the police officers and find out how to obtain a copy of their accident report, because you may need it.

WHAT INFORMATION WILL YOUR AUTO INSURANCE AGENT NEED?

You should contact your auto insurance agent, and if you’ve been injured, you should also arrange to speak with a Pasadena personal injury attorney. You can do this when you arrive home from the accident scene or from the hospital, or even the next day, but do not procrastinate. Speak to your auto insurance agent even if you believe that the other driver was negligent and you are filing a personal injury claim, because you may have benefits through your own auto insurance that you may at some point need. When you speak with your agent, have the following information ready:

• the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the other drivers involved in the collision
• the insurance policy details for those drivers
• the date, time, and location of the collision
• the name of the law enforcement agency that responded

If you’ve been injured in a Southern California traffic collision because the other driver was negligent, you are entitled by law to full reimbursement for your medical care for as long as you need it, your lost wages, and all of your other injury-related expenses. Having an experienced Pasadena personal injury attorney working on your behalf is imperative if you suffer a serious injury because another driver was negligent. But if you are not injured, and if the other driver’s insurance company is accepting liability, in many cases you may be able to pursue a basic accident claim without an attorney’s help.