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Pillars of Justice

Mercado Kramer LLP

The answers below provide a general overview and are not legal advice. Every case is different and tiny details can impact your case dramatically. Remember that you can talk to our attorneys about your situation free of cost to get more specific guidance. All information is for California only.
  • What rights do I have in a personal injury case?
    Our civil legal system protects you when you get hurt due to someone else’s carelessness or bad behavior. In a personal injury case, you have the right to fight for money for your medical bills, including the cost of future medical care, past and future lost wages, and past and future pain and suffering. In most cases these things are paid for by the insurance company of the defendant (the company or people who hurt you). However, the insurance company is not required to simply give you these things. You must win your case at a trial by jury or convince the insurance company to pay you a settlement. The legal system is confusing and full of risk without a skilled, dedicated personal injury attorney by your side.
  • How do I know if I have a case?
    A personal injury case requires a few common ingredients. The first, of course, is that you have an injury. This injury must be the result of someone else’s negligence or wrongful act. As an example, if you fall down and get hurt at a grocery store, the fact that you happened to fall while at the store is not enough to have a case. But if a grocery store employee spilled water and didn’t clean it up, that would count as negligence and you would have a case if you slipped on the water and got hurt. Finally, you must bring your case within certain legal deadlines (see the question below). While you have the right to bring a claim for any injury, no matter how small, your case is more likely to have value if you have sought medical treatment. Medical treatment is extremely important evidence – most times the only evidence – to prove you got hurt.
  • How much time after an accident do I have to bring a claim?
    For most common types of personal injury cases, such as car wrecks and trip and falls, you have up to two years from the date of the accident to either fully finalize a settlement or file a lawsuit. This is called a statute of limitations. If two years pass and you have not filed a lawsuit or finalized a settlement, you permanently lose the right to bring your case, no matter how good an excuse you have for the delay. We recommend seeking an attorney’s advice and starting your case right away. It’s important to investigate while the evidence is still fresh. Sometimes deadlines are shorter than two years. For example, if the government was involved in your injury, you must give written notice of your claim, including highly specific information, within six months. Government claims can include city sidewalks, city buses, land owned by the government, roadway defects, and government-owned vehicles, just to name a few. For medical malpractice cases, the statute of limitations can be as little as one year.
  • How do you charge for your services? What if I can’t afford it?
    We work on a contingency fee, meaning we only get paid if we win your case through settlement or at trial. You do not pay us out of pocket. We never ask you to write us a check or pay us an hourly fee. We believe injured people should not be burdened with figuring out how to pay for a lawyer. A contingency fee is a percentage of your settlement or jury award. Contact us to discuss the specific fee for your case.
  • How long will my case take?
    The length of your case depends on many things: how long it takes you to recover from your injuries; if there’s a dispute about who is at fault; whether a lawsuit is required; and more. We’ve gotten great settlements for clients just a few days after they hired us. But every case is different. Complex cases involving millions of dollars and multiple lawsuits may take years. The truth is, sometimes it’s necessary – and worthwhile – to put in the time to fight for the compensation you deserve.
  • What is the difference between an insurance claim and a court case? Will my case go to trial?
    An “insurance claim” occurs when you or your attorney requests payment from an insurance company for your injuries. To start the claim, the personal injury attorney sends the insurance company a letter of representation, gathers evidence, and, when the time is right, makes a demand for a lump sum of money to compensate you for all of your losses. The insurance most often makes an offer – for much less than the demand. Your attorney will then confer with you and negotiate. In many cases, your attorney can negotiate a settlement without ever starting a court case. If the offer the insurance company makes is too low, your attorney may start a lawsuit. Now you have a court case. The attorney files a written complaint with the Superior Court of California (often in the county where the injury occurred). Filing a complaint doesn’t mean that your case will end up in a jury trial. A court case has many steps, including exchanging evidence, testifying in depositions, and a formal negotiating session called mediation. The vast majority of lawsuits end in settlement, not trial. At Mercado Kramer, we see each step in your lawsuit as a chance to show our strength; to show opposing counsel that if they don’t settle, we will make a powerful case to the jury. This is a great technique to motivate the insurance company to pay up. By filing lawsuits, we’ve successfully persuaded insurance companies to pay double, triple, even twenty times more than their pre-suit offers.
  • I am undocumented. How does this affect my case?
    Don’t be afraid to file a claim. Insurance companies are not allowed to ask about your immigration status in court. Our attorneys have extensive experience negotiating successful settlements for undocumented clients.
  • What do I do if I can’t afford medical treatment?
    First of all, if you’re in pain and worried your injuries are serious, you can go to the emergency room and the hospital must treat you. For follow-up care, in most cases, your personal injury attorney can help you find treatment where you don’t have to pay out of pocket. Some healthcare providers, such as chiropractors and orthopedic specialists, will agree to receive payment from your settlement at the end of your case. This agreement is called a lien. If you have unpaid medical bills, our attorneys will help you negotiate them to a lower amount.
  • I got the police report for my accident and I was placed at fault. Can I still bring a claim for injuries?
    Being placed at fault in a traffic collision report is never good news. But if you got hurt in the wreck, it’s worthwhile to investigate your options. Sometimes police reports contain inaccurate information. And these reports are not the last word. Lawyers are actually forbidden from using collision reports in court to prove who was at fault! Even if you are partly at fault for a wreck, there still may be a way to bring a case against the other driver, if they were negligent. California follows something called comparative fault, meaning multiple people can be found to be partly at fault for the same accident. If you are found to be 40% at fault for an accident, and the other driver is 60% at fault, the other driver will only be liable for 60% of the value of your injuries and damages. Talk to a lawyer.
  • What should I do immediately after an accident?
    We provide lots of information below, but a few quick rules to remember: First make sure you and others are safe; get evidence such as pictures of the accident scene and witness information; seek medical care right away; contact a personal injury attorney; and take photographs of any visible injuries. For car, bike, motorcycle, and other traffic collisions: If you were driving when the wreck occurred, you should move your car off the road and to a safe place if a) it is drivable and b) you are able to drive (for example, don’t get behind the wheel if you are dizzy from hitting your head). Before moving your car, if you can do so safely and quickly, take a picture of the position in which each vehicle landed after the crash. We always advise calling 911 or the police to report the collision. Calmly exchange insurance information and driver’s licenses with the other drivers (you can use the camera on your phone). Try to get the names and phone numbers of any witnesses. Do not say the wreck was your fault, even if you think it was. Take photographs of the damage to vehicles, the area where the impact occurred, and any debris or skid marks. When police officers arrive, listen to their questions carefully and do not say more than is necessary. You could be injured but may not feel pain yet. If you think you are hurt, taking an ambulance is the safest thing to do. If you don’t take an ambulance, seek medical treatment as soon as possible with the emergency room, urgent care, or your primary care doctor. You should notify your own insurance company about the collision, but you can briefly delay doing this to talk to an attorney if you’re worried. If other drivers were involved, their insurance companies may call you. You do not have to talk to them right away. Most importantly, do not say “I’m not hurt” or “I feel fine” to the police, insurance company, or anyone else. It is common not to feel pain until hours or days after a collision, due to the adrenalin in your body. For falls or other injuries on someone else’s property: There are too many scenarios, from rotten steps breaking to slippery surfaces, to cover each one in detail. But there are a few guidelines you should follow. If you get hurt at a store or other business where employees are on site, notify someone who works there right away and ask to fill out an incident report. Take pictures of the area where you fell or got injured. Try to get the names and phone numbers of any witnesses who saw you fall. Consider calling 911 if you have hit your head, are struggling to walk, are bleeding, or have other injuries that could be serious. If you do not call 911, it’s important to get medical treatment right away. Make sure to explain to the doctor very clearly how, when, and where you got hurt. If you get hurt on a city sidewalk, or other property where no employees/representatives are present: Photograph the area where you got hurt and promptly seek medical treatment. You will need to notify the city or property owner of your injury. But it’s a good idea to consult a personal injury attorney first. You can ask nearby businesses if they have security cameras that may have recorded what happened to you.
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