Bus accidents can be horrifying and life-threatening experiences. While taking a city, state, or commercial bus is a norm in San Diego County and California in general, accidents may occur, causing severe injuries to the victims. The injury victim may have a lot of medical bills to cover, result in losing wages or earning capacity, and end up with a great amount of pain and suffering. It is advisable for injury victims in support of their families to bring a lawsuit against those responsible to avoid the suffering of others in similar circumstances. The best option is by hiring the San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm to handle your case, bringing you the compensation you deserve.
What Type of Case is a Personal Injury
Personal injury refers to any type of injury to your body, mind, or emotions. These injuries may result from car accidents, defective products, slip and fall accidents, or wrongful death crimes. A personal injury claim compensates you for accidents or social wrongs like defamation of character. Personal injury laws apply where you are harmed in the event of the defendants' intentional conduct.
Two types of Personal Injuries may happen in a bus accident:
Body Injury: This is an injury to your body involving considerable risk of death, drawn-out and recognizable disfigurement, loss or impairment of body parts. The injuries may include broken bones, whiplash, head, and neck injuries.
Emotional and Mental Injury: This mostly refers to emotional and mental suffering such as worry, insomnia, fear, inconvenience, and enjoyment of life.
Who Can File a Personal Injury Lawsuit After a Bus Accident
If a bus accident has caused you personal injuries, then you can claim for damages whether you were a pedestrian, passenger, or driver of the other vehicle. In some cases, you may settle the complaint at least a year from the date of filing. However, it mostly takes 2 to 3 years to get settled. In personal injury cases, the settlement or court award you will receive may range from $3 000 to $75 000. There are mainly two outcomes to a personal injury case:
Formal Lawsuit: This case is initiated when you or your lawyer file a civil complaint against a corporation, person, or government agency accusing the parties of acting carelessly or negligently leading to the bus accident that caused your injury.
Informal Settlement: Most cases are usually solved through informal settlement, usually among you, the insurers, and a lawyer if you decide to hire one. Both you and the insurers will have to agree on an amount by negotiating and later sign a document acknowledging that none of you will file a lawsuit.
How to Negotiate a Personal Injury Settlement
It is possible to manage your injury claim without having an attorney in cases where you picked up minor injuries, and the other party is clearly at fault. This can be economical as you do not have to pay a third of your award to a lawyer as dictated in the personal injury lawyer fee agreement. It is, however, very important to hire a lawyer as the entire process can be complex and emotionally exhausting, especially if your injuries affect your daily routines. The following are important tips to consider before sending a demand letter to the insurer:
- Take good pictures of the injuries to act as evidence.
- Get to a medical facility as soon as possible and the necessary medical treatments.
- You should use the personal injury protection insurance for the first bills and later on use your health insurance.
- You or your lawyer should file the personal injury lawsuit within the time limit. As for the State of California, you are required to do so within 2 years from the day of the accident.
- Do not share any information about the accident on social media as it can be used against your case to minimize the extent of your injuries.
The vital part of the process is estimating the number of damages you need to be compensated for. There are two types of damages in most personal injury cases:
Damages capable of calculation: Also known as special damages include medical bills, lost wages, and lost earning capacity, and other financial losses as a result of the accident. The calculation of the medical expenses and attributable expenses is basic mathematics of adding the amount of the bills. It is, however, important to know how to calculate the lost wages and lost earning capacity as they are complex and may have a major impact on your life both at the moment and in the future.
Lost wages usually applies when you have to take time off work to recover from injuries. You or your lawyer can calculate the amount of income that was lost during that time, plus the benefits you receive from work.
Lost earning capacity refers to your reduced ability to earn money in the future due to suffering from permanent disability or long term injuries caused by the bus accident. The calculation will be based on your work-life expectancy dictated by the federal government statistics that measure how many more years you will be expected to work by weighing in your age and other factors.
The earning capacity will involve calculating your financial losses that will extend into the future. So the amount has to be calculated based on its present value. This will determine the value of your future continuous income. It is a very complicated calculation; that is why it is in your best interest to have an attorney who can hire an economist to do the calculations.
Some factors may have an impact on your lost wages and lost earning capacity calculations. Some of the factors include:
- You might be unemployed at the time of the bus accident. You are allowed to claim the earnings of your previous job as your earning capacity. But if you were unemployed for a long period, then the defense can argue that you have no earning capacity and your lost earning capacity. This means that you will have to file a lost wage lawsuit.
- You will have no lost earnings claim if you are retired.
- You can put up the income of the new job you were to take as your lost income capacity before the bus accident.
- When you are self-employed, the amount of income you indicate as your lost earning capacity should be the same as the amount of income you declare on your tax returns.
Damages not capable of exact calculation: These include mental agony and pain and suffering. There are no precise measures available for determining the settlement on the pain and suffering of an injured person. However, several factors may affect a settlement claim file lawsuit of this kind. They include:
- The nature of your injuries and the severity extent
- If you have been convicted of a crime before
- Your medical treatments will be valid in decision making. Jurors may be lenient to you if there is the presence of a physical therapy or chiropractic treatment compared to a physician's treatment.
After considering all the factors and planning on how to approach the personal injury settlement claim, you or your lawyer can now send your demand letter, which will then initiate the negotiation process. The demand letter is the focal point of the negotiation process. When preparing the document, you should make sure you justify the reasons you deserve a settlement by showing how the defendant is at fault, your injuries, the medical treatment you underwent, and it costs your income loss and other damages attributed to the bus accident. You should then conclude by mentioning the lump sum you need the insurance company to settle.
In case there is more than one person or business liable for your injuries, then you will have to deal with more than one insurance company to claim your settlements. You might receive a notice from either or all companies indicating which insurance company will provide the primary coverage. You will then have to deal with the stated company only for all your settlement claims.
If your family member also suffered personal injuries from the same bus accident, then you can write a single demand letter describing the accident only once. You will then aim at separately indicating each victim’s injuries, medical expenses, treatment, and claim for compensation singly for all the victims.
The insurance company may respond to your letter with a counterclaim or opt for a settlement. The insurance adjuster will, in most cases, low-ball you, then the negotiation process can begin. It is advisable to increase the settlement you deserve by 75% to 100% to give room for negotiations. This will increase your chances of getting a good settlement.
You can then formulate a counteroffer if the amount is too low. It is advisable to respond by asking for a reasonable settlement to a low personal injury settlement offer. To arrive at a middle ground, it is best to consider the amount you deserve, the limits of the at-fault insurance policy, and potential assets. The back and forth between you and the insurance company is a standard part, and you should expect more than one counteroffer.
It is also important to accept the insurance company settlement after you have completely healed from the injuries caused by the bus accident. This will assist in fully understanding the nature and extent of your injuries so that any future medical expenses may be included in your settlement. Once you sign the document acknowledging the agreement between you and the insurance company and you receive the stated amount, you can not ask for more money or file a personal injury lawsuit.
Why You Need to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer
It is critical that you hire a lawyer, especially if your injuries are extensive because filing a personal injury lawsuit needs one to have comprehensive knowledge of the legal system as well as specialized training and skills. You should hire a personal injury lawyer if you are experiencing the following difficulties:
If there are multiple parties involved or liability is not clear, the insurance can complicate the issue and end up awarding you a very low amount. This may also be the case if you are the proportional cause of the accident. Your settlement may be decreased or reduced to nothing if other parties claim the insurance award.
The insurance company, in some cases, may refuse to make a fair settlement or even attempt at all. In case negotiations between you and the at-fault insurance has broken down, then it is advisable to seek the services of a personal injury lawyer.
In cases where you have suffered long term or disabling injuries - When you suffer permanently from permanent disabilities, then you are subjected to long term care. With the help of an experienced lawyer, you can calculate the worth of your injuries. The hardest part is figuring out how the injuries will affect your earning capacity. Hiring a lawyer can assist in exploring all available forms of compensation.
When you have suffered severe injuries, the amount of compensation depends on the severity of your injuries. The insurance company will calculate the settlement by determining the severity of your injuries, the amount of the medical bills, and the length of your recovery time. Your compensation amount will increase, reaching the policy limits of the at-fault party's insurance policy. This might lead to the insurance company paying you a low amount compared to what you deserve.
How to Prove the at Fault Party in a Bus Accident
This mainly depends on the aspect of liability by figuring out whether the accident or injury was due to someone’s carelessness or negligence. For the insurance to settle your claim, you have to prove that the company or the person was at fault. For bus accidents, the at-fault party may be the bus driver, tour bus operator, other vehicle drivers, bus maintenance company, bus owners, bus manufacturer, or bus maintenance company.
Determining legal liability: Accidents mainly happen because of someone's carelessness or negligence. When the other party is negligent, it means that they conduct themselves in a thoughtless manner that causes you injury or harm. In most cases, the driver of the bus may not be reasonably careful and end up injuring a motorist, passenger, or pedestrian, if the driver is liable for injuring you and should pay for the settlement.
Apart from negligence, legal liability also is determined by the following suggestions:
The case will also be determined on whether you were where you were supposed to be, and you should have anticipated the accident. This means the person that caused the accident is not liable because that person had no duty to be careful towards you.
If you were also careless, your compensation may be decreased or even reduced to nothing. This is usually known as comparative negligence.
If the negligent person caused the bus accident resulting in your injuries, the employer may also be liable. The California respondeat superior law that an employer can be held liable for an employee's negligence. The employee may vary depending on the operational purpose of the bus from school-owned buses, private-owned buses, or city-owned buses. This assists in preventing the recurrence of the wrongful act and gives the victim a greater assurance of compensation.
An accident may occur on a poorly built or maintained facility that leads to the bus accident. The facilities may include a bus stop, a road, or a traffic light. In this case, the property owner is liable to damages regardless of who built the property.
If the accident was caused by a defective item on the bus, then the bus service providers and the bus manufacturers are both liable.
How Your Negligence Affects Your Claim
In most cases, you still get a settlement regardless of your carelessness resulting in the accident from the party most responsible for the bus accident. The amount of the party's liability for the bus accident is determined by comparing the negligence of the other party to your own. The comparative negligence is whereby the percentage of the liability is determined by the percentage damages the other party must pay you. While negotiating a settlement, you and the insurance adjuster will have to analyze the factors that caused the bus accident to determine the worth of your injuries.
California’s Restriction on Recovering Compensation
California is a pure comparative state, which implies that the state courts allow the injured parties to collect damages even if they are 99% accountable for the accident. This is different from other states, as they do not cap the amount at 50%. Your percentage of fault will determine how much the settlement is reduced by. If you are found 20% responsible for the accident, then your settlement will be deducted by that percentage. The State of California also allows division of negligence and liability among various parties.
The Procedure of a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Civil Court
This is initiated by filing a civil complaint against the person, corporation, or agency responsible for the bus accident that resulted in your injuries. This mostly happens after the settlement negotiations break down without an agreement. Then the case will go through a standard civil court process. After filing the lawsuit, the other party may respond either through a counterclaim or a motion to dismiss the case. The case may go through the discovery process where the defendant requests interrogatories, depositions, or other relevant documents from you.
The court may order for a mandatory settlement conference to negotiate further on the settlement. Also, an alternative dispute resolution such as mediation can into play to assist in arriving at a settlement claim beneficial to both sides.
During the court proceedings, the judge or jury will listen to evidence given by your lawyer and the other party. Your evidence may include expert testimonies on the seriousness of your injuries, the bus company's negligence or responsibility, and the financial impact of the bus accident on you.
If the jury finds the other party liable, then they will decide on the amount of damages you are to be awarded. The court will then decide the final judgment, and you will be awarded your settlement. The other party can also decide to appeal the decision to an appellate court in California's judicial system.
Disbursement of Your Injury Settlement
The settlement will be deposited into the trust fund. Once a settlement has been reached between you and the insurance or a lawsuit won, the settlement is paid and disbursed accordingly by your law firm. This may take one to three weeks from the date the case is settled.
A settlement statement is then prepared to indicate where all the allocations for the amount will proceed. This is done after you agree with the statement and disbursement of funds.
The law firm will then pay the medical bills and other necessary payments. Afterward, you will be paid the proceeds that are not owed to third parties and attorney fees. The funds will include all the damages such as lost wages and lost earning capacity, pain, and suffering, emotional distress, or future medical procedures.
If your family member who is a minor received a settlement, then it is beneficial to the minor to gain interest in the settlement and also receive future payments.
Contact a Personal Injury Law Firm Near Me
Personal injury cases can be complex and require the expertise and knowledge that a legal counsel can provide. The process of negotiating a settlement can be time-consuming and overwhelming, making it harder for an injury victim to follow up and get the deserved amount. If you need a brilliant team of lawyers in San Diego that adhere to all ethical codes and provide the best service and legal experience, contact the San Diego Personal Injury Attorney at 619-478-4059.
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