Frequently Asked Questions
The Law Office of Robert B. Kopelson represents plaintiffs in personal injury claims involving motor vehicle accidents, uninsured and underinsured motorists, and slip and falls. In the emotional and stressful time following an accident, it is empowering to be aware of your legal rights. Therefore, I have compiled this page of frequently asked questions to provide some basic, but important, information. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident, please contact my office for a free case review. I handle claims on a contingency fee basis, meaning you do not pay a fee unless and until I collect compensation on your behalf.
Do I need a lawyer if I was hurt in an accident?
If you were injured in a car crash or another type of accident, seek advice from an experienced personal injury lawyer. It is very important to obtain legal advice as early as possible in order to protect your rights and preserve evidence in your case. Although the other driver’s insurance company may offer you a settlement, these offers are often much less than you need and deserve to cover your damages. A personal injury attorney can help you receive fair compensation for your injuries.
How do I choose a lawyer?
First, make sure that the attorney handles the type of case that you have. Law is so complex that you should look for an attorney whose practice focuses on personal injury matters, and not someone who practices in several different areas of the law. Attorneys who are members of Consumer and Trial Lawyer Associations generally keep up with the new developments relevant to personal injury cases. The State Bar of California has public information available concerning any discipline or licensing complaints against the attorney. Other sources, such as Yelp, can also be checked.
You have a personal injury; you should have a personal attorney. There are firms that advertise heavily on television, billboards, fronts and backs of phone books, etc. They will often have toll-free numbers and list multiple offices. Many of these are simply mail drops and not full operating offices. These firms work on a high-volume basis and employ many non-attorneys who will be handling most of the work and most of the client contact. Sometimes, the client never even meets the attorney. Many of these attorneys are not local.
The Law Office of Robert B. Kopelson believes that you need to have a personal rapport with your attorney. You will be working on the case as it progresses, and sometimes cases can last a long time. It is important to have a good working relationship. A client should meet personally with the attorney and talk about the case. Does the attorney listen to you and explain things so you understand? Is the attorney able to discuss the matter knowledgeably? I offer free personal consultations.
How does a contingency fee arrangement work?
When a case is taken on a contingency fee basis, payment of attorney fees depends on a successful recovery. This means that if the case does not result in settlement or verdict, then the client does not owe any fees. If there is a recovery, a percentage of that amount goes to the attorney.
If I was in an accident, will my insurance company cover all of my expenses?
Depending on the types and amounts of coverages you had, your motor vehicle insurance will pay your damages. This usually applies to your car damage, and some medical expenses. However, even in dealing with these coverages, you should talk to me first.
What if the person who hit me was uninsured or underinsured?
If the other driver was uninsured, and you have uninsured motorist coverage on your policy, you may make a claim with your own insurance company for damages. If the other driver was underinsured and cannot fully compensate you for your damages, you may make a claim for the difference between the amount you received from the responsible party’s insurance up to the amount of your uninsured motorist coverage limit. However, there are some tricky requirements/limitations, and you should contact our office to discuss this. An accident with an uninsured/underinsured driver puts you at odds with your own insurance company. Therefore, you should talk to me immediately, so that you can receive the full compensation to which you are entitled, and not do something at the beginning of your case that comes back to haunt you.
What if I was hit by a drunk driver?
If you were hit by a drunk driver, he or she should be held accountable for your losses. In addition to compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and property damage, there may also be a basis for punitive damages, which are intended to deter or reform such irresponsible behavior. However, for these claims to be successful, it is often necessary to conduct a thorough investigation immediately. Please contact my firm as soon as possible if you have sustained injuries in an accident caused by a drunk driver.
What is a workers’ compensation third party liability claim?
Sometimes you have a right to make a personal injury claim, even when you are covered by workers’ compensation. For example, an on-the-job injury may be the result of a car accident caused by someone other than a co-worker. I will assess the circumstances surrounding your injuries and identify possible sources of liability to ensure that you recover the compensation to which you are entitled. Workers’ compensation and third party liability cases can be very complex due to the interplay between two different systems of compensation. I will work with your workers’ compensation attorney closely, if you are represented.
If I bring a personal injury lawsuit, what kind of damages can I expect to recover?
Although each verdict or settlement depends on the facts of the particular case, there are certain types of monetary damages that are generally available to personal injury plaintiffs. In many cases, a plaintiff may be able to recover both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include the amount paid and/or owed for medical bills, lost wages, lost future earning capacity, and property damage. Non-economic damages may include pain, suffering, and emotional distress. In addition, if you have lost a loved one in an accident, you are entitled to recover for your “loss of consortium,” or loss of the person’s love, companionship, and support. If a party’s conduct was particularly egregious in causing an injury or accident, you may also be able to recover punitive damages.
What is a wrongful death claim?
A wrongful death claim arises when a person’s death is caused by the negligence, recklessness, or wrongful acts of another. California law allows family members, including, but not limited to, surviving spouses, domestic partners, and children, to bring an action against the responsible party to recover damages that they have personally suffered as a result of the loss. Wrongful death awards do not include damages that are generally recoverable in a personal injury action to compensate the injured victim for damages incurred before death. Those damages may only be recovered by a representative of the deceased’s estate in a “survival action.”
When must I file a personal injury or wrongful death claim?
In California, the statute of limitations in most cases involving personal injury and wrongful death is two years from the date the injury occurred. Generally, minors (under 18 years old) have until their 20th birthday. (There are exceptions to this; for example, in an uninsured motorist case.) Medical malpractice claims have different complex time requirements.
If a governmental entity is responsible for the injury (such as being injured by a vehicle owned by the government or driven by a governmental employee, or a slip and fall on a dangerous public sidewalk), a proper claim must be filed within six months of the date of the incident. Failure to do so can severely jeopardize your claim. There are some exceptions, but it is best to avoid those by complying with the claim requirement.
While it may seem simple, there can be complex issues involved with the statute of limitations. There are exceptions to the general rules. You should consult with the Law Office of Robert B. Kopelson as soon as possible after an incident, in order to assure compliance with all of the time requirements, and for other helpful, necessary information.
Do I get to keep all of the money I receive for my case?
The answer to this question depends upon the set of circumstances in your own unique situation. Most auto insurance policies require that they be reimbursed if they have paid any medical bills under the medical coverage provisions. Most health plans have similar requirements, even Kaiser.
In addition, Medi-Cal, Medicare, and some medical providers have other rights against the monies you receive. Understanding these issues is very important when resolving the claim against the responsible party. Often times, you are fighting a “two-front war” — first, to recover from the responsible party, and second, dealing with all of the claims that are being made against your settlement funds.