Throughout the years our personal injury law firm has represented 1000s of people just like you that were injured in a car accident in the San Francisco Bay Area and needed the best San Francisco car accident lawyer they could find to help. They wanted to avoid making costly mistakes (MJQLAW????) with their claim and they had questions—some had a million, some only had a few, and others admitted that they had no idea what they needed to know. Regardless which you camp you fall into, below you will find our past client’s most common questions—with answers.
We organized our car accident page this way so that you can choose how much information you want to consume and can get to the information you want as efficiently as possible. If you have a question that is not addressed here or would like to talk to us about representing you, please call us at (415) 345-4282 or submit an Online Inquiry.
Exactly what we do for our clients in a short, animated video:
Does your law firm specialize in car accident cases?
Yes, we handle a lot of auto accident, injury cases. It is the most common type of case in our office. We have seen it all, but here are three cases we recently resolved for our clients.
$100,000 settlement Our Client, K.W. was driving home from work in the East Bay when a car travelling the opposite direction attempted to turn left in front of her and into a bank parking lot. Our client t-boned the car, and her car, which was a souped-up Mustang with loud exhaust, and totaled it. Our client suffered a torn labrum in her shoulder that wasn’t diagnosed until 1 year later. The police report found our client to be at fault for speeding and driving recklessly because two independent witnesses said she was speeding and “revving her engine.” After filing a lawsuit and taking several depositions, we received the 15k policy limits from the other driver and received an additional 85k from her UIM (under-insured motorist) policy.
$52,500 settlement Our client, J.B., a passenger in her ex-boyfriend’s car, injured her neck after he pulled out into San Francisco traffic attempting to park and was hit. Client received conservative and alternative medical treatment, but suffered from lingering pain for many months. As a result of her injuries, the client, a business owner, also suffered financial losses to her business due to her inability to work, travel, etc. Making the claim difficult, her business showed increased revenues following her injuries. Prior to retaining our firm, the client attempted to represent herself in her insurance claim and was offered a take-it-or-leave offer of only $5,000.
$535,000 settlement Our client, R.M. was injured when the vehicle she was travelling in blew a tire (delamination) and rolled-over on a highway in Mexico on a hot summer day. She suffered severe injuries to one of her arms that was partially outside the window as the car rolled over. We sued the tire manufacture and a Bay Area vehicle-service company, who had given the vehicle its stamp of approval for the trip just days before they left for their road trip. After lengthy litigation, both defendants combined to offer a fair settlement.
I was injured in a car accident. Do I need a car accident lawyer?
We’re sorry to learn that you were injured in a auto accident, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the you need to hire a San Francisco auto accident lawyer. For example, if you suffered only minor injuries (soft tissue) and it is clear that the other person was at fault, you may be able to handle your claim with the other person’s insurance company yourself. Feel free to give us a call at (415) 345-4282 or submit an Online Inquiry for a free consultation to discuss whether you fall into this category. If you do, we will happily give you some free advice/tips to handling your claim without a lawyer. We never take on cases that we can’t add value to. In other words, if you can’t likely net more by hiring us (we are paid with a percentage of the recovery (contingency fee), see section below), it doesn’t make sense for you to hire a personal injury lawyer. That said, if you suffered more serious injuries or fault isn’t crystal clear, you will need to hire an injury lawyer or else you will likely be costing yourself a lot of money. The California DMV also agrees on this point.
What will you be doing for me after I hire you?
When you hire us, you hand off all of your problems, work and stress associated with your accident to an experienced personal injury lawyer who has handled hundreds of cases like yours. This allows you to focus on your recovery, while we handle everything else. Whether you realize it or not, there are a lot of pitfalls out there for a personal injury claimant that has never dealt with a situation like this before. Insurance companies and their adjusters have the goal of saving as much money as possible and that means denying your claim, underpaying your claim and/or attempting to get you to do and say things that permanently harm the value of your claim. We won’t allow for any of that.
We will serve as the point of contact for anyone wanting to contact you about your accident or injuries. We will advise you about all the tricks that insurance companies and their agents play so that your claim, when presented, has no issues associated with it that might limit it’s value. Additionally, by hiring us you will swing the leverage of your injury claim back to your side, as the insurance company will be forced to accept the fact that you won’t be one of the claimants they can take financial advantage of—every major insurance company knows us and has dealt with us many times; we have a reputation of getting every dollar available.
Sounds great, but what does that exactly mean? Here are the specifics:
Investigate your Claim
- Find all sources for recovery (insurance policies and deep pockets).
- Order and review your medical records and bills.
- Hire medical professionals to review your medical records, if neccesary.
- Order any police/incident reports.
- Talk with any witnesses.
- Advance any upfront costs needed to establish your claim.
Present your Claim to the Insurance Company
- Handle all communication with the insurance company (they’ll stop calling you).
- Identify any problem areas with your case and address (and remedy if possible) them early on.
- Prepare and submit a detailed and comprehensive settlement demand package that includes legal arguments, a persuasive presentation of your claim and supporting documentation.
Maximize Your Settlement Amount
- Use our leverage of being able to file a lawsuit to put pressure on adjusters.
- Use our experience in handling 100s of cases like yours to ensure you are paid top dollar.
- Negotiate & reduce your health insurance claims, which nets you more.
Occasionally, the at-fault party’s insurance refuses to accept responsibility, wants to place an unfair amount of blame on you, or doesn’t respect the extent of your injuries and damages. When that happens, we file a lawsuit on your behalf and utilize the court system to create pressure on them. You see, the insurance company knows that if they don’t treat you fairly, a jury of 12 of your peers will ultimately decide what you are entitled to. This pressure causes them to reassess their position on your case and almost always causes them to offer you a good settlement before trial.
File a Lawsuit
- Prepare a formal complaint.
- Advance any upfront court costs (filing fees, service fees, etc.)
- Track down and personally serve the defendant(s).
Litigate your Case
- Explain and walk you through the entire process.
- Prepare you for when your participation is needed.
- Obtain all documents from the defendants to establish your case.
- Advance upfront costs for hiring any needed experts.
- Negotiate with opposing attorney to settle your case without the need for trial.
- If necessary, present your case at trial to a jury of your peers.
If I hire you, how long will the process take?
We understand that your goal is to get your personal injury claim resolved as quickly as possible so that you can get on with your life. However, the circumstances of your accident and injury will determine how long the process will take to achieve a settlement. We have found that the two windows most ripe for settlement are 2 months after your medical treatment is completed (pre-litigation settlement) and 6 months after filing a lawsuit (post-litigation settlement).
Of course, every case is different and opportunities to settle your case can be frequent. If we are required to file a complaint on your behalf because the insurance company refuses to offer a reasonable settlement, we typically will do that right away. However, you should know that California law gives you two years from the date of your accident to either settle your case or file a complaint to protect your claim (Note: if the defendant is a governmental entity, you have six months from the date of your accident to file a formal governmental claim, not two years).
2 months after medical treatment is completed
The majority of our cases are settled in this window. Cases that settle in this window often have the following characteristics:
- You have been diagnosed with an identifiable injury.
- You do not have substantial permanent injury or long-lasting symptoms.
- You do not require future medical treatment for your injuries.
- You did not have a pre-existing injury in the same part of your body.
- You have private health insurance (not Medi-cal, Medicare, etc.)
- The other party accepts responsibly and you bear no fault (comparative negligence)
- The person who injured you was not a government employee.
6 months after filing a lawsuit
Sometimes insurance companies refuse to accept responsibility or don’t respect the value of our client’s damages and we must file a lawsuit to create sufficient pressure on the other side. A common misconception about filing a lawsuit is that it means that a trial will occur. That’s not true, at least not with us. We have a reputation for working up our clients’ cases in the litigation process so well that approximately 95% of all cases that require us to litigate result in a settlement for our clients without the need for trial. The reason that our post-litigation settlements typically occur about 6 months after filing the complaint is because formal, written discovery needs to be done and depositions need to be taken of the parties (including you) and key witnesses. These things typically take about six months to complete.
If your case is one of the few that does requires a trial, we are experienced trial attorneys and will present your case to a jury. Personal injury jury trials in Bay Area counties (San Francisco, Alameda, Marin, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Napa and Sonoma) typically take place about 12–18 months after filing a lawsuit.
How are you paid?
We are only paid if we win your case. Our agreements call for a contingency fee of either 1/3rd or 40% of the settlement, award, or verdict. If we are required to litigate your case (file a lawsuit) our fee slides from 1/3rd to 40% to account for the increased financial risk we are taking on. We never bill our clients by the hour and we spend as much time as is necessary with you and working on your case. Additionally, we will advance all costs necessary to pursue your case and will never ask you for money to finance your own case. If we are successful, we are entitled to be reimbursed for our out-of-pocket, advanced costs in addition to our contingency fee. If we don’t receive a settlement or verdict on your behalf, you never owe us for the time or money we have spent pursuing your case. This arrangement allows everyone to be able to afford the best San Francisco car accident lawyer.
How much is my auto accident case worth?
This is understandably the single most asked question we get when meeting people who have been injured in a car accident. The short answer is: it depends. The truth is that any SF car accident lawyer who tells you otherwise or guarantees a six-figure payday should be someone you run from (not walk). We don’t hide the ball from our clients at all, but there are just too many factors that need to be evaluated first and information that needs to be obtained in order to determine the potential value of your case. Once we have a handle on what we think your case is worth, we will let you know, and then go after more! That said , generally speaking, here are the types of things you are entitled to be compensated for as the victim of a car accident in California:
- Past “Paid” Medical Bills
- Cost of Future Medical Treatment
- Past Lost Wages
- Future Lost Wages
- Loss of Earning Capacity
- Pain and Suffering
- Cost to Repair/Replace Car
What is process of hiring you to represent me?
Every year we successfully help dozens of people that have been injured in car accidents on Bay Area streets and highways. Our phone rings most frequently with people who have been injured in a car crash that caused them to be taken to the hospital via ambulance for their injuries. These people need a San Francisco personal injury lawyer. Although cars have become much safer over the years, moderate and major collisions still regularly cause significant injuries that lead to large settlements with the insurance company of the at-fault parties. For over a decade we’ve been helping people just like you in the SF Bay Area get the money they deserve for their injuries and we look forward to getting you get a great settlement!
For many of you, this is your first encounter with a personal injury lawyer and you are not too sure how the process works, what to do next, or what you’re entitled to. We understand.
From impatient drivers in a rush to get to where they are going, to drivers distracted by their cell phones, SF Bay Area roadways can be very dangerous. If you have been injured in a car accident you should first seek out appropriate medical treatment and then contact us by submitting an Online Inquiry or calling us at (415) 345-4282 for a free consultation to discuss your situation and for us to answer all of your questions. Or if you’d prefer, we’d love to sit down with you face-to-face. Our law office is conveniently located in the Marina District of San Francisco, away from the hustle and bustle of the Financial District. We have free private and street parking available for your convenience.
Once we connect and discuss your situation and decide that we are a good fit for one another, there are three documents that we need you to sign: (1) Employment Agreement, (2) Letter of Representation, (3) Medical Records Release Form. You can either come into the office and sign them in person or we can email them to you and handle it electronically if you prefer.
I don’t know much about how auto insurance works in California.
All California drivers are required to carry 15/30 liability insurance. 15/30 refers to the amount of coverage a driver must have for people they injure; 15k per person and 30k per accident. (Note: if 3 people are injured by a driver in a single accident, they must divide 30k). Many people, including us, feel that these minimum insurance limits are too low, however this is the current state of California law. (Note: many people aren’t aware of how much coverage they have. An easy way to find out is to look at your “declarations” page of your auto policy or ask your insurance agent for a copy it. It will simply lay out your coverage limits.) We recommend having at least 100k/300k in both liability coverage and UIM coverage. You’d be surprised how little extra it will cost you to have good insurance that protects you and your passengers from an unexpected accident.
Types of Auto Insurance Coverage
- Liability: this type of insurance covers ONLY injuries and property damage you cause to others up to the limits of the policy. It does not cover your own injuries and property damage when you are at-fault for the car accident. (Note: if the other car is at fault for the accident you can recover on their auto insurance policy.)
- Collision: this type of insurance covers injuries and property damage to both you and others up to the limits of the policy when you are at fault for the car accident.
- Comprehensive: this type of insurance is the same as Collision Insurance (above), but also covers you in the event of weather damage, theft, an animal collision, vandalism, etc.
- Un/Under-insured (UIM): this type of insurance is an add on to the types above and ensures that you have a certain amount of money available to you in the event you’re in an accident caused by someone else with policy limits that aren’t large enough to cover your damages (personal injuries, damage to your car, etc.). For example, what happens when your 50k car is totaled and the guy that hit you only has 15k in coverage (CA minimum)? Without UIM coverage you are effectively out of luck and will have to pay for the difference in the value of replacing your car and 15k. Same applies to a personal injury claim. What if you are hit by a driver with 15k in coverage and suffer serious or permanent injuries? 15k won’t fairly compensate you, so you turn to your UIM and it takes the place of the underinsured driver, thus providing you with access to additional insurance money. We highly recommend that all of our clients have at least 100k/300k in UIM coverage.
What are some common types of car accidents you see?
Car accidents can happen in a variety of ways – we have seen it all, but the most common type we encounter are rear-enders. Far too often, drivers who are distracted take their eyes off of the road and look up only when it’s too late. These types of accidents usually start off with an “I didn’t see you.” From a legal standpoint, these are the most straight-forward types of accidents to be involved in as liability is almost always clear. Other types of car accidents we see include: sideswipe, “T-bone” and head-on collisions. The one thing that all these accidents have in common is that the driver breached their duty to exercise care when operating their vehicle. In other words, they were negligent and that negligence caused you to be injured. Negligent driving can occur in a variety of ways, such as:
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Failing to drive at a reasonable speed (not only based on speed limit, but road conditions)
- Improper/unsafe turn
- Driving while under the influence (drugs/alcohol)
Establishing this breach of care (negligence) is essential in a personal injury car accident claim. Often times this breach is clear and is included in a police report (the at-fault party will usually be cited). Other times, it’s not and we have to bring in our own accident reconstruction experts to determine the cause of the accident. More times than not, the insurance company of the car that hit you will dispute liability, regardless of what the police report finds. At a minimum, they will assert that you contributed to the accident by also driving negligently. Don’t worry, we are well-versed at handling this insurance company nonsense and will fight for you so that the picture is clear and you don’t bear any undeserved fault.
What injuries are most commonly caused by car accidents?
Advances in technology and heighted safety standards have made car occupants of cars in accidents less vulnerable than in the past, but it is still common that serious injuries occur when cars collide. Typically, the bigger the collision (speed) the more severe the injuries are that result. In low impact collisions (less than 15mph) the most common type of injury that occurs is a soft tissue, strain/sprain injury – when it involves the neck it is commonly referred to as “whiplash”. These “soft-tissue” injuries typically result from rear-end, low impact collisions. Many people injured in low impact collisions that suffer from only strain/sprain injuries can handle their insurance claims without a lawyer – especially if liability is clear and uncontested. If this sounds like your situation, you should reference our page on handling your own personal injury claim. Of course, we are also happy to speak to you on the phone about your situation and offer some friendly, free advice if we think you don’t need us.
When car crashes involve speeds greater than 15mph, injured victims are very likely to need a San Francisco car accident lawyer to help them with their claim and case.
Injuries that result from these higher impact collisions are typically more severe and include:
- Torn Ligaments and Tendons
- Broken Bones
- Back/Spinal Injury
- Head Injury/Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Internal Injuries
You should know that injuries resulting from a car accident might not always present immediately. After being in a car accident, your body is in a state of shock and produces endorphins to make it feel better. It is not uncommon after the shock wears off to develop symptoms or for your pain to get worse several hours after the car accident. It is important to get medical treatment if your pain increases or fails to get better as this is usually a sign of something more serious.
I need some information about what to do about my damaged car.
If your car was damaged or “totaled” in a car accident that was not your fault, here’s how the process works:
In a perfect world, the at-fault driver’s insurance would quickly accept liability and make you whole again (putting you in the same position you were in before the accident) by paying for: a replacement car if yours was totaled or repair costs if it was only damaged, and covering all rental car costs while you’re without a car. Unfortunately, some times that doesn’t happen and this process may be delayed for numerous reasons such as a fight with your insurance company over liability or a coverage dispute with their insured. If the process is moving too slow with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, in most instances you can turn to your own insurance for swift payment and let your insurance seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurance company when things are sorted out.
Replacing a Totaled Car:
A vehicle is typically deemed to be “totaled” once the cost to repair it exceeds ~70% of the value of the car. There are two main methods that your insurance company may use to calculate the amount it will pay you for replacing your totaled vehicle. These two methods are referred to as “actual cash value” and “replacement value” and are discussed below. The method that your insurance company uses will depend on the type and terms of your auto insurance coverage. After your insurance company determines the amount you’re entitled to, they will write you a check, less what is owed on your car loan (your lender is on the title to your car also).
- What is Replacement Cost?
This method is most favorable to you. It requires that your insurance company compensate you for what it actually costs to replace your car with another similar car of the same year, make, and model.
- What is Actual Cash Value?
This method is the most favorable to your insurance company. Your insurance will compensate you for the replacement cost minus any depreciation. This is also referred to as market value; it represents what you could expect to receive if you had sold your car prior to the damage.
Repairing a Damaged Car:
If your car was not deemed “totaled” then you will need to have it repaired. Depending on your coverage, you may be able to choose the repair shop, however contact your insurance first as your policy might give them the choice. It is always best to deal with your own insurance company regardless of who was at fault for the accident. If the other party caused the accident your insurance company will seek reimbursement from the other insurance company.
Who Pays for my rental car after an accident?
While you are waiting on getting your car replaced or repaired, you will need a rental car. Your insurance will cover these costs only if you have rental reimbursement coverage in your policy. If not, you will have to pay upfront for these costs, however, you can later be reimbursed for them by the at-fault driver’s insurance. Just remember to only rent a car for a reasonable amount of time, as insurance companies love to knit-pick at these types of expenses and may attempt to only partially cover the cost.
Do I need to report my car accident to the DMV?
- Was there property damage of more than $750?
- Was anyone injured? (major or minor)If you answered “YES” to either of these questions, then you (or your insurance company) MUST make a report (Form SR 1) to the California DMV within 10 days of the accident. This applies even if you did not cause the car accident. Failing to report your accident to the DMV may result in your license being suspended.
If you have been injured in a car accident here are some tips!
A lot can happen between your accident and the time you hire a great San Francisco car accident lawyer. (That’s us!) For that reason, we want you to have all the information you can about how to protect your interests from the insurance companies that are already preying on you in an effort to save themselves money. You see, insurance companies are for-profit business, nothing more and every dollar they pay you is a dollar that comes out of their profit. Knowing that they will have to pay you substantially more after you hire an experienced lawyer, they attempt to “get to you” before you have one. Here are some things you should know about when dealing with the immediate aftermath of your car accident:
- Tip #1: Giving Statements (coming soon)
- Tip #2: Medical Treatment (coming soon)
- Tip #3: Dealing with Health Insurance Subrogation Claims
- Tip #4: Med Pay (even without medical insurance you can get your medical bills paid for) (coming soon)