Child Victims of Dog Bites

March 16, 2017 Dog Bite Injuries

Playing with a dog who suddenly bites is one of the most common causes of child ER visits. Often, the

Furious barking dogPlaying with a dog who suddenly bites is one of the most common causes of child ER visits. Often, the dog is the family pet or a next-door neighbor’s animal. Their small stature and strength puts a child at risk of serious injury from a dog bite. As a parent, you feel frightened, helpless, and probably angry about what has happened. Knowing your legal rights and possibilities is an important step toward closure following a child’s dog bite injury.

Dog bite statistics

According to the CDC:

  • Approximately 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year, with nearly half of the victims children.
  • For children, the odds of being bitten are 1 in 3.
  • Dog bites cause 44,000 facial injuries in the U.S. each year, accounting for 1.5% of all ER visits.
  • Dogs are most likely to bite children between the ages of 5-9.
  • Children under six are most likely to be admitted to the emergency room for their injuries.
  • Three quarters of dog bite injuries in children under 10 are on the face.
  • 77% of the bites came from a family member or a friend’s dog.
  • There are 15-20 dog bite fatalities each year.
  • 18% of dog bites become infected.

The Insurance Information Institute and State Farm report that:

  • Dog bite injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance claims in 2015.
  • Dog bites cost insurers over $570 million a year.
  • Though the number of dog bite claims decreased 7.2% in 2015, the average cost per claim increased 16%.
  • The average cost per claim was $37,214 – up 94% from 2003 due to increased medical costs and jury awards.
  • California leads the nation in dog bite claims with 1,684 per year.

Child dog bite injuries

The most severe dog bite injuries involve the head, neck and face, which may require surgical repair of underlying structures such as nerves, muscles, and bone. Management of skin healing and scar prevention can be necessary for months following the incident. Furthermore, dog bites can make children seriously ill if the animal infects them with rabies, capnocytophaga spp, pasteurella, MRSA, and/or tetanus.

After the physical wounds heal, many children are left with emotional damage that can last a lifetime. Dog bites can change the way children view dogs for the rest of their lives. A 2004 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that 12 out of 22 children who suffered dog bites showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder two to nine months after the attack.

Who pays when a dog bites a child in California?

The median charge for a dog bite related ER visit is around $300, according to the California Health Department. However, that cost skyrockets to $3,600 for 24-hour observations, and $5,900 or more for hospitalizations. One-third of medical visits are covered by private insurance.

California dog bite statutes

California is a “strict liability” state, meaning that dog owners are held liable for injuries, regardless of the dog’s past behavior. Children under five cannot be regarded as negligent, even if they are “provoking” the animal due to their inability to understand cause-and-effect consequences. The amount awarded may be reduced based on the percentage of negligence ascribed to a child over five years of age who was antagonizing the dog prior to injury.

When to call a Los Angeles dog bite attorney

You have up to two years from the time of injury to contact a Los Angeles dog bite attorney. Many people are hesitant to file a lawsuit due to an existing relationship with a friend or family member. Most dog bite lawsuits are handled by homeowners’ insurance, rather than out-of-pocket. Often, insurers will automatically pay out up to $1,000 for a child victim’s medical bills. However, you will need to pursue a personal injury claim if the medical expenses were higher. You may be awarded up to $7,500 through California Small Claims Court or much more in California Superior Court.

Compensation for a child’s dog bite injuries may include:

  • Past, present and future medical bills
  • Lost income related to caregiving
  • Repair or replacement of personal property damaged in the attack
  • Compensation for permanent disability and disfigurement
  • Compensation for emotional distress

It is very unusual for dogs to be put down following a bite injury. However, the animal may be placed on local law enforcement lists of “potentially dangerous dogs.” To protect yourself, it is not recommended that you discuss your child’s injuries or medical treatments with anyone except an experienced personal injury attorney. The Salamati Firm has a proven track record of substantial recoveries for dog bite victims. We recently obtained $300,000 on behalf of a child who was permanently disfigured in a Los Angeles dog attack. Contact us for a free case evaluation.

Additional child dog bite injury resources:

  1. CDC – Preventing Dog Bites https://www.cdc.gov/features/dog-bite-prevention/
  2. For Kids’ Sake – The Safety Around Dogs Program http://www.safetyarounddogs.org/statistics.html
  3. Journal of Pediatrics – Posttraumatic stress disorder after dog bites in children. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14722529
  4. Insurance Information Institute – Dog Bite Liability http://www.iii.org/issue-update/dog-bite-liability
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March 16, 2017 Dog Bite Injuries

Every state has its own set of dog bite laws. Some have adopted so-called “one-bite” statutes that gives pet owners

Every state has its own set of dog bite laws. Some have adopted so-called “one-bite” statutes that gives pet owners one shot at escaping legal responsibility in the event their dog bites or attacks someone. There are 14 “one bite” states, but California is not one of them. In California, dog owners are held strictly liable for any injuries or damages suffered by individuals who are bitten by their canines.

Strict liability is a legal term that means the defendant is held legally accountable for injuries or damages that occur, regardless of whether the defendant was negligent or had no intention of causing harm. In other words, California’s strict dog bite statutes make it much easier for victims to prove and win a dog bite lawsuit, because the dog’s owner cannot legally dispute who was to blame.

California – strict liability for dog bites

When California legislators passed Section 3342 of the Civil Code, they imposed a legal duty on all canine owners to control their pets in an effort to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities caused by dog attacks. Prior the enactment of Civil Code section 3342, hundreds of dog bite victims in the state went uncompensated for their physical harm and emotional suffering unless they were able to establish that the owner knew or should have known their dog had displayed a “dangerous propensity” to bite, or had a vicious nature.

Under the current dog bite statutes, all victims have to prove in order to secure money damages from a dog owner is that they were in a public place or lawfully in a private place when they were bitten.  Considering that in more than half of all dog bite cases, the canine belongs to family, friends or is otherwise familiar with the victim, California’s strict liability dog bite laws pave the way for speedy resolution of injury claims, without assignment of fault on the part of the dog owner.

California dog bite statutes allow up to two years from the date of injury to file a personal injury lawsuit against the dog’s owner in cases where the victim was lawfully on private or public property. This statute can be invoked even in dog bites where the skin is not broken. For example, canine owners are still held strictly liable in cases where the victim is knocked down and traumatized, but no puncture wounds were sustained.

Who cannot sue after a dog bite?

People who illegally trespass on another’s property and are subsequently bitten by a dog are not able to sue for damages under California’s Civil Code. Another defense that can thwart a recovery is if the victim alarms, excites or provokes the dog into biting. In cases like these, the courts would find that the plaintiff contributed to the animal’s behavior, and this “contributory negligence” could bar a successful claim for compensation. However, this “provocation defense” does not apply in cases involving children under the age of 5, who sadly represent more than 50 percent of all victims.

Dog bite lawyer in Los Angeles

Unfortunately, young children are the most frequent victims of dog bites and attacks, often sustaining disfiguring injuries and lifelong psychological trauma. If you or someone you love were bitten by a canine, Los Angeles dog bite lawyer Sean Salamati can file a claim on your behalf to secure compensation for your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering and other damages.

For expert legal assistance with your dog bite lawsuit in Southern California, call today to set up a free case review with an experienced legal advocate you can count on, Sean Salamati.

Additional Dog Bite Liability Resources:

  1. Justia, California Dog Bite Statute (Civ. Code, § 3342) https://www.justia.com/trials-litigation/docs/caci/400/463.html
  2. AnimalLawInfo, California Statutes – Dangerous Dog Provisions https://www.animallaw.info/statute/ca-dangerous-california-dangerous-dog-statutes#s3342
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What’s the Difference Between Wrongful Death and a Survival Action?

March 16, 2017 Wrongful Death Claims

When a family member dies as a result of another person’s negligence or wrongful actions, California law allows you to

When a family member dies as a result of another person’s negligence or wrongful actions, California law allows you to file a wrongful death lawsuit (Civil Procedure §377.60) and/or a survival action lawsuit (Civil Procedure §377.30). Understanding the differences between the two claims will help you recover maximum compensation, as well as avoid disagreements with other beneficiaries. The two claims differ in:

  • Type of compensation that may be pursued
  • Who can claim just compensation
  • Payout procedures
  • Tax requirements

Wrongful death lawsuits in California

You may file a wrongful death lawsuit when a loved one has died as a result of another’s negligence or wrongdoing.

  1. Compensation: Wrongful death lawsuits compensate family members for loss of love, support, training, guidance, assistive services, protection, companionship, consortium, and the loss to society. They can recover money for funeral and burial expenses.
  2. What’s Not Included: Notably, wrongful death lawsuits do not provide compensation for the survivors’ grief, sorrow, pain, and suffering, nor does a wrongful death suit allow the award of punitive damages.
  3. Claimants: The decedent’s next of kin are entitled to recover compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. The court will determine the degree of dependency for the surviving spouse or domestic partner, parents, and children under 18. In some circumstances, dependent grandchildren and adult children may have a valid claim. In some cases, the spouse may receive everything and the adult children nothing.
  4. Deductions: Since the award is given to the surviving family members, compensation is tax-free.

Survival Cause of Action in California

You may file a survival cause of action if the decedent did not immediately die from injuries suffered.

  1. Compensation: Survival action lawsuits compensate the decedent’s estate for medical expenses and lost wages the individual would have the right to claim had he or she survived. Other compensation may include punitive and exemplary damages, as well as penalties designed to punish wrongdoers.
  2. What’s Not Included: Burial and funeral expenses are not included. The California statute also does not include damages for the decedent’s pain, suffering, or disfigurement prior to death.
  3. Claimants: The estate’s personal representative or successor-in-interest can file a claim on behalf of the decedent. A probate estate must be set up before compensation is given out to the respective parties. Non-family members (such as churches, charities, or other specific individuals) can receive proceeds from a survival action if it is noted in the decedent’s will. Survival action proceeds are distributed pursuant to the will or the laws of intestacy in the absence of a will.
  4. Deductions: Since compensation is given to the decedent, survival actions are subject to federal and estate tax. If the deceased has unpaid bills – credit cards, medical bills, or other debts – these creditors are paid before the heirs receive their money.

Why does it matter whether a plaintiff files wrongful death or survival actions?

Hiring an experienced LA wrongful death attorney will help you navigate the complexities of California law. If your loved one had many unpaid bills and medical expenses, filing a survival action may result in very minimal compensation for surviving kin. However, it is necessary if it’s very important for you to punish those responsible for your loved one’s death.

A lawyer is a valuable friend who can educate you on your legal options and advocate for maximum compensation. The attorneys at The Salamati Law Firm in Southern California have an in-depth knowledge of the law that will help you decide whether to file for wrongful death, survival action, or both. Contact our Los Angeles personal injury attorneys for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Additional “wrongful death vs. survival action” resources

  1. California Legislative Information, CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE – CCP, ARTICLE 6. Wrongful Death [377.60 – 377.62] https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=377.60.&lawCode=CCP
  2. Justia, California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI), 3921. Wrongful Death (Death of an Adult), https://www.justia.com/trials-litigation/docs/caci/3900/3921.html
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How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Distributed in California?

March 15, 2017 Wrongful Death Claims

Every state has specific laws regarding the distribution of a wrongful death settlement, which generally includes reparations for losses including

Wrongful Death report and gavel in a court.Every state has specific laws regarding the distribution of a wrongful death settlement, which generally includes reparations for losses including funeral and burial costs, hospital and medical bills incurred, loss of household support, loss of consortium, loss of future financial support, loss of household services, loss of love, society and companionship, and loss of guidance for minor children. Under California Civil Code §377.60, heirs are not able to recover punitive damages in a wrongful death claim.

California wrongful death statutes stipulate who is entitled to make a claim against the decedent’s estate, allowing the surviving spouse, domestic partner (if the partnership was registered), dependent parents, children and dependent minors to recover for the untimely death of a family member.

As is the case in many other states, wrongful deaths in California may give rise to only one civil action. This means that all relatives and domestic partners who may be entitled to compensation must bring the wrongful death jointly, as one group. Because of this legal requirement, there are often questions about how the courts distribute a wrongful death settlement among multiple heirs.

How is the wrongful death settlement divided?

In California, it is largely up to the family members and heirs filing the wrongful death claim to agree upon how much each party should receive out of the settlement proceeds. In a perfect world, claimants will agree to split the monies evenly, or to allocate larger amounts to those who will suffer most from the death, or who are the most disadvantaged financially.

However, there are some cases where claimants want more than their “fair share,” thus depriving children or other remaining family of adequate proceeds from the verdict or settlement. If the family members cannot come to a consensus about how the monies will be distributed, the court will be tasked with dividing the damages, looking at the financial needs and future losses of each claimant. As an example, a surviving widower may suffer lost financial support, while dependent children under the age of 18 may have greater economic needs for education and support compared to older siblings.

At trial, a California jury will assess the nature of each surviving relative’s damages and losses and attempt to distribute the award as fairly as possible. In situations where the decedent’s insurance policy is limited, the funds would be allocated in proportion to the settlement monies.

Some families turn to mediation or binding arbitration to hear each heir’s claim, and make a binding decision regarding how the estate monies will be divided.

If there is no agreement as to the proportional shares of a wrongful death settlement, it is important to speak with a qualified attorney to determine the best strategy.

Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer

If your family has lost a loved one and you need the compassionate assistance of an experienced wrongful death attorney in Los Angeles, please contact The Salamati Law Firm for a free consultation. Though no amount of money can bring back a family member or loved one, effective legal representation can help ensure that proper compensation is procured, reducing the financial burdens of such a traumatic loss.

Sean Salamati represents clients throughout Southern California. To arrange a free no-obligation case review, please call today.

Additional Wrongful Death Resources:

  1. California Legislature, Wrongful Death  [377.60 – 377.62] https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=377.60.&lawCode=CCP
  2. FindLaw, California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60 http://codes.findlaw.com/ca/code-of-civil-procedure/ccp-sect-377-60.html
  3. Justia, California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)3921. Wrongful Death (Death of an Adult) https://www.justia.com/trials-litigation/docs/caci/3900/3921.html

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How to Use Surveillance to Win a Personal Injury Lawsuit

March 10, 2017 Personal Injury Lawsuits

Video has always been a powerful presentation in legal proceedings and the latest technology has given everyone access. Pretty much

security camera and urban videoVideo has always been a powerful presentation in legal proceedings and the latest technology has given everyone access. Pretty much everyone is walking around with some kind of camera, making it incredibly easy to capture video. This is having a dynamic impact on insurance claims and personal injury cases.

A video is worth a thousand words

People are using their security systems, dash cams and personal devices to capture material that shows insurance companies, lawyers, judges and juries facts you cannot get from police reports or eyewitness accounts. Investigators are going straight to public surveillance cameras to verify the circumstances of incidents. So are commercial retailers and office buildings, many of which have sophisticated camera systems.

Strength of surveillance video in personal injury cases

Savvy Los Angeles personal injury lawyers know it is often not what happened that matters, but what either party can prove with evidence. There is nothing more supportive of a case than surveillance video. Nothing impresses the court system or sways insurance companies like moving images. From claiming to fall on a wet floor to establishing the most likely scenario at an intersection crash, settlement negotiations can be greatly influenced by video.

In a personal injury claim, video can:

  • Reveal which party is accountable.
  • Clarify event sequences.
  • Demonstrate if there were dangerous conditions that contributed to the accident.
  • Show the severity of damage immediately following an incident.
  • Provide lawyers, judges, juries and insurance companies with a clear indication of a victim’s physical injury.

Surveillance & California law

The law restricts how video content can be used in court. One of the strongest rules is that no video capture can be used that invades a person’s privacy. An example would be an insurance company challenging a workman’s compensation claim by showing behavior that contradicts the injury claim. An investigator can video the claimant in a park, store, restaurant or mowing the lawn. They cannot tape in private areas, such as in the claimant’s home.

Getting the right counsel for personal injury cases that involve surveillance video

Depending on the content, video can simplify or intensify negotiation and settlements. It can both show if allegations are exaggerated or if claims are genuine.

The Salamati Law Firm provides steadfast representation for victims of slip and falls, vehicular accidents, animal attacks, and medical and appliance mishaps. We will use surveillance where it helps and fight vigorously if it doesn’t. Expect our goal to be achieving the best possible outcome on your behalf. If you need personal injury legal advice or have been in an accident, give the Salamati Law Firm a call today.

Additional “personal injury & surveillance video” resources

  1. ACLU: Privacy and Surveillance, https://www.aclu.org/issues/national-security/privacy-and-surveillance
  2. The Constitution Project: Guidelines for Public Surveillance, http://www.constitutionproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/54.pdf
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Tips for Preventing Dog Bites and Injuries from Dog Bites

March 9, 2017 Dog Bite Injuries

Every year, more than 4.5 Americans are bitten by “man’s best friend.” It’s not just mail carriers who are at

Every year, more than 4.5 Americans are bitten by “man’s best friend.” It’s not just mail carriers who are at risk for dog bites and attacks — bicyclists, pedestrians and small children can suffer serious dog bite injuries, many of which require emergency medical care. In 2015, nearly 31,000 people had reconstructive surgery to address disfiguring wounds caused by dogs. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, $18,200 is the median cost of a dog bite-related hospital stay in the United States.

Recent national statistics show that children under the age of 9 are at highest risk for being bitten by a dog, and the majority of these attacks are totally unprovoked. Another surprising fact: in more than 50 percent of all cases, the offending canine is either familiar to the victim, or a family pet.

While some breeds like Rottweilers and pit bull terriers have been identified as more aggressive than others, any canine can bite or attack when feeling cornered or that his turf is threatened.  Dog bites are linked to less than 30 fatalities a year in the nation, but such trauma often leaves victims with lasting physical and emotional scars, triggering a lifelong fear of canines.

For this reason, it’s important to understand how to prevent dog attacks and dog bite injuries. Here are some useful safety tips offered by Los Angeles dog bite lawyer Sean Salamati.

Tips for preventing dog bites: teaching children to be safe

Toddlers and young children often run in jerky, halting patterns that may resemble a wild dog’s natural prey. Children and babies are especially vulnerable to life-threatening dog bite injuries on the head and neck. Adults can take precautions by ensuring their family pet is well-trained, and never leaving their small child alone with an unfamiliar dog.

Dog bite prevention in children starts with educating your little ones on the do’s and don’ts of being around dogs – both familiar and strange.

If approached by an unfamiliar dog:

  • Do not attempt to pet or touch the dog
  • If the dog is with its owner, ask permission to touch it, letting the animal sniff your hands first
  • If the dog lunges or comes too close, stand still like a tree — never run
  • Avoid screaming or making loud noises
  • Avoid making direct eye contact
  • If the dog pushes you down, curl up into a ball, protecting your neck and head

Children should also be instructed to never bother a dog that is eating, asleep or with its puppies, regardless if the canine is a beloved family pet.

Bringing a new dog home

Last year, family dogs were responsible for an astonishing 45 percent all dog bite-related fatalities.  If your family is looking to bring home a new pet, avoid adopting a rescue dog that has a previous history of aggression, particularly if you have children under the age of 9 in the house. Before bringing Fido home, ensure he is well socialized and has a mellow temperament. Spend time with the dog, allowing it to meet various family members prior to adoption or purchase.  Carefully monitor interactions for signs of fear, stress or apprehension. Most bites occur when dogs feel afraid. Positive-reinforcement training and avoidance of aggressive play can go a long way toward ensuring your pup doesn’t become a dangerous biter.

Injuries from dog bites: how to treat minor wounds

Around 20 percent of puncture wounds and crush injuries from dog bites become infected. The best way to prevent infection in minor dog bite wounds is by:

  • Immediately washing the wound with soap and water
  • Applying a broad-spectrum antibiotic ointment
  • Keeping the wound clean and covered with a bandage

If the injury site turns red, becomes painful, swollen or hot to the touch, seek immediate medical attention. Even if you know the dog has received a rabies vaccination, it’s always a good idea to see a healthcare provider following any type of puncture wound or dog bite.

Dog bite attorneys in Los Angeles

The veteran personal injury lawyers at Salamati Law have successfully handled dozens of dog bite cases throughout Southern California. To schedule a complimentary case review with our talented legal team, please call today.

Additional Dog Bite Prevention Resources:

  1. CDC, Preventing Dog Bites https://www.cdc.gov/features/dog-bite-prevention/
  2. American Family Physician, Prevention and Treatment of Dog Bites http://www.aafp.org/afp/2001/0415/p1567.html
  3. DogsBite.org, Dog Bite Statistics http://www.dogsbite.org/dog-bite-statistics-quick-statistics.php
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Should I File a Personal Injury Claim or Workers Compensation Claim?

March 3, 2017 Personal Injury Lawsuits

Anyone who has had the unfortunate experience of suffering an injury while on the job understands the confusing array of

Judge gavel, scales of justice and law books in courtAnyone who has had the unfortunate experience of suffering an injury while on the job understands the confusing array of decisions which must be made in the aftermath of such an event. Financial losses can begin to mount almost immediately, and it becomes necessary to determine whether a workers’ compensation claim or a civil lawsuit offers the best opportunity to secure full and fair recovery. Therefore, it makes good sense for injured workers to gain a strong understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each option in order to make a truly informed choice about their family’s future.

Important facts about workers’ comp claims in California

As is the case in most areas of the country, the California legislature has seen fit to provide key safeguards for workers who sustain serious harm that is directly related to the performance of their job. This workers’ compensation framework provides victims of workplace injuries a method of receiving financial benefits regardless of fault as a means to pay for essential medical treatment, a portion of wages lost as a result of the event and other limited types of payments. Individuals opting to receive compensation under the program do so in exchange for the right to sue their employer for any negligence thought to have contributed to the injury.

Limitations of relying solely on workers’ compensation

There can be no doubt about the fact that workers’ compensation payments have served as a crucial lifeline for those who have been hurt on the job, though the system is not always sufficient in the assistance it provides to certain types of claimants. Workers’ compensation does not offer recovery for emotional distress or physical pain, often substantial types of losses which can in fact be obtained by filing a civil suit against an at-fault party. Furthermore, because of predetermined benefit schedules, some claimants may never receive the true amount of coverage necessary to stay financially afloat.

Civil litigation as an alternative to workers’ compensation in L.A.

If it appears unlikely that a workers’ compensation claim will yield an appropriate financial recovery in a given circumstance, injury victims may consider filing a civil lawsuit as a way to maximize available settlement or award funds. While going this route will require the victim to prove fault, the potential upside is generally far greater than that in a no-fault workers’ compensation claims scenario.

It should also be noted that there may be instances in which an injury victim will be permitted to pursue a workers’ compensation claim as well as civil litigation, not against his or her employer, but against a third party whose negligence helped cause the harm suffered. Targets of such a lawsuit could include:

  • Public utility companies
  • Subcontractors
  • Heavy equipment manufacturers
  • Commercial vehicle operators
  • Tool manufacturers
  • External architects, project managers, developers and engineers

Dedicated advocacy for injured workers in Los Angeles

For well over a decade, the Salamati Law Firm has provided the compassionate yet aggressive client service injury victim need and deserve. Because every workplace accident is distinct in its own right, we undertake a customized approach to each matter in order to develop a strategy tailored to secure every dollar of available compensation.

Southern California personal injury attorney Sean Salamati understands the burdensome financial challenges that emerge following a serious injury accident and accepts cases on a contingency basis. Thus, victims and their families will owe no legal fees unless and until our firm secures a beneficial outcome on their behalf. If you would like to discuss the facts of your workplace injury and learn more about your legal options, contact us today.

Workers’ compensation and civil lawsuit resources

  1. State of California Department of Industrial Relations, I was injured at work, http://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/InjuredWorker.htm
  2. State of California Department of Industrial Relations, Workers’ Compensation in California: A Guidebook for Injured Workers, https://www.dir.ca.gov/InjuredWorkerGuidebook/InjuredWorkerGuidebook.html
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Will My Health Insurance Company Take Part of My Personal Injury Settlement?

February 28, 2017 Personal Injury Lawsuits

After a personal injury case is settled, many clients are surprised to discover that their health insurance company is entitled

Couple Reading Letter In Respect Of Wife's Neck InjuryAfter a personal injury case is settled, many clients are surprised to discover that their health insurance company is entitled to take a portion of the payout. People, especially those who are seriously injured in auto accidents, feel that this practice is simply unfair — but the reality is that your insurance carrier has a legal claim for reimbursement on the hospital and medical expenses made on your behalf. This is known as “subrogation,” which enables your insurance company to be indemnified for all medical costs covered after your accident.

While you are legally obligated to pay back your insurance company for the medical treatments your policy covered, a qualified personal injury lawyer can help you tackle this eventuality from the start by maximizing your monetary recovery.

Insurance subrogation

Whether your injuries were caused because of another’s party’s negligence, or you were partially to blame for your accident, your insurance company is responsible for covering your medical bills. This could include doctor’s visits, surgery, rehabilitation, prescription drugs and other care expenses. This safety net comes at a price – your monthly premiums and a binding contract that you signed when you acquired your policy.

When you purchased your health insurance policy, although you may not have been aware of it at the time, you agreed to a subrogation clause, which allows your insurance company to seek repayment from you for medical bills arising from an at fault third party.  In other words, if you were injured by a negligent party and received a personal injury settlement that includes payment for medical expenses, you are obligated to reimburse your insurance company for any monies they advanced for your treatments.

In effect, your insurance company will always pay for your medical treatments according to the terms of your policy, but it also puts a lien on any future monies made available to cover the expenses. If your claim does not culminate in a settlement or court judgement, you (the policy holder) have no monetary obligations to your insurance company beyond your normal premiums.

Why do I have to pay back my insurance company?

Any monies received through a verdict or settlement will be based in part on your medical expenses. This type of legal recovery is based on liability, which means the party who caused your accident would be responsible for paying your medical expenses. If you do not reimburse your insurance for the expenses, you would be, in essence, compensated twice for your injuries.

Keep in mind that that the insurance company is only allowed to claim the actual amounts paid  for your medical treatments, so even though a doctor may have billed for $2,000, your policy may have only paid $1,300 on the claim.

Importance of legal representation

In our experience as veteran personal injury attorneys in Los Angeles, many clients have little knowledge about subrogation liens, and the impact they can have on their financial recovery. If you’ve been in an accident and are filing a claim in Southern California, a skilled attorney can help you navigate insurance subrogation interests, while working hard to optimize the value of your case.

Protect your rights to fair compensation and contact the Salamati Law Firm for a free case evaluation. Our legal team focuses on litigation arising from car accidents, truck accidents and premises liability.

Additional Insurance Subrogation Resources:

  1. CMS.gov, Reimbursing Medicare: Medicare’s Demand Letter, https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Coordination-of-Benefits-and-Recovery/Coordination-of-Benefits-and-Recovery-Overview/Reimbursing-Medicare/Reimbursing-Medicare-.html
  2. California Department of Health Care Services, Personal Injury Program, http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/Pages/TPLRD_PersonalInjuryProgram.aspx
  3. CMS.gov, Coordination of Benefits & Recovery Overview, https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Coordination-of-Benefits-and-Recovery/Coordination-of-Benefits-and-Recovery-Overview/Overview.html
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Seven Crucial Steps Toward Winning a Personal Injury Case in California

February 24, 2017 Personal Injury Lawsuits

In a personal injury case, you have been injured by a person or entity due to their negligence. They failed

Judge gavel, scales of justice and law books in courtIn a personal injury case, you have been injured by a person or entity due to their negligence. They failed to do something they should have done.

Say, for example, that a customer dropped a bottle in a grocery store aisle. The grocery store needed to clean it up quickly to ensure the safety of their customers. If they didn’t, and you fell and hurt your arm, you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.

A personal injury suit can secure compensation to pay for medical treatment, including doctor’s visits, prescriptions, physical therapy, disability, and other damages that affected your quality of life. If you had to take time off work, you can recover lost income.

A personal injury suit can be filed in California as long as the injured party files within two years of the date the accident occurred. You and your attorney need to prove that the negligent actions of the defendant were responsible for the injuries you received.

All legal cases rely on evidence and information. There are seven crucial steps you can take that increase your chances of receiving fair compensation for your injuries.

Get concrete evidence of what happened

When you have an accident, take pictures or get a record of evidence about what happened immediately. If you have a cell phone that can take pictures, don’t be shy to snap the scene of the accident. The glass and liquid on the floor, for example, in the scenario above. Any area of your clothes and face, if they show injuries (rips to clothes; blood on you). Even the store employee coming to the scene with a mop after your injury. If the pictures are time dated, even better. If you don’t have a camera, keep any ripped or blood-stained clothes or other evidence.

Get medical treatment immediately

For any injury, the safest action is to get medical treatment right away. Save all records of doctor’s visits, ambulance rides, prescriptions, x-rays or other treatments, like surgery or physical therapy. Be sure to get the diagnosis.

Keep all medical receipts

Keep all receipts for medical and medical-related treatment related to the accident, both immediate and over a period of months. It’s a good idea to keep all these in one place. Include receipts for prescription drugs, physical therapy, doctor’s visits, emergency room visits, and follow-up treatment. Don’t forget mileage driving to and from the treatments. These receipts can provide the basis for compensation.

Communicate well with healthcare professionals about the nature of your injuries

Doctors and other medical personnel need accurate descriptions about how your injuries feel to diagnose them. Does your arm have a stabbing pain or a dull ache, for example? Did the injury affect your range of motion, or ability to perform job tasks? Be sure to describe all the feelings, symptoms, and effects.

Tell your physician and attorney about any prior medical conditions

If you have prior medical conditions that might be causing some of your injury, be sure to be forthcoming about it. Under California law, you may seek damages for an accident that exacerbates a previous condition. But your chances of being looked upon favorably increase if you disclose prior issues.

Let your lawyer know any new information

Keep in touch with your lawyer about any new information that might be relevant. Did your doctor order an MRI? Did you hear that other people have had accidents at the same store? Did your injury flare up and make you unable to drive?

Take a good negotiating stance

Being able to be patient and wait for settlement offers, or for initial offers to rise, is part of being a good negotiator. Work with your personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles to receive the maximum settlement, which is often not the first one offered.

Speak to a personal injury attorney

If you’ve been hurt or lost wages because of another party’s negligence, reckless behavior or wrongdoing, it’s good to know the law is on your side. The Salamati Law Firm has successfully recovered millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for our clients. We are an aggressive firm that will protect your rights.

Call us today for a free consultation.

Additional “California Personal Injury Lawsuit” Resources

  1. California Courts. Statute of Limitations, http://www.courts.ca.gov/9618.htm
  2. California Courts. Going to Court, http://www.courts.ca.gov/1094.htm
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How Do I Appeal a Personal Injury Case?

February 22, 2017 Personal Injury Lawsuits

In the majority of personal injury cases, a settlement is negotiated before you ever step foot in a courtroom. Cases

Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept, blue toneIn the majority of personal injury cases, a settlement is negotiated before you ever step foot in a courtroom. Cases that are tried before a judge or jury will result in a judgement. As a plaintiff who is suing for compensatory damages, you may not be satisfied with an unfavorable verdict if errors have occurred during the trial proceedings.

In a criminal trial, only the defendant has legal grounds to appeal a verdict, but in civil cases both the plaintiff and defendants have the right to appeal a personal injury judgement. An appeal is a legal process where one party requests that a higher court make a formal change to a decision rendered by a lower court.

A civil appeal is a process used to examine perceived errors of the law that unjustly affected the outcome of the case. If no errors are discovered, the appeal is denied.

Appealing a personal injury case in California

A plaintiff cannot appeal a personal injury verdict simply because they are unhappy with the amount of monetary damages awarded at the end of the trial. In California, the person who is filing the appeal (the appellant) and their personal injury lawyer should be able to highlight a procedural error during the trial that was prejudicial, whether it was committed by the presiding judge or jurors.

The main goal of the court of appeals is determining whether an error or infraction occurred in regards to the legal process.

A few examples of procedural errors committed at trial may include:

  • Improper admission of evidence
  • Judge gives incorrect instructions to the jury
  • Whether expert witnesses were allowed to testify
  • If testimony provided by expert witnesses exceeded their qualifications and scope
  • Trial judge misinterpreted the law

In order to succeed with their appeal, the appellant is tasked with showing that the trial court made a reversible error that adversely affected the outcome of their case.

Filing an appeal after an unfavorable outcome

Unlike a trial, which focuses on presenting evidence, calling witnesses and is generally a fact-intensive proceeding, the appeals process does not reexamine facts of the case, but looks only at the application of law during the trial to determine if errors were made.

In order to file an appeal in the California court system, your attorney must prepare a detailed brief that expounds on the legal arguments at hand. There are also strict deadlines to appeal a personal injury case. As specified in California Rule of Court 8.104, an appellant must file a notice of appeal 60 days from the date of mailing notice of entry of judgment, or 60 days from the date of service of notice of entry by the party, or 180 days from the date of entry of judgment if no notice was provided.

It is up to your attorney to craft a compelling brief that speaks to the relevant laws correctly, in attempt to persuade the appellate court that errors were committed. The brief will usually cite previous cases that support the appellant’s legal standpoint.  If the appeal is successful, the court may remand the case back to lower court, vacate the original judgement or call for a new trial.

Los Angeles personal injury representation

At the Salamati Law Firm, our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers provide sound legal guidance to accident victims throughout Southern California. We are dedicated to providing unwavering advocacy to clients and use our extensive experience to protect your rights throughout every stage of the litigation process.

If you or someone you love needs legal guidance, call us toll-free to discuss your case free of charge.

Additional “Personal Injury Appeals” Resources:

  1. Judicial learning Center, The Appeal Process http://judiciallearningcenter.org/the-appeal-process/
  2. American Bar Association, How Courts Work – Steps in a Trial – Appeals, http://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/resources/law_related_education_network/how_courts_work/appeals.html
  3. Court of Appeals, FACTS ABOUT A COURT OF APPEAL http://appeal.laws.com/court-of-appeal
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