Attorneys Answer: When Do You Need To Hire a Car Accident Lawyer in Hermosa Beach, CA?

You might be able to handle a minor fender-bender on your own. But the presence of certain “red flags” should alert you that your case has become complicated enough to require the assistance of an experienced Hermosa Beach car accident attorney. Some of these flags appear below.

How California’s Auto Accident Compensation System Works

California state law applies in Hermosa Beach. California’s auto accident insurance system works as described below.

Mandatory Minimum Insurance 

Almost every state requires their drivers to purchase a minimum amount of auto accident liability insurance. California is no exception. California’s “mandatory minimum” auto insurance coverage ceilings are quite low compared to most states, however. California applies a “15/30/5” system:

You can only hope you will not be involved in an accident with a driver who carries only California’s mandatory minimum insurance–especially if you’re driving an expensive car.

“At-Fault” Liability

About a dozen states are “no-fault” auto insurance states. California, like a solid majority of states, is an “at-fault” state. That means if you suffer an accident in California due to another driver’s fault, you can immediately file a third-party claim against their liability insurance carrier or take them to court.

“Pure” Comparative Negligence

California applies a pure comparative negligence system when more than one driver is at fault for a car accident. Under this system, a court will determine percentages of fault for all drivers. 

As the accident victim, your damages can be reduced based on your percentage of shared responsibility. For example, sharing 40% of the blame means your compensation can be reduced by 40%.

Circumstances That Should Warn You Not To Represent Yourself

Think twice about representing yourself if your claim involves any of the following “red flags.”

Disputed Liability

Disputed liability arises when more than one party was at fault, or if each side blames the other for the accident. A court will have to determine percentages of fault, which involves significant risks for both sides.

Catastrophic Injury

The more serious the injury, the more money will be at stake. The more money that’s at stake, the more money the defendant will be willing to spend on a lawyer. If they hire a lawyer, you will need one too.

Permanent or Long-Term Disability

You will need an expert to calculate future damages in case of long-term disability. Additionally, long-term disability raises damages to a level that is likely to trigger a vigorous defense from the opposing party. 

Multiple Parties 

Imagine a freeway pileup, for example, or a case affecting many people injured by toxic fumes. The more people involved in the accident, the greater your need for a lawyer.

The Insurance Company Is Playing Games With You

You can expect a ‘lowball’ first offer from the insurance company. If they continuously deal unfairly with you, however, it is probably time to get a lawyer involved.

The Defendant Is Uninsured or Underinsured

This state of affairs might force you to seek a second defendant who can actually pay your claim. A lawyer might be able to help you find one (for example, you can sometimes seek compensation from the defendant’s employer).

A Child Was Injured

A child under 18 cannot file a lawsuit in their own name. To file a lawsuit, the child will need both a lawyer and a guardian ad litem.

The At-Fault Driver Fled the Scene of the Accident

If you cannot find the defendant, you might need to find a second or come up with some other plan to obtain compensation.

The Accident Was Work-Related

If you suffer a workplace injury, workers’ compensation will probably govern your claim. Workers’ compensation cases are easier to win than ordinary personal injury claims, but damages are severely limited. 

A lawyer might be able to help you find a third-party defendant (other than your employer) who you could sue for full personal injury damages.   

Medical Malpractice Involvement

You might have suffered from medical malpractice at the hospital after your accident. In such a circumstance, it might be difficult to determine how much of your condition is the at-fault driver’s fault and how much is your healthcare provider’s fault.

The Government Is a Defendant

Since any money the government pays you ultimately comes out of the pocket of John Q. Taxpayer, special rules apply to filing a claim against the government. In particular, applicable deadlines are more stringent. You need a lawyer with experience filing claims against the government. 

Someone Died in the Accident

A wrongful death claim arises if someone dies in an accident. All sorts of other complications will arise, including possible criminal charges. Wrongful death claims almost always involve large compensation claims. 

The Statute of Limitations Deadline Is Looming

You must either file a lawsuit or finalize a settlement by the time the statute of limitations period expires. If that means you have to hurry, it’s better to hurry with a lawyer than without one.

You Need Expert Witnesses

It’s difficult to find a good expert witness. Even experts who are prominent in their field might wilt under cross-examination. You need one whose expertise is unquestioned but also has experience testifying. A good personal injury lawyer will have pre-existing relationships with professional expert witnesses. 

You’re Claiming Extensive Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are ambiguous. Your surgery might have cost you exactly $28,207.54. But how much was the post-operative pain worth? $10,000 or $100,000? A good lawyer knows how to use this ambiguity in your favor. 

The Accident Involved Pedestrians or Bicyclists

Bicycle accidents and pedestrian accidents frequently generate fatalities and catastrophic injuries. That alone should be enough to convince you to hire a lawyer, in addition to the fact that juries tend to sympathize with bicyclists and pedestrians.

You Have a Pre-Existing Condition That the Opposing Party Could Use Against You

Did the accident worsen a pre-existing condition, such as a back injury? If so, the opposing party could assert that your condition was just as bad as it is now, even before the accident (and therefore, the accident did not cause it). A lawyer can help you fight back against this sort of allegation.

You Disagree With the Contents of the Accident Report

The accident report is almost certainly not admissible in court (because it’s hearsay). However, if you disagree with the accident report, then you’re going to clash in court with the police officer who wrote it. You’ll need a lawyer for this.

An Experienced Hermosa Beach Car Accident Attorney Can Help

The statute of limitations sets your ultimate deadline to finalize a settlement or initiate a lawsuit. Nevertheless, you need to get started pursuing your claim far before the statute of limitations deadline approaches.

Claims grow stale over time, and the sooner you get started, the better your chances will be. Since most Hermosa Beach car accident lawyers offer free consultations, it’s likely worth your time to meet and receive some initial legal advice.