Being injured in a bus accident is a confusing and frightening experience. You will even be more frustrated when trying to obtain compensation from the insurance company of the at-fault party. Generally, insurance companies do not have your best interests at heart, and their primary goal is to pay you the least amount of money possible as compensation.
In some instances, you may decide to file a personal injury lawsuit to protect your legal rights and secure compensation. This step may make you even more confused because you do not understand how the California civil justice system works.
In this article, we will explain to you the best steps you should take after you have been involved in a bus accident to ensure you obtain the most favorable outcome. We will also explain to you how the California injury claim process works, and how you can maximize the value of your compensation with less aggravation and effort.
Our main goal at The LA Personal Injury Law Firm is to help auto accident victims pursue justice and obtain compensation for their injuries. Reach out to us if you have been injured in a Los Angeles bus accident. We will review your case, discuss with you all the available options, and enable you to focus on your recovery.
The Meaning of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Any person who institutes a personal injury lawsuit must have been involved in an auto accident or injured in an action involving negligence. Individuals who can file personal injury lawsuits include victims of bus accidents, car accidents, trucking accidents, boat accidents, pedestrian accidents, and motorcycle accidents, among others. Victims who have sustained injuries because of medical malpractice or product defects can also institute a personal injury lawsuit.
If you have been involved in an auto accident, but you came out uninjured, and it is only your car that was damaged, you cannot institute a personal injury lawsuit. But, you can file a property claim to recover compensation for your damaged vehicle. On the other hand, if you were injured and your car was also damaged, you can file both a personal injury claim and a property claim.
Not everyone who has sustained injuries in a bus accident is entitled to recover damages from another person or organization. For you to have a valid lawsuit, you must ascertain that the substantial cause of your injuries was the negligence of another person or group. For instance, a bus driver who was speeding and caused an accident in which he/she sustained injuries may not be eligible for compensation, because it is his/her negligent acts that resulted in the crash.
For a plaintiff to prove negligence in a personal injury lawsuit, he/she must establish that the defendant owed a duty of care to him/her. Then, the plaintiff must prove how the defendant breached this duty of care. The plaintiff must also show how the breach resulted in the injuries. Basically, there must be a link between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s injuries for the plaintiff to be awarded compensation.
Once you have proved negligence, you must demonstrate to the court the degree and extent of your injuries. Here, medical reports will come in handy. You must also show the court the financial losses you incurred because of the accident. If you would like to obtain general damages, you must prove how the accident impacted your day-to-day life and those of your loved ones.
If your loved one died in a bus accident, you could institute a wrongful death lawsuit to obtain compensation. You would still be required to prove the negligence of the at-fault party in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Note that it is the jury that will decide as to whether the defendant acted negligently. If you do not have sufficient evidence to prove your claim, the jury may dismiss it, and you won't obtain compensation.
Insurance companies may convince you that it is difficult to win a personal injury lawsuit. Most insurance companies are out there to make quick bucks, and they can do everything possible to discourage you from filing a lawsuit.
But, don’t assume that it is easy to win a personal injury lawsuit, or that you have a clear-cut case, which can make you obtain an automatic win. Even a highly experienced attorney cannot precisely know whether or not you will win your case.
Common Myths about Personal Injury Cases
Here are the most common myths about bus accident personal injury cases in Los Angeles:
- If you write the insurer a nice letter, you will receive a fair settlement offer
- If you sustained injuries in a bus accident and it wasn’t your fault, the insurer of the at-fault party will automatically pay for your medical bills and any other expenses
- You can easily get rich after you have been involved in a bus accident
- All personal injury attorneys are equal in ability and experience
- If the insurer requests a written statement about the accident, you should give one, and if you fail to do so, your claim won't be settled
- An insurance adjuster has your best interests at heart
- California juries are extremely generous
What may happen after you have Filed an Injury Claim with the Insurance Company
Supposing the insurance company offers you a fair settlement amount, then you may not institute a personal injury lawsuit. However, this is not always the case. Various things can go wrong after you have filed an injury claim with the insurance company.
First, the at-fault may not have reported the accident to his/her insurer. Therefore, when you file a claim, the insurance company might believe that your story is dubious. It may also delay investigating the claim, and even fail to accept liability for the crash.
If the at-fault party had already notified the insurer, an insurance adjuster will start processing your claim. Note that this insurance company has no legal obligation to protect or inform you about your rights. Insurance companies also employ overly aggressive defense attorneys whose sole goal is to safeguard the company’s financial interests.
An insurance adjuster may offer you a low amount of money as compensation while taking advantage of your ignorance. He/she may appear to be helpful, friendly, and pleasant, but don’t forget that his/her sole goal is to protect the interests of the insurer.
While negotiating with the insurance adjuster, you may unknowingly accept liability for the crash. Also, an adjuster may make you minimize the extent and impact of your injuries. An adjuster can also discourage you from filing a personal injury lawsuit by telling you that it would be difficult for the jury to award you compensation. Generally, all these actions are geared towards making you accept little or no compensation.
If you’ve hired an experienced personal injury attorney, he/she can negotiate on your behalf with the insurance adjuster, and help you obtain a fair compensation amount. If the negotiations fail, your attorney can institute a personal injury lawsuit to compel the insurance company to pay you what you deserve.
As a general rule, you shouldn’t accept the first settlement offer that the insurance company may offer you. Don’t let any representative of the insurance company intimidate you, pressure you, or threaten you into accepting a settlement offer. What you need to do is to talk to an experienced personal injury attorney who will advise you on the best steps to take.
What Happens After you have Filed a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
After you have filed a personal injury lawsuit, you and the defendant will exchange vital information about the claim with each other. This stage is referred to as ‘discovery.’ The defendant may pose to you written questions concerning how the accident occurred, the degree and extent of injuries sustained, medical treatment received, as well as the victim’s medical history. The primary purpose of the discovery stage is to enable both parties to become acquainted with the unique facts pertinent to the case. In some situations, the defendant may require you to be medically examined by a doctor whom he/she has chosen. You may also be requested to give sworn testimony.
The court can subject you and the defendant to mediation before the trial commences. During mediation, a third party – also known as a mediator, may help you and the defendant to resolve your issues. If both of you agree, the suit will come to an end.
If mediation fails, the lawsuit will proceed to the trial phase. Depending on how complicated the case is, a trial may last for several days or even a couple of weeks.
During the trial, the jury will listen to both sides and decide on questions of liability and the possible amount of damages. If the jury's decision aggrieves a party, the aggrieved party can file an appeal. However, the appeal should be based on legal grounds.
Generally, bus accident lawsuits are expensive and lengthy. It is much better to resolve your claim as early as possible so that you can receive your compensation amount and move on with your life. But, you should be aggressive enough to fight to the end in instances where the defendant doesn't want to admit liability or pay you fair and reasonable compensation.
What to Do to Maximize the Chances of Winning Your Case
There are various steps that you can take to maximize the chances of winning your case after you have been involved in a bus accident. First, make sure you document everything. Put your medical records, contact information, witness statements, and accident reports in a single folder. If possible, you can also take photos of the bus accident scene and your physical injuries.
Second, reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney and discuss your case with him/her. Ask him/her any question you may have about the claims process, and let him/her evaluate the weaknesses and strengths of your case. According to the American Insurance Research Council, injury victims who hire personal injury attorneys are more successful in their claims than those who don’t. Most bus accident victims may feel afraid or confused, and end up accepting whatever amount the insurance company offers them. A personal injury attorney can effectively represent your interests and ensure you obtain the maximum amount of money as compensation. Don't be restrained from hiring a personal injury attorney because of financial constraints – most of them work on a contingency-fee-basis.
Fatal Mistakes that May Make you Lose Your Case
You can make some deadly mistakes that may make you lose your case. But, if you are aware of these mistakes, you can avoid making them, and therefore, boost the chances of winning your case. Here is a brief discussion of the most deadly mistakes that bus accident victims in Los Angeles usually make:
1. Not Taking Immediate Action while at the Bus Accident Scene to Protect your Rights
It is difficult to make clear decisions while at an accident scene. However, you must take certain steps after you have been involved in a bus accident to protect your rights. If you fail to take these steps, you may lose your case or expose yourself to more danger.
It is unwise to leave an accident scene before informing law enforcement. Make sure you call 911 before planning for an exit strategy.
You should be cautious while exiting the bus to prevent sustaining more injuries. For instance, you shouldn’t immediately jump out through the bus window, because an oncoming vehicle may hit you.
Assist any person in the accident scene who has been injured, and ensure that he/she obtains access to medical help. Get the names and contact details of the bus driver and other bus passengers, and any other person who has witnessed the accident scene.
If a law enforcement officer reaches and investigates the scene, you can request him/her a copy of the police report. Moreover, jot down the personal details of the law enforcement officer, including his/her name and identifying number, and the specific agency he/she represents.
Once you’ve obtained a copy of the police report, you should review it thoroughly to ensure that it has given an accurate description of the accident. If you notice any error in the police report, you should notify the investigation officer immediately and request him/her to correct it. Don’t wait for too long before requesting this correction, as the police officer’s recollection of the crash might fade, making him/her unwilling to rectify the report.
You can take photographs and videos of the bus accident scene. These videos and photos should be from different angles to cover a wide area of the accident scene. You can also photograph the area around the bus accident scene, including any traffic signals, stop signs, as well as damaged guardrails and telephone poles.
Do not make any self-incriminating statements. If you do so, they will be used against you by the defendant to stop you from obtaining compensation.
2. Delaying the Visit to the Doctor
You should visit a doctor immediately after you have been involved in a bus accident, even if you believe that you were uninjured. Some injuries may not manifest themselves immediately, only for them to start troubling you after a couple of weeks, or even months, after the crash. If you visit a doctor, he/she will conduct a thorough medical check-up, and inform you whether or not you have been injured, and the degree, impact, and extent of your injuries.
You should also cooperate fully with your physician. Follow all his/her recommendations, and don’t discontinue treatment without his/her permission. If you fail to do so, the defendant may argue that you were not severely injured, and you aggravated your injuries by not following your doctor’s instructions.
Make sure you document all your medical reports, bills, and recommendations. These documents will be essential in proving the degree and extent of your injuries, and the total amount of damages you deserve as fair compensation.
3. Giving Statements or Signing Papers without Consulting an Attorney
An insurance adjuster may request you to provide a statement of how the accident occurred and how you sustained your injuries. He/she may also ask you to sign certain documents, including release forms.
Don’t do any of these activities without consulting an attorney. This is because you might unknowingly give a self-incriminating statement, or settle for a little amount of money as compensation. Also, you may not have been completely healed, or some injuries may not have manifested themselves. Remember that once you have signed a release form, you can't request more money. This is why you must ensure that you have obtained fair and full compensation before signing any release.
4. Waiting for a Long Time before Reaching out for Legal Help
According to California's Statute of Limitations, you must institute an auto accident personal injury lawsuit within three years from the date of the occurrence of the crash. When this time lapses, you will lose your legal right to obtain compensation. This timeframe is usually shorter if you intend to sue a governmental entity.
Note that when you hire a personal injury attorney, he/she will first initiate the claims process with the insurance company. This process may take a considerably long time. It is only when this process fails that the attorney can institute a personal injury lawsuit.
Make a point of seeking legal help as soon as possible after you have been involved in an accident. Avoid procrastination – this is a fatal mistake that can make you not obtain compensation.
5. Not Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
If you only sustained a minor injury, you can still obtain reasonable compensation without the help of an attorney. However, if you sustained severe injuries, you will require an attorney to help you process your claim and fight for compensation.
Don’t just hire any attorney – you should hire a lawyer who has specialized in personal injury cases. Just the same way you wouldn’t want a general medical practitioner to perform for you a specific surgical procedure, you require a lawyer who is an expert in personal injury cases. An attorney who doesn’t have extensive experience in personal injury law may not have sufficient technical know-how to enable you to obtain maximum compensation.
6. Not Being Honest
You should be honest with your personal injury attorney over what occurred in the accident scene. Make sure you disclose to him/her any previous accidents, pre existing medical conditions, alcohol, and drug addiction problems, criminal history, prior lawsuits, as well as work history.
Note that the defendant’s attorney is permitted to ask any manner of questions about your past. This means that if you hide some information from your attorney, the defendant may utilize it against you. On the other hand, if you disclose everything, especially information that you believe can make you lose your claim, your attorney will thoroughly evaluate your case and limit any potential damage this information might cause.
If your attorney is unaware of a particular fact and he/she becomes surprised when the defendant raises it during the trial, your credibility might be ruined. This will increase the chances of losing your case. Moreover, if a particular fact can render your case impossible or difficult to win, it’s much better to be aware of it upfront, than spending a lot of energy and time on a losing case.
Moreover, you shouldn’t exaggerate or lie about your injuries. Once this happens, you will automatically lose your case. Also, don’t lie about your tax returns to obtain a high amount of damages for lost income. Your tax returns should be accurate. Lying about them might result in criminal charges.
Furthermore, don’t misrepresent how the injuries have affected your living standards. For instance, if you tell the court that you cannot swim and then the defendant somehow comes across a video of you swimming, your claim will be over.
Find a Los Angeles Bus Accident Attorney Near Me
We at The LA Personal Injury Law Firm can assist you in maximizing your compensation. We will be with you throughout your injury claims process and provide you aggressive legal representation. Call us today at 310-935-0089 for a free case evaluation.