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Tips on Speaking with an Insurance Company After a Car Accident

Posted in Car Accidents,Personal Injury,Rodriguez & Associates,Wrongful Death on June 3, 2020

Insurance companies work fast after a car accident. Often times, the adjuster will contact people who are involved in an accident the same day or within a few days after the occurrence. You may even receive a call from the other party’s insurance adjuster. We understand how stressful it is after an accident, so we compiled tips for you on how to speak with an insurance company after you have experienced an auto accident.

Find out who you are talking to.

When you receive the phone call, ask for the person’s name, the insurer they work for, their work address, and work telephone number. If they are unable, or unwilling, to provide you with this information, do not speak with them.

Do not agree to a recorded statement.
The adjustor may claim that a recorded statement will “protect you” or speed up your claim process, but a recorded statement can also work against you. The adjustor may ask you leading questions or remarks (i.e. “It sounds like your back injury is not as bad as you thought”) and the answer you respond with may undermine your injury and your compensation.

Limit the information you give to the insurance adjustor.
You may give them general information, including:

  • Your name
  • The name of others in the accident
  • Date and time of accident
  • Location of accident
  • The insurance information of the other driver
  • The make and model of cars involved

Don’t discuss your injuries.
The extent of an injury in a car accident can take weeks or months to become fully apparent. How you state your injury may be used against you at a later date. You do not owe them a progress report. If they ask you how you are doing, you can say that you don’t know the “full extent of the injury yet”.

 Don’t speculate or guess.
If they ask you questions about the accident, and you don’t know the answer, do not speculate or guess what may have happened. It is acceptable to say “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember”.

It is okay to postpone the conversation.
You may decline talking to an insurance adjuster. You have the right to answer their questions with your attorney and you may tell them that you will not talk to them without your attorney present.

If you have suffered an injury or lost a loved one in a car accident, we may be able to help you. Call our Kern County Personal Injury Law Firm at 661-323-1400 or 800-585-9262 (toll free) for a no fee consultation. Our car accident attorneys speak English or Spanish.

What Is the Difference Between Comparative and Contributory Negligence?

Posted in Personal Injury,Personal Injury Attorneys on May 27, 2020

In a California personal injury lawsuit, you will need to prove that the at-fault party acted in negligence and caused the damages you are seeking compensation for. At the conclusion of your case, the court will decide if you are eligible for damages and if so, how much your settlement will be.

Identifying negligence is not simple in many cases, and the court may find that both parties’ actions contributed to the accident. In these situations, the court will either apply the theory of comparative negligence or the theory of contributory negligence to determine the amount of the final settlement. The specific theory that the court applies will depend on the state you reside in.

What Is Contributory Negligence?

Contributory negligence states do not allow plaintiffs who share more than 1% of the fault from claiming compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. This means you lose your chances at compensation if you contributed to the accident at all. The only states who still apply the contributory negligence method include Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Let’s say you are in a car accident with another driver at a stop sign. You brake, the driver behind you doesn’t, and he hits the back of your vehicle. You suffer medical bills, damage to your vehicle, and pain and suffering worth $20,000, and request this settlement amount in your lawsuit.

However, the court finds that you had broken brake lights at the time of the accident, and assigns you 80% of the fault in your case. If you reside in a state that practices contributory negligence, you will not receive any damages.

What Is Comparative Negligence?

While contributory negligence is the most severe negligence rule, many states do not use this method. Instead, most states follow a comparative negligence system, which allows plaintiffs to collect compensation even if they share a portion of the fault.

There are two types of comparative negligence rules: pure and modified. California is a pure comparative negligence state, which means you can collect compensation in a personal injury lawsuit even if you share up to 99% of the damages. The court will simply reduce your award by the portion you share. Using our broken brake light example, you can still receive $4,000 out of your $20,000 settlement if you share 80% of the fault.

There are two different types of modified comparative negligence states. In some modified comparative negligence states, such as Colorado, you cannot receive compensation if you share at least 50% of the fault. In other modified comparative negligence states, such as Hawaii, you cannot claim compensation if you share 51% or more of the fault in your claim.

You would not receive damages under our broken brake light scenario if you shared 80% of the fault. If the court determines you shared 40% of the fault, you could receive $12,000 out of the original $20,000 under both modified comparative negligence systems.

Hire an Attorney for Your Personal Injury Case

Comparative and contributory negligence can reduce the amount of compensation you receive significantly. In these situations, you must defend yourself against claims that you share liability for the accident by highlighting the at-fault party’s negligent actions.

Hiring a Bakersfield personal injury attorney to represent your claim can help you protect your best interests during the lawsuit process. Your attorney will conduct a full-scale investigation into your claim, crafting a compelling case for your need for compensation and proving the negligence of the at-fault party.

Contact your personal injury lawyer today to discuss your story and begin filing your claim.

Rodriguez & Associates Obtains $70M Verdict

Posted in Awards,Car Accidents,Kern County Lawyers,Personal Injury Attorneys,Rodriguez & Associates on May 18, 2020

Personal injury attorney, Daniel Rodriguez, along with attorneys Chantal Trujillo and Danay Gonzalez, obtained a $70,578,289 million verdict, the highest personal injury verdict in Kern County history.

A mother with her two children were driving in an SUV when a big rig ran a red light and slammed into her car. The mother and son suffered multiple injuries, while the other child has since suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from witnessing the accident.

While the truck driver initially said that the mother ran the red light, Rodriguez & Associates was able to obtain footage from a dash camera on a bus that proved the truck driver wrong. In addition, the big rig driver was driving on a suspended license and had 14 prior crashes.

About the case and verdict, Rodriguez said, “It was so satisfying to feel validated.”

At Rodriguez & Associates, we care for our clients like family because, at the end of the day, we are in this together.

If you have been involved in a personal injury related accident and would like a case evaluation, call our Bakersfield personal injury law firm at (661) 323-1400 or 800-585-9262 to schedule a no-charge consultation.

Lane Splitting in California: What You Need To Know

Posted in Car Accidents,Motorcycle Accidents on May 18, 2020

If you’ve ever been stuck in traffic and seen a motorcycle create its own lane by zipping between your car and the one next to you, you’ve witnessed what’s called lane splitting. It’s a common move for motorcyclists on freeways and crowded streets. It also causes its fair share of controversy.

Lane splitting enjoys a special privilege in California, one of the only U.S. states where the move is actually legal. While it’s a time-saver for motorcycle riders and, by some arguments, safer, lane splitting also causes a lot of tension on the roads. If not done correctly and carefully, it’s a risky move, and even when a motorcyclist is doing it responsibly, drivers of surrounding passenger vehicles often find it stressful and confusing.

The move’s legal status in California also complicates the process of determining fault when there is an accident involving lane splitting. Drivers of passenger vehicles should be aware of certain regulations — for motorcyclists and themselves — around lane splitting when they get behind the wheel. In the event of an accident, it is helpful to know these things up front.

Lane Splitting Basics

In 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 51 into law in California, which officially made lane splitting’s status legal. The law defines lane splitting as “driving a motorcycle, that has 2 wheels in contact with the ground, between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane, as specified.”

Following the signing of AB 51 into law, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) developed certain guidelines around lane splitting, which were released in 2018. The CHP’s guidelines are meant to somewhat regulate the practice of lane splitting to make it safer for both motorcyclists and other vehicles around them. That said, they are guidelines only — not laws.

For example, there is no law dictating the maximum speed at which a motorcyclist can lane split. Guidelines and officers of the CHP have said a motorcyclist should be going no more than 10 miles per hour over the speed of other vehicles. So if slow-moving traffic on the freeway is inching along at 20 mph, a motorcyclist should not be lane splitting faster than 30 mph. Motorcyclists should never go above 50 mph while lane splitting. They should also split on the far left lane and avoid splitting next to large vehicles (buses, big rigs).

While none of these things are law, police can still ticket a motorcyclist that is driving recklessly while lane splitting. Riding on the shoulder of the road or freeway is illegal and never considered lane splitting.

The CHP also notes in its guidelines that “Lane splitting can be dangerous and extreme caution should be exercised” and that “The risk of death or serious injury during a lane splitting collision increases as speed and speed differential increases.”

Car Accidents and Lane Splitting

If you are in an accident with a motorcyclist that was lane splitting, be prepared for a complex journey in terms of filing a claim. In other states, where lane splitting is illegal, the fault would obviously lie with the motorcyclist that was lane splitting. Because of the move’s legal status in California, determining liability isn’t a clear-cut process.

In such an accident, any number of parties could be to blame: the motorcyclist, the other driver, even local government agencies.

As mentioned above, a motorcyclist can still be ticketed if they are driving recklessly while lane splitting. In the event of a crash, they could be held liable if they were not following the CHP’s guidelines. For example, the CHP’s guidelines instruct motorcycle drivers to avoid other cars’ blind spots. If your accident occurs because the biker was lane splitting in your blind spot, they might be at fault.

On the other hand, drivers of other vehicles need to make sure they are following a few rules themselves.

While lane splitting can be frustrating for drivers of passenger vehicles, because it is legal in the state of California, you cannot intentionally block someone from lane splitting. In fact, it is illegal to do so. If you are doing this and an accident happens, you could be held partially or even fully responsible for the crash.

Drivers should also be on the lookout for motorcyclists before they change lanes, and always use their car’s signals when turning or switching lanes. While these are common-sense practices in most driving situations, they are important to follow when it comes to sharing the road with those on motorcycles.

Sometimes, the fault lies elsewhere, like with the government. A great example of this is poorly maintained roads. If the road itself is not kept in good repair by the state of California, which in turn makes it more difficult for the motorcyclist to switch lanes, the fault of the accident could lie with a government agency.

More often than not, the fault will lie with no one single party and will be a combination of multiple factors. However, in order to receive the compensation you deserve after this type of accident, it is best to consult an attorney. This person should not only have experience with car and motorcycle accidents, they should ideally have handled past cases involving lane splitting. Determining fault and filing a claim for compensation especially in this case can be a challenging process. To minimize your frustrations, seek the help of an experienced professional.

Rodriguez & Associates has long been committed to helping drivers protect their rights and receive the compensation they deserve from motorcycle accidents. If you or a loved one has been involved in a crash, please reach out to us today ((661) 323-1400) for a free consultation.

I Was Hit While Jaywalking… Am I Liable?

Posted in California,Car Accidents,Pedestrian Accidents,Personal Injury on May 15, 2020

In Bakersfield, traffic lights and signs are in place for a reason. This critical infrastructure keeps drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians alike safe on the road — and jaywalking can put your life in danger. If you suffer an injury while jaywalking, even if you were not at-fault for the accident, you can harm your chances at recovering compensation for these damages.

Can You File a Pedestrian Accident Claim If You Were Jaywalking?

If you are in a collision with a motor vehicle while walking around Bakersfield, you have two main pathways to compensation. You can file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, or you can file a personal injury lawsuit in California civil court.

You can still bring these legal actions against the at-fault driver in your accident, even if you were jaywalking. However, the fact you were jaywalking will impact your case. The insurance adjuster or the at-fault party’s defense may use this evidence to either deny your claim or reduce your award.

To combat these claims, contact a Bakersfield pedestrian accident attorney who can defend you from these arguments and advocate for your compensation needs. Through a thorough investigation and a strong negligence claim, you can increase your chances at securing a settlement with an attorney on your side — even if you do share a portion of the fault.

Comparative Negligence in Pedestrian Accident Cases

Pedestrian accident lawsuits rely on the theory of negligence to prove that the at-fault party is responsible for the victim’s damages. To successfully claim compensation for the damages you suffer in a pedestrian accident, you and your attorney will need to collect evidence to support the following four elements.

  • The driver owed you a duty to drive safely and follow traffic laws.
  • The driver breached this duty of care.
  • You suffered injuries as a direct result of this breach of care.
  • You can collect compensatory damages for your injuries.

These elements may seem straightforward, but if you also breached your duty of care as a pedestrian to follow traffic laws, you may share a portion of the liability. California follows a pure comparative negligence rule in these situations.

California courts allow you to collect damages for your injuries even if you share 99% of the fault in the situation. However, the court will reduce your final award by the portion of the liability you hold.

For example, if you are seeking $20,000 for your damages and the court assigns you 50% of the fault because you were jaywalking, you will receive $10,000 at the conclusion of your case.

Should You Hire an Attorney for Your Pedestrian Accident Claim?

If you were jaywalking at the time of your accident, proving your need for damages can be very complex. Attorneys and insurance companies may claim that you were at-fault for the accident, and either reduce or deny your settlement altogether. With medical expenses, lost wages, and many more losses on the line, this compensation is crucial to your recovery.

Contact a pedestrian accident attorney as soon as possible following your collision. Your attorney will conduct a thorough investigation into your claim and help you identify optimal pathways to maximum compensation. In addition, your attorney can advise you on which legal options are best for your case.

Speak to your lawyer today to discuss your claim and strategize your next steps.

What Are the Psychological Effects of Being in a Car Accident?

Posted in California,Car Accidents,Personal Injury,Personal Injury Attorneys on May 8, 2020

The aftermath of a car accident can be physically painful — but many of us tend to overlook the psychological impacts these collisions can have. From the development of mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder to long-lasting impacts on our daily activities, the mental toll of a car accident can be overwhelming. However, you do have legal options available to recover from this psychological damage.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder After a Car Accident

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that involves overwhelming feelings of fear, uneasiness, or anxiety following a traumatic event. These emotions are common after a car crash, but if they linger or become stronger, they can impact your daily activities and make it difficult to enjoy activities you once loved.

Symptoms of PTSD after a collision often include the following:

  • Uncontrollable flashbacks or memories about the car accident
  • A constant feeling of uneasiness
  • Overwhelming feelings of rage or worry
  • Anxiety around driving or riding in a motor vehicle
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nightmares
  • A feeling of disconnection in regard to events or people

Who Is at Risk for Developing PTSD?

According to a study from the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 39.2% of car accident survivors develop PTSD following a collision — a shockingly high number. In addition, psychological experts state motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of PTSD in the general American population.

You may be at a higher risk of developing PTSD after a car crash if you have a history of prior trauma or mental health conditions. In addition, if you experience high levels of emotion such as fear or helplessness during or immediately after a car accident, your PTSD development risk may also increase. A lack of social support after the accident may also aggravate this condition.

What Treatment Options Are Available for PTSD?

If you believe you developed PTSD after a car accident, it is important to seek mental health treatment as soon as possible. Your doctor or psychiatrist will help you identify your condition and create a symptom management plan, which may include medication, therapy, and other forms of treatment.

Paying for this necessary treatment can be difficult, even with health insurance. However, a personal injury lawsuit or insurance claim can help you pay for damages associated with your car accident, including the cost of mental health care.

Economic damages can cover the cost of medications, therapy appointments, and other psychiatric treatment. Non-economic damages can compensate you for the emotional pain and suffering you endure as a result of the PTSD, along with other psychological impacts such as anxiety, depression, and a loss of quality of life.

Do You Need an Attorney for Your Bakersfield Car Accident Claim?

If you are suffering emotional, physical, and financial damages following a car accident, you need a Bakersfield car accident attorney on your side who can advocate aggressively on your behalf. Hiring a car accident lawyer can benefit your case in a number of ways, including access to a wide network of resources, well-honed negotiation skills, and knowledge of personal injury law.

Contact your car accident attorney today to discuss your case and determine which pathway to compensation is right for you.

Rodriguez & Associates Named To “Top 100 Verdicts in California in 2019” List

Posted in Honors and Recognitions on May 5, 2020

Rodriguez & Associates has been listed in Top Verdict’s “Top 100 Verdicts in California in 2019” list. Our firm was listed three times:

Listing #5:
Amount: $70,578,289.00
Attorneys: Daniel Rodriguez
Case: Cuevas v. Rai Transport Inc.
Type: Car Accident, Motor Vehicle Accident, Personal Injury, Truck Accident, Brain Injury, Negligent Tort, Vicarious Liability, Respondeat Superior

Listing #42:
Amount: $10,000,000.00
Attorneys: Daniel Rodriguez, Chantal A. Trujillo, Danay Gonzalez
Case: A.G. v. Lamont School District, et al.
Type: Negligent Supervision, Personal Injury, School Safety, Sexual Abuse, Child Abuse, Negligent Tort

Listing #79:
Amount: $3,800,000.00
Attorneys: Daniel Rodriguez, Chantal A. Trujillo, Danay Gonzalez
Case: Cleveland v. Taft Union High School District
Type: Negligent Supervision, Personal Injury, School Safety, Negligent Security, Gunshot Wound, Negligent Tort

Our personal injury law firm’s extensive trial practice experience has resulted in notable cases and results. You can view some of our noteworthy multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements here.

Questions to Ask an Attorney After a Car Accident

Posted in Car Accidents,Rodriguez & Associates on May 4, 2020

If you or a loved one has been involved in a serious car accident, and feel like you have a case, you most likely have many questions to ask an attorney. Our Bakersfield car accident attorneys have decades of experience with car accident cases and have compiled a list of the most popular questions – and our answers – to help you navigate through this uncertain time.

How long do I have to file a personal injury claim?

You have two years from the date of the car accident to file your claim.

What if the other driver does not have insurance?

In the state of California, most auto insurance policies have uninsured motorist coverage. This means that your insurance company will compensate for damages incurred from the accident.

Can you tell me how much my car accident claim is worth?

There are many factors to consider when estimating the value of a claim. (Read our past blog post to see the breakdown of how value is determined.) As we work through your case, we will have a better idea of how much your settlement may be.

What is your law firm’s plan for my car accident case?

When our Bakersfield car accident attorneys take on a car accident claim, we formulate a plan that takes into account:

  • The extent of the injuries as a result of the accident
  • If there are multiple liable parties
  • If the liable parties are individual drivers or corporations
  • Which insurance companies cover the liable parties

As we build our case, our attorneys will be able to present you with a general plan but know that plans can always change, for a variety of reasons.

I have been injured in a car accident – how do I pay for my medical bills?

California is a fault auto accident state. That means that the at-fault driver is responsible for paying for the damages in the accident. However, you may have to pay for medical bills first and/or use your private health care insurance for coverage until a settlement is reached. Note that after a settlement is made, your health insurance company may request reimbursement out of your final settlement. Your attorney will help you navigate through this.

How much will attorney services cost me?
At Rodriguez & Associates, there is no out-of-pocket payment until we win or settle your case.

If you are looking for a car accident attorney in Bakersfield and surrounding areas, contact us for a no-charge consultation (661-323-1400 or 800-585-9262).

The Importance of Evidence in Trucking Accidents

Posted in Car Accidents,Personal Injury,Rodriguez & Associates,Truck Accidents on April 22, 2020

Accidents that involve a car and a truck, such as a big rig (also referred to as a tractor-trailer), often result in more catastrophic injuries and/or death because of the sheer difference in size and weight of both vehicles. If you are involved in a truck accident, it is important to have an expert truck accident attorney on your side because the case can be complicated. Your attorney must be familiar with state and federal transportation laws, motor vehicle carrier rules, and also the trucking company’s safety rules. In addition to this, your attorney must recognize the importance of collecting evidence early on in the case. This evidence can help build value into your case to work towards your advantage, and includes:

Evidence about the driver:

  • The truck driver’s qualifications file and the training file
  • The driver inspection records
  • Post-collision drug and alcohol screening
  • The driver’s log – close examination can determine if the driver has falsified their log. Drivers report inaccurate data for many reasons – including earning more money for driving more miles in a short amount of time, off-the-books incentives (bonuses) from their employer for “good service” by delivering their load early; or trying to make up time for a late start.

Evidence involving the truck:

  •  Maintenance history
  • Inspection history
  • Data from onboard systems relating to the engine, brakes, etc.,
  • Data from onboard GPS tracking and communication systems

Evidence involving the truck’s load and cargo:

  •  Weight tickets
  • Bills of lading
  • Trip envelopes
  • Dispatch instructions
  • Delivery documents

An experienced truck accident attorney will know what evidence to collect – and how to collect it – for your case.

If you are involved in a truck accident, here is additional evidence that your attorney will be looking for:

  • Pictures from the scene of the accident. If you are injured and cannot take photos at the scene of the accident, request that a family member takes detailed photos of your injuries as soon as you are able to communicate with them. Police or media may also have pictures from the scene.
  • Testimony from you and/or other witnesses plus expert witness testimony from professionals about your injuries (doctors, EMTs, etc.,)
  • Medical records from your injuries. These can help predict your long-term prognosis which can affect the value of your claim.

Our Bakersfield truck accident attorneys have handled hundreds of truck accident cases. If you, or someone you love, has been involved in a truck accident, contact us today (661-323-1400) for a no-cost consultation with one of our truck accident attorneys.

What to Do if Your Insurance Benefits Are Impacted by Coronavirus

Posted in California on April 21, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is quickly changing the way of life for people across the world, including here in the United States. Governments across the country are issuing shelter-in-place orders, asking non-essential businesses to close or work remotely, and quickly ramping up health precautions for performing essential activities.

For many Californians, these changes mean loss of employment and insurance benefits as companies lay off workers to keep up with COVID-19’s economic impact. If you lose your insurance benefits during this uncertain time, you still have options to seek the health care you need. Speak to a Bakersfield Insurance Bad Faith Lawyer today.

Health Insurance Options for Unemployed Californians

During this global pandemic, it is more important now than ever to have health insurance coverage. If your insurance was a benefit at your former job and you lost your position due to COVID-19, you have options for coverage available to you.

 

  • If your company employs 20 people or more, you may be eligible to extend your insurance coverage under a federal rule known as COBRA. You have 60 days from your last day of work to sign up for COBRA, but this option can be quite expensive since you will have to pay the full premium by yourself.

 

  • You can also sign up for health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Losing your insurance benefits due to a lay-off is a qualifying event under ACA, allowing you to search for a new plan through the federal website or Covered California.

 

  • You may also qualify for Medicaid, a joint state and federal program that provides coverage to low-income Americans. Only certain individuals can receive this low or no-cost insurance option, and you can review the eligibility requirements on the Medicaid Program website. California’s Medicaid program is Medi-Cal.

 

If you did not have insurance from your employer and you remain uninsured during COVID-19, you still have options available to you. You can still apply for benefits under ACA, and California’s Medi-Cal program may also be available to you.

Options for COVID-19 Treatment in California

It is more important now than ever that healthcare professionals identify, treat, and quarantine individuals who have COVID-19. However, financial barriers may preclude many people from seeking this necessary assistance. Although health coverage in the United States can be expensive, many insurance companies are offering low-cost testing and treatment for COVID-19.

 

  • Kaiser Permanente is waiving members’ out-of-pocket costs for inpatient and outpatient procedures related to COVID-19.
  • Blue Shield of California is waiving cost-sharing and approvals for COVID-19 for its commercial and Medi-Cal plans.
  • Anthem will waive the out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus testing, as well as prior authorization to receive a test.

You can find a complete list of health insurance companies and their response to COVID-19 on the America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) website.

Applying for Unemployment Benefits in California

If you are a California employee impacted by COVID-19 and you have lost your source of income, you are eligible for certain state and federal benefits. Under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, you may receive the following.

  • Unemployment benefits from the state of California for up to 39 weeks
  • An additional $600 in federal benefits on top of what you would normally receive from the state, for a maximum of four months

You will need to submit an unemployment claim to California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) to claim these benefits.

If you lost your insurance benefits due to COVID-19 and you need health care immediately, the above solutions can help. If you need additional assistance filing a claim with an insurance company or the company denies your benefits, contact an attorney with experience handling bad faith insurance claims and other insurance disputes. Your attorney will be able to negotiate with the company on your behalf and pursue further action if necessary.