Fresno Car Accident Lawyer
In the blink of an eye, your life can change forever. Accidents happen every day, sometimes with devastating results. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 39.5 million doctor’s office visits and 29.4 million ER visits are related to unintentional injuries, including those from motor vehicle accidents and slip and falls.
If your injury was caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be able to recover financial compensation for the losses that you have suffered. California law allows victims in personal injury cases to recover money for both the harms and losses, such as medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering from another’s carelessness. A skilled Fresno personal injury lawyer can help you through the process, working you to get the highest possible settlement or jury verdict.
At Nunes Law, we have substantial experience helping individuals who have been hurt in all types of accidents throughout Fresno and the Central Valley region. We offer free consultations, and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you.
Types of Personal Injury Cases We Handle
Our law firm is committed to advocating for Californians who have been hurt because of another person or entity’s negligence. We represent clients in a range of personal injury cases, including:
- Car accidents
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist claims (accidents?)
- Motorcycle accidents
- Commercial truck collisions
- Premises liability (slips, trips, and falls)
- Wrongful death
- Dog bites
- Product liability (dangerous and defective products)
- Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
- Burn injuries
Attorney Frank Nunes has extensive experience representing victims in Kings County, Kern County, Madera County, Fresno County, Tulare County, and Merced County. With a long history in the region, our law firm has the local knowledge and courtroom experience to help you achieve the best possible outcome.
Filing a California Personal Injury Claim
California personal injury cases are based on a theory of negligence, (carelessness) which is the failure to use the care or caution that a reasonable person would in a similar situation. To prove negligence, you must introduce evidence of four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages.
- The defendant (wrongdoer) owed the plaintiff (victim) a duty of care;
- The defendant breached or violated the duty of care through negligence;
- The defendant’s violation caused harm to the plaintiff (causation); and
- The plaintiff suffered damages as a result.
In some cases, the duty of care is obvious — such as the duty for all California drivers to use reasonable care when operating their vehicles. If a person breaches that duty, such as by speeding or not looking before changing lanes, then they may be held legally responsible for any injuries that they cause through a car accident case.
The plaintiff also has the responsibility of showing that the defendant’s breach was the “but for” cause of their injuries. In other words, they would not have been hurt but for the defendant’s actions. Finally, the plaintiff must prove that they suffered losses from the accident, such as by introducing medical bills, wage statements, or other evidence.
In California, most personal injury cases must be filed within two years of the injury or accident. This is known as the statute of limitations. If you fail to file a claim within that time period, then you may be barred from recovering.
The majority of California personal injury claims settle before trial, or sometimes without a lawsuit being filed at all. The likelihood of a favorable settlement depends in part on your attorney’s trial experience and negotiation skills. If the defendant’s insurance company knows that your lawyer is prepared to take the case to trial, they may be more willing to offer you a settlement that fully compensates you for your losses.
While going to trial can be stressful, it is sometimes necessary in order to achieve the best possible outcome. Your Fresno personal injury attorney can advise you on your options and help you determine if going to trial is worth the risks.
What Damages Can I Recover in a Fresno Personal Injury Case?
In a California personal injury claim, an injured person may be entitled to three different types of damages: economic, non-economic, and punitive. The value of your case will depend on a number of factors, including evidence of fault, the defendant’s insurance policy limits, and the nature and severity of your injury.
Economic damages compensate you for the monetary losses that you have suffered as a result of an accident. They may include items such as past and future medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and reduced earning capacity. Economic damages may be proved through bills, invoices, and other documentation, or through the testimony of expert witnesses.
In contrast, non-economic damages are meant to compensate you for intangible losses. Examples of non-economic damages include scarring, disfigurement, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. These items can be harder to prove, but a skilled attorney will use their knowledge of similar cases and the input of experts to help develop a claim for non-economic damages.
Finally, punitive damages may be available in situations where the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly. Punitive damages are meant to punish a wrongdoer and deter others from engaging in similar conduct. They are rarely awarded in personal injury cases because most claims involve negligent — rather than intentional or reckless — conduct.
What To Do After an Accident
If you are hurt in any type of accident, including a car crash, the first and most important step to take is to seek medical care immediately. Doing so will protect both your health and any future legal claim. Otherwise, insurance companies may argue that your injuries aren’t related to the accident or that your condition is worse because you didn’t seek medical treatment right away.
After you see a doctor, you should contact a Fresno personal injury attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can protect your rights and ensure that you are not taken advantage of in a vulnerable moment by an insurance company. During a free initial consultation, you can learn more about your legal rights and what to do to preserve your claim.
It may be tempting to take a quick settlement offer from the insurance company. After an accident, you may be overwhelmed by pain, mounting medical bills, and your inability to work. Accepting a settlement offer may seem like the easiest and best way to move forward — but it may result in you losing important rights and getting far less compensation than you need.
Insurance companies are not invested in making sure that you get the most possible money for your injuries. Instead, their goal is to maximize their own profits. They do this by denying or minimizing legitimate claims.
Insurers typically have teams of lawyers and adjusters who handle personal injury cases. Having your own attorney levels the playing field, and gives you a fighting chance of getting the compensation that you deserve. Your lawyer can handle all communications with the insurance company on your behalf, negotiate a favorable settlement, or take your case to trial to ensure that you get a fair result.
The 5 Most Important Things to Do After an Auto Accident in California
1. If you are hurt, or believe you may be injured, seek medical treatment immediately.
If you don’t have insurance call Nunes Law and we can provide you with options to get medical treatment now.
2. You should report the accident to your insurance company.
Most automobile insurance companies require the policyholder or someone making a claim on the policy to report the accident to the insurance company soon after the accident. Failure to report the accident to your insurance company can cause them to deny covering the claim. We have dealt with all of the major insurance companies. See our resources section for auto insurance company phone numbers and online claim forms. Or call Nunes Law and we can help get your accident claim reported to your insurance company.
3. Report the accident to the police, California Highway Patrol or other authorities.
In some instances, your insurance policy may require you to report the accident to the police, Highway Patrol or other law enforcement agency. This is particularly important if the driver of the other involved vehicle did not have automobile insurance or in cases where the other driver leaves the accident scene, such as a hit and run case.. Some insurance companies require drivers insured under a policy to report these types of accidents within 24 hours of the accident.
4. You may have to report the accident to the DMV.
California Law Requires the owner or operator of any vehicle involved in an accident with $750 in vehicle damage or injury to a person a driver(s) must report the accident, to the DMV using this form: Traffic Accident Report SR 1. You can also call Nunes Law to discuss reporting the accident. Report the accident to the DMV within 10 days — even if the accident was not your fault! Call Nunes Law and we can help you report the accident to the DMV.
5. Take pictures of your vehicle and the other party’s vehicle.
Since most people now carry cellular telephones with cameras, you can use that to take vehicle pictures. Try to get pictures of the sides of both vehicles. If there is little visible damage, try to photograph under the vehicle for possible frame damage. If you do not have a camera, contact Nunes Law and we can get you a camera.
Do You Need an Attorney After a Car Accident?
In most situations — particularly if someone has been injured — it is a very good idea to consult with an auto accident attorney after any motor vehicle crash. Why? Because whether and how much compensation you receive for medical bills, time off work due to injuries, and other losses will usually depend on offers of settlement by insurance companies. But the insurance adjustor’s job is not to look out for your best interests. It’s best to have an experienced attorney review any offers and investigate your case further before you make any decisions.
You were involved in an accident in California, and you want to know what we have to prove to show the other driver’s legally responsible for your harms and losses. In California, that’s called negligence. What exactly is negligence? Well, in layman’s terms, it can be described as carelessness, and it happens by either someone’s actions or failure to take the appropriate action in a certain situation, and it judges that person’s standard of care, whether or not it was reasonable in light of the circumstances in which it occurred.
For example, if someone is driving too quickly down the road and cannot stop their car in time to avoid hitting the car in front of them, which is stopped, that person is negligent. They were driving too fast or they were not keeping enough distance between the front of their car and the rear of another person’s car to avoid a collision.
What is Preponderance of Evidence
So, you were involved in a car accident. It wasn’t your fault. You’re contemplating whether you should make a claim or even perhaps make a lawsuit, but you are concerned about what you have to show in order to prevail in a lawsuit. Well, in California we use the preponderance of the evidence standard. It’s the slightest standard, meaning more likely than not something is true than not true. For example, more likely than not, is it true that the other driver was, in fact, careless or negligent? Or, was it more likely than not true the other driver was not, in fact, careless or negligent? And, the scales are very light, and they just require the slightest tilt from one side to the other.
It’s a much lower standard that you are aware of in watching movies on TV involving criminal cases. Those involve a higher level of standard called, “beyond a reasonable doubt”. In this case, it’s simply the preponderance standard: Is it more likely than not true that something did or did not occur? Is it more likely than not true that the driver was negligent? Is it more likely than not true that the harms caused by the accident were related to the other driver’s carelessness? These are the types of questions you will face when you are contemplating whether to bring a claim, or even a lawsuit.
Why is your insurance company paying the bills if the other driver was at fault?
You were involved in a collision caused by another person’s carelessness, and you want to know, “Why is your insurance paying the bills when the other driver’s insurance company should be paying them”? Well, the reason is simple: If you have full coverage, typically submitting the claim to your own insurance company is going to allow them to pay for your car, and then they will seek reimbursement for what they pay on your car from the other driver’s insurance company. This is done through a process called subrogation. But, what it really means is that your insurance company will take care of your harms and losses, and then they will seek reimbursement from the other driver’s insurance company for the amount that they’ve paid. It also works with your medical payments coverage.
Oftentimes, your own insurance will start paying your medical bills because the other driver’s policy will not pay them until the medical treatment has been concluded. You want to know, “Why is my insurance company paying my medical bills, and why isn’t the other driver paying them instead?” Well, the answer is, there’s no fault involved when you are having your insurance company pay your medical bills. They’re paying the bills for you as they’re incurred, as opposed to waiting until all of your treatment is done and reimbursing you for them.
Another question I get when your own insurance company pays is, “Will my rates go up” or “How will this affect my rates?” In California, rates do not go up when the collision is not your fault. Insurance companies are free to do as they choose, but typically, when the crash is not your fault your rates will not go up, and the point will go against the driver that was at fault.
What is Causation?
You were involved in an accident. What happens if we can’t prove causation in your case? Causation is a legal theory that shows the harms and losses that someone suffers must have been the result or caused by somebody else’s carelessness or failure to act. Many times it’s done in a what’s called ‘but for’ test. In other words, “but for the driver driving carelessly, you wouldn’t have been hurt”. So that is the causation test. There must be a link between the other driver’s carelessness and the injury you suffered.
If you come down with something that’s completely caused by a different source, it can’t be attributed back to the other driver’s negligence or failure to act carefully. If we cannot show the link between the other driver’s carelessness and your injuries, then we can’t prove the case because there is no link and causation. This often requires the services of a trained attorney, such as myself, to evaluate your case and help you make a decision about the issues of causation. If you’re reading this, you have questions. I have answers. I’d like you to pick up the phone and call me at 866-637-9578.
What to expect when you file a lawsuit.
You were involved in an accident, and now you want to know if you need to take your claim to the next stage of being a lawsuit, but you’re not sure about what kind of commitment you’ll have to give for it to be a lawsuit. Well, let me tell you the basic time commitments and processes that are involved in a lawsuit. Once a lawsuit is filed, the parties typically engage in what is called discovery. And that is just what it entails. They are learning facts about each other’s case. That brings the client into the lawsuit because he or she will have to answer questions, provide documents or other items that are important to establishing what actually happened in the underlying crash.
After this discovery is exchanged, it typically involves a client coming to the attorney’s office or an agreed-upon location to give a deposition. What is a deposition? A deposition is essentially a question and answers session about the person who’s making the claim to give the facts of the crash, the facts of their damages, discuss all the harms and losses, and any other information that can be important to the underlying facts of the case. The only caveat with a deposition is that it’s given under oath, which means you have an obligation to tell the truth about the things that you say in the deposition.
Once the discovery process is complete, usually capping off with a deposition, there will be some attempt to resolve the case short of the expense and burden of going to a full-blown trial. This is through a process called dispute resolution. The most common dispute resolution practice currently is called mediation. Mediation is a process where the two sides get together with a mutual third party and discuss the positives and negatives of each other’s case and try to work out a compromise somewhere between the middle of the two sides so the case can be resolved. It’s often very successful, and it’s a very good time when the parties can see the other side’s case from the other perspective and realize the strengths and weaknesses of their own side.
If the mediation process doesn’t work, then you’ll be going to a trial. A trial can last anywhere from as short as an hour to several weeks or even months at a time, depending on the issues in your case.
What to do if you receive a letter from insurance company saying your 51% or more at fault.
You get a letter from your insurance company saying you’re 51% or more at fault. What do you do, especially when you know it wasn’t your fault for the accident? Well, the thing you should do is contact your attorney and let him know about the letter. He or she will take the time to contact your insurance company and make sure they have all the facts necessary to make what is called a liability determination.
The worst thing you can do is not to respond, because if you don’t give it to your attorney to respond, then the insurance company is going to put the blame on you for the collision. Why is this important? Because oftentimes the insurance companies don’t have all of the information they need to make the determination for who is at fault, and that determination can go against you.
Reach Out to a Fresno Personal Injury Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one have been hurt by someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to compensation for the full amount of your losses. A seasoned Fresno personal injury lawyer can help.
At Nunes Law, we have years of experience handling all types of California personal injury claims. We offer free initial consultations and represent all personal injury clients on a contingency fee basis — which means that you pay nothing up-front, and only pay us a fee if we get money for you. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, contact us today at 559-436-0850 or email us at any time.