Frequently Asked Questions

Personal Injury Claims – Serving All of California

1. How much is my claim worth?

A person writing on a chalk boardThe type of injury you have suffered will generally determine the amount of money you may recover, but there are numerous other factors that need to be considered to determine the value of your claim. Often times the value of your claim will not be able to be determined until you have completed all necessary medical treatment and all of your physicians have completed detailed medical reports regarding all aspects of your injuries from the accident in which you were involved.

Other factors to consider are whether you incurred lost wages as a result of your inability to work due to the injuries you sustained in your accident.

The available insurance limits which are applicable to your accident are always a factor as well.

What is important is that your personal injury case evaluation is done throughly, professionally, and at a point in time when your doctor can predict the nature and extent of your injuries and percentage of recovery. Susan Handel takes pride in her thoroughness of her personal injury case evaluation process. On large more complex personal injury cases, Susan Handel obtains evaluations from expert medical doctors, vocational rehabilitation specialists and financial experts to determine the extent and total of your damages. After the completion of this process, Susan Handel can make a realistic evaluation estimate and enter into personal injury settlement negotiations with all responsible parties.

2. What financial compensation can I receive in a personal injury claim?

Past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, past and future pain and suffering, long term care costs, property damage, physical and mental anguish, loss of life, loss of companionship and more, all according to proof.

3. How can I hire Susan Handel?

Susan Handel will discuss the facts of  your personal injury claim with you in order to make the preliminary evaluation.  This meeting usually follows a phone call after you have initially discussed the facts pertaining to your case. General questions will be asked about your potential personal injury claim. There is no charge for this meeting, even if the case is not pursued by Susan Handel. If Susan Handel does recommend further investigation or legal action of your personal injury case, she will ask you to read and sign several medical releases and a written fee agreement which will allow her firm to gather all relevant information. This will allow her to investigate and evaluate your personal injury claim.

4. Why should I choose the Law Offices of Susan Handel to represent me?

Susan Handel has more than 20 years of experience in handling catastrophic injuries and wrongful death claims resulting from personal injury accidents. She has recovered many awards in excess of one million dollars on behalf of her clients.

Susan Handel offers experienced legal representation exclusively for injured individuals and the family members of those killed as a result of the reckless, careless or negligent conduct of others. Susan Handel practices law according to the highest standards of professional integrity. Susan Handel has access to the best medical specialists, accident reconstructionist experts, economists, and other expert witness who will assist her in presenting the strongest possible case on your behalf. For those in need of medical assistance, Susan Handel has access to excellent medical providers who will be able to treat you for your personal injuries at no up-front cost to you.

5. How can I see a doctor?

Many of our personal injury clients have already undergone extensive medical evaluation and treatment by the time they call our office. However, if for whatever reason you have not sought medical treatment for your injuries and are in need of medical treatment, Susan Handel can assist you in finding excellent medical care at no up-front cost to you.

6. Should I go to a doctor?

Even if you only feel a little shaken up, you should still see a doctor immediately after you have finished exchanging information with the other driver and law enforcement officers. Often, a doctor will be able to recognize early symptoms of a personal injury.  Getting treatment early instead of waiting until the discomfort becomes unbearable will help you make a faster and more complete recovery. Also, seeing a doctor right after the accident will provide a complete medical record of any injuries or symptoms. This will give you a stronger case if you decide to make a claim later on.

7. If I wasn’t at fault, do I still need to pay for my medical bills?

Although the at fault party and their insurance company may ultimately pay all or most of your medical bills, you will have to find a way to pay the mounting expenses until that time comes. One option is to use your health insurance or med pay coverage. Another option is to receive treatment under a lien with the healthcare provider. Often this is the only option for those victims who do not have health insurance or medical coverage under their automobile policy. Susan Handel will help you get the medical treatment you need at no up-front cost to you. If you do not yet have a doctor, Susan Handel can recommend a number of physicians or therapists who will be willing to treat you on a lien basis or we can contact your doctor about treating you on a lien basis. This means that you won’t have to pay your doctor or other medical provider until after your claim resulting from your accident has settled. Before entering into any contract with a medical provider be sure to ask for the advice of a lawyer so that you understand your rights and obligations.

8. If I am involved in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have insurance, do I have any options?

Absolutely! Unless you have signed paperwork from your insurance company stating that you did not want this type of coverage,  your auto insurance must compensate you for accidents involving uninsured motorists if the accident was the fault of the uninsured motorist and you are injured. If you are in an accident with a driver who is uninsured, you should inform your insurance company as soon as possible. Susan Handel will help you determine if you are covered with uninsured motorist insurance if you have been involved in an accident caused by an uninsured driver.

9. Should I speak to the other driver’s insurance company if they call me?

Never give a statement to the other driver’s insurance company without first consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney. If they call you, politely tell them you would prefer not to make a statement at that time. Then say goodbye and hang up. Don’t let the conversation go on too long. Insurance company claim adjusters are skilled negotiators who may attempt to trick you into giving up information that can hurt you later on. It is not uncommon for a representative of the other driver's insurance company to attempt to talk you out of contacting a lawyer. Don’t try to negotiate with the adjusters yourself. Once you have an accident attorney, your attorney will contact the claims adjuster and advise them that you are represented by a lawyer. At that point, the adjuster for the insurance company is no longer allowed to communicate with you. After they have received the contact information from your attorney, it is unethical and inappropriate for the other driver’s insurance company to contact you directly. If they call again, politely tell them to talk to your lawyer and then hang up immediately.

10. How does Susan Handel decide whether she takes a case?

Susan Handel is very selective about the cases she takes. She believes it is important to give 100% to cases she believes passionately in. Some of the factors she considers are the severity of your injury, the extent of evidence available to support your claim, the available insurance, and whether you as a client seem comfortable with her approach. Susan Handel is aggressive, but honest. As a client, you should be selective about who will be your lawyer as well. Remember that when you call Susan Handel you are interviewing her as well.  When interviewing a lawyer ask questions about their experience, attorney fees, areas of practice, and the time available to handle your case. Remember that it is important to find an attorney you like as a person.  You will be discussing important personal issues such as medical treatment and financial issues with your attorney as your case proceeds.  Make sure you pick someone you are comfortable with. Make sure you talk to your attorney and not just some attorney’s secretary, assistant or investigator. Susan Handel established her law firm with your best interests in mind.

11. How long does it take to determine whether or not I have a valid claim?

Many times all it takes is a simple telephone call to Susan Handel. Susan Handel has more than 20 years of experience in handling personal injury cases and she can also answer your questions accurately, quickly, and simply. However, if Susan Handel cannot completely answer your questions in one telephone call, she will do her best to find answers to your questions promptly and return your call very shortly. Susan Handel dedicates a significant amount of time to taking calls from individuals with serious questions and injuries related to personal injury accidents. If your injury or legal problem is complex, Susan Handel will take the time necessary to determine if she can help you.  Best of all, Susan Handel will not charge you any monies for that telephone call.

12. How much do you charge for your services?

Susan Handel takes cases on a contingency fee basis, so there is no attorney fee unless she obtains a settlement or judgment for you. Susan Handel will also advance the costs of your case for discovery, expert fees and other expenses, since these costs can be substantial and she understands that her clients may not be able to afford them. There is no financial risk in retaining Susan Handel’s services, because both her fees and the costs related to your case are only taken from your settlement or judgment after she obtains your recovery.

13. How long will my case take?

There are many variables which may affect the settlement process. Generally speaking, settlement negotiations cannot begin until you have completed your medical treatment.  Once you have completed your medical treatment, Susan Handel will need to verify the nature and extent of your injuries, whether you have residual symptoms as a result of your accident, whether you will need future medical treatment and how the accident has affected your functional abilities. Some things, like lost wages will need to be calculated as well. Once Susan Handel is well informed about all aspects of your case, she can approximate the length of time your case will take and will advise you of the same.

14. Will my settlement monies be taxable?

No. All monies that are paid by an insurance company to settle your case are not taxable. The IRS has ruled that these monies are compensation for loss and pain and suffering and thus, are not considered taxable income.

15. What should I do after an accident?

  • Call an ambulance immediately if you think anyone is injured. Do not attempt to move an injured person, unless the person is in immediate danger.
  • Call the police. The police will file a report about the details of an accident. This report will later strengthen your case. When the police arrive give them your complete cooperation. This will ensure that the police report is accurate and includes everything that you remember about the accident.
  • Take photographs of the scene of the accident.  Make sure you get pictures of the damage to any vehicles and the surrounding areas.  Try to keep a record of any skid marks or other details. Take the pictures after everyone is safe from harm, but before the cars are moved. Drawing a diagram of the accident scene can also be used for remembering details of the accident.  Write down any observations that may be important later, including weather conditions.  Make a note if any of the other drivers look like they have been drinking and driving under the influence of alcohol or any other substance.
  • Obtain the name and contact information of anyone at the scene of the accident.  This includes the drivers involved in the accident, their passengers and any witnesses.  You should get the names of emergency personnel, such as police and paramedics, who were at the scene of the accident. Don’t interfere with them doing their jobs. Get the information when everyone is out of immediate danger. Someone will also need to interview all the witnesses and write down their comments. Obtain the insurance information, driver’s license number and registration information from all of the drivers involved in the accident and provide your own information to the other drivers.
  • See a doctor as soon as possible. Even if you feel fine, you may have injuries that you are unaware of, and these injuries will be easier to treat if you catch them early. A complete medical record of your injuries will also strengthen your case if you decide to file a claim.
  • Call Susan Handel.  The sooner you contact an experienced accident lawyer, the sooner that lawyer can take steps to gather and preserve any uncollected evidence while it is still fresh. Even if some time has passed since your accident occurred, you can contact Susan Handel to speak with her about your case.
  • Contact your insurance company. Check your insurance policy to find how much time you have to notify your insurance company with information about your accident. If there is time, obtain legal advice before making a formal statement to your insurance company, but don’t wait too long to provide them with complete information or you may lose your right to have insurance coverage for this accident. Don’t talk to the other driver’s insurance company without consulting with experienced accident attorney Susan Handel.

16. What should I not do after an accident?

  • Never flee the scene of an accident. Even if the accident wasn’t your fault, leaving the scene of the accident without determining if the other driver is okay and exchanging insurance information is considered a hit and run. Hit and run accidents are criminal offenses that come with thick fines and possible time in prison.
  • Never move any injured person unless they are in immediate danger. Immediate danger means that they are trapped in the wreckage of a vehicle that is in danger of catching fire, or they are in the path of oncoming traffic that you are unable to divert. In almost every case, it is best not to move a person who has been injured in an accident. If the victim has any broken bones, and especially if there is a spinal injury, you could cause further injury and possible paralysis. Call an ambulance and then wait it out.
  • Never apologize to the other driver. If the accident really was your fault then this information will come out during the investigation. If the accident wasn’t your fault, then an apology will likely be used against you in court if the other driver decides to file a claim. Find out if anyone is hurt, give your name and insurance information and then say no more.
  • Don’t tell anyone at the scene of the accident how much automobile insurance coverage you have. The other driver needs to know that you have automobile insurance, but if you reveal how much your coverage is worth, he or she may be more likely to file a claim against you.
  • Never accept any monies at the scene of the accident. Until you can figure out the extent of your injuries and the damage to your car, you have no idea what would be fair payment for your situation. Accepting money without consulting an accident attorney can also cause you to lose your right to file a claim later.

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