Personal Injury Attorneys & Car Accident Lawyers San Diego's Most Trusted Personal Injury Law Firm since 1992
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"Hiring Michael Pines was the smartest move I made after I got into an accident. With his help and expertise, I got a settlement that exceeded my expectations!"
 - Julie Smith, San Diego.

Frequently Asked Questions.

General Questions

Legal Questions

Auto Accident Questions


Is Money Required to Hire Our Offices?

No. At the Law Offices of Michael Pines, you will not have to pay anything until we get you a settlement from your personal injury lawsuit. If you suffer from a personal injury and want to find out if you should file a personal injury claim, feel free to call our offices at 1-800-655-6585 or you can click here for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney.

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Can I Hire You Even If I Already Have Another Attorney?

Yes, you can. We will handle all the details so that you don’t need to contact your previous attorney. As a client, you have the sole right to choose your lawyer, at any time.

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If I Hire Another Attorney, Do I Have To Pay Each Attorney In Full?

No, you only have to pay for one attorney if you were injured due to an accident.

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Can You Help Me if I Have No Health Insurance?

Who gets charged with the medical bills if you are involved in a car accident that is not your fault, you or the responsible car accident driver? You might think you nothing wrong, so why should you get all of the bills? The hospital and other medical providers will send all medical bills directly to the person injured in the car accident, even when they were not at fault.

If you are hurt and have health insurance, the retail hospital charges are reduced because most health care providers have pre-set — or prearranged — billing for each medical service. Meaning, those with health insurance pay much less (like having a medical care discount card).

On the other hand, if the injured person in the car accident has no health insurance, this usually means that person either doesn’t have a job that pays benefits or as much money as the person that has health insurance.

This year alone, there were about 50 million uninsured people in the U.S. These people pay the retail amount for health care, which is sometimes up to nine times greater than what health insurance would cost. Patients have told our lawyers they believe they did not get the same level of health care as if they had health insurance, such as x-rays, MRIs, and possibly overnight stays in the hospital for further observation.

New California laws may assist some in this situation, but the unfair two-level treatment still continues. California still has two medical prices:

  • For those with health insurance, which you might call “wholesale prices” for auto accident medical care.
  • Retail prices for auto accident medical care for those without health insurance.

The challenges do not stop with unfair health insurance costs. Your car accident claim may be affected by your health insurance or the fact that you do not have any health insurance. For example, the insurance company may input the retail or the wholesale figures when figuring out a fair financial settlement for you.

As experienced personal injury attorneys, we are aware of the latest California laws to make sure that you get the most amount of money for your past, present and future medical bills, loss of earnings and human pain and suffering, even if you do not have health insurance.

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What is Negligence?

Negligence is a legal term used to describe wrong-doing that is done by someone — generally to another person. Negligence refers to conduct that is wrong as a result of someone not taking the necessary steps to reasonably protect someone else from injury.

In automobile accidents, negligence is used in order to obtain a financial recovery for your injuries. There are four general considerations taken into account when deciding whether or not someone has been negligent:

  • Duty of Care – Each driver has a responsibility to surrounding people (including motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians) to drive safely and obey the laws to prevent car accidents from happening.
  • Breach of Care – Simply defined, this means someone fails to do any of the things that someone has responsibility for, such as safely driving an automobile — speeding for example.
  • Causation – In order for someone to be at fault in a car accident, it must be proven that the injuries and damage that result are actually caused by the accident. Basically, you must show that your back pain is the result of the car accident and not the result of some other activity, such as lifting something heavy later that day or participating in a sport that can cause injuries.
  • Damages – Damages include car accident related injuries to your person as well as damage to your car. An auto accident insurance company may pay you money for injuries that were caused by a car accident. For example, if you have whiplash and have to go to the chiropractor for treatment, the damages could include the chiropractor’s bill as well as any time you may have missed from work as a result of your injuries.

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What is a Deposition?

Car accident claims sometimes require a lawsuit. In those cases, usually an insurance company gives unjustified excuses why they should not pay. If a lawsuit occurs, a very common method of gathering information by the insurance company’s lawyer is called a deposition.

A deposition, for an auto accident, is a discussion of your car accident, taken under oath by the attorney for the responsible person in front of a court reporter. The court reporter types out everything that is said (it looks likes a magazine with questions and answers).

You should take a deposition as seriously as you would your testimony at trial because if you say anything different at trial, the insurance company lawyer will use that against you, asking “When were you telling the truth, at the time of the deposition six months ago or now?”

In preparation for your auto accident deposition, you should:

  • Do not bring any materials, including personal notes, to the deposition room unless they have been specifically reviewed and approved in advance by your personal injury lawyer.
  • Listen carefully to each question before answering insurance company lawyer’s question.
  • Answer every question honestly. You are under oath and false answers and lying may have severe legal consequences.
  • Do not volunteer information. Always think before answering a question.
  • Speak slowly, clearly and loud enough so that the court reporter will be able to take down every word.
  • Be polite, as the insurance lawyer will form an impression of you as a witness.
  • You do not have to give an answer. Rather, you are there to give your best testimony, not guess.
  • If asked about a document, read it carefully before providing a response.
  • Think about, pause, and speak slowly before beginning each answer.
  • Do not argue with the insurance company’s lawyer but be courteous.
  • You may talk privately with our law firm’s car personal injury lawyer at any time. Our job, amongst many things, is to protect your from being harassed and make sure that you are asked proper questions.
  • You may, where appropriate, qualify your answers with words such as “to the best of my recollection…” and “I believe…”
  • Do not guess.
  • Answer only the question that is asked. Do not anticipate or assume questions.
  • If told not to answer a question by your personal injury lawyer, do not answer the question.
  • Do not do anything unexpected unless you have first discussed it with your auto accident attorney.
  • Be mindful that this deposition is only one phase of the case.
  • Do not hesitate to say that you do not know something.
  • On complicated or difficult questions, you may state that you need time to consider the answer. Meaning, think the answer to this question quietly to yourself, not out loud where the auto accident lawyer for the insurance company will take advantage of your over answering the questions.
  • If you feel tired or uncomfortable at any point, do not hesitate to ask for a break.
  • Do not be influenced by the insurance company attorney’s friendliness, apparent cooperativeness or courtesy. Remember, the insurance company’s lawyer is out to pay you as little as possible. This attorney may even try to score points with an insurance company to obtain additional business on your behalf.
  • Finally, do not wear casual clothing, flashy jewelry or a lot of makeup at the deposition. Wear nice dress type clothing that you are comfortable wearing. Remember, a deposition could take several hours to complete and you do not want to be uncomfortable during the questioning. For example, if you never wear a suit, or perhaps do not wear a ties, do not wear any of these clothes. However, you should wear nice presentable clothes, as if you were going to a job interview at a nice company. Also, the deposition may even be videotaped to be played later in front of a judge or jury.

As experienced personal injury lawyers, we understand that the deposition process may appear daunting so we will explain and help guide you through this process.

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What is a Recorded Statement?

One of the methods that insurance companies use to investigate car accidents is a recorded statement. As the words suggest, the conversation is usually recorded over the telephone or sometimes the car accident insurance company will attempt to go to your home for an in-person statement with you.

In a recorded statement, you will probably be asked questions about the accident, your injuries, private medical information, date of birth and even your social security number. They usually last about 15 to 30 minutes, but some car accident insurance companies have been known to take much longer and, in our opinion, ask questions which are an invasion of your privacy — information they have no right to know!

Remember, the insurance company is not looking out for your best interest and anything you say will likely be used against you later on.

Recorded statements can sometimes be even more important, especially in a car accident when a police report was not made and there were no witnesses. The insurance company also uses the recorded statement of the responsible party to get their version of how the accident happened. Witness recorded statements are also taken, if possible.

Sometimes our auto accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Michael Pines do not recommend giving a recorded statement at all. If we do allow it, we like to have at least received the police report and make sure that you are not taking any medications that would cause you to not be able to give clear answers.

As experienced car accident lawyers, we will be able to assist you with recorded statements by scheduling the recorded statement as a conference call with the claims representative. We will not let the insurance company take advantage of you or ask you questions which have nothing to do with the car accident. As a condition of giving a recorded statement, we would insist on having a both a copy of the tape and a written transcription of what was said.

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What is Subrogation?

Companies that have paid money on your behalf might use a word most people may not know, subrogation. Subrogation is the right to recover for any payments they made to you from the responsible person in a car accident. That is because insurance companies, and whoever paid any monies on your behalf, do not want you to recover a settlement twice — once from your own auto accident insurance company and the other time from the responsible driver’s car accident insurance company — for the same car accident.

Your insurance company will generally attempt to recover any monies it has paid on your behalf from the responsible driver’s car accident insurance company and reimburse you for your deductible. In many cases, car accident insurance companies have special expedited procedures to enable this recovery for property damage, usually this process is called inter-company arbitration (where a third party, usually one person chosen by both insurance companies, makes a decision who should pay, whether in full or a partial payment).

Most health insurance policies have a hidden right of subrogation clause in their contract with you. When you are injured in a car accident that was not your fault and you use your own health insurance to pay for your medical treatment, your health insurance company has the right to recover from the person who was responsible for the car accident.

It is important for you to know how much you need to give back of what was paid to you. This is usually determined by who paid for the medical treatment, and this can be quite complicated. In addition to contracts, there may be legal duties to reimburse as well (e.g., Medi-Care under the Federal Health Care Recoveries Act; Medi-Cal, under California’s Welfare & Institutions Code, and the United States Military under Federal law).

Another way to look at subrogation is to understand that subrogation is just a battle, while the war concerns how much money you will actually receive in your pocket after your car accident is settled.

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Can I Get a Rental Car After an Auto Accident?

Yes. There are usually two ways to get a rental car.

  • The faster way is if you have rental car coverage from your insurance company. If so, they will usually pay up to their stated money limit for a rental car.
  • Another way is to get one from the insurance company from the person that caused the car accident. This method is much more common because most people don’t have rental car coverage with their own car insurance company.

With both examples, you are generally not able to get extra car insurance, only the money for the rental car. A car accident can leave a person without a car to drive. Not having your car can only cause problems. For example, if you depend on your car to drive to school, work and run personal errands, it is important to get a temporary, rental car.

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Are Employers Responsible for Car Accidents Caused by Their Employees?

In most circumstances, yes.

For example, if a Federal Express delivery driver should hit you, Federal Express is usually responsible for their driver’s poor driving. Another benefit is that the employer will usually have more car accident insurance than the person driving the responsible vehicle.

It may be important to show that the responsible person was working at the time of the accident. This often involves special legal investigation and research. Additionally, large companies that are involved in personal injury claims spend more money to defend their claims and often hire expensive lawyers to represent them.

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Are Parents Responsible for Car Accidents Caused by Minors?

If someone is involved in an car accident, and the person responsible for the automobile accident is a minor, the first question our firm is asked when this situation arises is, “Are the minor’s parents responsible for the injuries and damages their child has caused.”

Parental liability is the legal term used to refer to a parent’s responsibility to pay for damages caused by their child. In California, a minor is a person under 18-years-old. Parental liability, if any exists, typically ends once the child reaches the age of 18.

Generally speaking, a parent is not legally responsible for a minor’s negligence. One of the most common examples of negligence is a car accident caused by inattention to road conditions, running a red light, drunk-driving (DUI) or speeding. If a minor causes an automobile accident and has minimal automobile insurance (California law generally requires a driver to carry only $15,000 per injured person or $30,000 for all person injured in an accident), an injured person will not be able to seek additional money from the minor’s parents.

While there is usually no parental liability for a car accident, there is a common exception to this rule if a parent allows their minor child to drive a car when the parent knows the minor child has been drinking alcohol. In cases like this, you can claim the parent is responsible for your injuries because the parent was also negligent for entrusting, and providing, automobile to a person they know, or should have known, is unable to safely drive — otherwise known as the negligent entrustment theory.

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What If the Person that Caused My Car Accident Has No Auto Insurance?

According to the Insurance Research Council in 2007, California has around 26 million licensed drivers and estimates that 22 percent of them are uninsured. This means that about one in four drivers has no automobile insurance. This can vary depending upon individual cities, but remember, just because you are in a good part of town does not change the fact that people without car insurance can drive almost anywhere.

An uninsured driver does not have any automobile accident insurance, while an under-insured driver simply does not carry enough automobile accident insurance to pay for injuries or damages caused by an accident. California law generally requires a driver to carry at least $15,000.00 per injured person or $30,000.00 for all person injured in an accident.

Many uninsured drivers are responsible for the most serious accidents:

Additionally, many uninsured drivers do not have enough personal assets to reimburse an injured person even with a successful lawsuit. This makes recovering an auto accident settlement or judgment from an uninsured driver almost impossible.

If you are involved in a car accident, and the person who caused the accident has no automobile insurance or does not carry enough automobile accident insurance to pay for your injuries and damages, your uninsured motorist coverage on your automobile policy should cover you. You’ll need to check with your individual car accident insurance company to double check. Uninsured motorist coverage can also apply whenever a hit-and-run driver causes an auto accident, as long as there is actual physical contact from the hit-and-run driver’s car.

There’s another important factor regarding under-insured motorist coverage. If the driver responsible for the accident carries liability limits of $15,000 per person, you may not be able to make a claim for additional financial compensation under your policy unless you carry uninsured/under-insured motorist policy limits greater than $15,000. For example, if a teenage drunk driver causes an accident and carries the lowest limit of liability insurance (usually $15,000), and you have $30,000 in uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage, you will have the ability to make a claim with your own insurance company for an additional $15,000 — the monetary difference between the two policies.

Uninsured motorist coverage must be offered on all automobile policies sold in California, unless it is rejected by the person who purchased the car accident insurance. While many people are nervous to use their own insurance for any type of claim for fear that their insurance rates will increase, your uninsured motorist coverage is designed to compensate you for a personal injury caused by a driver who is uninsured or inadequately insured. If you carry uninsured motorist coverage, it will usually be designated with letters “UM” on the declaration page which summarizes an automobile insurance policy’s coverage.

It is also important to know how much is covered by your uninsured motorist’s car accident insurance policy. Uninsured motorist insurance should cover you, your passengers and all family members who reside in your household. Your uninsured motorist coverage may also apply to any passengers in your car and any other people driving your car with your permission. Uninsured motorist vehicle coverage can also apply whenever anyone, who is covered by the policy, is injured by a driver who is uninsured or under-insured, even if you are a bicyclist or a pedestrian.

You may find out that your own insurance company can be very difficult to deal with as they would step into the shoes of the responsible uninsured motorist. Remember, the injured person has one chance at justice and a fair settlement to pay for all of the injuries in an accident. You may find that your own car accident insurance company will attempt to pay you as little money as possible.

Please remember, you should consult with an experienced California accident attorney if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident that involves an uninsured or under-insured driver.

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How Are Car Accidents in Mexico Handled?

Car accidents, that occur south of the border in Mexico, are generally not covered under your American insurance policy; however, there might be a special clause buried in your policy that states accidents within so many miles from the Mexican-U.S. border may be covered.

With this in mind, what is the best way to protect yourself if you are going to be driving into Mexico (e.g. from San Diego to Tijuana, B.C.)? As experienced car accident attorneys, we recommend that you purchase Mexican Driver’s Insurance for your time spent in Mexico before you cross the border.

If you are injured in a car accident in Mexico by a U.S. resident, you may have the right to hold that person liable in the U.S., not Mexico, which is very likely a big logistical nightmare.

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Call Us Now to Maximize Your Personal Injury Settlement

If the unfortunate happens and you do get into a car accident, the best thing you can do for yourself is to seek legal representation quickly. Experienced personal injury lawyers, like the ones at our San Diego firm, will help you avoid costly mistakes many people make when dealing with insurance companies who are often looking out for their best interests, not yours.

Remember, you only get one settlement for personal injury. Don’t you think you should do everything in your power to maximize your personal injury settlement?

If you or a loved one were injured in an automobile accident you didn’t cause, then we urge you to contact our bilingual offices as soon as possible at 1-800-655-6585 or please click here for a FREE consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in San Diego. We handle all cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that you owe us nothing until we recover money on your behalf.

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