Tag Archive for Bikes Have Rights

Bikes Have Rights™*

Insurance Companies Are Not Your Friend

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

 
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP
 

Behind the warm and fuzzy jingles, the precocious animal mascots, and the deep-voiced spokespersons, insurance companies are faceless, heartless corporations whose one purpose is to increase premiums and to decrease payouts in order to make the biggest profits possible.

Simply put, THAT is why you need your own lawyer if you have a bike accident.

If insurance companies were “fair,” I’d be out of a job. I am pretty confident that unemployment due to insurance companies deciding to do the “right thing” is not something I have to worry about in my lifetime.

The reality is, after you have had a bike accident and the friendly insurance adjuster calls you, his (or her), goal is to come up with a reason not to pay you. If he can’t outright deny you compensation for your damages, he wants to diminish your case so the company has to pay you as little as possible.

Rest assured, everything you say to that nice insurance adjustor can and will be used against you in a court of law. That is why I – and every other personal injury lawyer – will tell you to refuse to speak to an insurance adjuster or insurance representative. Give the adjustor your lawyer’s name and phone number and hang up.

If you cooperate with the insurance adjuster and you are offered a settlement, it is likely that you are getting 10 cents on the dollar of the value of your case. I was once told by an adjuster that he received a bonus if he could settle a case within 48-hours.

Let me tell you about a case I handled. A client who had a Los Angeles bike accident injured his shoulder. He talked with the kindly insurance adjuster who sympathized and sent him to a doctor (an insurance company sending you to a doctor is a rare occurrence).

SURPRISE! The doctor recommended by the insurance company said my client’s shoulder was fine. The company offered my client $5,000 to settle his case.

My client’s shoulder really hurt. He finally engaged a lawyer (me), and I sent him to a doctor. The doctor I sent him to diagnosed a torn rotator cuff. He underwent surgery. We settled the case for $150,000.

Never forget that insurance companies have more knowledge than you do. They also employ an army of lawyers. They can throw more resources at your case than you even know exist. They have all the power, all the money, and the wherewithal to fight you when you are fighting alone.

You need an experienced personal injury lawyer to level the playing field. I have written here before about how to choose a lawyer, but it bears repeating to say you should look at how or where you got the referral, the lawyer’s experience in your type of case, and the results the lawyer has achieved.

Now go increase your uninsured motorist insurance to the maximum the insurance company will permit, and the next time you see an insurance company commercial, remember, they are not your friend.

*California Vehicle Code 21200: A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle. . .

For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com.

*Sponsored post

 

Guest Post: Bikes Have Rights™*

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Civil vs. Criminal Bike Lawsuits: How They Differ

 
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

 

Streetsblog LA reported recently on the 3-year and 8-months plea deal that was struck by Wendy Villegas, the drunk driver who struck three bicyclists, resulting in the death of one of them, Andy Garcia, on the bridge on Cesar Chavez Boulevard last Sept. 14. Villegas never even stopped. It is only because a witness followed Villegas and was able to get her license plate number that she was apprehended. When the police booked her at 7:15 a.m., it is reported that she was still intoxicated.

The post talks about the effect of the plea deal on Garcia’s family and friends. How they weren’t consulted about the deal and that their only permitted involvement was that they were allowed to read statements at the sentencing hearing about how Villegas’ actions affected their lives.

I bring this up because it is important for you to understand the differences between a criminal case and a civil case. There is a growing outcry that drivers who commit hit-and-runs should get stiffer penalties. Personally, I agree. However, when you are calling for stiffer penalties, do you mean stiffer criminal or stiffer civil penalties?

A criminal lawsuit is filed by the government (district attorney), not by the person or persons who have suffered at the hands of the accused. The district attorney is acting for the state (read as “society”) and ensuring the stability of society by punishing wrongdoers and deterring them and others from offending.

The hard truth is that you, as the victim or wronged party, are witnesses, at best, in the trial. The criminal case is about the wrongdoer being accused by the state of a criminal offense against society. Punishment for crimes against the state can be incarceration, fines, community service, or, in extreme cases, the death penalty.

In a civil suit, the lawsuit is brought by the wronged party (or parties). They are appealing to the court for relief. They are telling the court, “We have been injured because of the negligence or carelessness of the accused.”

The civil court’s response is to give the victim (the plaintiff), the chance to show how the accused (the defendant), harmed them. If the victim can prove they were harmed, then the court’s duty is “to make them whole.” This is usually accomplished by awarding the victim compensation for their injuries.

Before I discuss the issue of compensation making anyone “whole,” I want to talk about one more significant difference between criminal and civil lawsuits.

Everyone is familiar with the “O.J. trial.” O.J. Simpson was found not guilty by a jury for the murder of his wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in a criminal trial. Yet in the civil jury trial, O.J. was found guilty and was ordered to pay the Brown and Goldman families approximately $40 million.

How did that happen? There are probably numerous reasons, but the prominent reason I want you to know is the differences in “standard of proof” in criminal versus civil trials.

In a criminal trial the “standard of proof” is that the district attorney must convince the judge or every member of the jury that the accused is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In a civil trial, the “standard of proof” is that the victim must demonstrate that there is a “preponderance of evidence” that the accused is guilty. It only takes a judge or a majority of jurors to find the accused liable in a civil trial.

In the O.J. example, it is obvious that the jurors in the criminal trial had doubts of O.J.’s guilt, where in the civil trial, the lawyer’s for the families of the victims had to convince the jury that the evidence of guilt was “beyond the balance of probabilities.”

Returning to the issue of compensation of the law making anyone “whole,” everyone knows that money cannot bring back a loved one or heal the catastrophic injuries the victim and their family suffered, or give anyone back the time they have lost due to the wrongdoer’s actions.

Every client I have ever had for whom I obtained a multi-million verdict or settlement has told me that they would give back every penny to have their loved one back or the injury they suffered to never have happened.

In legal terms, “made whole” means through compensation (which is the only currency that is available to the court), to bring the injured party to the place they would have been if they had not been injured by the wrongdoer.  What “making whole” means in a legal sense varies by state laws.

In the Streetsblog post referred to earlier, the families are quoted as saying they are not interested in bringing a civil case. They have no interest in money. I understand, and they should do what is best for them. But never think that the compensation obtained for clients doesn’t matter to them. This isn’t “jackpot justice” as the public relations machines of Big Business and Big Insurance would like you to think.

The compensation allows people who have been injured at no fault of their own – or families who have lost a loved one due to the negligence or carelessness of another – to rebuild their lives. In some cases it has meant being able to adapt a home and car for a wheelchair or for retraining for another career or for paying for quality childcare. It invariably means being able to pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars for current and future medical care. In some cases the compensation is put in trust for a child’s future use, for college or other advanced education.

Just as importantly, when the wrongdoer is a government entity or a corporation, it sends the only punishment either of those understands: a hit to their bottom line.

There is no doubt in my mind that we need stronger criminal penalties against hit-and-run drivers. I also believe that we need to bring these people to justice in a civil court. It is only when their insurance companies start seeing what these people cost THEM (yes, I know that’s horrible, but that’s how companies work), will the insurance companies start applying their own form of punishments.

I know, after 30 years of representing some of the most wonderful people who never deserved the injuries and losses they suffered, that the compensation mattered to the victim and it punished the wrongdoer. That’s really all the courts can offer us.

*California Vehicle Code 21200: A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle. . .

For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.  For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com.*

*Sponsored Post

 

Guest Post: Bikes Have Rights™*

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Make Sure You’re Protected Before You Need To Be

 
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

 

I recently represented a cyclist who was the victim of a hit and run accident that broke almost every bone in his body and caused traumatic brain injuries. The driver of the car turned out to be a 19-year-old woman who was driving drunk. She claimed not to have known that she hit my client, in spite of his leaving nine teeth in her SUV’s back seat.

My client’s medical bills were astronomical and because of the brain injuries, his life would never be same. The compensation my client received from this case would be his primary source of income for the rest of his life. The woman’s insurance company wanted to settle the claim for “policy limits,” which is the maximum amount they are required to compensate a victim of serious personal injuries or even a wrongful death.

Policy limits is how much insurance you bought in a specific category. In California, you are required to carry car insurance of $15,000 per person for bodily injury liability; $30,000 per accident, which covers all persons hurt in one accident; and $5,000 for property damage liability for one accident. It is likely that your insurance policy includes a minimal amount of uninsured and under-insured auto insurance, but rarely is it a significant amount.

If you suffer catastrophic personal injuries or a family member is lost in a wrongful death due to a motor vehicle accident (car, bicycle, motorcycle, truck, bus, boat), your damages (medical and economic) could cost hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of dollars.

The person who was negligent is responsible for your damages. (In some cases, negligence may include one or more companies or a public entity like the state or a county, but for the purposes of this article we are focusing on individual drivers.) Their insurance company will cover those damages only to the limits of the individual’s insurance policy.

If the person who caused your accident owns a house or other property, you may be able to recover some monies from them after a long and expensive court process. You might even be able to garnish any money they earn or receive in the future.

But many drivers own nothing – or not enough – to ever come close to compensating you for your injuries or for your lost loved one.  You will be on your own to pay your medical and therapy bills, to subsidize your living expenses either for the short or long-term, to pay childcare expenses, and to replace your destroyed property.

The best way to protect yourself from this disaster is to carry as much uninsured and under-insured auto insurance as your insurance company will permit you to buy. The cost is pennies on the dollar.  The more you have to lose (meaning the more you own or could own in the future), the more uninsured and under-insured auto insurance you should have.

Uninsured and under-insured auto insurance protects you when you are hit by a driver who has no insurance (and a Los Angeles County sheriff told me recently that in approximately 50 percent of all motor vehicle accidents he sees the driver is uninsured). It also kicks in when you reach the maximum the OTHER driver’s insurance will pay. It compensates you for the difference between what the other driver’s policy limit is and the actual compensation you need to recoup from the damages caused by the accident.

Uninsured and under-insured auto insurance also protects you if you suffer serious personal injuries (or worse) in a hit-and-run accident. With the frightening rise in hit-and-runs, it is critical that you protect yourself.

In my client’s case, I was able to negotiate additional monies from the woman’s family. Though I was able to recover a multi-million dollar settlement for this client, it is still nowhere near what he should have received considering the damages she inflicted on him and for which he will have to live with for the rest of his life.

My hope for you is that you never need to use your uninsured and under-insured auto insurance, but I urge you strongly to get as much uninsured and under-insurance auto coverage that your insurance company will allow you to purchase, before you need it.

*California Vehicle Code 21200: A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle. . .

For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.  For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com.*

*sponsored post

Guest Post: Bikes Have Rights™*

The Bike Accident Lawyer You Choose

Can Make Or Break Your Case

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

By James L. Pocrass, Esq.

Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Last Sunday we attended the Los Angeles Bicycle Commuter Festival & Summit, which was organized by the Bicycle Culture Institute and its L.A. Bike Trains program. After helping to set up the Pocrass & De Los Reyes booth, I wandered around saying “hello” to old friends and making new ones.

As I was thinking about the many conversations I had with a variety of people at the festival, I was struck by the two things they all seemed to have in common: 1.) they all ride bikes and 2.) every one of them told me they’d been in a bicycle accident at some time in their life.

You wouldn’t think this would be such a revelation to me. After all, as a recreational cyclist, I, too, have been yelled at, “flipped off,” and only avoided a collision (so far), because I was more aware than the motorist was.

As a bike accident lawyer, I have handled hundreds of bike accident cases, which has allowed me to develop a relationship to many people who have suffered life-altering injuries, because of the negligence or carelessness of another. I see their struggle to heal: physically, emotionally and financially. As one of the exhibitors, whose accident left him with numerous pins in his leg and with a limp, said to me Sunday, “You heal, but you’re never the same.”

It’s a peculiarity of human nature that when we meet someone and they tell us their career, we have an urge to tell them our personal experience with their profession. We tell doctors our symptoms. We tell IT people our computer problems. And we tell bike accident lawyers about our bike accident case.

I never mind when people want to tell me about their bike accident case, even if it was resolved years ago. I am, though, very careful of how I respond. After all, I am hearing someone’s perspective, and I haven’t reviewed the case. I don’t want to Monday-morning-quarterback another lawyer.

There have been a few times (one of which happened last Sunday, which was the genesis of this post), that inside I was just shaking my head trying to figure out what the person’s lawyer was thinking. But I’m not going to go into that here.

Instead, I am going to give you the secret code of how to choose a lawyer. And though this information generalizes to all practice areas, I am going to use bike accident lawyers as an example.

Bike Accident Experience: does the lawyer have experience in handling bike accident cases? Just as you wouldn’t go to a foot doctor for a heart condition, you don’t want to go to a business attorney for a bike accident.

A bike accident attorney is very familiar with bike accident and motor vehicle law. These laws can be complicated, especially if a bicyclist is hit by a truck and then all sorts of federal or state laws could apply.

Another example is California’s comparative negligence law. This means that the court (or jury) can apply percentages of fault in a motor vehicle accident and a bicycle accident. So even if the cyclist is found to be 10 percent at fault, other entities could be found to be 90 percent at fault, and compensation is proportioned out on that basis.

This is particularly important in terms of liability. If you are hit by a car and the motorist’s policy limit is, for instance, $50,000, then that is all the compensation you could get regardless of the verdict or the settlement.

An experienced bicycle accident attorney knows how to determine if someone else could be partially responsible for the bike accident, in addition to the motorist. Maybe it is a dangerous road or signage is poor and that particular spot has a history of accidents. In those situations, a government entity may be brought into the case.

Verdicts and Settlements: check the attorney’s record of verdicts and settlements in bike accident cases. There are attorneys who have little or no trial experience and automatically settle with insurance companies. This will work to your detriment.

The insurance companies know which lawyers do not want to go – for whatever reason – to court. Lawyers who are known to avoid court give the insurance company license to low ball their offers, which means you may not get the full amount of compensation you deserve and which you may need desperately.

Resources: checking the attorney’s record of verdicts also tells you their experience at trial. Court trials are very difficult. Contrary to popular belief, juries do not automatically lean towards the plaintiff, which is, typically, you. In fact, because of the insurance companies’ decades-long public relations campaign of “jackpot justice,” juries are often prejudiced against people who bring lawsuits.

What evidence is admissible and allowed into “the record,” takes years of learning and skill. Trust me; it is nothing like what you see on television. Trials are a game of rules, and the outcome is often dependent on how well an attorney knows those rules.

But maybe most important for you to know is that going to court takes thousands and thousands – sometimes even more than a million – dollars. Medical experts (doctors) charge between $500 to $1,000 a day. Just filing a complaint with the court is almost $500. All of this money is typically paid for by your bicycle accident lawyer until the case is resolved.

If an attorney does not have the financial resources to fund your case, they may not take your case to trial. Especially in today’s economic climate, insurance companies are refusing to settle (hoping you will go away) or low-balling offers. It is critical that every case be prepared as if it is going to trial.

Today it is not unusual for the insurance company to “settle on the courthouse steps” or while the jury is deliberating. But I can guarantee, if the case was not taken to trial, the cyclist would get nothing or little in settlement in those types of cases.

Affinity with your Lawyer. It is very important that you are comfortable with your bike accident lawyer and with their staff. You will develop a very close relationship with all of these people. You want to make sure that they are there to respond to you in a reasonable amount of time, that they understand your particular needs, and that they explain the legal process in ways you can understand so that you can make informed legal decisions.

I am a great believer in the American justice system. Like most trial lawyers, I have seen justice prevail many more times than I have seen it fail. Yes, it could be improved (better funding for the court system would be the first place to start), but I believe in it. However, the one thing I know absolutely is that the lawyer you choose – for all your legal issues – can make or break your case.

*California Vehicle Code 21200: A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle. . .

………

For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.  For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com.

*Sponsored post

Guest Column: Bikes Have Rights™*

Today marks the second edition of the new guest column by LA bike lawyer Jim Pocrass. 

Yes, this is a sponsored placement. But he once again offers good advice — this time on how to help if you should come upon a downed rider.

……….

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

When You See A Cyclist Down

By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

Someone in my office came to me recently to tell me that as she was driving home she saw a bike accident. The car that had hit, presumably, the cyclist was parked nearby. There were a few people helping the cyclist, who sat in the middle of the road. She could hear the sirens of emergency vehicles that were on their way.

She said that though she wanted to stop to help, she felt that since there were people at the scene already, it wouldn’t be useful. So she didn’t stop. She asked me if I thought she should’ve stopped.

Upon thinking about the question, I told her I thought she should have. Because we work with so many cyclists who have been in bike accidents, we know what information the cyclist needs if they want to pursue a legal case.

In the immediate aftermath of a bike accident, even the most knowledgeable cyclist is probably shaken and stunned. If the cyclist has suffered serious personal injuries, they may be incapable of collecting the necessary information.

Also, there is no guarantee that the people who stop really know what information the cyclist – or the cyclist’s family – is going to need for legal action. More than likely, the people assisting the fallen cyclist are most concerned, understandably and rightfully, with the cyclist’s injuries.

If you see a cyclist down, of course the first thing to do is to call the police and to get the cyclist emergency medical assistance. If that is being done by others, you can best assist the fallen cyclist by writing down the following information:

  • Time & Place: Notate the time the accident happened as well as the location. You want to include approximate address, the nearest cross street(s), and the city.
  • Vehicle Information: Most importantly, get the license plate number and state. Note: if the cyclist was hit by a truck, you need to get the license plate number of both the cab and the trailer. They may be different. Write down the make, model, year, and color of the vehicle that hit the cyclist.
  • Driver Info: Get the driver’s name, phone, address, email, and driver’s license number (and state). Get the driver’s insurance information, including company and policy number.
  • Witness Info: Get the name, address, phone, and email of any witnesses (including any passengers in the vehicle).
  • Photos: One of the most helpful things you could do for the cyclist is to take pictures with your phone. You want pictures of the bicycle and of the car (multiple views and as close as possible). Then take multiple pictures of the scene of the accident, from numerous angles, as it relates to street signs, lights, corners, and curbs.

Once you have collected this information, write down your contact information, with a brief note that you have witness information and photos, and give it to the fallen cyclist, tuck it into the cyclist’s pocket, or give it to a paramedic to put with the cyclist’s possessions.

The worse the cyclist’s injuries are, the more important this information will be to the cyclist or to the cyclist’s family.

BikeCrashReportBACK r1 (2)You don’t need our help to do this, but we did create a free, wallet-sized guide to carry with you should you have a collision or should you see a fallen cyclist. You can either download a version of it here, or send us an email and include your mailing address and we’ll mail you a hard copy of the guide.

A very experienced cyclist, whose case we are handling, told us that he had one of our guides in his wallet when he had his bike accident, and he was so shaken he never thought about using it.

So let’s help each other and gather the information necessary to strengthen each fallen cyclist’s legal case. If people will not be careful around cyclists because it’s the right and legal thing to do, maybe they will change their behavior when they feel the sting from their pocketbooks.

*California Vehicle Code 21200: A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle. . .
……….
For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.  For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at info@pocrass.com.
 
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