| Read Time: 4 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

What Is the Product Liability Statute of Limitations in California?

After suffering an injury from the use of a defective product, it may be easy to feel lost or confused. Fortunately, injured persons may have the opportunity to file a lawsuit and recover from their injuries. To do so, it is important to understand product liability claims and the statute of limitations imposing a time restriction on filing a lawsuit. The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart is ready to help. If you have any questions or would like to speak with an experienced member of our team about a possible personal injury claim, contact us online or call (415) 577-4992 today. What Is a Product Liability Claim? Product liability claims arise when a defective product causes an injury. A product liability claim aims to hold the manufacturer or seller responsible for placing the defective product into consumers’ hands. There are three types of product defects that are likely to cause harm to consumers: Design defects—defects that present even before the product is actually produced, making the design of the product unsafe or unsuitable for consumers; Manufacturing defects—defects that occur during the manufacturing or assembly process; and Marketing defects—defects in the way a product is marketed, including inadequate instructions, inappropriate labeling, or insufficient warnings. Once an individual has suffered an injury or illness due to a defective product, the first step should be consulting with a product liability attorney as soon as possible. Filing a lawsuit to recover for injuries sustained may be an option, but there is not an unlimited amount of time to do so. A lawyer will help ensure the lawsuit is filed on time to avoid any bumps in the road. What Is a Statute of Limitations for Product Liability Claims? A statute of limitations is a law limiting the amount of time an individual has to file a lawsuit. These time limitations are imposed on all lawsuits, and the amount of time allowed depends on the type of lawsuit.  It is crucial to know and understand the statute of limitations for every kind of case. Failing to file a claim within the specified amount of time can prove detrimental. While the injured party can still file their lawsuit, they are unlikely to succeed. Once the opposing side discovers the statute of limitations has run, they will bring it to the court’s attention and the judge will throw out the case. For this reason, it is essential for individuals injured by defective products to speak to a California product liability attorney as soon as possible. Beginning the lawsuit process with plenty of time can provide invaluable peace of mind and a fair opportunity to receive a financial recovery. The California Product Liability Statute of Limitations Under California product liability law, the statute of limitations is two years from the time the injured party knew or should have known of their injuries. So, for example, if the injured person discovered their injury on December 1, 2020, they would have until December 1, 2022, to file their lawsuit. The language used for the product’s liability statutes of limitations is slightly different than that used for other types of lawsuits. The time clock for products liability claims does not begin to run until the injured party discovers or should have reasonably discovered their injuries. This differs from other kinds of claims, where the time clock begins to run on the date of a significant incident. If a defective product causes property damage along with injuries, the affected individual has three years from the date that the property damage occurred to bring their lawsuit. It is still wise to file a lawsuit within two years to avoid missing the chance to seek recovery for injuries.  Once the injured individual discovers their injury caused by a defective product, they should consult with a products liability attorney in California right away. Waiting can mean losing the chance to seek compensation. Why Is There a Statute of Limitations for Product Liability Claims? There are various reasons why most types of claims have a statute of limitations restricting the amount of time the plaintiff has to file. In particular, for products liability claims, there is a statute of limitations because: The defective product may have been destroyed over time; Important evidence can go missing or become unavailable; Access to medical records becomes more challenging as the years go on; and The more time goes on, the more difficult it is to assess injuries and damages caused by the defective product. The party injured by the defective product cannot stop the clock once it has started to run (except in very limited circumstances). Therefore, it is imperative to seek help from a qualified products liability attorney in California to preserve the right to fair compensation. Consult with a California Product Liability Lawyer Products liability cases can be challenging, and injured individuals may be unaware of the exact amount of time available to file a claim. Once you have discovered an injury or illness caused by a defective product, you should consult with a product liability lawyer in California right away. A product liability attorney will fight diligently for your right to receive financial compensation. With over thirty years of experience, Chuck Geerhart has had the privilege of representing countless injured California clients. Mr. Geerhart began his career working as a civil defense attorney, including on many product liability matters. This gives him a unique perspective as an attorney for injured victims, because he understands both sides of a claim and how defense attorneys think. The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart only takes on a small number of cases, allowing us to work closely with our clients and provide the best possible legal representation. Contact us online call (415) 577-4992 today to schedule a consultation.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

Recoverable Wrongful Death Damages in California

If your loved one dies because of another person or entity’s reckless, negligent, or intentional action, you may be entitled to receive wrongful death damages in California. Though you may be grieving, understand that you must take action within two years of the death of the deceased in order to bring a legal case for California wrongful death. Below, the experienced California wrongful death lawyers at The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart will go over the details about how the damages you can recover from a wrongful death case. If you have any questions or would like to speak with a member of our team, contact us online or call (415) 577-4992 today. Difference Between Punishment for Wrongful Death vs Criminal Homicide The wrongful death cause of action falls under the umbrella of personal injury lawsuits that you would file in civil court. Homicide is a cause of action brought by a prosecutor in criminal court. The difference in punishment between wrongful death and criminal homicide is that a wrongful death claim involves liability in terms of financial compensation. Criminal homicide involves jail, prison time, probation, or other sanctions.  Wrongful Death Damages in California Determining California wrongful death damages can be difficult because some of the components do not involve expense numbers. There are two types of wrongful death damages available. Damages are defined in the Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions 3921 (CACI), which are forms used to explain specific laws to jurors who must apply them. The two categories of wrongful death damages are economic and non-economic damages.  Economic Damages Financial compensation for expenses that can be reasonably quantified is economic damages. These are related to actual monetary costs that occur because of the death of the deceased. According to CACI 3921, these include: Financial support that the deceased would have contributed to the family; Loss of gifts or benefits that the family would have expected to receive from the deceased; The reasonable dollar value of household services that the decedent would have provided; and Burial and funeral expenses. Unreimbursed medical costs that were incurred due to the nature of the action that caused death are filed under a different claim called a “survival action,” which is brought by the estate of the deceased. Survival actions also address lawsuits that the deceased had the right to file prior to death.  Non-Economic Damages Non-economic damages typically pertain to the mental and emotional aspects of loss, but under CACI, wrongful death damages do not include grief, sorrow, or pain and suffering. The jury may award wrongful death damages that they deem reasonable given the evidence provided. Things to take into considerations when determining non-economic damages include: Loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support; Spouse or partner’s loss of consortium (enjoyment of intimacy); and Loss of training and guidance.  Proving non-economic wrongful death damages can be difficult without the assistance of an experienced wrongful death attorney. You will generally need witnesses and other evidence to show that love, companionship, and other elements of a healthy relationship existed.  Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in California? California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 allows the following family members (or their personal representatives) to bring a lawsuit for wrongful death in state civil court: A surviving spouse; A domestic partner; Biological and adopted children; Grandchildren (if the deceased person’s children are also deceased), Other minor children (such as stepchildren) who were at least 50% dependent on the deceased for their financial support; and Anyone who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession. This last group may include the deceased person’s parents, or siblings, depending on who is living at the time of death. In some cases, there may be additional dependents who may have the right to receive wrongful death damages. These may include: A “putative spouse” (someone who had a good faith but mistaken belief that they were in a lawful marriage with the deceased); Children of the decedent’s putative spouse; Parents of the deceased; and Legal guardians of the decedent. These individuals must be able to prove that they were financially dependent on the deceased. Should You Hire a California Wrongful Death Attorney? In order to succeed on a wrongful death claim, you must have sufficient evidence to prove that the death was caused by the negligent actions of another person. It is important to have an experienced legal team to conduct investigations, gather evidence, and navigate the complex California legal system. The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart can also help you determine what your wrongful death case is worth so that you do not settle for less than what you deserve. With over 30 years of experience, Chuck Geerhart understands how to effectively and compassionately help you through this tough time by providing the legal support you need. Contact us online or call (415) 577-4992 today to schedule a free case consultation.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Personal Injury

Is It Important That I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer Who Is “Near Me”?

If you or someone you love was injured in a personal injury accident caused by another party’s negligence, you might be searching for a lawyer. When you search online, you may enter the search term, “personal injury lawyer near me.” However, do you really need to hire a lawyer that is close to where you live? The answer is not as black and white as you may assume. While you probably shouldn’t hire an attorney that is hundreds of miles away, you shouldn’t necessarily hire the closest option either. Below, the California personal injury lawyers at The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart go over the details of looking for an attorney near you vs an attorney that is located further away. If you have any questions or would like to speak with an experienced member of our team about a possible personal injury claim, contact us online or call (415) 577-4992 today. Deciding When You Need to Hire a California Personal Injury Attorney The first thing to consider is whether you need an attorney or not. If your personal injury accident happened in California, your case would be subject to California law. California is a pure comparative negligence state, which means you can collect a portion of your damages even if you are partially at fault in the accident. In fact, you can collect some compensation even if you are primarily at fault. For example, if you are determined to be 25% at fault, you will receive 75% of your damages. If you are found to be 75% at fault, you could collect up to 25% in damages. Why is this important? With pure comparative negligence, the defendants will be doing their best to place the maximum blame on you. Their goal is to pay the least amount of money possible. That means you need a qualified California personal injury attorney on your side. You should choose an attorney who can protect your rights and fight for the maximum compensation you deserve. Choose a Qualified Attorney One of the biggest mistakes people make when hiring a personal injury lawyer is hiring the attorney that is closest to their home. Just because they are a five- or ten-minute drive doesn’t make them the most qualified to handle your case. If you have a medical malpractice claim, you need an attorney specializing in these types of cases who has the experience necessary to take your case to trial. The personal injury law firm closest to you may primarily handle car accident cases. Choose an Attorney You Feel Comfortable With Don’t choose an attorney simply because they are the closest option. What if you don’t like their personality or you don’t feel completely comfortable with them? Finding the right attorney whom you trust and feel comfortable with is crucial. You will be working closely with this person. If you don’t like them, how will they come across to a jury if the case goes to trial? You want an attorney who is relatable and who will make a good impression on a jury. By only searching for attorneys close to you, you could miss out on the right lawyer for your case. Choosing an Attorney with the Necessary Financial Resources Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis. That means they don’t get paid unless they recover compensation in your case. The usual fee agreement is a percentage of your overall settlement. If your case goes to trial, the attorney needs to handle all the legal costs and fees to present a strong case. If the attorneys near you won’t have the financial means to take on your case, or perhaps they are busy, they may need to transfer your case to another law firm anyway. Rather than start all over with a new lawyer, why not find the right one for you from the start? Hiring the San Francisco Personal Injury Lawyers at the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart If you need a personal injury lawyer to help you, look no further than the San Francisco personal injury lawyers at The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart. We have years of experience helping injured victims like you. We aren’t afraid to stand up to big corporations. We offer free, no-obligation consultations, so there is no risk to meet with us. We can help you decide what the best course of action is for your particular case. Contact the experienced California personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart online today or call (415) 577-4992 to learn more about how we can help you fight for the compensation you are owed.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

How Fast Will My Case Settle?

One of the questions most often asked by clients is “How long will it take to get my case settled?” Good question! Most people who have been injured want to get their claim settled and move on with their lives.  The answer varies depending on the severity of injury, whether liability is clear, and whether there is an insurance carrier or company with adequate assets to pay for the damage caused. When you are injured through the fault of another, you first go through the claims stage. If you can get your case resolved in the claims stage, you’re fortunate, because that’s not the norm in major injury cases. Most insurance carriers want to drag things out so they can hold on to their money longer. Also, they rarely want to pay fair (i.e., full) value right off the bat.  They have found that dragging claims out tends to help them settle more cheaply. This is especially true for people without lawyers. Carriers know they can settle those cases far more cheaply, because a lay person has no idea how to value a claim. In building a claim, it is my job to obtain all your medical records and bills. This can take a few months, since health care providers (especially SF General Hospital) do not make us their priority. It can also take months to get records of Medi-Cal and Medicare payments. I have settled many cases in the claims stage, but it usually takes at least three to four months. A major exception to the rule that cases rarely settle quickly in the claims stage is where there are low insurance policy limits, such as a $15,000 state minimum policy in an auto accident case. It does not take much of an injury to max out a $15K policy.  But even major injury cases can settle quickly if there is the right policy limit. Example: a broken tibia with surgery, and the driver has a $100K policy. That claim should settle quickly for the policy limit, unless the driver has lots of monetary assets. (In general, chasing after the negligent person’s personal assets is a waste of time, because he doesn’t want to pay, and he can declare bankruptcy if you get an above limits judgment.) If you have been seriously injured and had surgery, you will take many months to recover.  Your level of recovery dictates when the case is ready to settle. You never want to settle prematurely, because when you do settle, you will sign a release of all claims forever and for all time. So if there is any possibility you might need more surgery, you cannot settle until you know your prognosis accurately. If your case cannot settle at the claims stage, either because of liability issues or the carrier is being cheap, the only way to get justice is to move on to litigation. Then you truly have a case, i.e., a filed lawsuit. In most California counties, it will take about a year and a half to actually commence a jury trial. Fortunately for you, 97% of all civil cases settle, some early, some on the eve of trial. It is not uncommon for a filed lawsuit to settle within about six months after the carrier realizes you’re serious. The takeaway: if you want to maximize your settlement, you need to be patient and prepared to have your claim take several months to a year or more to resolve.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Claims and Coverage

We often tell new clients that the most important advice we can give them, apart and separate from our prosecution of their claim, is to buy as much uninsured/under-insured motorist insurance coverage as they can afford. This is to protect themselves as fully as possible from losses from an automobile accident caused by another driver who has no insurance, or inadequate insurance. (California law requires drivers to only have $15,000 of liability insurance to pay other people they injure in an accident.) Time after time we talk to people who have been seriously injured in a car accident who will not be fully compensated because the other driver had too little or no insurance, and the injured person did not have enough uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage. A typical scenario is this: the other driver has a $15,000/$30,000 liability insurance (per person /per accident) and causes serious injury to our client justifying compensation of more than $200,000 for medical expenses, income loss and pain and suffering. The other driver’s insurance company pays the $15,000 per person limit, and now the injured person looks to his or her own insurance to pay the balance of the compensation under the under-insured motorist coverage of our client’s own insurance policy. We can recover adequate compensation only if our client has adequate under-insured motorist (UIM) coverage. Often, our clients need to have $500,000 or more coverage; far too often they do not. Our personal experience is that the cost of acquiring the additional higher uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage is a small price to pay to be fully protected, and the additional premiums usually seem to be a bargain ($500,000 UIM coverage is only $112 per year at one major automobile carrier). At the very least, the issue should be discussed with your insurance agent so you know how much more it will cost, and can make an informed decision.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

True or False – Does the Pedestrian Always Have the Right of Way?

With more and more people looking at their phones while crossing the street, it is not surprising pedestrians are getting hurt all the time. If you have been involved in a pedestrian accident in California, you may be wondering, what your rights and responsibilities are as a pedestrian. Below, the experienced California pedestrian attorneys at The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart will go over the details around when pedestrians have the right of way when crossing the street. If you have any questions or would like to speak with a member of our team, contact us online or call (415) 577-4992 today. Pedestrian Rights Under California Law Under the law, drivers must yield to pedestrians in most, but not all, circumstances. Below, are a number of codes under California law that pertain to pedestrians. California Vehicle Code § 21950 (a & c) According to California Vehicle Code § 21950 ( a & c), “the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection. The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian” This section refers to intersections without illuminated traffic signals. Note the term “unmarked crosswalk.” We all know what a marked crosswalk looks like. An unmarked crosswalk runs between all streets (but not slender alleys) which meet at approximately 90-degree angles. Pedestrians have the right of way when crossing at an unmarked crosswalk. California Vehicle Code § 21950 (b) Pedestrians do not have the right to simply charge out into an intersection. “No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.” California Vehicle Code § 21951 Drivers approaching a crosswalk must stop if another vehicle ahead of them has stopped, even if they can’t see why the other vehicle has stopped.   Vehicle Code § 21951 provides: “Whenever any vehicle has stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.”   By its plain language, this code section is not limited to intersections without traffic signals. I am handling a wrongful death case right now where a woman was crossing against a red light but was in the crosswalk. One car stopped for her, but a car approaching from the rear did not. That car did not see her and killed her. The case is in litigation. California Civil Jury Instruction (CACI) 710 Because a car is so powerful, pedestrians have a lesser duty of care. California Civil Jury Instruction (CACI) 710 (Duties of Care for Pedestrians and Drivers) provides: “The duty to use reasonable care does not require the same amount of caution from drivers and pedestrians. While both drivers and pedestrians must be aware that motor vehicles can cause serious injuries, drivers must use more care than pedestrians.” Contact a California Pedestrian Accident Attorney Today If you need a California pedestrian accident lawyer to help you, look no further than The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart. We have years of experience helping injured victims like you. We aren’t afraid to stand up for your rights. We offer free, no-obligation consultations, so there is no risk to meet with us. We can help you decide what the best course of action is for your particular case. Reach out to our team online today or call (415) 577-4992 to learn more about how we can help you fight for the compensation you are owed.

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| Read Time: 6 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

How to Succeed at a Mandatory Settlement Conference in San Francisco Superior Court

The mandatory settlement conference (MSC) is your next to last chance at a formal settlement negotiation (you might get ordered to a day of the trial settlement conference.) The Court usually schedules the MSC to occur about three weeks before trial. This means that sometimes costly expert depositions will still not have been taken, which is a smaller case that can make a huge difference to the plaintiff’s bottom line recovery. The looming trial date also should mean that both sides have fully evaluated their cases and are ready to deal. Alas, we have found this is not always the case. SF Superior Court Local Rule 5 states requirements for the MSC. Attendance by all decision-makers is required (see LR 5D). LR 5E requires counsel to ascertain what liens will affect settlement and request in writing that lienholders attend the settlement conference. That request is supposed to be attached to the MSC statement. LR 5F requires the parties to engage in settlement discussions before the MSC. The plaintiff must make a demand five days before and the defense must make an offer two days before the MSC. LR 5F also states in detail what is required in an MSC statement. The local rules state the ideal. The reality we have seen as Settlement Conference Officers is far from ideal. Attorneys for both sides often show up unprepared, sometimes having not even thought about offers or demands until that very moment. Here are the main pitfalls plaintiff counsel need to avoid in order to succeed for their clients: Have a complete set of medical records and bills (including proof of what was paid under the Howell case). If you are missing this proof, the insurance carriers reduce the value of your claim. The total amount of medical expenses is not relevant to the defendant. It will only assess the case based on the Howell number. Get this to the defense well in advance of the MSC. The carriers often send claims reps who are unfamiliar with the case. The decision about value has already been made before the MSC by a supervisor who is not present. If there is a wage loss, be prepared to show medical proof that the plaintiff needed to miss work and proof of his or her earnings. Without this proof, be prepared to take a haircut on value. Know the value of every lien, and have communicated with the lienholders. If you don’t know the value of the liens, the defense probably can’t settle with you that day. More important, you can’t tell your client what his or her bottom line is. For Medicare and Medi-Cal , you need to start communicating with the governmental agencie months before the MSC. You will not be able to get a lien amount the week before the MSC Know your client’s medical prognosis, preferably via a written report or deposition of the doctor. Claiming permanent residual injuries increases case value, but you can’t just make the bald assertion that your client is hurt forever without medical proof. Get the physician nailed down about prognosis and provide the prood to the defense. The other side of the prognosis coin: if the defense medical exam has happened, demand a copy of the report before the exam happens, and push the defesne to get you the report well before the MSC. That report can help both sides. If you need a key deposition, say of the defendent’s employee, take that deposition long enough before the MSC that you have a transscript. Speculating about what a witness might say does not help in negotiations. Very important: meet with your client well before the MSC. Get him or her preapred for that will happen. Have a well thought out settlement demand, and a strategy for negicisting against a defense. We have seen many instances in which the plaintiff’s counsel and his or her client are butting heads over the direction of a settlemtn, simply because the attorney did not take the time to craft a strategy with his client’s invovlment. Talk to the defense counsel and try to get an offer on the table before the MSC. Tell them LR 5F requires it. It is highly unlikely that the settlemtn conference officer will be able to read though extensive exhibits. Once you are in the MSC, what do you need to do to succeed? The fact of the matter is that both the defense and the plaintiff usually want to settle the case. And, where parties on both sides of the case have carefully evaluated the case, it is highly likely to settle. While public evaluations may vary widely, in reality, the parties often have similar evaluations. Or at least their evaluations are close enough that trying the case over the difference does not make sense. Most clients are risk averse and don’t really want to go to trial and don’t have any idea what will happen at trial. They will often take less than the case is worth to avoid trial or believe in the concept of “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Indeed, this concept is very true. Trials are expensive, time consuming and unpredictable. It is not always true that the amount offered at the MSC will still be available thereafter. If you leave the MSC without a settlement and thereafter agree to the amount offered by the defendant, you may be on a slippery slope trying to get the defendant to settle. The more candid you are with the settlement conference officer, the better chance you have of settling your case. Point out the strengths in our case, but also acknowledge the weaknesses in your case. The more credible you are, the more the SCO will tend to rely on your version of events. Nonetheless, be careful about giving the SCO your bottom line too early. Expect to settle for a low amount if you are not ready to try the case. If you are unable to answer important questions about the case at the MSC, the SCO will likely...

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

What’s Up in the Law of Bicycling

You’re riding along, feeling great, and all of a sudden a car pulls out from a parking place in front of you and knocks you over.  You’re hurt.  Badly.  What do you do? First of all, take care of yourself. Summon an ambulance and go to the ER or urgent care.  Also, make sure the police come to the scene and take a report (they will only come if there is a personal injury). That will be important for insurance purposes. Get the names and numbers of any witnesses (if the police come, they will get this information, but sometimes witnesses leave, so you should get the info too).   Witnesses are important because after the fact, many drivers lie to their insurance carriers and will say that you slammed into them and were speeding. The most common bike cases I have handled involve dooring, cars turning into bicycles, bikes in crosswalks, and bikes traveling too close behind a car that stops suddenly. Bicyclists are considered a “vehicle” under California law (the Vehicle Code, or VC) and have most of the same rights and responsibilities as cars. VC 21200  spells out the rules as regards bicycles. Cars are supposed to stay at least 3 feet away from bicyclists when passing (VC sec. 21760). Where there is no bike lane, you are allowed to share the road with cars, but you should ride to the right to allow cars to get past you, assuming it is safe to do so.  Don’t ride so close to the right that you get doored!  Drivers do have an obligation to look before opening their doors (VC sec. 22517). Don’t enter a crosswalk at speed (technically, you are supposed to walk your bike in a crosswalk, since you are a vehicle). A car may have assumed the crosswalk was vacant and then turn and hit you. Wear a helmet.  I have handled very sad brain injury cases where the rider did not have a helmet on. If you bike at night, be well lit. Even if the car is at fault for the resulting accident, you could be held comparatively at fault for the lack of a helmet or lights. This reduces or bars your right to recover money damages.

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Chuck Geerhart Blog

Should your lawyer be your friend

I represent people severely injured in accidents.  My core mission is to get them as much money as possible to help compensate for their loss. But along the way, I develop relationships with my clients.  Sometimes the relationship remains very businesslike– “get my case settled for fair value as fast as possible.”  I try to do this.  Unfortunately, the corporations (insurance and others) who control the money oftentimes do not want a fair or fast settlement.  They would rather hold on to their money while my clients suffer.  My job is to be the enforcer. When I first meet a prospective client and sign him or her up, we are both looking for cordiality– we want to like each other, because we are going to be in a relationship that may least a year or more. In fact, I often decline to represent prospective clients with whom I do not “click”– even if they have a good case.  I want to enjoy representing my clients. I usually make a pre-litigation settlement demand.  To do this, I need to understand my client’s injuries, medical treatment and prognosis so I can demand the right amount. There is a lot of bonding with client in this process. I spend a lot of time learning the client’s records, and talking to the client to understand her pain.  I have to explain that we start with a demand higher than what we will ultimately receive in settlement– that’s just the way negotiation works.  This is the first time I have to be forceful and firm with the client– she cannot come out of this conversation thinking that the amount demanded is what she will receive. Once a case is in litigation, my relationship with the client invariably deepens.  The typical client has never filed a lawsuit, and is somewhat flummoxed by the all the arcane details of litigation, starting with discovery.  I have answered form interrogatories hundreds of times in my career. My clients, no matter how educated, uniformly find them confusing and oppressive.  Here is where my role as professional has to be paramount: I have to insist they do a great job in helping me answer the interrogatories, explaining that these are sworn response that can be used against them in court. I can also empathize (“You’re right, these are really a pain”), but I can’t let them off the hook. Depositions are a stressful time for the client. I always spend as much time as needed in person getting the client ready.  In this process, I may have to deliver some tough truths to the client about how she should be answering questions.  We practice the questions, especially if there is a tough liability area. I run the risk of offending the client, but it is my job to get her ready not to be manipulated by defense counsel.   As the case proceeds, I have a duty to keep the client apprised of what’s happening, both good and bad.  Clients fall in love with their cases.  Lawyers do too. We are the professionals– we sometimes have to break bad news to the client (“Your surgeon is unwilling to say that the accident caused the need for surgery”).  This bad news almost always means less settlement money is available.  Now you are really hitting the client where she lives– she’s been counting on that money!  Maybe for years.  Yes, this is where the client may blur your role – aren’t you her friend? Aren’t you on her side?  Client: “It sounds as if you’re taking the insurance company’s side on this.” I have a response: “One of the reasons you hired me, really the most important reason, is to give you unvarnished professional advice about the value of your claim.  I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t tell you the good and bad about your claim. I need you to trust and respect my many years of experience doing this.”  I find most clients respect this statement. They may not like it, but often it is a turning point in the relationship when a case has reached this stress point. In mediation, where the client must make financial decisions fairly rapidly, the lawyer must be extremely careful not to blur friendship with professionalism. Clients hear a dollar amount offered, like $100,000 and may not realize that from that amount must come attorney’s fees, costs, and medical liens. The client might net only $50,000.  I must run numbers with the client at the mediation to make sure the client has at least a rough approximation of her net. When the net is lower than the client wants (almost always), then I must again be the professional and explain the probable outcome if the case is tried. Yes, you might do better. But you might do worse. And costs and fees will be higher. “Let me run some numbers for you under all scenarios.”  Most clients simply want to feel well-informed about their options. They are strangers in a strange land. It’s all mystifying, and it involves their money. If we can help demystify the process, we are doing precisely what they hired us to do. Throughout, we can also be their friend. I have remained friendly with most of my clients for many years after the representation. Some have become good social friends. I always try to end every engagement on a positive note so they feel they were well-protected in the legal system.

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