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Frequently Asked Questions on personal injury related topics

California Car Accident Laws
California Car Accident Laws

California drivers involved in any type of traffic accident are under specific legal obligations to report the crash. If you plan to hold the driver who caused the accident financially responsible for the losses you incurred, California has some laws that could substantially affect your case.

When Must Law Enforcement be Notified of a Car Accident in California?

California Vehicle Code section 20008 states that the driver (or their representative) of any vehicle involved in a traffic accident is required within 24 hours to provide the local police department or the California Highway Patrol with a written report of the accident, if it caused anyone to be injured or die (driver, passenger, motorcyclist, bicyclist, pedestrian, etc.). If the governmental agency receiving said report does not have the authority to investigate the crash, they will forward the report to the appropriate investigating authority.

However, if law enforcement is called to the scene of the accident, that officer will prepare and submit a written report regarding the accident on behalf of his or her agency. In this case, you are under no obligation to write and submit your own written report.

If I’m Involved in a Car Accident, am I Required to Report it To the California DMV?

In many cases, yes. Any driver who is involved in a traffic accident in California is required to report it within 10 days to the California DMV if any of the following applies:

  • the accident injured anyone involved (even slightly)
  • the accident killed anyone, and/or
  • the accident caused property damage (to any vehicle or real property) of over $1,000.

If you want more information on the California laws governing the reporting of car accidents, you can check California Vehicle Code sections 20000 – 20018.

Does the Law Require Me to Report a Car Accident to My Auto Insurance Company?

California, like most states, does not have laws on the books mandating whether or when people involved in a car accident should report it to their auto insurance provider.

However, your auto insurance policy does require you to report car accidents to your insurance carrier very soon after the accident. The sooner you report the accident to your insurer, the sooner they can begin defending the claim. If you do not report the accident in a “reasonable period of time,” your insurance company may decline to cover damages in connection with the accident. Insurance companies have been known to consider a “reasonable period of time” as just one or two days, depending on the particular circumstances.

Even if the accident you were in was minor and didn’t meet the California requirements for a “reportable accident,” you should still inform your auto insurance provider to ensure that they will cover it should the need arise.

Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents

The period of time that a potential plaintiff has the legal right to file a lawsuit in a given state is called the “statute of limitations.” There are different deadlines for different types of harm that may have been suffered and/or the type of case potentially being filed.

Comparative Negligence Rule

The laws vary state-to-state when two or more people caused the car accident and therefore share the fault. California law allows you to recover money damages from other at-fault parties, regardless of how much of the accident was your fault. However, any compensation you receive will be reduced depending on what percentage was your fault. Legally speaking, California is a “pure comparative negligence” state.

How does the comparative negligence rule work in California’s courtrooms? Should your lawsuit make it to court, you can expect judges and juries in California to follow the letter of the law. And, you can count on the insurance claims adjusters involved in your case to apply those rules when determining the amount of money your claim could be worth

For example, let’s say that you were involved in a car accident in which another driver abruptly changed lanes in an unsafe manner, side-swiping your car. However, you were going a little too fast when this occurred, according to witnesses on the scene and detailed in the police report that was prepared and submitted after the accident.

You end up suing for damages and it’s decided in court that you are 25% responsible for the accident and the other driver is 75% responsible. Your total damages come to $12,000, which includes vehicle repairs, medical bills and loss of income. Under the comparative fault rules in California, you are legally entitled to collect $9,000 from the other at-fault driver after deducting 25% from the $12,000 because you were that much at fault for the accident.

Avoid Making the Situation Worse

When you’re involved in a car accident in California you are required to present your driver’s license, your vehicle registration, proof of financial responsibility or auto insurance, and address to the other driver(s) or people involved, or to law enforcement on the scene.

To calm things down while protecting your rights:

  • Avoid arguing with other drivers, passengers, pedestrians and/or anyone else who may be involved.
  • Save your side of the story for law enforcement and your insurance provider.
  • Do not sign anything about this being your fault or offer to pay damages to the other parties involved.
  • If the other driver offers to pay whatever your deductible is, do not agree or sign anything.
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Auto Insurance Rules in California

Whenever there’s a claim made after a traffic accident, car insurance is going to have a role to play. As in most states, California requires motor vehicle owners to have a specific amount of insurance coverage, or somehow prove financial responsibility should there be an accident. Otherwise, the owner cannot legally operate their vehicle on roads and highways in California. This is why it is important to know the auto insurance rules in California.

California Auto Accident & Insurance Tips

  1. Read your auto insurance policy now rather than waiting until you have an accident.
  2. If there is something you don’t understand, ask your insurance agent and/or company.
  3. If you’re involved in an accident, call law enforcement. If someone is injured, call 911 for paramedics.
  4. Gather as much information as you can at the scene of the accident and give this info to your insurance agent and/or company.
  5. Contact your insurance agent and/or company immediately after an accident.
  6. Be cooperative with the insurance investigators and/or adjustors so they can do their work.
  7. If there is something you don’t understand regarding the claims’ process, ask your insurance agent and/or company representative.
  8. Inform your insurance agent or company in writing if there is a change in ownership of your vehicle.

If you or a family member has been injured in an accident involving motor vehicle negligence and would like to discuss this with a reputable California auto accident lawyer, please contact us. We would be happy to answer all your questions and explain what you can do to protect your legal rights in this situation.

The Law Firm of O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley has experienced attorneys that specialize in automobile accidents. We are well known and highly respected by our clients as well as the legal community at large. Please contact us now to benefit from our experience and expertise. The initial consultation is free.

(Sources: 1, 2 )

Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP. The information presented in this article is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice.

Personal Injury Lawsuit
Personal Injury Lawsuit

How Long do Personal Injury Cases Typically Take Before a Settlement is Reached?

If you have a personal injury claim that you are seeking to settle, it may not be smart to rush it because your compensation may be less than fair.

But what if you don’t relish the idea of your case dragging on month-after-month, year-after- year? If you’re wondering if there is any way to get your case settled quickly, even if that means agreeing to less money, we would have to say yes. But what we won’t say is that this would be a good idea.

Of course, you can reach a quick settlement on a personal injury claim if you’re willing to accept a lot less money than you deserve. You need to think about how much money you’ll be walking away from and if you’re going to need that money to take care of yourself after being injured.

There are reasons why it might take longer than expected to reach a settlement. Let’s discuss these and why it probably makes sense for you to think long and hard before accepting a quick offer.

Why Do Personal Injury Cases Drag Out So Long Before Settling?

The three primary reasons for this are as follows:

  1. Legalities or facts of the case are still in dispute.
  2. A substantial amount of money is at stake.
  3. Victim has not completed treatment or reached maximum medical improvement.

If any or all of these issues are holding your case up, it will take time for it to all play out. To speed things up you would have to agree to accept a fraction of what you would otherwise be entitled to in compensation.

Upon close examination, you can see that these involve highly complex issues:

Legalities or Facts of the Case are in Dispute

What legalities or facts are usually in dispute? The amount of compensation a victim in a personal injury case is legally entitled to depends on two things: who is liable and what the damages are. It basically comes down to whose fault it was and the seriousness of the injuries.

If statements from the parties involved and multiple witnesses are at odds, then it’s not going to be easy proving liability. In a case like this, the insurance company will not offer the victim a reasonable settlement. But if you have an aggressive attorney who is willing to go to court and steps up and files a lawsuit, their attitude may change. It would change even further if your liability experts can show that the defendant (their policyholder) was at fault. However, if the legalities of your case are in question that could be a problem. For example, if the insurance company thinks that you have no legal standing to sue, then they will wait for a judge to rule on that issue before making an offer.

Also, there could be some question about damages. For example, your doctors may not be convinced that your injuries were caused by any negligence on the part of the defendant. The insurance company will never make you a fair settlement offer until they know that your lawyer can put a doctor on the stand who will unequivocally state that the defendant is responsible for your injuries.

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A Lot of Money is Involved

Another issue that often causes a personal injury case to drag out is when it involves quite a bit of money. Insurance companies are not going to make a big payout until they have thoroughly researched your claims.

They will investigate every last detail of your case until they have no choice but to believe that:

  • They have no plausible defense
  • Your injuries are every bit as serious as you claim
  • You and your credibility are above reproach

Furthermore, insurance companies often put off settling big cases hoping the plaintiff gets worn down enough to accept a lot less money than they deserve. Many claimants do not have the financial resources to wait an indefinite period of time to be compensated. Insurance companies are well aware of this and they can afford to wait. 

Your Treatment is Not Complete So Your Condition May Improve

One more reason that it may take much longer than you’d hoped to get your claim settled is that you are still undergoing medical treatment. As long as your doctors are continuing treatment, there is reason to hope your condition will improve. If you have the financial means to wait, it would not be wise to accept a settlement on your personal injury case until your doctors have informed you that you have now reached maximum medical improvement (MMI).

This means that you have recovered from your injuries as much as it is medically possible. Once you have reached this point in your recovery you and your attorneys can now determine what a fair settlement would be for your injuries. As long as you are still undergoing treatment, the magnitude of your injuries cannot be fully known or how extensive an impact they will have on your life. So, it really is impossible to accurately determine what a fair settlement would be.

Settling for Less

What happens if you know that you could receive a considerable settlement for your injuries if you could just wait it out, but you really cannot afford to. How do you figure out what you could realistically get if you settled now?

The insurance industry calls these “short settlements.” Typically, the insurance company would offer 30% to 40% of what they might offer you if you could wait until the day before you were set to go to trial. If you’ve been injured and have grounds for a personal injury case, but do not want a long legal process, it would be best to reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney. This way you would receive expert advice on your particular case and understand the risk you would be taking by accepting a quick settlement.

The goal at O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP to bring justice to those who have been harmed by the wrongdoing of others by seeking full compensation for their losses.  We retain the finest engineers, physicians and other experts to obtain the highest possible recoveries.  We are proud to play a role in keeping the justice system strong by protecting the rights of the individual.  We are results driven attorneys who bring a strong combination of education, experience, and practical knowledge to the representation of our clients.

If you have been seriously injured due to someone else's negligence, contact a personal injury attorney at the law offices of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley today. We provide free consultations in order to evaluate your case and discuss the legal options available to you.

(Source: 1 )

Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP. The information presented in this article is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice.


Personal Injury Lawsuit
Personal Injury Lawsuit

Should you become injured or harmed in some way due to the negligence or actions of another, you may be legally entitled to compensation from the responsible party. Unfortunately, this often requires the filing of a personal injury lawsuit. These lawsuits take time and typically go through a number of stages before winding up in court.

Here’s what typically happens at each stage of a personal injury case before it finally lands in civil court:

Seek Medical Care

After being hurt in an accident, you need to immediately seek medical treatment. This comes first before anything else. Go right to the hospital or make sure you’re seen by a doctor. You need to do this for your health and wellbeing. If you wait to see a doctor long after the accident, the insurance company and the jury might simply assume that your injuries weren’t that serious.

Find a Good Attorney

Unless your injuries are fairly minor, you will need to find yourself a lawyer. You should do this as soon as you can after being injured. Settling a small personal injury claim by yourself may not be a problem, although legal representation can be helpful even for small claims. However, if you suffered substantial injuries and/or other losses you will definitely need a good lawyer by your side to handle your personal injury claim.

How do you know if your claim is big enough to warrant an attorney? Generally speaking, you really should hire an attorney if the accident caused a broken bone, forced you to miss work for longer than a couple of days, and/or your medical bills are over $2,000.

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Before hiring an attorney, you should speak to several over the phone before meeting with them in person. Once you’ve chosen the lawyer you have the most confidence in, you will be asked to sign the fee agreement before he/she can begin handling your case.

Claim is Investigated by Your Attorney

Your lawyer will first want to thoroughly investigate your claim, which will start with them asking you all sorts of questions. You will be asked about your background, to explain what happened in the accident, the extent of your injuries and the medical treatment you received. Your attorney will make sure he/she finds out everything you know so there are no surprises down the road. It’s important that you provide every last detail when answering all questions.

Next, your lawyer will seek to obtain all your medical records, including bills that relate to the injuries suffered in the accident. He/she will likely request all medical records involving any treatments you’ve ever received related to the medical condition in question. This could take several months.

Once your lawyer obtains all your medical records, he/she will review them all to determine whether you have a case. If your lawyer believes that you don’t have a case, you’ll probably be notified as soon as this determination is made.

Your Attorney Weighs the Options

If your personal injury claim is smaller than most, it could be settled before you even have to file a lawsuit. If your attorney believes that they can get your case settled, they will go ahead and make a demand on the opposing side’s lawyer or on their insurance company.

If not, your lawyer will have no choice but to file a lawsuit. If you’ve been permanently injured or impaired, it is very unlikely that your attorney would settle the case before filing a lawsuit. 

Also, a good attorney would never make a demand until the victim has recovered to the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI). This is when the victim has completed their treatment and recovered to the point that no further improvement is possible. Until the victim reaches MMI, his/her attorney has no idea what they are entitled to in terms of compensation.

Any good attorney would also wait until MMI before filing a lawsuit because if the victim has not yet reached MMI when the case goes to court, the jury award may not be sufficient.

Even though it could take months or even years before the victim reaches MMI, a good attorney will wait as long as the victim can afford to financially. However, if the victim needs the money, their lawyer would file the lawsuit as soon as possible.

Filing the Lawsuit

Once the lawsuit is filed, the clock starts ticking down on when the case would be set for trial. Each state has its own pretrial procedures, but it typically takes one or two years before the trial would start in a personal injury case. There are legal time limits in each state for filing a lawsuit, which are determined by the statute of limitations.


Discovery is the process whereby each side investigates the other side’s legal claims and how they plan on defending their case. Each side requests documents from the opposing side as well as answers to their questions. They also take depositions of important witnesses, usually starting with the plaintiff (victim) and the defendant in the case. Discovery can take up to a year since it depends on how complex the case is and the deadlines set by the court.

Settlement Discussions

When the discovery process comes to an end, lawyers on both sides typically start discussing a settlement. Often times, they can reach a settlement through these discussions, but sometimes they agree to mediation. This is a process whereby both parties and their attorneys go before a mediator to present their case in an attempt to reach a settlement

Going to Trial

Mediation is often effective in reaching a settlement. But if not, a trial date is set for hearing arguments before a judge and jury. Personal injury trials can be over in just one day, or last up to a week or longer. However, in states where they only hold trials in half-day morning sessions, the trial can last much longer. While this doubles how long trials last, it gives lawyers and judges time to get other work done during afternoon hours.

Regarding this timeline, although a lawsuit may be set for trial on a specific date, that does not necessarily mean that the case will actually go to trial on the scheduled date. Judges have very busy schedules, so it’s not unusual for trials to be delayed due to rescheduling. If this happens in your case, do not jump to the conclusion that the lawyers are deliberately dragging things out or that your case is in jeopardy. Trial dates are cancelled all the time, and often for reasons that seem to make no sense.

O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP is a personal injury law firm serving the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Our attorneys represent clients in a wide array of serious personal injury claims.

The partners at O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley have more than 50 years of experience protecting the rights of victims. We have successfully negotiated thousands of cases and have tried and presided over more than 250 jury trials. Our experience and courtroom skills are unparalleled. Let us put this experience, knowledge and expertise to work for you.

Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP. The information presented in this article is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice.

(Source: 1 )

The statute of limitations states how much time you have to file a lawsuit if you’ve been wronged. The law requires most lawsuits to be filed within a specified time frame. Generally speaking, once the statute of limitation passes, your claim is no longer legally valid.

The length of time you have to file a lawsuit depends on which type of legal claim you’re making.

Personal Injury Claims

If you’re making a personal injury claim, you have a full 2 years from the date you were injured to file your lawsuit. However, if you did not realize you were injured right away, then you are given 1 year from the date you discovered your injury.

Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury Claims
Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury Claims

Claims Against the Government

If you’re making a claim against a governmental agency, you are allowed 6 months, or for certain types of cases, 1 year of when the incident occurred to file your claim with that agency. If the agency denies your claim, you can file a lawsuit in court. However, there are certain limits on when this must be done. Please read the information below on Claims Against Governmental Agencies, then read the chart below on the laws regarding statute of limitations.

Claims Against Governmental Agencies

If you intend to sue a governmental agency, you are required to file an “administrative claim” with that particular governmental agency or office before you actually file your lawsuit in court. The government has a special form that must be used when filing the claim.

  • If this is a personal property damage claim or personal injury claim, you have a 6-month window for filing your administrative claim from the date of the damage or injury. However, there are a number of exceptions to this, which you can read about in California Government Code section 905 and section 911.2 plus it would be in your best interests to speak to an attorney.
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Once your claim has been filed with the proper governmental office or agency, they must respond in writing within 45 days. If they respond by denying your claim, you are allowed 6 months from the date you received the denial (in the mail or via personal delivery) to file your lawsuit in court. If you do not receive a denial letter, you’re allowed 2 years from the day of the occurrence to file your lawsuit.

But you cannot rely on having a full 2 years to file your lawsuit because the statute of limitations regarding governmental claims is quite complicated. Speak to an attorney if there is any doubt in your mind about how long you actually have to get your lawsuit filed. The Law Firm of O’Connor, Runckel and O’Malley will provide you with a free consultation and may even be willing to represent you on your case.

What if the statute of limitations is tolled?

There are times when the statute of limitations gets tolled (suspended) for a period of time before it starts running again. In cases in which the defendant is in prison, a minor, legally insane, or out of state, tolling may occur. When the justification for the tolling is over, (when the defendant is released from prison, turns 18, is declared legally sane, comes back to California), the statute of limitations begins running again.

Cases in which tolling is an issue are very complicated, so it is highly recommended that you speak with an experienced attorney.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure you review and fully understand the laws that pertain to your specific issue since there may be other more applicable laws pertaining to the facts of your case or even exceptions. Speak to an attorney to ensure that you have a full understanding of the statute of limitations that pertains to your particular case.

Type of Case (or Problem)

Period of Time in Which You May File a Lawsuit or Have a Lawsuit Filed Against You

Person is injured: The defendant injured you whether intending to or not. For example, an assault or battery, wrongful death, personal injury accident, negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent act, or wrongful act, and etc. See California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1.

2 years from the date the injury occurred.

Against governmental offices or agencies: In a case like this you must file an “administrative claim” with that exact governmental agency or office before you can file a lawsuit in court. A special governmental form must be used in filing your claim.

If the governmental office or agency:

  • Responds within 45 days by denying your claim, you can file your lawsuit in court within 6 months of receiving the denial letter in the mail or by personal delivery. See Government Code sections 912.4, 912.6.
  • Fails to respond within 45 days to your claim, you have 2 years from the occurrence to file your lawsuit in court. Government Code section 945.6 (a)(2).
  • You are advised to consult with an experienced lawyer to ensure that you file your administrative claim and your lawsuit before the statute of limitations expire.

6 months from when the injury occurred to file your administrative claim.

When you’re allowed to file a lawsuit in court depends on whether the governmental office or agency denied your claim or failed to respond to it. If you do not get a response regarding your claim, speak to an attorney to find out when the deadline is for filing a lawsuit.


O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley LLP is a highly experienced personal injury law firm that serves the people of the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Our lawyers represent clients in many different types of personal injury claims.

The law partners at O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley have over 50 years of experience representing victims and protecting their rights. We take pride in having negotiated very generous settlements on thousands of cases while having presided over and tried over 250 cases before juries. Our vast experience and courtroom tactics are unparalleled. We can put our knowledge, experience and tactics to work to see that you prevail in your case.

Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP. The information presented in this article is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice.

If you live with stress and anxiety, you know just how great a toll both can take on your life. Worry, anxiety and other forms of emotional distress may make it difficult for you to concentrate at work, enjoy your downtime or live a generally happy existence. If another person or entity caused your mental anguish due to their negligence, you may be able to gain compensation for your suffering.

Stress and Anxiety
Stress and Anxiety


Mental Anguish as a Non-Economic Damage

More often than not, the courts will classify emotional anguish as a non-economic damage. If this is the case, the courts will likely categorize your distress as "pain and suffering." Depending on in which state you live, and the nature of your accident, you may not be able to recover for pain and suffering. If you can recover compensation for these damages, the state may cap the amount you can recover.

Emotional Suffering as a Medically Documented Illness

In extreme cases, stress is a medically-documented illness. For instance, PTSD is a medically-documented form of strain. Signs your anxiety is a medical condition and not just pain and suffering are as follows:

  • You cannot identify the source of your tension.
  • Your friends, family and advisors cannot pinpoint the cause of your anguish.
  • Your primary care doctor suspects the source of your strain is a symptom of a physical ailment and he or she has the means to help ease it.

Documenting Emotional Damages

Regardless of the cause of your stress, you need to document your damages to maximize the amount you may recover. Some steps you can take to strengthen your personal injury claim are as follows:

  • Identify the type of emotional distress you're experiencing (fear, anxiety, depression).
  • Keep a journal in which you discuss how you feel on a daily basis.
  • Keep the bottles or labels of prescription medications you use to control your emotions.
  • Consult with a personal injury attorney who can advise you on what more you need to do to fortify your claim based on your individual situation.

Emotional distress can be just as damaging to your life as physical injuries. If another person's actions caused you to live with emotional agony, contact a lawyer for guidance today.

(Sources: 1, 2)

Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP. The information presented in this article is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice.
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