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About Los Angeles Accident Center

Los Angeles Accident Center was created to provide useful information for anyone who has been injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence in Los Angeles and throughout the state of California. Author and attorney Sherwin Arzani and his team have over 17 years of personal injury experience. If you have been injured in accident, you will find useful information to assist you during this difficult time.

What Happens If Others Try to Blame Me for a Car Accident?

Imagine that you were in a car accident. You were not at fault and there is significant damage to your car. You may even have had injuries that needed medical attention.

Now, imagine that the other driver, the one who was actually at fault, decided to blame you for the accident. What do you do to protect yourself and make sure that you are not found to be responsible for the accident?

Sadly, it is a common occurrence for the responsible party to blame others for the accident. There are many reasons they may do this including not wanting their insurance rates to go up or not wanting to get in trouble if any driving laws were broken. They may also claim that you were fully or partially at fault so that they have to pay you less money if you sue them for the accident.  

What to Do at the Time of the Accident

The first thing you need to do is to make sure everyone is okay. Then, call the police. Call a non-emergency line if it is a minor accident. If it is a major accident, call 9-1-1 and report the accident and any injuries.

If possible, move the vehicles out of traffic to the side of the road. Do not make any statements about the accident and wait for the police to arrive.

No matter how small the accident it, you want to get a police report filed. This is helpful to identify the drivers, describe the cars and the accident, and collect driver information. 

You want to also gather as much evidence as possible. Make sure to take pictures of the accident and the damage to any car. Try to capture driving conditions and any other factor that may have added to the accident. This information may be used in the future if there is a trial.

Know the Law

When a traffic accident goes to civil court and one driver is suing another, the person filing the suit must be able to show that the other driver was negligent. Negligence can be found in several ways, including: 

  • Drunk driving,
  • Breaking a traffic law
  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving
  • Driving without headlights when required, or
  • Driving a car that is defective.

It can also be found by pedestrians or other non-drivers in ways such as jaywalking, breaking bicycling laws, or interfering with a driver.

Even if you can prove negligence, the other driver may not be fully liable for the accident if they can establish that there was a form shared fault. Shared fault is when more than one person caused or contributed to the accident. Shared fault defenses vary by state and are one of the following types:

1) Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence means that the court will distribute fault among the parties involved in the accident. This means that one party could be found liable for 30% of the accident and the other is found to be responsible for 70%. The one who was found to be 30% responsible can only recover 70% of their requested compensation because they cannot be reimbursed for their percentage of the cause of the accident.

Most states have adopted some form of comparative fault. In pure comparative negligence states like California, accident victims can always recover some compensation if they were injured. This is regardless of their amount of negligence, even if their fault level is higher than the other driver’s.

Other states had adopted modified comparative fault rules. This generally means that an accident victim is limited from recovery if their fault in the accident reaches a certain degree. For example, after a car accident in Pennsylvania, the defendant’s fault must be 50% or more for the other driver to recover any compensation.

2) Contributory Negligence

Contributory fault means that if you are found to have contributed to the accident in any way, you will not be able to recover compensation. The degree of your fault can be small or large but the result will be the same. You will be barred from being able to claim any sort of payment. This is a harsher form of shared fault and only a few states still use this including North Carolina and Virginia.

What to Do Next?

If you are planning on suing another driver or you are being sued, your first step should be to hire a personal injury lawyer. They should have extensive experience with car accident lawsuits in your jurisdiction.

If you are in a comparative or modified comparative negligence state, your lawyer will work to help calculate your fault to the lowest percentage possible. In a contributory negligence state, your lawyer will seek to show that you were not responsible for the accident in any way and you should be able to recover compensation. 

When Should I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you have high medical bills or emotional pain from a recent injury, you may be wondering if there is a way to recover compensation. The best way to find this out is to consult with a personal injury lawyer who can walk you through the facts of your injury and determine if you have a case. It can be hard to know when to go to a lawyer or even how to choose the right one.

Here are a few tips to help you decide.

What is Personal Injury Law?

Personal injury law is a part of tort law. These cases are heard in civil courts, not criminal courts. There is an injured party who seeks to get a legal remedy, called damages, for losses that occurred because of the injury. This is usually a monetary remedy, but there can be other forms of relief.

Common types of personal injury cases include:

  • Car accidents
  • Other transportation accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Slip and fall
  • Construction accidents
  • Premise liability
  • Defective products
  • Wrongful death
  • Nursing home abuse, and
  • Workplace accidents.

These injuries can be intentional or accidental. However, a good lawyer should be able to help you recover regardless of how and why the injury occurred.

How Do Personal Injury Cases Work?

Every injury and the facts surrounding it are different. However, all personal injury cases have several similarities. First, all cases have both liability and damages. For liability, there has to be a defendant – a person that the injured can sue. This person must have done something to cause harm to the injured. It doesn’t have to be a direct cause. For example, the defendant could be the owner of a company that produced and sold a defective product.

For damages, the point is to make the injured whole and like they were before the injury. This can include compensation for:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering, and
  • Wrongful death.

It can also include punitive damages in some states like California which are intended to punish the defendant, rather than make the injured whole. Many states have damage caps where recovery of monetary amounts is limited depending on the injury.

When to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you are injured, one of the first things you need to consider is if you should hire a personal injury lawyer. Even if you are not sure if you have a case, consulting with an attorney is always a good idea. They know the law and can help you determine if you can recover any damages. Many personal injury lawyers offer low-cost or free first consultations.

The main thing to remember is that almost all personal injury claims have a time limit. In legalese, this is called the statute of limitations. For example, in California, you have three years or less from the date of injury to file a claim for medical malpractice. For car or other accidents, it is generally limited to two years. As with all law, there are complicated exceptions. A lawyer can help you sort through these to see if any of them apply to you.

A final factor is whether you have to deal with insurance companies. The large insurance companies deal with claims all day and have legal representation. You shouldn’t have to compete with them on your own, and you deserve your own representation. The insurance company is not your advocate and they are focused on closing your claim quickly and paying the least amount of money. Hiring a personal injury lawyer to help you through your insurance claim will assure that you are well represented and get the compensation you need to pay your bills.

Are There Any Other Considerations?

You are not legally required to hire a lawyer for a personal injury claim in California. You can represent yourself in smaller claims or for minor injuries. However, representing yourself is not an excuse for not knowing the law or missing deadlines. The court will expect you to know what you are doing, and you will not be given any leeway if you decide to represent yourself.

When looking for a lawyer, make sure to do your due diligence. Look at their website and make sure they have experience in your type of injury. Read their reviews online from former clients. Also, when you first meet with them, have a list of questions prepared to ask. Find out their track record with cases similar to yours. Ask if they prefer to seek settlements or do they go to court.

Finally, take note of how the lawyer makes you feel. This person will be representing you and you want to make sure they are a good fit and that you trust them to make decisions on your behalf.

What is Direct Examination?

TV shows and movies that take place in a courtroom put a heavy emphasis on closing statements at the end of a trial. The lawyers make their dramatic final pleas and set the case up for a fruitful and satisfying ending for viewers. However, what is rarely shown are the other parts of the trial that make the closing statements possible.

What is Direct Examination?

One of these important parts is direct examination of a witness. Cases are won and lost on excellent or poor direct examination performances. Direct examination is a sequence of open-ended questions by an attorney. They are directed at a witness who has been called to give testimony in the case. The point of direct examination is to show who the witness is and develop the facts in a logical sequence.

Direct examination allows the witness to tell a story. It is up to the attorney to make sure that the story is told in a way that is beneficial to their side of the case. To do this, the attorney needs to do their due diligence and research the witness to make sure that the questions asked tell the story they want to be heard. You do not want to be surprised at trial when a witness offers too much, not enough, or conflicting information.

Who are the Witnesses?

There are several types of witnesses that can be called for direct examination. The main three are eyewitness, character witness, and expert witness. An eyewitness saw something that is relevant to the case. In a personal injury case, they may have seen the accident or even been in the car with either the accused or the injured.

A character witness gives testimony about the character of someone in the trial. These are generally only called for criminal trials or if someone’s reputation is being questioned during a civil trial. The rules of evidence can be tricky to understand as they apply to character witnesses, so it is a good idea to find an attorney who knows how and when to call them.  

An expert witness is someone who has knowledge about something that is not commonly known by the judge or jury. Common examples are:

  • Handwriting
  • Fingerprint
  • Evidence, or
  • Weapons experts at a criminal trial.

For a civil trial, doctors, nurses, and scientists are often called. They provide an opinion that is based on the facts of the case and their relevant background. They draw a conclusion and compare it to what happened in the actual case.

What Are the Rules of Direct Examination?

In California, the rules of direct examination of a witness are found in the California Evidence Code. There are some different rules for questioning expert witnesses, but the types of questions that may be asked are similar.

Leading should not be used during direct examination. These are questions that are suggestive of what answer is wanted in the actual question itself. It may be impossible to exclude all leading questions, but the practice should be used sparingly.

There is a difference between direct examination and cross-examination. Direct examination is done by the attorney that called the witness to court. In contrast, cross-examination is when the opposing side’s lawyer, the one who did not call the witness, gets to ask questions. These questions are more direct, usually resulting in yes or no answers. The purpose is to impeach the witness or make them seem less credible.

Common Direct Examination Questions

Common direct examination questions are generally asked first. The purpose of this is to lay the groundwork to establish who the witness is and why they are relevant to the case. 

The basic questions are usually who, what, where, when, and why issues. Examples of basic questions include:

  • What is your full name?
  • Where do you live?
  • Where do you work?
  • How do you like your job?
  • What is your educational background?
  • How many children do you have?
  •  What is your expertise in this subject? (For expert witnesses)

If it is a jury trial, these questions also help jurors relate to the witness which can be beneficial to the outcome of the case. 

More In-Depth Direct Examination Questions

Once the lawyer has asked the basic questions that allow the witness to present their background, it is common that the lawyer will ask more in-depth questions. These questions often relate to the case directly.

For example, the lawyer may ask the witness where they were on a certain day at a certain time. The lawyer can also ask the witness to describe how they were feeling or what they saw or experienced.

Once the lawyer has completed their questioning, the opposing side will be given a chance to cross-examine. It is here that the lawyer will be able to see if their direct examination techniques hold up or if the opposing counsel is able to poke holes in their witness’s testimony.