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San Mateo County Personal Injury Attorney Reuben Donig:

It applies when you’ve been injured by a motorist who doesn’t have insurance which would include a hit and run driver or who doesn’t have enough insurance to fully compensate you. One of the most common misconceptions that people have is that they think they’re only covered by their uninsured motorist policy when they’re involved in a car accident in their own car or in the covered car. That’s just simply not true, that’s not the case. If you’re walking across the street and you’re hit by a uninsured or under insured driver, your uninsured motorist coverage will apply. If you’re on a bicycle and a car hits you, your uninsured motorist coverage will apply. If you’re sitting on a sidewalk cafe and a car jumps the curve and causes you injury, your uninsured motorist coverage will apply. It applies not just when you’re in your car; it applies anytime another driver operating a motor vehicle causes you injury and damages.

(Attorney Reuben Donig specializes in personal injury law and premises liability, including auto and car accidents in San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Alameda County and San Francisco County. Visit him at www.doniglaw.com if you have a question you’d like to ask).

Attorney Reuben Donig: Usually the answer is yes, at least to some extent. Your health insurance can come from one of many sources. It can be a legitimate third-party health plan. It can be through your employment under what’s called a self-funded plan authorized by ERISA, the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1976. It can be Medicare or Medi-Cal. Those are the typical insurance plans of one kind or another that people have, if they have insurance. Sometimes in automobile cases your own a automobile policy may have health insurance as an additional provision or benefit. You almost always do have to deal with, and reimburse the plan, at least to some extent. If it’s a third-party plan, such as a Blue Cross plan, or your own health insurance, they will usually accept a reduction for what’s called procurement cost. You will have to pay an attorney and the attorney will spend some money putting your case together, so what you end up with is maybe 60 to 65% of the total settlement.

You can use that procurement cost as an argument, as a legitimate argument, for a reason to reduce what you have to reimburse your health insurance company. So if you have $5,000 of medical pay under your auto policy and you collected it or they made payments on your behalf, you can usually get satisfaction with them by reimbursing them $2,500 to $3,000. Now, Medi-Cal has it’s own rules. Medicare has it’s own formulas, and if you happen to work for a company which established a self-funded plan, they write their own rules, and those are usually the toughest and most difficult ones to deal with. They want to get reimbursed usually a 100 cents on the dollar, regardless of whether you had to pay an attorney and incurred procuring cost, regardless of whether you didn’t get a 100% of your entitlement from the other side because you were partly at fault or they didn’t have enough insurance. A self-funded ERISA plan is usually the most difficult one to negotiate with. You usually have to pay them back in full, or pretty close to in full, or you have to have a very skillful and forceful attorney making the best arguments possible to get them to reduce that plan, and it’s best to get that argument out there and get some agreement with them as soon as possible. Don’t wait until your case is settled. They’ll never negotiate at that point.

(Reuben J. Donig practices personal injury law, including car accidents, auto accidents and premises liability in San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Alameda County and San Mateo County).

San Mateo County Personal Injury Attorney Reuben Donig: Yes, and I’m going to expand that a little bit. What if you’re partly responsible for either causing the accident or causing your injuries, can you still make a claim? The answer is yes you can still make a claim, but to the extent that it’s determined that you, yourself, are partly at fault, the amount of your entitlement is reduced proportionately. So there are two different kinds of examples, and I’ll try to give them both here. Suppose there’s a collision and neither of you has a stop sign and you both collide in an intersection, and there’s no way of saying that either of you had the right of way. It appears as though both of you should have been more careful. You’re each 50% at fault. If you have, for example, a $100,000 claim, your entitlement in this situation will be $50,000. It’ll reduced by the 50% of your own contributory and comparative negligence.

But there’s another situation where you may have no fault in causing the accident. Suppose you are driving perfectly well, within the speed limit, doing everything correctly, and you’re involved in a car accident but you were not wearing your seat-belt, and you have multiple injuries. You are negligent not in causing the accident, but you’re negligent for not wearing a seat-belt, and to the extent that your injuries are caused by the fact that you weren’t wearing a seat-belt. Had you been wearing a seat-belt you wouldn’t have experienced those injuries. The other side has a very solid argument to make, that your comparative negligence for failing to wear a seat-belt deprives you of the right to make a claim for any of the economic or non-economic damages that are traceable to your injuries that were caused because of your not wearing the seat-belt. So to that extent, your entitlement will be reduced again.

(Attorney Reuben Donig specializes in personal injury law and premises liability, including auto and car accidents in San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Alameda County and San Francisco County. Visit him at www.doniglaw.com if you have a question you’d like to ask).

San Mateo County Personal Injury Attorney Reuben Donig: The same losses are covered by your uninsured motorist policy as you are able to collect from the other side. You’re entitled to collect all of your economic and all of your non-economic damages. Economic damages means your past and future medical expenses, your past and future income losses, your past and future other out of pocket expenses, if you’re going to need long time healthcare or long time assisted living, if you’re going to need to have a maid as a result of being unable to take care of your house, or a gardener. All of these out of pocket expenses are damages, economic damages. And, you’re entitled to collect them from your uninsured motorist policy just the same as if you were making a claim against the driver who caused your injuries.

And, you’re also entitled to collect your non-economic damages. Your pain, your suffering, all of the reasonable compensation that will fully and appropriately compensate you for the harm, the non-economic harm, the unwelcome lifestyle changes, the pain that you have experienced and will experience, and the effect of those pains. If you lose the use of an arm, and you liked to play a musical instrument, the piano, and you can’t play it anymore, that’s a huge loss to a great component of your life. And, you’re entitled to be compensated for that. If you’re unable to sleep well at night due to pain; if you’re unable to be close or intimate with family members or your spouse; if you’re unable to socialize as before; if you’re unable to enjoy activities as before, recreational or do household chores. All of those things have to computed and calculated in some fair and reasonable fashion to compensate you for your non-economic damages. You are entitled to recover those economic damages from your uninsured motorist policy, so long as the amount of your claim does not exceed the policy limit that you’ve purchased.

Attorney Reuben Doing: It applies when you’ve been injured by a motorist who doesn’t have insurance which would include a hit and run driver or who doesn’t have enough insurance to fully compensate you. One of the most common misconceptions that people have is that they think they’re only covered by their uninsured motorist policy when they’re involved in a car accident in their own car or in the covered car. That’s just simply not true, that’s not the case. If you’re walking across the street and you’re hit by a uninsured or under insured driver, your uninsured motorist coverage will apply. If you’re on a bicycle and a car hits you, your uninsured motorist coverage will apply. If you’re sitting on a sidewalk cafe and a car jumps the curve and causes you injury, your uninsured motorist coverage will apply. It applies not just when you’re in your car; it applies anytime another driver operating a motor vehicle causes you injury and damages.

(Attorney Reuben Donig specializes in personal injury law and premises liability, including auto and car accidents in San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Alameda County and San Francisco County. Visit him at www.doniglaw.com if you have a question you’d like to ask).

San Mateo County Personal Injury Attorney Reuben Donig: You don’t need to sue all of them. You can make the choice, but there are going to be repercussions with that choice. So let’s put a spin on that question that really makes sense. Let’s say you’re driving in… You’re a passenger in a car that your girlfriend is driving, and she’s involved in an accident with another motorist. And she’s partly at fault and the other motorist is at fault, and you’ve been injured, and maybe you don’t wanna sue your girlfriend. You only wanna sue the other party. Yes, you can make that choice, but understand that since there is comparative liability on your girlfriend’s part, you’re not gonna be fully compensated by the other side or the other side’s insurance company. They may owe you 100% of your economic damages, but they only owe you a proportional amount of your non-economic damages. And also consider this, that even though you haven’t sued your girlfriend in that case, it’s most likely that the other side is going to file a cross complaint for indemnity and contribution against your girlfriend so that she does end up paying her proportionate share of your damages one way or the other.

(Attorney Reuben Donig specializes in personal injury law and premises liability, including auto and car accidents in San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Alameda County and San Francisco County. Visit him at www.doniglaw.com if you have a question you’d like to ask).

Personal Injury Attorney Reuben Donig: Most uninsured motorist policies cover the named insured. In other words, the person who owned a car, which has this automobile policy, which contains uninsured motorist coverage and everyone in that person’s family, all of their relatives who live in the household with the insured person. So let’s say mother and father own a car and they’re the named insured under the insurance policy. All of their children, all of their… If they have a brother or sister living there, even parent’s living in that same household with them, they’re all covered by that policy. Children who are away at school are covered by that policy. In addition, any time the insured car is being used, all of the occupants in that car are insured. They don’t have to be relatives, they don’t have to live in your household; anyone who’s in that car is also insured while they’re in the car or the car is being operated, even getting in and out of the car.

(Personal Injury Attorney Reuben J. Donig specializes in all types of personal injury cases, including auto / car accidents and premises liability, in San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Alameda County and San Francisco County.).

San Mateo County Attorney Reuben J. Donig: Non-economic damages actually go by three different names. They all mean the same thing. Some people just call them pain and suffering. They’re also legally known as “general damages” or “non-economic damages”. And what they are is the amount… It’s a way to try to measure the amount of harm that a person has suffered as a result of their injuries that is not part of their economic damages, it’s not part of their out-of-pocket expenses, or cost, or medical expenses, or income loss, or other components of economic damages.

The law provides for compensation for non-economic damages as well as economic damages. And the concept is, if you can imagine that scale of justice that’s supposed to be in balance, if you have been injured by someone else, that balance is no longer equal. It’s out of balance, if you will. You have been harmed by financial losses for you medical expenses and income loss, but you’ve also been harmed by your pain and suffering, and the law says that the other side must give you compensation, must pay you money that is equal in someway, to the harm that you suffered to bring things back into balance. So let’s exclude for the moment the economic damages. You still have that pain and suffering, those non-economic damages. How much money will it take to compensate you for the harm that you’ve suffered? Well, what is pain and suffering? What does is it consist of? What are the elements?

Well, if somebody is hurt, it affects their overall life in many ways. Some people don’t sleep well at night because of the pain, and as a result of lack of sleep, they’re tired, they’re not as fully functional, their health may take a downturn. That’s part of the pain, and that’s part of the suffering. If a person is injured or loses a limb, they can no longer partake in certain activities that they used to partake in, some of which are necessary activities of daily living; being able to button your shirt, tie your tie, go shopping, do the laundry, take care of your family, take care of your children. Some of them are recreational activities; if you like to play the violin or the piano, or to play tennis or baseball, or go running or jogging, and you can’t do that anymore. That’s a loss to you of your life or lifestyle choices. It’s a loss of your freedom. If you have to rely on other people to drive you places because you can no longer drive or you can no longer use your legs, it’s a loss of your ability to make your own choices, how you want to live your life.

If you are unable to interact with your family as before, because you are tired or cranky or because you are hurt, you have a loss of what’s called “consortium”, or loss of the relationship with your family. Sometimes you’re unable to become intimate with a spouse or loved one. That’s called of the “loss of consortium”. There is compensation that you’re entitled to to bring that back into balance. You don’t enjoy life as before. You are not able to go out socially with your friends, sit through a movie, go out to dinner, go dancing. These are all things that you’ve lost as a result of your injuries that need to be compensated.

Occasionally you come across a situation where, maybe you were planning on going on a vacation and you had to cancel it. I’ve had cases where… I had a young woman whose grandmother lived in Hong Kong. Her grandmother was sick. She already had a plane ticket to go and visit her dying grandmother when my client got hit by a bus. She lost the ability to fly and see her grandmother that last time. Or another client who was badly injured and was tied down to a hospital bed while her mother, whom she had seen almost daily and who lived to be 97, died. She died while my client was in the hospital bed. My client was unable to spend that last night of her mother’s life by her mother’s bedside. Those are huge losses. They’re emotional losses that a person suffers as a result of their injuries, and those all need to be compensated for. Even though money doesn’t really compensate you, it’s the best that we have, and the law provides that monetary compensation must be given in an amount that is equal to the harm that was sustained or experienced by the injured person.

(Attorney Reuben Donig specializes in personal injury law and premises liability, including auto and car accidents in San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Alameda County and San Francisco County. Visit him at www.doniglaw.com if you have a question you’d like to ask).