This winter I was hit by a car on a pedestrian walk while visiting Los Angeles.
As I'm a foreigner, and didn't have any time till the end of July to search for a local LA attorney who'd agree to represent me distantly - gonna send out emails this week - I took a pause:
after reporting the accident to the driver's insurance company I did not give a recorded statement, and did not sign any insurance authorization (though they tried to make me do both) - just asked them in email to explain all my options about making a claim, and when they did so, thanked and said I'll contact them when I`ll be ready.
Since then they sent several emails, keeping asking me about my current health condition, and if I was ready to settle a claim, and, again, pushing to send them back their forms signed. These letters I just ignored.
Now, they sent me another one that says rather harshly that they would like to "close the file", and if they don't have a response from me till August Xth, the adjuster "will assume I'm not presenting a claim and will close his file".
I have already understood from what I read here that "closing the file" is an administrative formula used for threatening unrepresented claimants like me, and it doesn't actually mean I'm loosing my claim.
But - I'd like to ask, what's the best way now to react on the letter, not to cause any harm? -
to repeat politely that I`ll contact them when I`m ready, without giving any further details? (just to let them know that I didn`t vanish how they probably are hoping - as I`m not a US resident etc.)? Should I say that I`ll be represented by an attorney?
Or, again, just to ignore the letter, letting them close the file (if that intention is real) - and to avoid any correspondence at all (kinda impolite) until I get an attorney?
Thank you very much!
Just tell them you are presenting a claim but not ready to settle the case at this time. I would suggest that you retain an experienced personal attorney to represent you. Did you get any medical treatment? Are you done treating? Are you ready to settle your case? Was there a police report? Did you get a copy of it? Is the other party at fault? More information is needed to give you more advice. Remember, the statute of limitations in California for personal injury claims is two years from the date of accident unless a government entity is involved as a defendant. If so, you must make a formal claim against them within six months of the accident.
Regardless of the content of any letter from an insurance company and regardless of what an insurance company does internally with a claim file, your claim persists under the applicable statute of limitations. For personal injury in CA against a non-governmental defendant, that time limit is 2 years from the date of the injury (the date accident). Meaning that a lawsuit must be filed within that time period and on the second anniversary, the right to sue is gone. Against governmental entities, a claim typically must be filed within 6 months. Therefore you can ignore their letter.
You are correct when you state the letter is an adminstrative formula. You also started out by saying you were going to reach out and find a lawyer. Now is the time to do that. You will end up doing much better by hiriing a lawyer to represent you for this matter.
Insurance companies will practically say anything to get you to settle the claim. Just tell them you are looking for a personal injury attorney to represent you in the case. To verify, you were struck by a third party, non-governmental entity. I only state this because the statute of limitations regarding a government entity in the State of California is different from an individual. I have over 20 years handling pedestrian and automobile accidents in Los Angeles, working with over 2,000 clients, and I understand how the adjusters want to play you. As you implied in your disclosure, you need to hire an attorney to evaluate your case and advise you further. Avvo has a wonderful, "Ask a Lawyer," feature that may suit you well as you can read countless reviews of outstanding attorneys. I hope that your recovery is going well and I wish you the best of luck.
In California, you have 2 years from the date of the incident to bring a personal injury claim. Simply tell the insurance company that you are pursuing a personal injury claim but need more time to discuss settlement. In the meantime, you can use the Avvo “Find a Lawyer” option above to search for personal injury lawyers or the State Bar website at www.calbar.ca.gov. Good luck.
Dear Unrepresented Claimant,
I would keep the lines of communication open. Send another email referencing the harsh letter by date and inform them to keep the claim open while you retain an attorney. Good luck. I think most attorneys would jump on your case given that you have done a portion of the work.
Your accident and injuries are still relatively fresh and may not be ripe for settlement for a while. You do have to keep in mind the statute of limitations within which you must settle your claim or file suit.
You need not further corresponded with the adjuster. If he closes the file and you bring a claim later, they will reopen the file.
You should obtain needed medical care and treatment immediately and follow the doctor's advice. Do not give any statement to the adverse party or insurance company nor grant them access to any medical records. Photograph the injuries and the damage done to any property. Contact a personal injury attorney in your area as soon as possible so that you can protect your rights. You may also find it helpful to review the Legal Guides I have published on Avvo.com dealing with many of the issues you are now facing. The Guides can be accessed through my profile page on Avvo.com.
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Mr. Lundeen is licensed to practice law in Florida and Vermont. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Lundeen strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to ensure proper advice is received.
First of all, I'm sorry that this happened to you. The best thing you can do is hire a personal injury attorney here in California to represent you and the attorney should contact the insurance company and let them know that you are now represented and now they will have to work with the attorney. The insurance company is trying to bully you into settling your case for the lowest amount possible, but clients who are represented by an attorney typically obtain better results than if they attempt to handle it themselves.
As scary as the letter may sound, you are not forced to submit a claim to the insurance company right now. The adjuster's statement has no legal basis. You can submit a claim to the insurance company as long as you are within the statute of limitations. Just to be professional, you can let the adjuster know that you will be contacting him shortly through your attorney. Good luck!
I would recommend obtaining an attorney as soon as possible and having the attorney resume discussions with the adjuster. You are correct that your claim appears to have a 2 year statute of limitations. However, some causes of action has a one year statute of limitations (or even six month). Although unlikely, to be safe, I would retain an attorney as soon as possible to review your claim to avoid any statute of limitations issues.
Adjusters, like all paper pushers, have to keep the paper moving. So as a common courtesy it would be good of you to respond in some maner. Their greatest wish is to encounter an unrepresented claimant who has no idea of his or her rights. If you're not going to hire an attorney then my advice would be to present them with a well-consrtucted demand letter which is supported with ehibits comprised of medical bills, diagnostics, treatment, and so on. Then of course you wil want to inform them that you are entitled to "pain and suffering" , which is a broad term that encompasses lots of things like grief, shock, humiliateion, morf=tification ,inability to sleep, persistent headaches, and so on.
So you will finally provide them with a figure which represents what you are willing to "compromise and release" all further claims against their insured for. Aim higher than you expect to get, knowing that they are going to chisel you down.
Just hire a local attorney to handle it for you. It is a fact that attorneys get far better settlemeents in these situations than individuals trying to settle heir own claims,
Very best regards,
Patrick M. Buchanan, Attorney at Law
I wouldn't worry about the insurance company closing your claim. When you retain a lawyer, they will just have to reopen the claim. However, you should call a lawyer immediately. You are somewhat mistaken about the two-year term. It is called a statute of limitations and while you may be able to file a lawsuit within that time, there are other shorter time periods which could be missed. I am licensed in New York, so I can't speak for California but in New York, some other filing deadlines are 30 days and 90 days.
Additionally, many lawyers will not want to take your case with only a few months left to the statute of limitations. You have nothing to gain by waiting to retain a lawyer.
If you are thinking of trying to settle the claim yourself, you are fooling yourself if you think you will save money. With a lawyer, you will end up with more money after paying legal fees than you could get on your own.
I broke my nose in a car accident and could not get an offer more than 25% of what I knew the injury was worth, even though I'm an experienced personal injury lawyer. I actually had to hire a personal injury lawyer to represent me!
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