Articles Posted in Settlements

SOCIAL MEDIA AND PERSONAL INJURY CASES

If you have been injured as the result of another’s negligence and are pursuing a personal injury claim, you have probably been made aware that the defendant’s insurance company will do everything they can to disprove your injuries and your claim. One of the most common ways that defendants and their insurance companies are doing this nowadays is by simply looking to social media sites. Many plaintiffs do not realize that the pictures, posts, and check-ins that they put on social media websites can give the insurance companies and their lawyers enough ammunition to disprove or significantly reduce compensation for your injuries.

WHAT INSURANCE COMPANIES ARE LOOKING FOR

When insurance companies are defending against your claim, they are essentially looking for any evidence that suggests your injuries are not real or that they are much less severe than you are claiming. If the insurance company is able to prove this, they will be able to get away with denying your claim or offering a settlement for much less than you are seeking or deserve. Insurance companies have investigators who are well-trained and efficient when it comes to gaining access to information posted on social media. They will go through your social media accounts and look for incriminating evidence that can be used to prove that your injuries are not as serious as you claim they are. This is all legal, and these posts and pictures are admissible as evidence because courts have held that there is no “reasonable expectation of privacy” on social media, regardless of the personal privacy settings on your account. In fact, courts have even ordered plaintiffs to hand over their social media username and passwords to defense counsel!

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In this article we discuss California’s “Collateral Source” Rule, and how the 2011 case of Howell v. Hamilton Meats and Provisions, Inc. affects this rule in regard to personal injury settlements.

The collateral source rule essentially prohibits the admission of evidence that the plaintiff or victim has received compensation from some source other than the damages sought against the defendant. In other words, under this rule, whether a plaintiff can recover damages from a source other than those sought against the defendant is irrelevant.

However, in the 2011 opinion issued by the California Supreme Court in Howell v. Hamilton Meats and Provisions, Inc., the rule was changed in that an injured plaintiff whose medical expenses are paid through private insurance may recover as economic damages no more than the amounts paid by the plaintiff or his or her insurer for the medical services received or still owing at the time of trial.

When you have decided on an  experienced personal injury attorney to represent you, how do you know when to finally settle your case or go to court? There are several factors to take into account in making your decision to settle or go into litigation, i.e. go to court.

The first issue to consider is what you will gain now, versus waiting some 2 years to get your day in court.  What you gain now depends on the limits of the insurance policy of the person who caused you injury.  Most drivers in California carry the minimum insurance coverage.  This usually means they have policy limits of $15,000/$30,000 covering them in the event of an auto accident.  This means one person can only receive the maximum of $15,000.  All the occupants in the vehicle, regardless of how many, can only collect a total of $30,000 between them. Continue reading ›