Joseph P. Hougnon, Attorney at Law

Personal Injury Representation


If you’ve been injured in an auto accident due to someone else’s negligence, it’s important that you speak with a Personal Injury attorney as soon as possible. You may be feeling physically and financially overwhelmed, but understanding the process, your options, and where you stand may allow you to focus on what’s important – documenting your pain & suffering, and doing everything you can to get better.

Some law firms play a numbers game, taking on as many cases as possible. I never charge a retainer fee in personal injury cases, and I personally handle all of my cases. I’m committed to devoting the time and energy necessary to get the best outcome possible for every client I represent. I rarely settle cases quickly. I’ll work your case as long as it takes to get the compensation you deserve.

Insurance Companies

We all spend our hard earned money paying rising insurance costs to protect us in the event we are injured because of someone else’s negligence. Insurance companies have a duty to uphold their end of the agreement, to provide the coverage you paid for and pay valid claims in a timely manner. But, like most corporations, insurance companies are in the business to maximize their profits. To accomplish that goal, they tend to focus on denying or minimizing claims. My job is to make sure you are compensated for your losses, pain and suffering, and future medical case and costs.

Your insurance company has a right to speak with you about the circumstances of the accident that caused your injuries. However, you have to choose your words carefully. For example, if your claims adjuster asks initially, “How are you doing”, you may be inclined to answer, “I’m okay”, or “Doing better today,” or some other answer we routinely give to people we don’t know. The problem is that many injuries, such as back or neck injuries, are not the same day to day, and often become much worse over time. You don’t want to minimize or exaggerate your injuries, but it’s important to understand the context before speaking with the claims adjuster.

If your insurance company wishes to record your statement, it’s even more important to consider speaking with a personal injury attorney before documenting your responses in order to avoid making any misleading statements to your insurance company representative, so get some advice first.

Call me and let’s discuss your case so I can help you make informed decisions about what to do next.

Joe Hougnon, Esq.

Answers to all your questions are only a phone call away. Call Now at (916) 730-5251.

Medical “Certainty”

Personal injury cases take time. If you were to settle your case too quickly, you may live to regret it. Your injuries may be more serious than you thought? So, before making any demands or settlement offers on your case, it’s important to determine the degree to which medical treatment can heal your injuries, and the extent to which those injuries may heal completely or become permanent; in other words, to have some degree of “medical certainty.”

Working up a personal injury case takes time. As you continue documenting your symptoms and seeking treatment so you can heal, there are medical bills and records to obtain and review, and you may be referred to a specialist, another doctor or chiropractor, a pain management specialist, or a surgeon. Doing all you can to get better is critical to the outcome of your case.

Your doctor and/or chiropractor will treat you over time, order tests (for example, MRI’s), document your symptoms, and eventually report on their findings, including a prognosis and estimate of future medical costs, and any limitations, ongoing pain, and mobility issues that may be permanent.

It may take a year or more for your injuries to heal. In some cases, some or all of your injuries may be permanent, or chronic, requiring medical treatment for the rest of your life.

I recently worked on a case for almost two years before we had a good grasp of my client’s injuries, prognosis, and future medical needs, or enough “medical certainty” to negotiate a settlement. We settled for the policy limits of $250,000.00. My client got all her medical bills paid in full, had no out-of-pocket expenses during the course of my representation, and received compensation for her pain and suffering, and future medical costs.

Understanding the potential cost of future medical treatment, whether you’ll have limitations of mobility and pain due to the injury, what types of medications you’ll likely need for the foreseeable future, or for the rest of your life, and any permanent changes in your lifestyle are vital to obtaining the best outcome in your case.

Documenting Pain and Suffering – Changes in Lifestyle

It’s important to document your pain and suffering, and any other effects you’re experiencing from the injuries you sustained, as well as any changes in lifestyle or limitations on your mobility. It’s also important to ensure your doctor is documenting in detail what you’re experiencing between doctor visits so those facts are recorded in the medical records. The insurance company that is handling the claim will obtain and copy all the medical records and bills for the defense, so any claims you’re making about the scope and nature of your injuries must be contained in the medical records.

Joe Hougnon, Esq.

Answers to all your questions are only a phone call away. Call Now at (916) 730-5251.

Witnesses 

Speaking with an attorney before you talk to the other party involved in your case, or any witnesses involved, is also important. If there are any witnesses involved, it’s important you do not talk with them about the facts of the case, whether you know them or not. However, it is also a good idea to obtain contact information if possible. In some cases, law enforcement investigates the accident and writes a collision report that can be helpful to the defense. In accident cases the lead to the defendant’s arrest for DUI or some other crime, obtaining an arrest report and collision report can help establish liability, and may also help identify any witnesses who were present when the incident occurred.

Time can affect memory, and witnesses may move away or it may be more difficult to locate later on. If a particular witness is potentially helpful to the defense, I may ask my investigator take a statement early and write a report documenting what they said. The investigator is a third-party witness at that point and could be called to testify in the event a witness or witnesses change their “story” later. It can “lock-in” facts favorable to the defense.

Policy Limits 

Insurance companies make their money by paying out as little money as possible for claims files against their insured.

Unless your injuries are catastrophic in nature, the insurance company representing the other party will almost surely not disclose the policy limits early in the case. Although insurance companies settle cases for an amount above the policy limit in some cases, it’s very rare.

The injured party is not always fully compensated for their injuries or made whole, and in some cases there is not be enough money available to reimburse the hospitals and other medical providers involved. In those cases, medical providers will usually agree in negotiations to take pennies on the dollar so you don’t have medical bills hanging over your head later on.

So, why not file a lawsuit in every case, and set every case for trial? There are rules in place in civil law that encourage settlement rather than litigating every case. One such rule, California Code of Civil Procedure (“CCP”) §998, addresses settlement offers from either side. If either party’s offer to settle the case is rejected and later fails to obtain a “more favorable judgment or award,” the financial penalties can be severe. So, it’s important to take the time to fully understand and evaluate the case and evidence, organize all the information, medical records and bills, and write a strong demand letter that reflects a justifiable and reasonable dollar amount – a realistic offer of settlement – before deciding to whether to litigate the case through trial.

The lawyer you choose should clearly and confidently explain the strategies and goals in your case so that you can make informed choices. Give me a call and let’s meet and talk about your case. It’s a free consultation and a good first step.

The information provided here is general in nature and is not intended to answer every question that may arise in your particular case and therefore should not be relied on in the place of professional advice in a given case.

For more information on Personal Injury Representation, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (916) 730-5251 today.

Joe Hougnon, Esq.

Answers to all your questions are only a phone call away. Call Now at (916) 730-5251.