Cohn & Swartzon, P.C.
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1851 East First Street, Suite 1250, Santa Ana, CA 92705
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Information Center

How does the current economic crisis affect your insurance claim?

Insurance companies typically make a portion of their profits from investing the premiums paid by their policyholders. Insurance companies invest in the stock market and other markets that historically offer a good rate of return. Consequently, when the return on their investments suffer, so does their ability and willingness to pay claims. Along with other factors, what this means to the claimant is that insurance companies are now, more than ever, tightening their belts and disputing even more claims. So, when researching what law firm should best represent you, make sure you know that law firm understands the big picture and is willing and prepared to fight hard to maximize your claim.

How to select the right law firm

Not too big, not too small, make sure you find a law firm that is just right for you. Selecting the right law firm is extremely important because not all law firms are created equal. Some of the distinguishing factors to look for include finding attorneys that provide personal attention and do not merely shift the case to someone else to perform the work Also, listen to your instincts and ensure that the attorneys are honest and up front with you, and are willing to provide direct answers to your questions. Finding an attorney can be similar to finding the right physician, it is a relationship that is based on trust, confidence, and open communication. Beware of attorneys that promise specific results and tell you what you want to hear, just to obtain your business. We invite you to meet one our attorneys in person so we can show you firsthand, the commitment of Cohn & Swartzon to our clients.

How increased vehicle safety may affect your claim.

The days of the large, heavy steel cars are quickly coming to an end. Nowadays, cars are being designed and constructed with crush zones, where the car itself helps absorb the energy of a front or rear impact instead of the passengers. Cars also have numerous air bags to further protect the passengers. Thus, as a matter of simple economics, it is less expensive for the insurance industry to fix or declare a car a total loss, than it is to pay potentially hundreds of thousands in medical bills alone, thereby saving the insurance industry a tremendous amount of money.

With safer cars, the insurance industry also attempts to categorically argue, often without a medical examination, that your injuries could not be as severe as you claim. This is simply not always true. Make sure the law firm you hire understands the dynamics of an automobile crash and the impact on the passengers, and as with Cohn & Swartzon, has mechanical experts available to counter the insurance company's arguments against you.

What is a release of claims?

A general release is a written agreement whereby a claimant releases (or gives up) some or all claims he or she may have against another person or entity in exchange for something, usually the payment of money. This is generally a short form that is used to settle property damage or personal injury claims. It is extremely important to read and understand the exact terms of the release before signing, so you do not release or up give claims you may have. For example, in settling your claim for property damage to your vehicle, make sure you are not giving up your rights to pursue a claim for your personal injuries which can be easily included and hidden within the release agreement. When in doubt, always have a law firm such as Cohn & Swartzon review the release before signing.

Is a personal injury settlement or judgment taxable?

Sometimes, a personal injury award or settlement can have tax consequences, such as if a portion of the award or settlement is to compensate you for past, present or future loss of earnings. It is important that the law firm you select be aware of these potential consequences and that you seek the advice of a certified public accountant (CPA) and possibly even a tax attorney to understand how an award or settlement may impact you and your family.

Can I change lawyers?

Often, people who are injured or are grieving a loss, retain the first lawyer they see, then later realize they made a mistake. However, attorney retainer agreements are not like normal contracts, clients can switch lawyers at any time, for any reason. At Cohn & Swartzon, we welcome new clients who might be unhappy with their current lawyer and can make the process fast, easy and embarrassing by contacting the first attorney directly on your behalf.

Are you properly insured?

One of the most important things as a driver or vehicle owner, especially in California, is to make sure you are properly insured. There is a common misconception that car insurance is “one size fits all” and if you have “full coverage” you are totally protected and have nothing to worry about. This is not correct.It is one of those things you just do not think about, until AFTER something bad happens. Insurance is important to protect you and your families assets. If you’re at fault in an accident that's covered by your policy, and other people (or property) are injured or damaged, Liability coverage helps protect you from the cost of these damages. However, if you are involved in an accident and the other party incurs monetary damages that exceed your policy limits, you may be held personally responsible to pay for these damages. This may force you and your family into economic turmoil. You may be forced to sell your home, car, or valuables. With proper coverages, you can guard the valuable assets you’ve worked hard to collect (such as your home, retirement funds, stock or bond investments, etc.). Without proper coverage, these assets could be lost. In cases of accidents involving these factors, it is best to have an experienced personal injury law firm like Cohn & Swartzon, P.C. working with you to protect your legal rights and assets.

Uninsured\Underinsured Motorist.

At a minimum, everyone in California should have some Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage. Generally, Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage should be the same (or similar) limits to your liability coverage.Uninsured motorist coverage will allow you to be covered when you have an accident with someone who does not have insurance, but is legally responsible for your injuries. This type of coverage also applies to hit and run situations as well. An underinsured motorist policy will allow you to be covered when you have an accident with someone who has liability insurance with limits that are lower than your uninsured motorist coverage limits. In cases of accidents involving these complicated types of insurance, it is best to hire a firm like Cohn & Swartzon, P.C. that understand these issues.

Medical Payments Coverage.

Auto insurance medical payment coverage means precisely what it sounds like: insurance that covers hospital costs and continuing care. Medical Payments coverage helps pay for medical treatment for accident‑related injuries, no matter who's at fault. These costs may include doctor visits, hospital visits and/or stays, surgery, x‑rays, EMT and ambulance fees, funeral expenses and other similar expenses. This option covers you, your passengers, and any family members who may be driving the insured car during the accident. Medical payments coverage is not a mandatory part of any policy but you should request it, even if you have medical insurance. Hiring a law firm like Cohn & Swartzon, P.C. to handle medical payment coverage issues will ensure that you receive the maximum recovery on your case.

What to do first after injury.

The first thing to do after an injury, regardless of the cause, is to assess your situation. If there is any doubt, call 911 for help as many injuries may be worse than expected. Regardless of how you feel after the accident, it is always a wise decision to consult with a medical provider to determine the extent of your current injuries and assess possible future injuries. Many people feel fine right after a car accident, slip and fall or other accident. Soon after, however, the realize they are hurt. Waiting can cause further injury which could have been avoided by seeking medical attention. After an injury, you must focus on protecting your health and legal rights.

Insurance Company tactics.

Delay, Deny and Defend. Insurance companies are in business to make money and please its shareholders. These companies systematically deny coverage of valid claims in order to boost their bottom line, often rewarding employees for denying valid claims. People often make the mistake of thinking they can simply handle claims with insurance companies on their own. What they don’t realize is that insurance companies attempt to delay even dealing with claims in hopes that the average person will give up and just go away. These companies systematically deny coverage of valid claims in order to boost their bottom line, often rewarding employees for denying valid claims. Insurance companies (even a claimants own insurance company) routinely take advantage of unrepresented claimants with falsehoods, false promises and false facts. These companies use “insurance speak” to confuse consumers. They improperly provide “advice” and use strong arm tactics to get claimants to go away or to agree to a settlement for pennies of what the claim is worth. Even if you think you are successful at dealing with insurance adjusters, they may simply be setting you up to defend a case against you, even if the other person is 100% at fault. You need a law firm like Cohn & Swartzon, P.C. who understand the insurance company tactics and will properly handle your claim to maximize your recovery and fight for you.

Beware of settling insurance claims too early.

Even if you are able to get a settlement offer from an insurance company for your injuries, pain or even your property damage, they might be trying to settle quickly because they know that you are entitled to additional recovery. If you settle to early, you may be forever barred from any additional recovery, even you have additional injuries, pain or have discovered more damage to your property related to the same accident. Have lawyers like Cohn & Swartzon, P.C. make sure you receive every penny you deserve.

What is a contingency agreement?

A contingency fee is an agreement whereby the client pays no fees unless and until there is recovery in the lawsuit. Such fees are usually based on a percentage of the proceeds. Such agreements may also be dependent upon various factors including the nature and complexity of the matter, the risk involved, the cost in pursuing the matter, and the likelihood of success. The benefit of a contingency agreement is two-fold. First, you don’t receive a monthly bill from your attorney for the time spent on the case. Second, if there is no recovery, there is no fee! At Cohn & Swartzon, P.C. you will never pay any fees if there is no recovery.

Replacing seat belts and car seats after an accident.

Many people have no idea that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that any seat belts that were in use (either by a passenger or installed car seat, occupied or not) should be replaced. In fact, many automobile manufacturers recommend (review your manual) replacing all seat belts in their cars after an accident, whether they were utilized by a passenger or not. Seat belts, like car seats and airbags, are considered by NHTSA to be single‑use items and should be replaced after a crash. These are damages that the responsible party should be responsible for paying (or your insurance company if the at fault party was uninsured) pursuant to Insurance Code sec. 11580.011 and Vehicle Code sec. 27362.. At Cohn & Swartzon, we realize that there are many important recoverable costs, such as costs for seat belts and car seats, that our clients are entitled to receive.

What does salvage value mean and what is its effect?

If the vehicle is a total loss, you and the insurance company must agree on your vehicle’s pre-accident fair market value (FMV). If the insurance company pays you the FMV, they will want to keep your damaged vehicle. This is because there is usually some residual or leftover value in totally damaged vehicles. The value of what is left of the 'total loss' vehicle is referred to as the 'salvage value'. If you wish to keep the vehicle then you have the right to ask the insurance company to pay you the FMV less the salvage value of your vehicle. Example: If it was determined that your car had a fair market value of $5,000 and a salvage value of $1,100, the insurance company can pay you $5,000 and keep the car or pay $3,900 and leave you with ownership and possession of the damaged vehicle. Be aware that salvaged cars in California have to be registered as a “Salvage” title, which drastically affects the value of the vehicle. At Cohn & Swartzon, we will work hard to get you the highest fair market value for your vehicle.

What is GAP insurance?

Gap insurance insures a person for the difference between what you owe on a vehicle and what an insurance company determines is the vehicle’s fair market value. This insurance is a must for someone who is considering purchasing a new vehicle since a new vehicle depreciates right after it is driven off the dealer's lot. Depending on the policy, Gap insurance usually covers accidents and thefts, but not all policies are the same so it's a good idea to evaluate the coverages being offered before purchasing Gap insurance.