Personal Injury FAQ

Personal Injury FAQ

Answers from Some of San Francisco's Top Personal Injury Attorneys

Our team at Rouda Feder Tietjen & McGuinn is prepared to answer your toughest questions and help you receive the advocacy and help you need after a serious injury or loss in your family. We are proud of our legacy and we are committed to serving injury victims in the San Francisco Bay Area. On this page, we've compiled answers for questions individuals going through a personal injury claim often ask us.

To learn more about how we could help, call our office at (415) 940-7176 and schedule a free case evaluation.

What is the time limit for filing a personal injury case?

As soon as an accident occurs, a clock starts. Under the law, you must bring forth a claim within a set period of time after the incident. This is called the statute of limitations. This time varies, depending on the case. It can be as short as one month for some issues.

Typically, personal injury or wrongful death claims against California state or local governments must be filed within 6 months of the incident. Most personal injury lawsuits in California need to be filed within 2 years of the incident.

Because the time for bringing a claim varies, it is essential to speak to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an injury-causing incident. This helps protect your right to file a lawsuit, and it allows your lawyer to get involved and investigate while the evidence is still fresh.

How can I appeal a denied claim?

Do you have reason to believe that the outcome of your personal injury trial was unfair and lacking legal basis? If so, then you may have strong grounds for an appeal. When you appeal a court judgment, you are asking the appeals court to reject the previous judgment based on the improper procedures of events that occurred in your case. In order to have a real chance at success in your appeals case, you must be able to show clear evidence that you did not receive a fair trial or judgment.

Appellate typically oftentimes take about a year or two to resolve. In this type of case, your lawyer will need to provide a thorough briefing and analysis of the facts, as well as of court transcripts and pleadings from the case that is being appealed. Appellate cases sometimes involve settlement discussions.

  • Here are a few examples of possible grounds for an appeal:
  • The previous judge's misinterpretation or misapplication of the law
  • Violations of litigation procedures
  • The defense's contact with a juror during the trial
  • Lack of basis for a motion of summary judgment or other motions

A case is usually fully resolved once the appeals court makes its decision to either uphold or overturn the previous court decision. The case can, however, be drawn out further if the appellate decision is taken up to the Supreme Court for review.

How do I choose a personal injury lawyer?

Working with a trusted San Francisco personal injury lawyer is important. Representing yourself is not recommended, because these claims are highly complex. Insurance adjusters do not have your best interest in mind. Having an advocate on your side could make all of the difference in your case and consequently in your future.

When choosing an attorney, you need to understand that the professional you hire will be with you for quite a while— personal injury cases often take more than a year to get resolved. The lawyer you select can dramatically affect the value of your payout by insurers. Contingency fee lawyers—lawyers like us—usually won't charge to meet with you. Consider speaking to two or three different attorneys to find one who is the right fit for you.

Here are some factors you should consider when choosing your personal injury lawyer:

  • How many years has the law firm or lawyer focused on the particular area of law you are dealing with?
  • Is the firm/lawyer a specialist or a generalist? Are you looking for a personal injury firm or employment discrimination firm?
  • Does the firm or lawyer have extensive trial experience? (If the other side knows your lawyer settles every case and rarely goes to trial, your case will suffer as a result.)
  • Does the firm have a winning trial record?
  • Has the firm handled similar cases successfully in the past?
  • Does the lawyer advance all case costs and charge you nothing unless and until the case is resolved in your favor?
  • Are the lawyers at the firm members of by invitation-only organizations such as the American Board of Trial Advocates, the American College of Trial Lawyers, or other similar groups?
  • Do the lawyers serve as officers or board members for professional groups?
  • Have the lawyers received any awards for their work?
  • Is the firm or lawyer willing to let you speak with past or current clients to discuss their experiences?
  • Do you like the firm's lawyers and their staff? Do they inspire trust?

What can I expect during the interview or initial consultation?

So, you’ve decided to interview a San Francisco personal injury lawyer from our law firm, Rouda Feder Tietjen & McGuinn (RFTM). We’ll usually want to take down some initial information over the phone. This ensures that the consultation is appropriate. At the conclusion of the call, we may suggest that you speak with another lawyer who is better suited to handle your case, if we feel that we are not the right fit.

The initial consultation may take place at our office, or we may decide to come to you, depending on your location and level of mobility. You will be asked about what happened, how you are doing, and what you expect from the lawsuit. We will want to look at any documentation you have. The more information you have at the meeting, the better! Photos, accident reports, statements, medical records, receipts—anything that can help us understand your situation—are important.

At RFTM, we always make the first consultation free of charge. Any lawyer who asks to be paid for an initial consultation for a personal injury, wrongful death, or employment discrimination case should be avoided. In addition, we also handle our cases on a contingency fee basis. This means we front all the costs, and we are not paid unless we prevail in your case.

When should I contact a lawyer about my case?

As soon as we get involved in a case, we start investigating it. If you have not already hired a lawyer, it is important that you preserve as much information as possible.

Names and contact information of witnesses, photographs of the scene, physical evidence (such as the car or product involved in the accident), a police report, medical records—all these are important to your case.

At Rouda Feder Tietjen & McGuinn, we like to get started on the case investigation as soon as possible! This allows our San Francisco personal injury attorneys to lock down evidence and get witness statements while the events are still fresh in people’s minds. In each case, we conduct a substantial investigation before we file a lawsuit. The investigation can involve all sorts of activities, such as sending our investigators out to get evidence and statements, tracking down important records, and conducting Internet research or asset searches.

Will my case go to trial? Can I just settle my claim?

As much as we enjoy the challenge of bringing a case to trial, we also recognize that the best result for our client is a speedy resolution for maximum recovery. At Rouda Feder Tietjen & McGuinn, our San Francisco personal injury lawyers make it a practice to approach the other side before a lawsuit is filed in order to explore the options for a settlement.

If the opposing side requests medical records or a brief analyzing the case, we are willing to provide that to the appropriate parties. In a civil case, we need to prove our facts to a jury, and the other side will get all this information during the discovery phase of the lawsuit. According to how we see it, we might as well show the other side how we will prevail and why they should settle the case now.

Some cases can be resolved during this pre-lawsuit phase. These tend to be lower-value cases where the defendant has limited insurance, or the defendant desperately wants to avoid negative publicity. When possible, we find the right type of pressure, and we apply it.

What happens during a deposition? What can I expect?

A deposition is a formal question-and-answer session. When one lawyer requests that a party or witness appear for a deposition, all the other lawyers have the right to attend and ask questions. The process typically takes place in a lawyer’s office.

While depositions are not conducted in a courtroom, the answers fall under the penalty of the perjury clause, meaning that the witness is sworn in at the beginning of the process. The questions and answers are taken down by a certified court, which then produces a booklet that contains the testimony. Depositions are oftentimes videotaped so that the witness’ behaviors, not just the answers, are properly recorded. With rare exception, almost every party to a lawsuit will be required to sit for a deposition.

How does mediation work when settling a claim?

In the mediation process, the mediator (typically a retired judge or a qualified attorney) serves as a neutral third party who works with both parties involved in the personal injury case to resolve the matter outside of court. The mediator's job is solely to provide guidance. He or she cannot force the parties to reach a settlement—it is up to the parties involved to come to this decision. When the parties mutually agree on an amount of compensation, a settlement is reached and the parties are available to avoid taking the case to trial.

Settlements are often seen as a more favorable solution over litigation. While you may be giving up the possibility of a larger outcome that may occur with a trial, a settlement is a sure way of securing compensation. Furthermore, when you choose to resolve the case through a settlement, you avoid the costs and hassle of taking the matter to court.

What is my case worth? How much can I recover?

This will depend on a variety of factors, including the severity of your injury, the circumstances that caused your injury, and how much your injury will affect your life in the years to come. This analysis cannot be completed without a full investigation of the facts of your case.

Schedule a complimentary consultation at our office to receive a specific analysis from a seasoned professional on our team.

I can't afford a personal injury attorney - what can I do?

At our firm, we do not charge an upfront hourly fee, and we often front litigation costs for our clients if necessary.

If you do not recover, there will be no fee for our services whatsoever. If you do, our fee will be taken as a percentage from the final recovery.

This levels the playing field, making it possible for everyone to have access to the courts to pursue the justice they deserve without the trauma of further financial strain.

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