Conversation with an Expert: Personal Injury Law
With Albert Abkarian, Attorney at Law
Albert Abkarian & Associates
At one time or another, you may need to retain a personal injury lawyer, but often, people don’t know the steps they should take to protect their rights, let alone the latest trends and best practices in the realm of personal injury litigation. To address these concerns, Los Angeles Times B2B Publishing turned to an expert, Albert Abkarian, for his thoughts on “need-to-know” issues and his insights on the current state of personal injury legislation.
Q: What are the most meaningful recent changes to personal injury law and policy in California?
Some firms will have a more challenging time settling cases as they do not adequately prepare them. It is crucial to research and get constant updates on the recent changes in the field. The most recent change is the passage of Senate Bill 447. Historically, estates were not entitled to pain and suffering incurred by a deceased person between the period of their injuries and the time of their death. California was one of the few states that did not allow estates to recover non-economic damages until SB 447 was passed. SB 447 now allows estates to collect non-economic losses sustained by the deceased person before death.
Q: How has COVID-19 affected personal injury litigation? Are those changes temporary, or do you think they are here to stay?
The remote litigation, including remote depositions, mediation, and arbitrations after COVID has changed the entire litigation process in PI cases. I believe that these changes are permanent and will not change.
Q: As we move into 2022, what are the personal injury law hot button issues to be aware of?
I think uninsured motorist cases will increase due to employment issues and that people are not working. More people will opt not to buy insurance coverage, and as such, having uninsured motorist cases will be very important. Also, more people will use rideshare services, such as Uber and Lyft, increasing the accident rate for those providers.
Q: What’s the first thing someone should do if they have been injured in a traffic accident?
Take all the information from the parties involved and take as many pictures as possible. Also, contact our office to walk you through what you need to do at the scene of the accident.
Q: What’s the first thing someone should do if they have been injured on the job?
The first thing to do is notify your supervisor that you were injured on the job and contact your HR department. Also, you must visit a local emergency room, urgent care or primary physician to seek care and document your injuries.
Q: How common are personal injury scenarios in privately-owned public spaces (restaurants, stores, event venues, theme parks, etc.) that lead to significant compensation? Any trends in that regard?
Premises liability injuries, such as slip and falls, are widespread. We are seeing more and more landlords that are not meeting the minimum standards of maintaining the property in habitable condition or failing to remove a dangerous condition from the property. The most recent trends are mold cases and lack of lighting on the property.
Q: How does someone go about finding the right personal injury attorney for their particular situation?
Experience is key. You should hire an experienced attorney to represent you. Check the attorney’s background and disciplinary record with the State Bar and read reviews about their practice. Also, word of mouth is the most trustworthy resource. Be sure to ask around and get a referral from a former client who received outstanding service.
Q: What are some of the key elements of personal injury law in California that stand out when compared to other states?
Unlike no-fault jurisdictions that only allow recovery for medical bills, California allows compensatory damages for pain and suffering. As such, the tortfeasor or the party responsible for your injuries must pay for your medical bills, future care, pain and suffering, property damage, loss of earnings, loss of consortium, etc. Clients have the right to find a doctor that accepts personal injury liens and pay that provider at the end of the case when a settlement has been reached. This is important if you need immediate care and don’t have funds to pay for your care.
Q: In what ways has the practice of personal injury law changed over the past 10 years?
The settlements are much lower before a lawsuit is filed. Accordingly, we are litigating 70% more cases than we did 10 years ago. An attorney who cares for their clients will never settle below the value of the case. Instead, it will pursue every avenue, including litigation, to zealously represent the client’s interests. If an attorney refuses to litigate a case, insurance companies will habitually make low offers in all future cases.
Q: How long does it typically take to receive awarded personal injury payments in California?
It depends on whether the case is litigated or not. If the case settles in pre-litigation, awards are generally awarded within six to eight months. However, if the case is litigated, it may take up to a year and a half.
Q: What keeps you up at night as a personal injury attorney?
Nothing is “just business” for us. Instead, everything is personal. I personally meet with every single case in our office, and I care about each case. I constantly research and reflect on the new technology that we can invest in to better assist our clients in representing their interests.
Q: How does a law firm specializing in personal injury differentiate itself from the competition?
We rely heavily on recent verdicts, case outcomes, extensive research, and innovative investigative resources in handling our clients’ cases. We strive for outstanding case management of every single case, regardless of the nature of the client’s claim. After 30 years of practice and experience handling thousands of cases, we pride ourselves on getting most of our referrals from our former clients. It is crucial to mention that we represent injured people, and every client is important to us.