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Getting a Knowledgeable Assessment of the ‘Value’ of Your Car Accident Case in California: Why It Matter So Much

Knowing what your case is “worth” is just as essential a piece of knowledge as knowing what legal claims are viable and what factual evidence you need. A knowledgeable assessment of the value of a case is one of the very important pieces of advice you can get by working with a skilled San Mateo car accident attorney. Having that accurate information can help you avoid pitfalls like accepting a “lowball” settlement offer.

There’s also another benefit of having an accurate assessment of your case: it may entitle you to recover an award of costs and fees. That is no small matter because, sometimes, the value of those costs and fees may be more than the value of the total damages you suffered!

A court case from Southern California is a good example. A Bakersfield man, who was driving drunk, improperly failed to yield and turned in front of a vehicle containing a Bakersfield woman and her sister. The woman couldn’t stop in time and crashed into the man’s vehicle.

The sisters suffered no loss of range of motion, but each suffered headaches and pain. One of the sisters had a concussion. Before trial, the sisters’ attorney made what’s called a “998 offer” to the defense. That is a type of settlement offer that conforms to Section 998 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The significance of this kind of settlement offer is that, if you make a qualifying 998 offer that the defense rejects, but later obtain a judgment in court that is more than 25% more than what you offered, then you can obtain an award of certain fees and costs.

Each sister made a 998 offer of $50,000 to the defense. The defense did not accept. At the end of the trial, one sister received an award of $71,000 and the other received $115,000. That meant that the one sister “beat” her 998 offer by 40% and the other by 130%. Each was, of course, more than 25%, so each was entitled to obtain an award of costs and fees under Section 998.

The sisters’ attorney, following the successful judgment, filed what’s called a memorandum of costs, which is the document by which you can request payment for the fees and costs to which you’re entitled under Section 998. The sisters’ memorandum laid out costs and fees that totaled more than $100,000. Even though the defense was able to persuade the courts to eliminate a few of the items, the final award of costs and fees still exceeded $92,000.

The man appealed but lost. He argued that the sisters’ 998 offers weren’t made in good faith, as they each demanded $50,000 despite each having suffered less than $3,000 in economic damages at the time the offers were made. That argument obviously failed because, as the saying goes, the proof “is in the pudding” or, in this case, in the jury verdict… and the jury verdict plainly demonstrated that the 998 offers were reasonable. (In fact, if the jury hadn’t concluded that the sister behind the wheel was partially at fault in the accident, the sisters’ damages awards would have been even higher.)

Whether your drunk driver accident case inflicted damages in the thousands of dollars or the millions of dollars, it is very important to know what your case is worth so that you can make informed decisions going forward, such as whether or not to make a settlement offer or to agree to a settlement offer from the defense. Rely on the knowledgeable personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos to provide you with the right advice. To set up a free consultation with one of our helpful attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

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