Any auto accident injury case can be challenging. Many of those challenges are simply part of the process. What shouldn't be part of your injury case is an opposing party conducting themselves unreasonably, or engaging in tactics designed simply to harass you or delay the case. When an opposing party conducts themselves unreasonably or inappropriately, you have the option to seek recourse from the court. Engaging in this process -- and succeeding in such an action -- often requires an in-depth understanding of legal procedures and procedural rules, which makes for just one more reason why your case can benefit from an experienced Santa Barbara car accident lawyer.
As an example of this, we can draw an example from a recent Los Angeles County case. The case was the result of a rear-end crash. A.V. and her daughter, A.G., who were in the lead car, sued the driver of the rear car, Y.G., for their injuries.
In almost any civil litigation like this, the two sides will engage in a substantial pretrial discovery process. Pretrial discovery can include many elements, including depositions, propounding interrogatories, requesting admissions, and requesting document disclosures. In a request for admissions, you submit to the other side a series of statements, and that party must admit or deny each statement under oath. A party denying a request for admission must have a reasonable basis for doing so.
In the Los Angeles rear-ender, the injured women asked the other driver to admit that the accident caused at least "some" injury to the two women. The women also asked Y.G. to admit that their medical records were business records under the Evidence Code. Y.G. did not admit to either statement.
Unreasonable Denials and Awards of Fees
Both of those failures entitled the plaintiffs to seek attorney's fees. Regarding the medical records, the court determined during a pretrial hearing that the plaintiffs' medical records would be considered to be business records, which necessarily meant that the judge deemed the medical records as satisfying Section 1271 of the Evidence Code.
That ruling automatically entitled the plaintiffs to an award of attorney's fees related to proving the admissibility of those medical records. Section 2033.420 of the Code of Civil Procedure says that "expenses shall be awarded if the party requesting the admission 'thereafter proves the genuineness of that document or the truth of that matter.'" That award can happen if you prove the matter at trial or at a pretrial hearing. As soon as the judge made the evidentiary ruling in the pretrial hearing, the criteria for these fees were met.
The defendant's other denial (regarding injuries) also was unreasonable, according to the courts, as the case contained "substantial evidence" that the plaintiffs had suffered some degree of harm as a result of the crash, and Y.G. was aware of that information.
An unreasonable defense denial such as this can entitle an injured person to seek attorney's fees equal to the extra amount expended in proving at trial that you were injured in the accident. The Los Angeles plaintiffs did not recover fees for this denial only because they could not show that they expended extra efforts in proving that they suffered an injury. As the court explained, even if the defendant had made the requested admission, the plaintiffs "would have needed to present the same evidence."
An auto accident injury case may present many complexities, some more anticipatable than others. To make sure you're fully equipped to handle whatever comes your way, retain the zealous Santa Barbara car accident attorneys at the law firm of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos, LLP. We're here to fight for you and ensure that you get the benefit of a fair and just process. Contact us at 805-617-1365 or through our website to get a free case consultation today.