Our season in the Coachella Valley is winding down but there are lots of end of the season parties and
The Coachella and Stagecoach concerts. This means more people on the road that have been drinking.
Thus expect more auto accidents.
I use to have a radio show entitled “Accidentally Yours” where we discussed what to do if you were in an
accident. The first thing I suggested on each show is that “people don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan”.
Thus you should consider now while you are not stressed from an accident which lawyer you would call
and which hospital would be the closest for you. Keep that lawyers information handy just as you would
the information for a plumber or electrician.
If you or a loved one are involved in an auto accident the first thing you should do is to call Riverside
County Sheriffs. Do whatever you can to get them to take a traffic accident report. Having a police
report coupled with your seeking medical attention at a hospital or ER right away is very important to
support the fact you were injured. Next use your cell phone to take pix of the damage to both cars; the
other party and witnesses and any injuries you received that would show up on a photo.
Documentation is the name of the game. Get a three hole notebook, like the one you used in school,
to summarize all the facts of the accident. Include the name, address, cell and email of all parties and
witnesses. Then start with the top of your head and work down to the bottom of your toes and list what
hurts you. Do this each day as there may be new pains every day. Also include your loss of enjoyment of
life. That way you can take the notebook to the doctor and not forget to tell him/her all of your medical
If you do not relate all your medical symptoms to the doctor it is as if you did not have that symptom.
You need the doctor to put your symptoms in the resulting medical report. That is why you should see a
doctor that knows how to handle a med/legal case and prepare a proper report. If the medical problem
is not in the report you will not be compensated for it.
I always suggest you see a doctor you have not seen before. Otherwise when the insurance company
subpoenas your medical records from that doctor, it may show things you do not want others to know.
I once had a case with a woman, who was a housekeeper for a friend of mine. I wanted her to see a
local doctor in Palm Desert but she was uncomfortable seeing an “expensive doctor” who would have
patients in the waiting room who were well to do like her employer. She wanted to be around her “own
people” and thus saw her own doctor in Indio.
When I got the records it showed she had an abortion 20 years earlier. She was Catholic and had five
children and never told her husband about the abortion. As it turned out her husband was going to go
to court with her and she ordered me to settle a case for $40,000. I told her that we could get $60,000 if
we just showed for trial and possibly $80,000 if we had a trial. She said her marriage was not worth the
Include in your summary what were you NOT able to do because of the accident? For instance did you
have to cancel a party you were throwing or attending? Did you cancel a vacation etc.
Be sure you do NOT admit liability or talk to the other parties insurance company. You are best advised
not to talk to your own insurance company until you have retained a lawyer. If the other side does not
have auto insurance or enough insurance, you will be presenting an uninsured motorist claim and your
insurance company becomes the entity from whom we look to collect. The insurance company will
size you up when you personally make a claim. Initially they assign a nice adjuster to your file and later
transfer it to a less understanding adjuster.
My first job was with an insurance defense firm and I had to write a summary for the carrier of each
claimant explaining how they were dressed, whether their clothes were pressed and whether their nails
were clean and shoes were shined etc.
If you talk or meet the adjuster they will try to pump you for information. Living in the desert it is
common to be asked if you are a golfer or a tennis player. They will try to elicit from you when you
last played. If you were well enough to play a sport they will later argue you were not injured like you
claimed to your doctor. In addition when they come out to look at the property damage they might say
they want to take a picture of the damage to the car and at the last minute ask you to stand next to the
car and point to the damage. Sometimes that involves bending to point to the dent and right before
they take the picture they say “smile”. Now they have a picture of you bending and smiling when you
are complaining your pain is so bad you cannot bend and certainly would not be smiling.
Please understand you will not be treated fairly by the insurance company without an attorney. In
California we use to have “bad faith laws” that required the insurance company to deal fairly with the
claimant, but in reality that is long gone.
Remember you can always change your attorney because the attorney works on a contingency fee and
they do not earn that fee until the case is settled. The new lawyer will compensate the first lawyer for
his/her time out of the money THEY collect for legal fees. The contingency fee levels the playing field so
that you can afford to hire the best. This lawyer will also assist you in finding a medical provider who will
treat you on a lien basis. Thus you do not have to pay for treatment as it is incurred but rather after the
When selecting a lawyer, look at the AVVO legal rating system and choose a lawyer who is rated 9.0 or
higher. In addition, look for a lawyer who has been recognized in the community such as having Palm
Springs Life Magazine list him/her as a TOP LAWYER. The lawyer’s involvement in the community also is
important because it is symbolic of the respect the insurance company will have for the attorney.
I have had a 9.7 rating and been rated a TOP LAWYER by Palm Springs Life Magazine for 2011, 2012 &
2013. This is something for which I am proud.
If you have an questions or idea for future columns please contact Dale Gribow at 760 837 7500 or
Please note our new address, phone number and email below:
Dale S. Gribow
385 San Remo Street
Palm Desert, CA 92260