Frequently Asked Questions

Important Note: The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only, not for the purpose of establishing an attorney client relationship or providing legal advice, and should not be relied on as legal advice. Use of and access to this web site does not create an attorney client relationship between PAOLI & GEERHART LLP and the user or browser.

What should I do if I am injured because of someone else’s fault?
If you are injured in an accident, try to get as much information as you can about the identity of the person or company that is at fault, including the name of their insurance company, and the identity of any witnesses. For example, if it is an automobile accident, get the other driver’s name, address, telephone number, insurance policy number, license plate, and driver’s license number. Tell your insurance company about the accident. You are under no obligation to speak with the other party’s insurance company.

What about liability for accidents caused by Uber or Lyft drivers?
We are seeing more and more people injured by drivers working for Lyft or Uber. Both Uber and Lyft carry $1 million in insurance covering their drivers when they are logged into the Uber or Lyft platform (computer program); it doesn’t matter if they have a fare inside or not.  If someone is so badly injured (or killed) such that the settlement value of the claim exceeds $1 million, Uber or Lyft will be responsible for excess damages under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Even if the driver was not logged into the Uber or Lyft platform, there may be ways to enforce liability.  Please contact us to discuss your case

Is it important that I seek prompt medical treatment?
The first thing you need to do if you are injured is take care of yourself by going to the nearest emergency room or by seeing your family doctor. If you think you are hurt, it is usually a good idea to seek medical care right away. Your doctor will recommend the best course of treatment. A delay in seeking treatment may be seen by others as evidence that you were not really injured in the accident.

Should I give a statement to the other party’s insurance carrier?
You are under no obligation to speak with the other party’s insurance company. We recommend that you speak to a lawyer before giving a statement to the insurance company. Many lawyers, including us, are happy to assist you in deciding whether to give a statement to the other party’s insurance company, even if you plan to handle your claim yourself. You are welcome to call us for advice.

Should I authorize the release of my medical records to an insurance company?
It is appropriate to release information about your injuries to the other party’s insurance company, on the condition that they provide you with a copy of the records they obtain. Be sure to narrow the scope of the authorization to permit the release of only pertinent information concerning the injury you suffered, and not your entire medical history.

What should I do if I am injured by a defective product?
An important piece of evidence in a product defect case is the defective product. If possible, you should preserve the product, or photograph it. For example, if you are injured by a defective household appliance, don’t let anyone throw it away. If you do not own the product, get an agreement from the owner that it will be preserved or, better yet, get permission to store it yourself at home. Then contact an attorney to discuss whether you have a case.

Is there a fee to speak with you about a case?
No. Simply call us to discuss your matter. If we think your case has potential, we will then set up a meeting at our office. There is no charge for the initial meeting. We handle most cases on a contingent fee basis (see below).

What is a contingent fee agreement?
Most of the cases we handle are done on a contingent fee contract. Under this type of fee contract, you do not have to pay any fees until your case is resolved.If we are able to settle your case, or if the case goes to trial and you win a judgment, our fees are a percentage of the settlement or judgment. If you lose your case, there is no fee. Contingent fee agreements are negotiable and must be in writing. We generally advance costs of litigation. Costs we advance are paid from the settlement or judgment.

How much is my case worth?
Every case is different, and the amount of compensation that can be recovered through legal action depends on many things. Whether liability is clear, and how severe is the loss or injury are the two most important factors. The amount of compensation that can be recovered in a case can be significantly affected by questions about the amount of fault of the other party. Permanent injuries that diminish a person’s ability to enjoy life are seen by insurance companies (and juries) as having much higher value to a person than milder injuries that have fully resolved. The amount of compensation can also be limited by the amount of insurance the responsible party has to cover the loss.

Is there something I can do to protect myself against the possibility of not being fully compensated for my injury because the party at fault has too little insurance?
We recommend to all of our clients that they purchase insurance with high limits so they can also have high limits of uninsured motorist coverage. This is the only effective way to make sure there will be substantial insurance money available to compensate you (and your family and passengers in your car) if you are injured by a uninsured or under-insured driver. Often the additional cost of raising your coverage limits is surprisingly modest.

The other driver had no insurance or very little insurance. Do I have a case?
If you have uninsured motorist insurance (UIM) coverage on your own policy, you can be paid by your own insurance company the compensation you could have recovered from the uninsured or under-insured driver, up to the policy limit of your insurance. Even though you will now be dealing with your own insurance company, you will probably still need a lawyer to help you receive the compensation you deserve.

Can I switch attorneys if I am unhappy with my current attorney?

Yes. You are not "stuck" with an attorney you have retained. If your case has merit, another attorney may agree to represent you. In a contingent fee agreement case, the former attorney may have a right to some portion of any attorney fees that are paid in your case , but this should not increase the fees that are paid. The new attorney and the former attorney will share the fee.

Will my case go to trial?
Statistically, about 90% of all civil lawsuits are settled. That does not mean your case won’t go to trial. We prepare every case as if it will go to trial. We believe that by being prepared to try your case, we maximize the chance of settlement and the amount of compensation we are able to obtain for you.

What can I expect to be my time commitment in the case?
First, every case takes approximately one year to work its way through the court system after a lawsuit has been filed. Before that, depending on the statute of limitations that applies to your case, there is time, usually one or two years, to try to reach a settlement without filing a lawsuit. After a lawsuit is started, there are several things you will do in the case that can require hours to weeks of your time, depending on whether a trial is necessary.

What is the statute of limitations?
A “statute of limitations” is the deadline for filing a lawsuit, after which your legal right to make a claim is lost completely. Most personal injury cases must be filed with the court within two years of the injury. Most professional malpractice cases must be filed within one year from the time malpractice is suspected. If the defendant is a government agency, most claims must be made in six months. There are exceptions to some of these deadlines, and the deadlines for children are different in most cases. You should talk to a lawyer even if you think the statute of limitations in your case may be expired. Don’t wait until the last minute! Retain experienced counsel as soon as possible after the accident. This time goes by very fast, so you should retain an attorney as soon as possible to help you.

What do I do if my child has been injured?
Generally, the statutes of limitations for minors (under 18 years old) do not begin until they are eighteen years old. However, this is not true in all cases, including professional malpractice cases. Also, government claims must still be made in six months. We often recommend that minors prosecute their claims promptly while witnesses are available. You should consult with an attorney right away to make sure you are making fully informed decisions for your injured child.

I was hurt at work. Do I have a case?
Usually, workplace injuries are covered by workers’ compensation insurance, and a workers’ compensation claim is the only remedy. However there are exceptions. For example, if your injury was caused by a defective product or a "third party" (not your employer or someone working for your employer), you may have a claim against the manufacturer of the defective product, or against the third party, and you should consult an attorney. We have successfully handled many work related injuries. In any event, you can claim under your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance coverage. We do not prosecute workers compensation claims, but we can give you a referral to a qualified workers’ compensation attorney.

I believe I was discriminated against or unfairly fired at work. Do you handle those kinds of cases?
Yes. We handle cases where an person claims he or she was discriminated against because of race, national origin, religion, age, sex, or disability. Please call us to discuss.

What other areas of law do you handle?
We handle civil rights, legal and medical malpractice, premises liability, including negligent security, and some other specialized areas of law. Call us if you have a question about whether your case is one we handle. If it is not, we will try to refer you to another lawyer.

I am being sued. Can you help me?
We represent injured people (plaintiffs) only. You do have a right to defend yourself in court. Be sure to check with your automobile or homeowners insurance carrier first – usually it will provide you with an attorney.

I was assaulted by someone. Can I recover damages?
It all depends on whether that person has assets, or was in the "course and scope of employment" for a business at the time of the accident. We have handled many cases of this type.

How do I contact you? Call either Tom Paoli or Chuck Geerhart at 415 498-2101, extension 103 or 102. Fax us at 415 498-2104. Email us at or , or complete the contact form on this website. We will be glad to discuss your case.

Important Note: The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only, not for the purpose of establishing an attorney client relationship or providing legal advice, and should not be relied on as legal advice. Use of and access to this web site does not create an attorney client relationship between PAOLI & GEERHART LLP and the user or browser.