Personal Injury

How much do you charge to review my case?

There is no charge for an initial appointment to discuss a potential case. If, after reviewing the case, we decide your case has merit, we will advance all of the costs necessary to investigate and prosecute your case. When the case concludes, either by way of settlement or judgment, these costs are reimbursed to the firm from the recovery. If there is no recovery, you owe us nothing.


How much will it cost to have you represent me?

Our firm, like most attorneys who specialize if personal injury and wrongful death claims, charge on a “contingency fee” basis. This means that our firm’s fee will come from the damages we recover from the responsible party or parties on your behalf. If there is no recovery, we do not receive a fee. While the contingency fees are negotiable between the attorney and the client, the fee agreement must be in writing and signed by both the attorney and the client.


OUR FEES

Personal Injury Cases We do virtually all of our personal injury litigation on a contingent fee basis. We advance all costs of preparation and trial of a case. When we obtain a settlement or verdict those costs are repaid, and our fee is an agreed percentage of the recovery. By law, attorneys’ fees are negotiable between the client and lawyer and must be memorialized in writing. Our fees are very competitive with those of other top firms practicing personal injury trial law. Workers’ Compensation Cases A judge of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board is required by law to set reasonable fees for the injured employee’s attorney. This occurs when a case is concluded by settlement or award. No fees may be requested or charged until approved by a judge. In most cases attorneys’ fees are between twelve and fifteen percent of the value of the contested benefits recovered for the injured employee. In the majority of workers’ compensation cases there are also expenses of medical reports or deposition testimony of a physician. The employer or insurance carrier is normally required to pay these costs.


Will I have to go to trial to recover for my injuries?

While approximately 80% of all personal injury cases settle out of court, there is no guarantee that any particular case will settle before trial. For this reason, we prepare every case as if it is going to trial. This assures that your case will be ready for trial, if necessary, and also maximizes the value of any settlement reached before trial.


What kinds of cases does your firm handle?

Jones, Clifford specializes in personal injury, wrongful death, and workers’ compensation cases throughout California. We have represented clients who have been seriously injured or lost loved ones in a variety of accidents, including those involving motor vehicles, trucks, big rigs, motorcycles, boats, airplanes, industrial lifts, pedestrians, constructions sites, gas explosions, defective products, premises liability, defective roadways, nursing home abuse, sexual harassment and medical or legal malpractice. Jones, Clifford is one of the few law firms in the state to combine expertise in both personal injury and workers’ compensation. If you have a workers’ compensation claim in conjunction with your personal injury case, it is always in your best interest to coordinate these cases with the same law firm. A settlement of your personal injury case can have negative consequences on you workers’ compensation case, and vice versa.


Does your firm handle cases outside of the San Francisco Bay area?

Yes. Jones, Clifford handles cases throughout the state of California and has handled cases in other states, in conjunction with local attorneys.


What if my injuries were caused by a driver who had no insurance? Do I have any recourse?

Yes. While California law requires that all drivers have insurance, the fact remains that many drivers on the road do not comply with the law and have no insurance coverage. However, if you are injured in an accident with an uninsured (or underinsured) motorist, you may make a claim against your own automobile insurance policy for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. This coverage allows you to collect your damages from your own insurance company who can then seek reimbursement from the uninsured or underinsured driver. Please call us for further information.


Do I need a lawyer to represent me or can I handle my case on my own?

Not all cases require the expertise of a lawyer. You may, in some cases, be able to negotiate a settlement with the other driver or his or her insurance company on your own. If you have some doubt about whether or not you need a lawyer, please give us a call. We will be happy to talk to you or to meet for an initial consultation without charge.

Public Safety Disability Retirement


Who may apply?

CHP officers, deputy sheriffs, state and local peace officers, and firefighters incapacitated for the performance of duty as the result of an industrial disability may apply for an Industrial Disability Retirement (Service-Connected Disability Retirement, for county members), regardless of age or length of service.

Generally, to receive an industrial disability retirement, one must apply PRIOR to termination of service, withdrawal of contributions, or ordinary service retirement. There are some exceptions.


When must an application be made?

Application for retirement may be made by the member; his/her employer; or anyone acting on his/her behalf. An application for retirement must be made:
1. While in service or absent on military leave;
2. Within four months of discontinuance of service, or while on an approved leave of absence;
3. While the member is physically or mentally incapacitated to perform duties from the date of discontinuation of service to the time of application.


What is the amount of the disability retirement allowance?

The Industrial Disability Retirement Allowance is generally 50% of the member’s final compensation, or the amount of the service retirement allowance, if that is greater for members over age 50.


What is disability?

To qualify for an Industrial Disability Retirement, a public safety member must demonstrate an “incapacity for performance of duty.” The courts have defined “incapacity” as a substantial inability to perform the duties of one’s position. However, a fear of future incapacity has been held not to be a present and permanent incapacity.


What effect does permanent light duty have on a retirement application?

A few California public safety and fire departments offer their employees “permanent light duty” in lieu of disability retirement. If the employer makes such an offer and the employee refuses the position, a disability retirement will normally be denied if:
1. There is a uniform program of light duty available to all similarly-disabled employees; and
2. The light duty is in the same classification for which one is otherwise disabled, and carries equal pay, equal benefits, and equal promotional opportunity.


What is the procedure for applying for disability retirement?

The procedure for application for disability retirement depends on whether the employee works for the state; a local governmental entity; or a county, which is governed by the county retirement system pursuant to the 1937 County Employees’ Retirement Law.

If the safety member is a state employee, the application is submitted directly to CalPERS. Its Benefit Applications Services Division gathers the medical information from the employer and makes a determination about the existence of incapacity.

For local safety members of CalPERS, the employer or the employee may make application for disability retirement to CalPERS. The local safety employer makes the initial determination of incapacity. If the local safety employer denies the disability retirement, the member is entitled to a hearing conducted by a state administrative law judge.

For safety members under the County Employees’ Retirement System, application for disability retirement (Service-Connected Disability Retirement) is made directly to the County Employees’ Retirement System. Each system has slightly different procedures and administrative rules, but each system is required by law to provide the applicant with an administrative hearing on disputed issues. Issues such as substantial incapacity for duty, and whether a disability is service-connected, are determined by the Board of the Retirement System only. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board has no jurisdiction over issues arising under the County Employees’ Retirement Law.


Can I be reinstated from disability retirement?

Government Code §21192 allows PERS, or a local safety employer, to terminate the disability retirement allowance and to reinstate to active service a disability retiree under the minimum age for voluntary retirement if medical proof establishes that there is no longer permanent incapacity for the performance of duties.

Workers’ Compensation – General


How does my attorney get paid?

In workers’ compensation actions, attorneys’ fees are generally between 12% and 15% of contested benefits and are set and awarded by the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. For personal injury and uninsured motorist claims, contingent fees are negotiated between the client and the attorney


Can I see my own doctor?

Unless you preselect your doctor prior to your injury, you are required to see an employer-designated doctor for at least the first 30 days following your injury. Pursuant to Labor Code Section 5402, an employer is required to authorize all treatment, consistent with adopted occupational medicine guidelines, within one working day after a claim form is filed, and shall continue to provide treatment (up to a limit of $10,000) until a claim is accepted or rejected. Your employer may also choose to participate in a Medical Provider Network (MPN) which allows them to control medical care. If your employer has set up such a network, you are required to choose a treating physician from the network unless you have predesignated a physician. If you disagree with the diagnosis or treatment of the treating physician, you may seek a second or third opinion, although this must also be from a doctor within the MPN. In addition, the law now provides for a Utilization Review process for all prescribed treatment, which may impact the delivery of medical services. These rules and regulations apply to all claims regardless of the date of the injury.


Will I get paid while I miss work?

While you are unable to work, you will receive temporary total disability indemnity until your treating doctor releases you to light or full work activities. This benefit is not subject to state or federal income taxation. For injuries occurring after January 1, 2006, temporary total disability is paid at $840 per week or 100% of the State Average Weekly wage, whichever is higher. Currently the maximum payment for temporary disability indemnity is $916.33 per week.


Is there a limit on how much temporary disability I receive?

Yes, there is a cap of 104 weeks of temporary disability within 5 years of the date of the injury. There are some limited exceptions to this rule.


What if my injury results in permanent limitations?

If you have a residual disability, you may be entitled to a “permanent disability rating,” whether you return to work or not. For injuries occurring after January 1, 2005, disability is now measured using the American Medical Association Guidelines (AMA Guides). These guidelines are designed to define disability utilizing objective measures and tests (MRI’s, Surgeries, Loss of Range of Motion). In general, the value of a permanent disability rating is substantially less under these new guides than under the previous disability guidelines. For injuries occurring after January 1, 2005, the dollar value of a rating is increased by 15% if an injured employee can’t return to work, or decreased by 15% if there is a return to work. Most often you will not receive the maximum rating to which you will be entitled without the assistance of an attorney specializing in workers’ compensation matters.


What if I can’t return to my job?

For those injured workers unable to return to work with injuries that occur after January 1, 2004, the vocational retraining benefit has been eliminated and replaced with a Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit. This benefit, which ranges from $4,000-$10,000, depending on the permanent disability rating, is a nontransferable voucher for education-related training or skill enhancement that can be presented at state-approved or accredited schools.


What if I am injured by a third party?

In addition to workers’ compensation benefits, injured workers can collect damages for injuries that are caused by a third party, whether they result from a motor vehicle accident, use of a defective product, or being injured on property where a dangerous condition exists. While your employer may have substantial “subrogation” rights—the right to collect money they have paid on a claim—in most cases it will be to your advantage to coordinate these matters. Uninsured motorist claims have different applicable laws, so check with an attorney before settling any claim.

Workers’ Compensation – Public Safety Members

How does my attorney get paid?

In workers’ compensation actions, attorneys’ fees are generally between 12% and 15% of contested benefits, and are set and awarded by the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. For personal injury and uninsured motorist claims, contingent fees are negotiated between the client and the attorney.


Can I see my own doctor?

Unless you preselect your doctor prior to your injury, you are required to see an employer-designated doctor for at least the first 30 days following your injury. Pursuant to Labor Code Section 5402, an employer is required to authorize all treatment, consistent with adopted occupational medicine guidelines, within one working day after a claim form is filed, and shall continue to provide treatment (up to a limit of $10,000) until a claim is accepted or rejected. Your employer may also choose to participate in a Medical Provider Network (MPN) which allows them to control medical care. If your employer has set up such a network, you are required to choose a treating physician from the network unless you have predesignated a physician. If you disagree with the diagnosis or treatment of the treating physician, you may seek a second or third opinion, although this must also be from a doctor within the MPN. In addition, the law now provides for a Utilization Review process for all prescribed treatment, which may impact the delivery of medical services. These rules and regulations apply to all claims regardless of the date of the injury.


Will I get paid while I miss work?

While you are unable to work you will receive “4800.5″ time (for members of the California Highway Patrol) or “4850″ time (for most other law enforcement officers and firefighters.) This benefit is your regular salary for a period of up to one year or until your treating doctor releases you to full or light duty. San Francisco Police Officers and Firefighters receive an equivalent benefit (disability pay) pursuant to the San Francisco City Charter. Such pay is not subject to state or federal income taxation. If you remain totally disabled beyond one year, you may be eligible for weekly temporary disability benefits. For injuries occurring after January 1, 2006, temporary total disability is paid at $840 per week or 100% of the State Average Weekly wage, whichever is higher. Currently the maximum payment for temporary disability indemnity is $916.33 per week.


What will my family receive if I die due to a job related injury?

The California Labor Code provides very substantial death benefits if death results from a work-related injury or disease. For 2006 injuries, the maximum is $320,000, and it may be greater if, after that amount is paid, there remain minor or totally disabled adult children of the deceased employee. Likewise, CalPERS will provide a substantial “special death benefit” to your dependents in the event of death while on active duty. Dependents of public safety officers who are killed or totally disabled may be eligible to receive scholarships to either two or four-year institutions of higher education. Presently, those scholarships are paid at a rate of a maximum of $6,000 over a six-year period, in $1,500-per-year increments. Students must also demonstrate financial need for such scholarships. The loved ones of a deceased employee should consult an attorney to determine how to proceed.


What if my injury results in permanent limitations?

If you have a residual disability, you may be entitled to a “permanent disability rating,” whether you return to work or not. For injuries occurring after January 1, 2005, disability is now measured using the American Medical Association Guidelines (AMA Guides). These guidelines are designed to define disability utilizing objective measures and tests (MRI’s, Surgeries, Loss of Range of Motion). In general, the value of a permanent disability rating is substantially less under these new guides than under the previous disability guidelines. For injuries occurring after January 1, 2005, the dollar value of a rating is increased by 15% if an injured employee can’t return to work, or decreased by 15% if there is a return to work. Most often you will not receive the maximum rating to which you will be entitled without the assistance of an attorney specializing in workers’ compensation matters.


What if I am unable to return to job?

If a uniformed member of the California Highway Patrol, or a law enforcement officer or firefighter becomes “substantially incapacitated” from his or her position as a result of an industrial injury or illness, he or she is entitled to a disability retirement allowance that is 50% of his or her “final compensation.” The disability retirement allowance may be greater depending upon one’s age and years of service. Generally, retirement benefits start after all Labor Code Section 4800.5 or 4850 benefits are exhausted.


What if I am injured by a third party?

In addition to workers’ compensation benefits, injured workers can collect damages for injuries that are caused by a third party, whether they result from a motor vehicle accident, use of a defective product, or being injured on property where a dangerous condition exists. While your employer may have substantial “subrogation” rights—the right to collect money they have paid on a claim—in most cases it will be to your advantage to coordinate these matters. Uninsured motorist claims have different applicable laws, so check with an attorney before settling any claim.