California Personal Injury FAQs
At Case Barnett Law, we specialize in helping injury victims find justice after they’ve been harmed by another’s negligence. Have questions? We have answers. Contact us online or give us a call at (949) 409-0055 to schedule a free consultation today.
The legal word is complex, and personal injury law is no exception. Navigating your rights after a serious accident is daunting without an experienced Costa Mesa personal injury lawyer to guide the way. Unfortunately, many injury victims labor under the misconception that they can’t afford an attorney.
The reality, however, is that everyone can afford a personal injury attorney, regardless of their financial situation. That’s because most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that they don’t get paid until they’ve secured a settlement for you. If they’re unable to do so, you don’t owe them anything.
The question of payment is just one of the many personal injury FAQs that we field from prospective clients. In this article, we’ll address and answer several other frequently asked questions so that you can feel more confident in your knowledge of personal injury law and your rights as an injury victim.
Need help now? If you’ve suffered serious injuries in an accident caused by someone else, you may be eligible to receive compensation—but you need to act fast. Contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our personal injury specialists today.
What Is a Personal Injury Claim in California?
In California, a personal injury claim is a lawsuit in which the injured party (the plaintiff) files a claim against the party who caused their injuries (the defendant). The purpose of this type of lawsuit is to help the injury victim secure a settlement from the at-fault party, which is meant to compensate them for the harm they’ve suffered.
Is There a Time Limit for Filing?
In California, the majority of personal injury cases—including car accidents, slip-and-fall cases, product liability claims and more—must be filed within two years of when the accident occurred. However, there are exceptions. The statute of limitations may be delayed if the injury victim was a minor at the time of the accident or if their injuries weren’t readily apparent. Similarly, the time limit may also be shortened when someone brings a claim against a government entity.
What Types of Damages Can I Recover?
Most personal injury victims are eligible to pursue both economic and non-economic damages. Whereas economic damages refer to financial losses, non-economic damages are losses that evade a dollar amount, such as pain and suffering. In rare instances, the court may also award an injury victim with punitive damages, which, unlike compensatory damages, are intended to punish the defendant for especially egregious, malicious or reckless behavior.
The Insurance Company Offered Me a Settlement—Should I Accept It?
Although there are exceptions, most settlement offers from insurance companies are for much less than you deserve. Insurance companies are businesses, and their profit depends on their ability to delay, refuse or reduce settlements to their clients. If you’re struggling to get a fair settlement from the insurance company, it’s a good idea to have an Orange County personal injury lawyer negotiate with them on your behalf.
What Is Comparative Negligence?
California operates under a pure comparative negligence rule, which means that even plaintiffs who are found partially responsible for their own injuries can still recover damages from other parties. The amount of compensation they can receive is reduced by their percentage of fault in the accident. This applies to both economic and non-economic damages.
Will I Have to Go to Court for My Personal Injury Case?
Only a small percentage of civil cases actually go to trial; the rest are settled outside of the courtroom. A settlement can be reached at any time during the case, meaning that injury victims can—and often do—receive compensation without stepping foot inside a courtroom.
How Do I Prove Fault in a Personal Injury Case?
In order to secure compensation through a personal injury lawsuit, you will need to establish fault. Proving fault in California typically requires demonstrating the following four key elements:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care.
- The defendant breached that duty of care.
- That breach of care caused your injuries.
- You suffered actual damages as a result of the defendant’s negligence.
In order to establish negligence, your lawyer will need to gather and present compelling evidence. This may include eyewitness testimony, expert opinions, accident reports, medical records, photos or videos from the accident scene and more.
Is There a Limit to How Much Compensation I Can Recover?
As long as you have documentation proving your economic damages, there typically isn’t a limit on what you can recover. Because non-economic damages aren’t tied to a financial loss, the award amount for these is decided by the court. Although most non-economic damages don’t have an explicit limit, there are exceptions; for example, injury victims in medical malpractice cases can only recover up to $250,000 in non-economic damages.
Can I File a Personal Injury Claim on Behalf of a Child?
In California, a parent, caregiver or adult representative of an injured minor is eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit on their behalf. California law requires any settlement funds awarded through the lawsuit to be protected in a blocked account or by a structured settlement until the child turns 18 so that it isn’t mishandled.
How Much Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?
There is no standard settlement for personal injury cases, and without knowing the specific details of an individual case, estimating the payout isn’t possible. Ultimately, the amount of compensation you receive will depend on a number of factors, including the percentage of fault attributable to you, the extent of your losses and how negligently the at-fault party acted.