How The Personal Injury Claim Process Works in California woman on the phone at home with broken leg after personal injury

The personal injury claim process is meant to give California residents a way to hold those who harm them accountable for their negligence. And it does that. But there’s a problem: Our Costa Mesa personal injury lawyer explains how the process is really complicated.

At least, it can feel complicated when you have never done it before. When something feels complicated, that means you can make mistakes. And in California personal injury cases, a small mistake can drastically reduce your chance of recovering the compensation you deserve.

The Case Barnett Law team is here to help. Our team of experienced injury attorneys is ready to walk you through the personal injury or car accident injury claim process from start to finish. Not convinced? Read the quick and simple guide below, and contact us when you’re ready to get started.

Personal Injury Claim Defined

Before we get too deep into the personal injury claim process, let’s zoom out a little bit and make sure we’re on the same page about what a personal injury claim is. In California, a personal injury claim is a lawsuit. An injured person (the plaintiff) files the claim against the party who caused the injury (the defendant) through their negligence

This lawsuit generally will seek compensation from the defendant to account for the harms the plaintiff suffered. Almost any type of accident can warrant a personal injury claim if someone caused the accident through negligence and someone else was hurt as a result.

The California Personal Injury Claim Process in 8 Key Steps

No two cases look exactly alike, but there are often similarities. The car accident injury claim process for one person may be in reference to a different set of injuries and details, but the basic legal principles and pieces of relevant California law remain the same. 

That’s why we’re comfortable walking you through the basic steps of the personal injury claim process below, but it’s important to discuss your unique case with a lawyer as soon as possible. 

Here are the steps in the California injury claim process:

1. Make Sure You Have the Right to Sue

You don’t have to have a lawyer if you want to file a personal injury claim in California, but for many injury victims, hiring a lawyer is the very first step. That’s because the right attorney can help you throughout the process, including with the first official step: making sure you have the legal right to sue.

Despite what TV and movies might suggest, you can’t just sue anyone for any reason. The law lays out specific reasons why someone may file a personal injury claim. 

In California, you have to be able to demonstrate the following basic facts in order to sue:

  • You suffered harm as a direct result of the defendant’s actions or inaction.
  • You have legal status as an individual or business entity.
  • You are an adult who has the mental and physical ability to file a lawsuit.

2. Figure Out Where to File

When you file a lawsuit, you quite literally file the relevant documents with a court. The trick in this step is figuring out which court. Referred to as a “venue,” the county where you file your personal injury claim will generally have to be where the injury happened, where you live, or where the defendant lives. 

In some cases, multiple venues can fit those descriptions. This is a situation in which having an attorney on your side can be an enormous help. Filing in the wrong venue can result in your case being dismissed in some cases, but a personal injury lawyer can help you understand exactly where you’ll need to file.

3. Send a Demand Letter

Demand letters are usually sent before a claim is filed with a court. In personal injury cases, these letters include a demand for a certain amount of compensation from the defendant. 

Although they are not required to respond, in some cases, the defendant or their insurance company will respond to the demand letter by sending the money or beginning negotiations. If they send the money you requested, you likely will not have to file your claim, and the personal injury claim process will be over.

4. Build Your Complaint

If the other side won’t negotiate and send you the amount of money you’re requesting, you may then need to build an official complaint to file with the court. This complaint will contain not only documentation of your injuries and the accident that caused them, but a compelling legal argument that covers why the defendant should compensate you.

Filing the claim sets the stage for either a trial or settlement negotiations. The defendant must respond to your complaint once you have filed it in court.

5. Beat the Clock

A crucial step in the personal and car accident injury claim process is filing before the statute of limitations is up. This deadline typically begins on the date of your injury and runs for two years, according to California law. File after the deadline, and you may lose your chance to recover compensation.

6. Review the Evidence

After the defendant or their attorney responds to your complaint, the next phase of the process begins. This is the pre-trial discovery phase, in which your attorney and the defendant’s attorney share and review evidence to build their legal arguments.

7. Negotiate for a Settlement

After the defendant’s attorney has reviewed all of the evidence supporting your claim, they may be more likely to approach settlement negotiations with fairness. This isn’t always the case, but this is a part of the process in which settlement agreements are often reached.

8. Head to Trial

In the event that you and the other side cannot agree on a settlement, the next step will likely be going to court. At the trial, both sides will present evidence and legal arguments over a period of days or weeks. 

To conclude the trial, the jury or judge will decide the outcome and how much compensation you might be awarded.

Glide Through the Personal Injury Claim Process with a Orange County Lawyer

The personal injury claim process looks different from case to case, but those are the basics. Even boiled down to the essential steps, though, the process can still be intimidating for those who don’t go to court all the time.

The good news is that there’s a way to take control of this situation and make everything easier on yourself. It’s simple: Contact a trusted personal injury lawyer at Case Barnett Law. We have the experience and knowledge necessary to take you through the California injury claim process from start to finish, fighting for you at every step.

Ready to give yourself a better chance of recovering the compensation you deserve? Contact Case Barnett Law by phone at 949-409-0055 or online today.

Case C. Barnett
Costa Mesa Personal Injury Attorney practicing in child injury law, car accident injuries and elder abuse law
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