Personal injuries can be devastating, especially when the accident wasn’t your fault. You may be left with physical and emotional pain, as well as financial financial burdens that can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Luckily, our legal system is well equipped to address these situations. Filing a personal injury claim can help you get the compensation you need to get back on your feet.
In personal injury claims, there are three bases for damages, negligence, strict liability, and cases of intentional wrong. Negligence is the basis for most personal injury claims, including car accidents and medical malpractice. In these cases, personal injury law allows the victim to seek compensation for injuries if they resulted from a person or entity failing to follow reasonable safety procedures. For instance, you have a negligence claim in the state of California if you were hit by a driver who failed to show exercise caution on the road. Drivers are always expected to exercise reasonable care behind the wheel. So, when they breach that duty and get into an accident, innocent parties that were injured have a right to seek compensation for their pain and suffering.
Meanwhile, strict liability cases do not question the defendant’s negligence, intent, or fault. The defendant can be found at fault if the victim can prove that their injuries were caused by the defendant’s actions or inaction. Some strict liability cases hold designers and manufacturers strictly liable for injuries resulting from defective products. In these cases, a victim must show that the product sold was unreasonably dangerous to be used as intended. However, strict liability also applies to cases involving dangerous animals, where liability was imposed by a statute, or activities the law describes as ultrahazardous.
Lastly, intentional wrongs can also be a basis for personal injury claims; though, they are rare. In these cases, someone acts intentionally, instead of negligently, and that action causes injury. For instance, if store security wrongly detains you for shoplifting, you may be able to win a lawsuit for unlawful imprisonment. However, intentional wrong also applies to acts of assault, battery, trespass, fraud, defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Since these cases involve a greater level of wrongdoing, they are generally punished more severely than other tort cases. For victims who successfully win an intentional tort case, broad damage awards are available.
After an accident, the first thing you should do is receive medical attention. Not only is this important for your health, but it will also avoid the risk of an insurance adjuster or jury assuming that you were never hurt.
The next thing you should do is hire a competent attorney who will investigate your claim and review your medical records. They will ask you questions regarding the accident, your medical condition, and the medical treatment you received. Make sure to disclose all relevant information, failure to do so may hurt your case. After reviewing your medical records, your attorney will inform you of all your options regarding your case.
Many times, personal injury claims are settled without having to file a lawsuit. If your attorney believes this to be your best option, they will make a demand to the other party’s attorney or insurance company. Otherwise, your attorney will file a lawsuit.
What Happens When a Lawsuit is Filed
Once the lawsuit is filed, the discovery process begins. The discovery process is when each side investigates what the adversary’s legal claims and defense are. During this process, the two parties send each other questions and document request and take depositions of all relevant witnesses. This process can take up to a year depending on the complexity of the case.
Generally, once the discovery process is concluded the attorneys will begin to discuss a settlement. Sometimes attorneys can settle a case amongst each other, but when they can’t they will often go to mediation. In mediation, a court assigned independent person will aid the settlement process between the two contending parties. If mediation fails, the case is scheduled for trial.
Statute of Limitations for Injury Lawsuits in California
All states place limits on the amount of time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. These deadlines are called statute of limitations, and they differ depending on your case. In California, a person has two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit against those at fault. Meanwhile, claims against a government entity must be filed within six months from the date of the incident. If the injured person fails to file before the deadline, the court will probably refuse to hear the case and legal rights to compensation will be lost.
California Shared Fault Laws
Injured parties filing personal injury claims in San Francisco, should also be aware of California’s shared fault laws.
In some personal injury cases, the defendant may claim that the plaintiff is actually at fault, at least partially, for the accident. In these situations, California follows what is called the “pure comparative negligence rule,” which basically means that the total amount of compensation an injured person may receive is reduced by their percentage of fault in the accident. For instance, let’s imagine that a cyclist was hit crossing the road. The person driving ran a red light, but the cyclist never checked to see if the interstate was clear. A judge may rule that the cyclist (plaintiff) was 10 percent at fault for the accident, and the driver (plaintiff) 90 percent. If the damages were to amount to $10,000, under California’s pure comparative negligence rule, the cyclist would only be able to collect $9,000 in damages.
The monetary compensation injured victims receive from personal injury claims is called damages. In California, compensatory damages are either economic or non-economic.
Economic damages are those to which a dollar amount can be easily attached. These damages are intended to cover out of pocket expenses associated with the accident, that has actually been spent or will be required to be spent in the future. Economic damages often include, but are not limited to medical bills, lost wages and lost earning capacity, and property damage.
On the other hand, non-economic damages are intended to cover subjective losses, which don’t necessarily involve out of pocket expenses. These damages cover pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, physical impairment, inconvenience, and the loss of enjoyment.
Damage Caps in California
In general, California places no limit on compensatory damages in a personal injury case. However, there are exceptions. In a medical malpractice case there is a cap of $250,000 on non-economic damages, regardless of how serious the injury is, or the number of defendants there are.
California law also prevents most uninsured drivers from recovering non-economic damages, even if the other driver is completely at fault. This means that uninsured drivers, who file a personal injury claim, will not be eligible for compensation covering pain and suffering, disfigurement, physical impairment, inconvenience, or loss of enjoyment. One key exception to this rule is if the driver at fault was driving while under the influence. If the driver was convicted with a DUI, in connection with the accident, the uninsured driver will be able to collect non-economic damages.
Suffering a personal injury can be a life-changing event. In these situations, you obviously want to make sure all of your medical bills and financial expenses are covered. However, you shouldn’t minimize the importance of protecting your interest and legal rights after an accident. Proactively hiring legal representation to take on your personal injury claim will ensure that your best interests are being defended throughout every level of your case.
A good attorney will fight for you every step of the way, including standing up to even the most stubborn insurance company. It’s not a secret that insurers make more profit when they spend less on insurance claims. Many times, insurance companies will employ unfair strategies when exercising their claim settlement practices. An experienced attorney understands these aggressive insurance company strategies and will make sure that you get the compensation you deserve.
Another vital benefit of hiring an attorney is knowing that your case is in capable hands. It’s important to remember that personal injury laws and court procedures can be extremely complicated. Luckily, experienced attorneys are experts in personal injury law and know how to make the judicial system work for a client. They will guide you within the legal system, every step of the way, and may even increase the compensation you receive from your personal injury case. Injured people with legal representation often obtain larger damage awards, and insurance claim settlements, than individuals without lawyers.
If you have fallen victim to a personal injury in the San Francisco Bay Area, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Ayanna L. Jenkins Toney will dedicate themselves to making sure you receive the care and compensation you deserve to get back on your feet. With over 15 years of experience in personal injury law, our attorneys are devoted to providing clients with excellent customer service and successful results.
Scope of Personal Injury Practice
If you have are a victim of a personal injury resulting from a vehicular accident, medical malpractice, wrongful death, or police brutality in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact the Law Offices of Anayya L. Jenkins Toney immediately. Don’t suffer alone, getting the legal help you need is the first step to a successful recovery.