Personal Injury Claims in California

If you suffer a personal injury due to the actions of another individual, whether the injury is due to a car accident, slip and fall incident, or another personal injury situation, California residents can find resources to help alleviate the financial burden such an injury can cause. A personal injury claim can help you pay for accident-related medical bills, recover lost wages, and obtain compensation for pain and suffering so you can get back on your feet financially after the accident occurs.

Statute of Limitations in California

Personal injury claims are subject to a statute of limitations in the State of California, meaning you must file your claim within a specific amount of time in order to successfully recover damages. The period begins from the date the injury occurred. The statute of limitations for most personal injury claims in California is 2 years from the date of injury.

Motor Vehicle Insurance in California

Financial responsibility, usually in the form of automobile insurance, is required in California for all vehicles that are either parked or operated on California roadways. The minimum insurance coverage required by California law for those who choose to obtain insurance as means as financial responsibility is as follows:

  • Insurance must cover at least $15,000 worth of damage for the injury or death to one person.
  • Insurance must cover at least $30,000 worth of damage for the injury or death to more than one person.
  • Insurance must cover at least $5,000 worth of property damage.

In lieu of carrying insurance, a driver may choose to provide financial responsibility by doing one of the following:

  • Placing a cash deposit of $35,000 to be held by the DMV
  • Obtaining a DMV-issued self-insurance certificate
  • Obtaining a surety bond for $35,000 from a company that is licensed to do business in California

Who Is At Fault for an Accident in California?

California is an “at fault” state when it comes to auto insurance and personal injury claims. This means that the state operates under the tort system, in which you have the right to sue someone for compensation for injury and loss that results from an automobile accident. It is also a pure comparative law state, which means that even if you are partially to blame for the accident, you can still recover damages from the other party if the other part shares some of the fault. For example, if you were found to be 10 percent to blame for the accident and your damages totaled $10,000, you could recover $9,000 in damages under California law.

Steps to Take In a Personal Injury Claim

After a slip and fall or car accident there are certain things you should do depending on what type the accident was and where it took place. The first is to seek the medical attention you require. Then you should notify the appropriate parties, which in the case of an accident on someone’s premises you should let the manager know what has happened to you.

If you have been involved in a car accident you should contact the police and make sure you get any police report compiled about the accident. This can be used as evidence when you file a personal injury claim.

Gathering evidence is an important part of winning a personal injury claim. The sorts of evidence that is key to winning a PI claim should include the following:

  • a police report;
  • photos taken at the accident site;
  • eye witnesses accounts of what caused the slip and fall or car accident;
  • a doctor’s report indicating what could have caused the injuries and what treatment is being used to help the victim.

As soon as you have appropriate evidence available you should compile a demand letter which is sent to the person accused of injuring you. A demand letter is usually sent before the claim is filed with a court and includes a certain amount of compensation demanded from the defendant.

Normally, the defendant will respond to the demand letter by either sending the money or starting negotiations. If the defendant decides to honor your request you probably won’t be required to file a claim. the money you requested, you likely will not have to file your claim, and the personal injury claim process will be to speak with a lawyer, continue medical attention, send a demand letter, file claim.

A Previous California Personal Injury Case

In 1995 a 27-year-old man had begun working as a laborer for a construction company. On his third day of work, the man was assigned to operate a backhoe manufactured by Case Corporation, even though he had never operated such machinery before. The plaintiff’s employer told the plaintiff to use the loader end of the equipment to pick up garbage. During his work, the plaintiff placed his jacket behind his seat and later placed a cooler on top of the jacket. The cooler pushed down on one of the foot pedals that operates the backhoe causing the machine to suddenly turn and crush the plaintiff, causing massive injuries. The plaintiff’s attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of the injured victim, arguing that the machine was defectively designed because it did not offer any protection against “inadvertent actuation” of the backhoe boom when someone was within the area between the backhoe boom and the machine’s body.

As a result of the accident, the plaintiff was rendered a paraplegic, being paralyzed from his chest downward. He also suffered nerve damage to his face and left arm as well as a ruptured aorta. Experts estimated that the plaintiff’s medical costs would total approximately $13 million and that he would never be able to work again. The case later settled for $12.6 million.

Damage Caps in California

As a general rule, California does not put limits on the amount of damages one can recover in court. There are, however, some exceptions. For example:

  • Non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases are limited to $250,000.
  • Under California law, most uninsured drivers are unable to recover non-economic damages after a car accident, regardless of fault, unless the driver who caused the accident was under the influence of alcohol or other drugs and is later convicted of DUI.

Filing a Personal Injury Claim in California

If you have suffered a personal injury due to the actions of another party, such as an injury from a slip and fall incident or a car accident, you should consult with a California personal injury attorney to discuss how to recover any losses you may have incurred. Your California personal injury attorney can take your case to court before a judge and jury, work with you to help establish fault, and assist you in understanding exactly what damages you should seek compensation for in addition to helping you understand the monetary amount of any damages you may be entitled to.

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