Injured in California: FAQ

How do I decide if I need to hire a Personal Injury Attorney in California?

An attorney may or may not be necessary depending on the amount of injury that occurred and the complexity of the claim. California law states that a claim cannot be brought in small claims court for more than $7,500. It also states you can bring as many claims as you wish for up to $2,500, however you may not exceed 2 claims per calendar year asking for more than $2,500. If your injury is a minor one that will not result in any incapacity, or substantial medical care, and falls within the monetary limitations then you may considering settling it yourself in small claims court.

An attorney should be consulted if you have been seriously injured or are unsure as to the outcome of your injury. These cases can often become complicated. In such cases, an attorney will have the legal expertise, time and resources to effectively handle your claim. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to accurately analyze the value of your case and will be able to meet all of the rules, requirements and deadlines that have to be met. You will most likely have to deal with a professional insurance adjuster from an insurance company. The sole job of the adjuster is to try to settle the claim for as little as possible. Without knowledge of the complex insurance laws and policy provisions, a person could easily give away valuable rights and lose reasonable compensation. Also of note is the fact that statistics show insurance companies pay more than twice as much compensation when an attorney is involved in your claim.

How long do I have to hire a Personal Injury Attorney in California?

The law requires that you file a lawsuit within a specified period of time depending on the nature of the claim and the entity that caused your injury. This is referred to as the statute of limitations.The law in California states that an injured plaintiff has a two year time limit to bring forth a cause of action or else their action will be barred. The two year limitation includes suits for product liability against a company, manufacturer, seller or any possible responsible party in the chain of distribution. The statute of limitations begins when the injury accrues.

The statute of limitations can vary depending on the type of action you wish to bring forth, and can lengthen or limit the available amount of time you have to bring forth a suit. In California, an action for injury or death caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another must be filed within one year of the date of injury or when a person discovers an injury has occurred. The discovery rule provides that a suspicion of wrongdoing, coupled with knowledge of the harm and its cause will commence the limitation period. In certain special instances, the limitation period may be tolled. If the claimant is under the age of majority or insane, the time of the disability is not part of the one year time limit. If a claimant is imprisoned, the time of that disability is not part of the limitation period, not to exceed two years. Also, where a government entity is involved as a defendant, a claim must be filed with that government agency within six months.

How much will a Personal Injury Attorney cost in California?

Most attorneys who believe a case has merit will take the case without payment up front. They will take the case on a contingency basis, which means they will receive a percentage of your award if and when you recover for your injuries. Contingency fees average between 25 and 40 percent of the damages you are awarded if your claim is successful. Most attorneys charge a smaller percentage if the case is settled before the attorney completes the work necessary for trial. If you and your attorney agree to a contingency fee, the attorney must put the agreement in writing and provide you with a signed copy.

Also, out of pocket expenses may be added to a flat fee or contingency fee for expenses such as filing fees, deposition fees, expert witness fees, and other similar expenses. The attorney's out of pocket costs are, in many cases, not included in the attorney's fees. These costs can often add up to considerable amounts, therefore it is important to pay attention to how an attorney will bill you for costs.

How can I determine how much my personal injury claim is worth in California?

If you have been injured in California and wish to bring a claim against the person or company responsible for that injury you can usually expect monetary compensation for your loss. For purposes of settlement, a claim is valued upon an estimate of what a jury would likely believe the case to be worth, taking into account the severity of the injury, the effects of the injury on your life and the negligence of the other party.This loss is calculated by many factors in order to compensate the “loss of life” the injury has caused. These factors include your medical bills caused by the injury (present, and future), your income, and the injury’s effect on your ability to work, and the degree of fault.

Considerable compensation may be commanded if your injuries are severe and require extensive medical treatment, absences from work and permanent injuries. This is especially true if you were a healthy, productive, young worker prior to the accident. That is because an important factor in the value of your claim is the difference between your quality of life before the accident as compared to after the accident Although it is difficult to determine an exact amount each personal injury case is worth, these components help an attorney determine what your case may be worth to you.

Any settlement may be reduced depending on how successful the attorney believes the suit may be. Other factors that may reduce the damages include past medical history, pre­-existing injuries, and prior claims history. Also, if you were partially at fault for the accident, the amount of damages will be reduced proportionately. California law abides by the concept of pure comparative fault which regulates the amount a plaintiff can recover based on the amount of fault. If a plaintiff is 100% at fault they cannot recover, however if the defendant was 100% at fault, the plaintiff can recover 100%. If both contributed to the injury, a plaintiff’s award will be reduced by the amount they contributed. Some states do not allow recovery if a plaintiff is more than 50% at fault, however California states a plaintiff can recover, but will be purely reduced by the amount they were comparatively at fault.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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