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Personal Injury Law in California

by on May 4, 2012 » Add the first comment.

What is a Personal Injury?

A personal injury occurs when an individual has suffered physical or psychological damage that is not a result of his or her own actions. Although the most common type of legal personal injury claim involves traffic accidents, injuries resulting from tripping accidents, assault, wrongful death, medical malpractice, product defects and accidents while on vacation or holiday also may be legally pursued. If individuals can prove that they sustained personal injuries as a result of the negligence of another party, then they may be entitled to monetary compensation.

Because each state varies in its legal procedures, it is important for individuals to understand the specific procedures of the state in which they reside. Below is information on personal injury law in the State of California.

Can I File a Personal Injury Claim Without a Lawyer in California?

Yes, however personal injury claims can be very complex so this is not the best decision in most cases. In fact, just hiring any lawyer is not recommended. This is because the court decisions and the laws in California are constantly changing. Therefore, hiring a lawyer who focuses on personal injury law specifically is the best decision because such lawyer is more likely to keep track of legal changes.

How Long do I Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Individuals have two years from the date of an accident to hire a lawyer and officially file a lawsuit in the State of California.

On-The-Job vs. Non-Work Related Injuries

According to California law, in most cases on-the-job work-related injuries are to be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Such insurance generally is paid by employers. If an employer maintains coverage and provide cares for a work-related injury, the injured employee may not file a lawsuit for such injury.

If an individual has become permanently disabled due to an on-the-job accident, the California court system can determine the extent and percentage of his or her disability. Individuals may be entitled to permanent disability pay along with payment for future medical expenses.

If non-work related injuries are caused by another party’s negligence, such as an auto accident or a slip and fall accident, California Civil Code 1714 provides the basis for individuals to file a lawsuit in order to prove negligence and recover damages.

California also is a pure comparative law state. This means that a jury or arbitrator is permitted to assign a percentage of fault to an injured party if such party contributed to their own injury. If a percentage of fault is assigned to the injured party, their judgment or settlement will be reduced by such amount. For example, consider the case where you get hurt, but are found to be 10% at fault. Your resulting judgment or settlement will be for 90% of what it would have been had you not been 10% at fault.

What Should I Look For When Hiring an Attorney?

Hire an experienced, reputable lawyer to handle your claims. Specifically, you should hire a personal injury attorney rather than a general attorney. This is because California personal injury law is constantly changing due to new court decisions and new laws. Below are 5 things you should consider when searching for a lawyer:

  1. Individuals should seek out lawyers who are experts in their claim area. For instance, if an individual has been injured in an auto accident, then they should search for a lawyer with a significant amount of experience in auto accidents.
  2. Individuals should make inquiries about any and all lawyer fees. Generally, most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that they only receive payment if an individual wins a judgment or settlement.
  3. Individuals should ask to see proof of past successful negotiations.  This includes making sure that their prospective lawyer has experience dealing with insurance companies.
  4. Individuals should look for a lawyer who has trial experience. Although most personal injury claims are negotiated successfully out of court, the lawyer should be prepared to argue the claims in court.
  5. Individuals should make sure that they get along well with their lawyer as well as his or her staff. More often than not, individuals will be required to deal with their lawyer’s staff when their lawyer is not available.

Individuals should remember that with the help of a reputable, experienced lawyer, they should be able to receive the maximum compensation for their injuries.

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