Many factors can make or break a personal injury case.
If you’ve been seriously injured in an accident due to another person’s negligence, you’re probably wondering whether you have a case for compensation from them or their insurance company. Good question!
The answer can be complicated. In California, when you’re injured by another individual, a corporation, or a government entity, you are legally entitled to collect monetary compensation in an amount suitable to cover your expenses and damages.
However, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Negligent people and insurance companies don’t like handing over their money. Expect them to put up a fight.
That’s where your personal injury attorney comes in. An experienced attorney can help you get compensated in court or arrange a private settlement. Usually, this happens by demanding what you are due from the at-fault party’s insurance company.
To successfully secure the full compensation you deserve, you must demonstrate that your injuries are real, that they were caused by the accident, and that you suffered hardships beyond just your medical costs. A high-value case includes non-economic as well as economic damages.
You’ll also need to show who was at fault and what proportion of the blame they hold. Along the way, you’ll need to provide a mountain of evidence the other side simply can’t overcome.
The Four Parts of a Successful Personal Injury Case
If you’re wondering whether you have a strong enough personal injury case to pursue compensation, it’s likely that you do. To successfully secure and maximize your compensation in a settlement or in court, you’ll need to address four basic requirements for building a solid personal injury traffic accident case.
#1 Duty of Care: You and your attorney must demonstrate that the at-fault party had a legal responsibility to look after your safety. For example, a California driver’s duty of care requires them to observe caution when cyclists or pedestrians are present, even if that means traveling slower than posted speed limits.
The at-fault party’s duty of care in your particular accident situation may be clearly and overtly addressed in the state’s motor vehicle code or your lawyer may have to dig deeper, using the legal precedents from prior court judgments.
#2 Breach of Conduct: Once a duty of care is established, it’s time to demonstrate that the at-fault party either willingly or unwillingly violated it. For example, if a driver ran through a stop sign or failed to yield the right of way while you crossed the street, they clearly breached their duty of care.
#3 Causal Effect: Even if an at-fault party had a duty of care to protect you and they breached that duty, this may not be enough to build a successful personal injury case. You and your attorney must prove that their breach of duty directly caused or contributed to your injuries.
#4 Damages: You must also demonstrate that your financial and medical losses related to your injuries were substantial. The key to proving damages beyond medical expenses is to present evidence that your life was adversely affected by your injuries.
What Kind of Compensation is Available?
If you’ve been injured in an accident, you can most likely claim:
- Lost wages – even partial days’ worth
- Pain and suffering
- Compensation for disfigurement and/or disability
- Medical bills
- Car repairs
Some losses can be more difficult to prove, but nevertheless constitute legal damages for which you can also receive financial compensation, including:
- Detrimental changes in relationships with loved ones
- Decreased quality of life
- Emotional trauma
- Ongoing therapy
- Future wages
Beware! Your Personal Injury Case Has Legal Restrictions
We don’t want you to miss your opportunity to get the compensation you deserve due to a technicality. So let’s look at some of the legal restrictions that may apply to your case.
First, there’s a time limit. Known as a statute of limitations, it’s a restriction on how long a victim has to file a personal injury case after an accident. These deadlines vary by state and by factors such as who was involved.
In California, the time limit for personal injury and car accident cases is generally two years, although it can be three years for property damage. If a government entity is involved, the timeframe may shrink to one year.
So as you can see, it’s a good rule of thumb to hire an attorney to handle it for you as soon as possible so you don’t miss the deadline. Often, you can notify the at-fault party or their legal representative with a letter stating your intent to sue, thereby protecting your right to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Another restriction relates to establishing fault. Some states are no-fault states where individuals who cause minor accidents cannot be held liable. Others, including California, are comparative negligence states, meaning proportions of blame are assigned to everyone involved.
Here in California, victims can seek compensation even if their own actions contributed to the accident. You, and every other party, will be assigned a percentage of the fault and the monetary award amount will be reduced proportionally according to the percentage of negligence assigned.
Let’s say a speeding car hits a pedestrian who is crossing in a marked crosswalk but entered the street when the crossing signal wasn’t lit for them. Each party may be assigned a portion of the fault. Because the pedestrian was in the crosswalk and the car was speeding, the driver will most likely be assigned a larger percentage of the negligence and their insurer will owe compensation.
It’s very difficult for victims to secure compensation when they are 100% responsible for their own injuries. This is why it’s important to request a case review from an experienced personal injury attorney.
Important Steps to Take With or Without a Personal Injury Case
There are many things you can do to protect your right to compensation and strengthen your personal injury case.
- Seek medical attention right away and follow your doctor’s orders, which is an important step in documenting your injuries and your need for compensation.
- Collect photo/video evidence at the scene of the crash.
- Document your injuries as they heal.
- Get eyewitness statements on record.
- Collect police reports.
Don’t wait until you are 100% sure whether you have a valid personal injury case to collect the information above, or you could miss your chance. Memories fade and video evidence can be lost forever, plus you could miss the deadline for filing a claim.
You and your personal injury attorney will use the evidence above to:
- Prove negligence.
- Support your claim of need.
- Combat competing claims by insurance adjusters and defense attorneys.
- Sway the opinion of the court in your favor.
When You Might Not Seek Compensation
There are some instances where you might choose not to seek compensation, even if you do have solid evidence. Here are the primary reasons why an attorney may advise you not to move forward with a personal injury case.
- Your Damages and Injuries Weren’t Excessive: If your financial expenditures and personal losses from the accident were not excessive, and the insurance company doesn’t offer you any compensation, it could be preferable to absorb a minor financial loss and get on with your life rather than investing time and energy in the pursuit of a small payout. But make sure you’re truly considering ALL losses, including future damages.
- The At-Fault Party is Uninsured and Has No Assets: If the at-fault party has no insurance and no real assets, you’ll likely never receive compensation from them even if you win. It’s unfair but true. You can’t squeeze blood from a stone. It may not be worth your hassle to pursue expensive collection efforts.
- Your Insurance May Cover You: Here’s some good news. Sometimes you’re better off seeking compensation from your own insurance company, especially if your medical costs are relatively modest. The company may then pursue legal action against the at-fault party or their insurance company if they wish.
Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney?
If you do have the foundation of a successful personal injury case, you need to decide whether you need the services of a personal injury attorney. While you can successfully pursue an insurance claim or lawsuit on your own, personal injury attorneys have the experience necessary to make the process go much more smoothly and free your time to focus on your recovery and your life.
Injured accident victims who use the services of qualified personal injury attorneys often end up with larger settlements and court awards than those who try to seek compensation on their own. The lawyer can focus on the entire process for you while your focus is elsewhere.
At Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, we deal with insurance companies and defense attorneys every day. We know the legal limitations people like you face, and we can offer services that will make the entire compensation process faster and less stressful.
If you’ve been seriously injured, it’s worth your time to have a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney. Let’s discuss whether you have a case and your options for securing the compensation you need.
We Handle Your Pedestrian Accident Claim So You Can Focus on Your Life
After a personal injury, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many areas of the law, including many kinds of personal injuries. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering while we handle the legal details.
We truly care about the people of California. Contact us today for a free online case evaluation.