If you’ve been injured in an accident in California, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses and suffering. However, recovering compensation is not as simple as submitting a single piece of paperwork and being awarded money. Many steps happen between the accident and when your case is settled.
If you live in the Bay Area and need help with a claim, our San Francisco traffic accident lawyers can assist you. We will walk you through the personal injury process and fight hard to ensure you are awarded the full and fair settlement you need for the damages you have suffered.
What Are Personal Injury Claims?
Personal injury claims are cases that deal with negligence that causes harm. For example, if another driver runs a red light and hits you, you can file a personal injury claim against them for their negligent actions. The point of these claims is to recover compensation for damages you have suffered as a result of the negligent action.
If you sustain a head injury in the accident, you would file a claim and could recover compensation. These damages would cover your medical bills, income lost while you recover from your injury, and could include compensation for the emotional trauma you suffered as a result of your injury and the accident.
Personal injury claims are civil cases, meaning the purpose is to hold the negligent party financially accountable for their actions. They are not criminal cases, meaning the purpose is not to punish the negligent party, such as by charging them with a crime and sentencing them to time in prison.
It’s also important to note that while the claim is filed against the negligent person, it is typically their insurance company that compensates you for your damages. However, it is possible in some cases to file a lawsuit on top of the personal injury claim to recover additional compensation directly from the negligent person.
A Step-by-Step Guide to the Personal Injury Claim Process in California
Before you can recover compensation, multiple steps must first occur. The personal injury claim process is not always easy and can take some time.
1. Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer
After you’ve been injured in an accident, one of the first things you should do is contact a local personal injury attorney in your area. There are timelines that must be met, certain paperwork to file, and very strict procedures that must be followed when filing a personal injury claim — all of which you will be able to navigate more easily with an attorney representing you.
2. Give Notice of Your Claim
After contacting an attorney, the next step in the personal injury claim process is to send notice to the responsible party and/or open the claim with their insurance company notifying them of your intent to recover damages. This usually requires a phone call during which you or your lawyer will provide some basic information about the accident and your claim. You do not need to go into great detail during this call, and you should never give the insurance company your social security number.
3. Demand for Personal Injury Compensation
Once you have concluded all medical treatment related to the injuries you received in the accident, your attorney will then craft a detailed demand letter to the responsible party’s insurance carrier. This demand letter will chronicle your “journey” from the moment the accident occurred to the present. It will detail how the accident happened, why the other party is at fault, what your injuries and treatment entailed and the course of your pain, suffering and recovery. Then, at the end of the demand letter, your lawyer will demand a specific dollar amount of money for which you will settle your claim.
4. File a Lawsuit for Compensation
If the defendant (the negligent party) or their insurance company rejects or fails to respond to your request for compensation, or they simply will not offer a fair amount for your damages, your attorney will then file a complaint (lawsuit) demanding compensation to the appropriate court. Once this complaint has been filed, the defendant must also be served a copy of the complaint and a summons and then will have 30 days to respond.
5. Discovery Phase
Once the complaint has been filed and the defendant has answered the complaint, your case will enter the discovery phase. During this time, both sides will have the time to thoroughly investigate the accident, gather evidence, and exchange necessary information. This can include depositions, requests for documents, interrogatories, and requests for admissions.
6. Settlement Negotiations
After all evidence and information have been exchanged and gathered, the case will enter the negotiations phase. In some cases, both parties may reach an agreement through mediation. If so, you will agree to drop the lawsuit and accept the settlement amount agreed upon. If the parties cannot reach an agreement on how much compensation should be awarded, the case will likely continue to trial.
7. Court Trial
If the case goes to trial, both sides will present their evidence and arguments to a judge and/or jury. The judge or jury will then decide the outcome and how much money, if any, is owed to you (the plaintiff). If, for some reason, either party is still unhappy with the outcome, they may file an appeal with a higher court.
Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline
There is no guarantee how long it will take to get through the personal injury claim process. Some cases are swift and easy, meaning after you and your lawyer file the initial notice, the other party might immediately agree to pay the damages you are requesting.
It is not uncommon, however, for the defendant and their insurance to want to proceed to discovery and settlement negotiations if they do not initially agree with the initial demand for compensation. And from that point on, there is no telling how long the case will take until it reaches a settlement.
This is why it is always best to work with an attorney. Even with an attorney, the case can be long and drawn out, but your lawyer will work hard to avoid that. Their goal is to help you navigate the process and reach an agreeable outcome as quickly as possible so you can get the money you need and get back to your life.
We Handle Your Personal Injury Claim So You Can Focus On Your Life
If you are injured in a California accident, our legal team can evaluate your case and help guide you through the process to make it as easy and pain-free as possible.
At Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, our personal injury accident lawyers fight hard to ensure our clients get the fair compensation they deserve to help pay for their damages. For help with your personal injury claim, call us at 877-380-8852 or contact us online today for a free case evaluation.