8 Things To Know About California’s Personal Injury Laws

Personal injury law is primarily state law. California has pioneered much of the personal injury law that courts apply throughout the United States, especially product liability. Before you file a personal injury claim, it would be a good idea to learn a little bit about how the system works. No two states apply exactly the same personal injury law.

1. The Statute of Limitations Deadline Can Kill Your Claim

The general California statute of limitations deadline is two years. That means you must either file a lawsuit or finalize a settlement within two years of the date of your injury. Several exceptions apply–minors, for example, can get more time. If you miss the applicable deadline, however, your claim’s value will immediately drop to $0.00.

To beat the statute of limitations deadline, you must file a formal complaint with the appropriate court and pay the filing fee. You must also arrange for a third party to deliver the appropriate paperwork to the defendant. Beware–the opposing party may try to lull you into forgetting about the statute of limitations deadline.

2. California Law Authorizes Many Different Types of Personal Injury Claims

The following is an abbreviated list of a multitude of possible personal injury claims that you might assert: 

This is not a complete list. Just about any injury to the human body and any type of accident can justify a personal injury claim under the right circumstances.

3. California Personal Injury Lawyers Use the Contingency Fee System

Most lawyers charge by the hour—several hundred dollars an hour, that is. Personal injury lawyers, however, are a different breed. They rarely charge by the hour. Instead, their fee equals a certain percentage of your eventual compensation. Legal fees don’t come due until your money arrives. And if your money never arrives, neither does your legal bill. Under the contingency fee system, it is the strength of your claim that matters, not your wealth.

4. You Have to Prove Two Forms of Causation to Win

Most (but not all) personal injury claims require you to prove causation to win. If my negligence and your injury are unrelated, there is no obvious reason why I should pay you compensation. 

The two forms of causation are actual cause and proximate cause. 

The concept of causation can get complex, but the main difference is that:

  • To determine actual cause, you must ask whether the victim would have suffered an injury “but for” the defendant’s misconduct. If not, then actual cause is lacking. 
  • To determine proximate cause, you must ask whether the causal relationship between the defendant’s misconduct and the victim’s injury was close enough to justly holding the defendant liable. If the relationship is too attenuated, proximate cause is lacking.

Remember that you can have actual cause without proximate cause, but you can never have proximate cause without actual cause,  

5. You Can Win a Personal Injury Case Even If the Defendant Won in Criminal Court

Some offenses are both crimes and civil offenses. An intoxicated driver who causes an injury accident, for example, can face criminal charges as well as a personal injury lawsuit. A criminal proceeding is a separate proceeding from a personal injury lawsuit, and it’s a lot easier to win a lawsuit than it is to win a criminal conviction. That is why even if the defendant wins an acquittal in criminal court, you might still win a lawsuit against them on the same facts and evidence.  

6. Non-economic Damages Often Add Up to Far More Than Economic Damages

Economic damages are tangible and easy to count—medical expenses, lost work time, etc. Non-economic damages are intangible and difficult to count—pain and suffering, for example, or emotional distress. Non-economic damages frequently add up to three to five times as much as economic damages.

Keep in mind, however, that California applies a $250,000 limit on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. This limit does not apply to other types of personal injury cases.

7. Comparative Negligence Can Eat Into Your Recovery Even if You ‘Win’

The legal principle of comparative negligence applies if more than one party was at fault for the victim’s injury—including the victim. California is a “pure comparative negligence” state. To distribute compensation between two parties, a defendant and a victim, a court will assign each party a percentage of fault.

A court might rule, for example, that an accident was 70% the defendant’s fault and 30% the victim’s fault. Using these numbers, the victim would lose 30% of their compensation, and they would have to pay the defendant 30% of the defendant’s damages (if any). The same principle applies to any split of fault, even 1% vs. 99%. 

8. Most Claims Settle Out of Court

Most of the time, neither the victim nor the defendant wants to go to trial. Trials are expensive, time-consuming, and risky. You never know for sure how a jury will look at your case. Consequently, most parties settle out of court through negotiation. Keep in mind, however, that the terms of any settlement will reflect what the parties believe the result would be if the claim did go to trial. Ironically, the best way to win a generous settlement is to prepare to win at trial.

A Skilled San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer Can Multiply Your Compensation

Yes, it’s important to ‘win’ your personal injury claim. But there’s a huge difference between winning $1 (nominal damages), winning $10,000 (a common ‘lowball’ offer from an insurance company), and winning $100,000 (perhaps the true value of your claim). An experienced San Diego personal injury attorney can calculate the true value of your claim and fight hard for it.

Contact the San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm of Mission Personal Injury Lawyers Today To Get More Information

If you’ve been injured in San Diego or Chula Vista, please call Mission Personal Injury Lawyers for a free case evaluation with a personal injury lawyer or contact us online.

We proudly serve San Diego County and throughout California.

Mission Personal Injury Lawyers
2515 Camino del Rio S Suite 350, San Diego, CA 92108

(619) 777-5555

Mission Personal Injury Lawyers – Chula Vista Office
690 Otay Lakes Rd #130, Chula Vista, CA 91910
(619) 722-3032

We also serve the state of Texas. Contact our personal injury law office in El Paso for legal assistance today.

Mission Personal Injury Lawyers – El Paso Office
201 E Main Suite 106, El Paso, Texas 79901
(915) 591-1000