Have you or someone you love been hurt in an accident in San Diego, CA? Recovering the compensation you deserve can be an uphill battle without the right help on your side.
Mission Personal Injury Lawyers has represented injury victims for more than 25 years. Our San Diego personal injury lawyers offer free consultation to all potential clients with absolutely no obligation. If you choose to work with us, you pay nothing out-of-pocket for skilled legal representation.
Get answers to frequently asked questions about personal injury law then contact our firm today to schedule your free case review.
Table of Contents
What is Personal Injury Law?
A personal injury case is a legal dispute between an injury victim and an alleged at-fault party. The injured party typically seeks financial compensation from this at-fault party through an insurance claim, which may eventually progress to a lawsuit. Some personal injury cases proceed directly to a lawsuit.
Personal injury cases are based on California tort law, which is different from criminal law. The criminal court system holds parties accountable for violating California criminal law, including crimes that result in personal injury to other people.
Personal injury or tort law allows victims to hold parties civilly accountable for the damages they have suffered. Some personal injury cases involve criminal conduct. However, it is not necessary for a defendant to face criminal charges before one pursues a personal injury case.
Personal injury or tort cases are divided into two broad categories: unintentional torts (typically based on negligence) and intentional torts, including assault.
Personal injury cases can result from almost any type of accident or crime that injures another person.
Common types of personal injury cases include:
- Car accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Bus accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Truck accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Sexual assault and other forms of intentional tort
- Premises liability, such as dog bites or slip and fall accidents
- Defective product injuries under product liability
- Workplace accidents, including construction accidents
- Wrongful death
If you have been harmed due to someone else’s intentional misconduct, negligence, or carelessness, you may have a personal injury case.
What Compensation Can I Recover from a Personal Injury Lawsuit in San Diego, CA?
After your accident, you are entitled to pursue compensation for the losses you have suffered from the at-fault party.
Economic damages compensate for your financial expenses related to your injury, including:
- Property damage
- Current medical bills
- Future medical care
- Rehabilitation, counseling, and skilled nursing care
- Lost wages
- Diminished earning capacity or disability
- Other financial losses, such as childcare expenses and transportation costs for medical treatment
You may also recover compensation for your non-economic damages. These damages compensate for personal, non-monetary losses related to your accident.
They include money for:
- Pain and suffering
- Anguish and emotional distress,
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Reduced enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Other losses
While uncommon, punitive damages are available in some personal injury cases. A jury may award punitive damages to punish the at-fault party for malicious behavior, intentional harm, gross negligence, or wanton disregard for human life.
In California, there are no caps on economic and non-economic damages except in medical malpractice cases, where you are limited to $250,000 for non-economic losses like pain and suffering.
What California Personal Injury Laws Affect My Case?
Many California civil laws can impact your case. The following are some of the most important to understand.
A personal injury lawsuit can be based on negligence, intentional tort, or strict liability. The way you prove your case depends upon which legal theory your case is based. Most personal injury cases are based on negligence.
Statutes of Limitation / Time Limits to File Your Claim
You have a limited amount of time to file your case in court; the statute of limitations depends on the type of case. Most personal injury cases in California have a two-year statute of limitations. Special deadlines apply to cases involving medical malpractice and claims against government entities. In some cases, the statute of limitations may be suspended for a period of time.
California uses a comparative fault doctrine to assign fault after an accident that involves multiple blameworthy parties. Under this system, an injury victim can recover compensation even if they are partly at fault for their accident. However, the person’s damages will be reduced to account for their share of the blame.
These are only some of the laws that may affect your case. An experienced personal injury lawyer at Mission Personal Injury Lawyers can help you understand how specific laws will impact your injury case.
What is the Burden of Proof in Personal Injury Cases?
A personal injury case has a lower burden of proof than a criminal case in San Diego. You typically must prove your case by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means you must show it is more likely than not that the defendant caused your accident and is liable for your injuries.
If your case goes to trial, you must convince a jury that there is a 51% or greater chance that your case is true based on the testimony, evidence, and legal arguments you present.
When seeking punitive damages, you must present “clear and convincing” evidence that you are entitled to such damages. This burden of proof is higher than the burden for seeking compensatory damages.
In some cases, you may have a claim under more than one legal basis. Each legal theory in California can have a different standard of proof. The burden of proof can also shift.
How Do You Prove Fault in a Personal Injury Case?
Proving your personal injury case requires showing the defendant is at fault for the injuries you suffered.
Most personal injury cases are based on negligence. To prove your case, you must show that the defendant caused your accident and injuries.
A negligence-based claim requires proving four elements:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care. This means they had a duty to behave reasonably to avoid harming you.
- The defendant breached their duty of care. This may be done through inaction or action.
- The breach caused your accident. Under California law, proving causation in a personal injury case means proving your accident would not have happened “but for” the defendant’s breach of duty.
- You suffered injuries as a result.
Proving all four elements by a preponderance of the evidence is enough to win your case.
Proving Negligence Per Se
If the defendant violated a safety law designed to prevent the harm you suffered, they might be negligent per se. This theory is easier to prove than standard negligence.
To prove your case, you must show the defendant violated a law that was intended to prevent their conduct and the harm you suffered. You do not need to prove the defendant knew the law.
Proving Gross Negligence
If the defendant’s negligence went beyond mere carelessness, it can be considered gross negligence. This refers to voluntary, reckless, or conscious disregard for the health and safety of others.
Proving gross negligence is important because it may allow you to seek additional damages including punitive damages.
Proving Strict Liability
Some cases revolve around strict liability rather than negligence. In some cases, a defendant is held strictly liable for injuries, even if they were not negligent. The most common examples are dog bites and defective product cases.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer in San Diego, CA?
You should never feel that cost is a barrier to seeking the legal expertise you need after a serious accident. The personal injury attorney’s fees you pay may depend on the difficulty of your case, the type of case, the attorney’s experience, and the time and resources your case requires.
However, the personal injury lawyers at Mission Personal Injury Lawyers work on contingency. This means you get the legal representation you need with no upfront fees or costs. Your attorney’s fees are paid as a percentage of your financial recovery. You pay nothing unless and until we recover compensation on your behalf.
How Long Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in San Diego?
The amount of time you have to file a lawsuit for a personal injury depends on the circumstances and type of case. As a general rule, you have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit in California. This same statute of limitations applies to wrongful death cases.
For a medical malpractice case, the statute of limitations includes a discovery rule. Your deadline to file a lawsuit is the sooner of:
- One year from the date you discovered or should have discovered the medical error, or
- Three years of the medical error occurring.
If you have a case against a government entity, your statute of limitations is more complex. Government entities are immune from lawsuits in California except in certain situations. You may have a claim against a government employee acting negligently within the scope of their employment, for instance.
The statute of limitations may be tolled or suspended in some cases. The deadline to file a lawsuit may be suspended if the victim was under 18, the victim was mentally incompetent, either party entered military service, or the defendant left the state.
How Much is My Personal Injury Case Worth?
The value of your personal injury case can’t be estimated with any formula or calculator. It depends on factors highly personal to your accident and the losses you have suffered. An experienced personal injury lawyer will consider many factors to value your case:
- What injuries did you sustain and how serious were they?
- How will the accident impact your daily life, well-being, and ability to enjoy your hobbies and perform daily activities?
- Will the accident interfere with your ability to return to work?
- Will you suffer total or permanent disability?
- Will you suffer chronic pain, impairment, or other life-long consequences?
- How has the accident affected your mental health?
Many of your losses are difficult to calculate, especially when it comes to long-term financial losses and assigning a value to non-economic losses. The value of your case may depend on the strength of expert testimony. Your damages are not the only factor influencing the value of your case either. Whether you contributed to your accident, the strength of your negligence case, and the amount of insurance coverage can all affect your case’s value.
Contact an experienced San Diego personal injury lawyer at Mission Personal Injury Lawyers to discuss how much your case may be worth and how we can help you recover compensation.
How Long Will My Injury Case Take?
You undoubtedly want your case to resolve as quickly as possible. You need compensation now for your lost wages, medical care, and more to support your family. While your injury claim can likely be settled in a matter of weeks, this is almost never wise. The insurance company will probably make an initial offer that is incredibly low and does not fully compensate for even your immediate losses. Once you agree to settle, however, you are barred from pursuing further compensation later.
How long it takes to resolve your case and recover fair compensation depends on many factors:
- Whether fault is clear
- When you reach maximum medical improvement
- Whether you need ongoing medical care
- The number of parties and insurance companies involved
- Whether the insurance company acts in good faith
- Whether your case settles or goes to court
As a general rule, cases that settle take less time than cases that go to court. But it’s never wise to rush into a settlement without accurately valuing the full damages you have suffered. Your personal injury lawyer can help you understand the factors in your case that affect the timeline and how long it may take before you receive compensation.
Call Mission Personal Injury Lawyers for a Free Consultation
Have you or someone you love been hurt in an accident? Call Mission Personal Injury Lawyers today for a free consultation with a San Diego personal injury lawyer. We are ready to assist with all legal matters involving your accident from your insurance claim to taking your case to court.