If you were injured in an accident caused by someone else, you may wonder whether you have a valid personal injury case.
It’s always a good idea to consult with a reputable personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident, even if you aren’t sure who caused the accident and even if you don’t think you were seriously hurt.
An attorney who specializes in personal injury law will tell you whether you may be able to receive compensation. They’ll advise you on the best next steps based on the legal options available in your case.
Continue reading to learn more about personal injury cases and what you might expect.
What Is a Personal Injury Case?
A personal injury case is a lawsuit filed by an injured person against the person or entity responsible for the victim’s injuries.
There may be an initial claim filed with an insurance company. Many people use the terms “claim” and “case” interchangeably. Sometimes a claim can be settled without the need to file a lawsuit.
Personal injury cases can arise from:
Not every injury results in a personal injury case. But if you were injured because someone was careless, wasn’t paying attention, or failed to follow safety protocols, you may be able to recover compensation in a personal injury case. In a product liability case, you may not even have to prove negligence.
How Much Is a Personal Injury Claim Worth?
No two cases are alike. Some cases are worth thousands, and some are worth millions. The value of your case depends on several factors.
Factors that could affect how much your case is worth include:
- The amount of your medical expenses
- Whether you are expected to make a full recovery (and how long that will take)
- Whether you were partially responsible for the accident
- Whether you did anything to mitigate your damages
- Whether you were injured on the job and are covered under workers’ compensation
- How long you missed work, and whether you can return to the same job
- The extent to which other people depend on your income
- The value of any applicable insurance policies
Some of these factors may not apply to your case at all. An experienced attorney will work to get you the maximum financial award possible based on the circumstances of your case.
How Much Does a California Personal Injury Lawyer Cost?
It varies. Most personal injury attorneys don’t charge you anything unless they obtain a financial award for you through a settlement or trial verdict. They work on a contingency fee basis – meaning their fee depends on a successful outcome in your case.
They’ll collect their fee at the conclusion of your case as a percentage of whatever you were awarded. Each attorney will have their own fee agreement, but generally, contingent fees are anywhere from one-third to 40% of the total compensation awarded in your case.
This type of arrangement means that you don’t have to worry about paying any money upfront when money is tight.
What Compensation Can I Get in a Personal Injury Case?
There are two general categories of damages that personal injury victims often seek: economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages cover direct monetary losses incurred as a result of your accident.
Economic damages include compensation for things like:
These should be easy to calculate since you’ll generally have an invoice or receipt for these items. Calculating future wages can be tricky, but most personal injury attorneys have financial experts to help estimate this number.
Often referred to as compensation for “pain and suffering,” non-economic damages can include money for:
- Physical pain
- Disability or disfigurement
- Loss of enjoyment of everyday activities
- Loss of ability to participate in family responsibilities, such as caring for your children or helping around the house
- Anxiety or depression
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Non-economic damages are less tangible and compensate you for the negative effect that the accident had on your life in general.
What’s the Deadline for Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in California?
In most cases, you must file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit within two years of your accident in California. However, there may be exceptions, so it’s always in your best interest to seek legal advice sooner rather than later.
For example, if a government entity was responsible for your injury, you’ll have just six months to file an administrative claim with the appropriate agency.
Another exception is medical malpractice. If you were injured due to the negligence of a medical provider, you’ll have either three years from the date of injury or one year from when you discovered the injury, whichever occurs first.
Can I Still File a Personal Injury Case if I Was at Fault for an Accident in California?
In most cases, yes. Shared fault can be complicated, so always consult a good personal injury attorney if you think you were partially to blame.
California follows a pure comparative fault rule for shared liability. If you were partly at fault for your injury, your award will be reduced accordingly. For example, if a judge or jury determines that you were 20% responsible for the accident, your award will be reduced by 20%.
How Long Does a California Personal Injury Case Take?
Your case could take months to years. It’s impossible to say without knowing more about your circumstances. Some cases settle relatively quickly – but it could take a few months until the settlement money is in your pocket.
Some things that affect how quickly a case progresses include:
- Whether multiple parties are involved
- The severity of your injuries
- Whether there are disputes about the facts or law in the case
- Whether the insurance company offers you a fair settlement
- Whether any defendant is a large company
If you suffered serious injuries, you want to make sure you understand the full extent of your injuries before you accept a settlement. You may need to go through several steps of medical treatment before your doctors can give an opinion on your long-term prognosis.
If multiple parties or a big corporation is fighting your case, it may take longer due to delay tactics or a more complex settlement process. Getting the maximum amount that you deserve often takes time.
If you are struggling with finances, talk to your lawyer. They can often negotiate with medical providers to put a hold on the due dates for your bills while the case is pending.