After someone suffers an accident in California, he or she is entitled to file a civil lawsuit that is meant to bring the person back to the state he was in before the accident. The legal system does this by granting the plaintiff monetary damages that compensate him for the losses that were suffered. To do this, a lawyer must demonstrate that the guilty party was negligent.
What Is a Personal Injury?
A personal injury is the injury or property damages that occur after someone is involved in an accident that was caused by another person’s negligence. Along with physical injuries and property damages, the accident may cause injuries to your mental well-being as well. If you received physical injuries, mental injuries or property damages in an accident that was due to someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit according to California law.
You can file a personal injury claim for the following:
In order to receive monetary compensation for your personal injury case, an attorney will need to prove the following elements of negligence:
Who Determines Liability?
After you hire a lawyer, he or she will determine how much responsibility each person should receive in the accident. Your law firm will do this by investigating each person so that they can assign the appropriate amount of blame. Then, they will present this information to the court or the at-fault party’s lawyer. Because the at-fault parties may have liability insurance, their insurance companies will conduct their own investigations to decide who is liable for the accident.
The investigations of your lawyer and the insurance company may result in different conclusions. If you cannot come to an agreement, your lawyer may file a personal injury lawsuit. In this case, a jury will decide who is liable.
The Personal Injury Case
Hiring an attorney does not necessarily mean that you will file a personal injury lawsuit. Before that can be considered, your lawyer will investigate your case for the purpose of demonstrating the fact that the plaintiff breached his duty of care. For this purpose, your lawyer will examine the incident reports and police reports, obtain your medical reports and your bills, interview the witnesses, look over the photographs of your injuries and property damages, and interview medical experts.
In a traffic accident case, your attorney would need to show that the defendant had the duty to operate his vehicle in a manner that a reasonable person would while driving on the roads. If the case is a malpractice case, the physician would have needed to treat you according to the medical standard of care in your location. Lastly, manufacturers of products or the distributors of these products both have the duty to ensure that their products are not defective or dangerous to the market.
Once your attorney has built a strong case, he or she will meet with the at-fault driver’s lawyer and begin settlement negotiations. If these negotiations do not result in a satisfactory settlement, then your attorney may decide to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Alternative Ways of Demonstrating Negligence
Personal injury doesn’t always rely on traditional negligence. If this is the case for you, your lawyer will need to prove your case in a different manner. For example, your lawyer would do one of the following instead:
Demonstrate that the At-fault Party Acted Intentionally.
If a person acts intentionally, he is acting in a manner that is voluntary, and he is expecting you to experience deleterious consequences. If an assault or battery leads you to file a claim, your lawyer may file an intentional tort case.
Prove “Negligence Per Se.”
If the at-fault party committed an unexcused violation of a statute, negligence per se will apply. If the statute was enacted with the purpose of preventing the type of injury that you sustained, the at-fault party would be automatically responsible for the damages. You must also be a member of the population that the statute was enacted to protect in this manner. One example is in the case of a motorist hitting a pedestrian when driving while intoxicated. If the pedestrian was hurt in the collision, the court will establish the at-fault party’s liability using negligence per se in most cases.
Demonstrate that Your Case Can Be Adjudicated by the “Strict Liability” Standard of Proof.
You would not be required to demonstrate that the at-fault party is responsible for your injuries when “strict liability” is used, and you would be able to collect damages from this person. Product liability cases often use this standard of negligence. Accidents that occur when wild animals attack or when people are engaged in particularly dangerous activities also apply.
Damages that You May Be Entitled to After Winning a Personal Injury Lawsuit
In order to be entitled to monetary damages from the negligent party, your lawyer must clearly demonstrate that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of your injuries. If so, you may be able to recover the following types of damages:
Economic damages compensate you for all of the monetary losses that the accident caused you. For example, you may receive a sum of money for the time that you had to miss work. You may receive a sum of money for your current medical bills and any that you could possibly have in the future, and you may receive a sum of money to repair or replace your vehicle.
Non-economic damages compensate you monetarily for damages that do not have a monetary value. For example, you may receive an amount of money for pain and suffering, disability, mental anguish and physical disfigurement.
Punitive damages are rarely awarded, but you may receive them if the defendant acted in an intentional manner or was particularly reckless and careless while driving on the roads. Punitive damages are a way for the judge to punish the defendant for actions that were especially egregious.
Possible Legal Defenses
The defendant is entitled to hire a lawyer to defend himself. Some of the most common defenses that may be presented in your personal injury case include the following:
This statute applies if you were injured at work. If you were to try to hold your employer responsible for your injuries, the court may release him or her from all responsibility. This will happen if you were in the process of performing your job duties when the accident occurred.
Assumption of Risk
This risk can prevent you from receiving compensation from the person determined to be liable for your injuries. In this case, the defendant will allege that you were aware that there was a risk and that you voluntarily agreed to accept that risk before you were injured. For example, a football player would be aware that there is a risk in participating in a football game. In most cases, athletes cannot receive monetary compensation for the injuries they sustain during play.
In your personal injury case, several people may be liable for the injuries you sustained. Also, the at-fault party may accuse you of being partially responsible for the accident. According to California law, comparative negligence guides this area of personal injury. This means that each person determined to be negligent in an accident must pay a percentage of the damages. Therefore, if more than one party were determined to be negligent, each party would pay damages according to each person’s contribution to the accident.
As an example, the defendant may receive 75% of the blame for the accident, and you may receive the other 25%. After a monetary amount has been decided, the judge will reduce this amount by 25% or your portion of the responsibility.
California is one state that follows a pure comparative negligence law. This means that you can hold the guilty party responsible for your injuries even if you received 51% or more of the blame for the accident. In other states, the modified comparative negligence law applies so that you cannot receive monetary compensation from the at-fault party if you receive 51% or more of the responsibility for the accident.