Understanding California’s Personal Injury Laws for Severe Injuries
Even minor injuries sustained in an accident can result in thousands of dollars in medical bills, but if your injuries were severe or catastrophic, you could be facing financial devastation. The good news is that California law allows you to seek compensation from the at-fault party if you were injured in an accident. Find out more about how this works and what you may be able to get below.
What Counts as a Severe or Catastrophic Injury?
What is considered a severe or catastrophic injury can vary from person to person, and there is no strict definition. However, injuries that rise to this level generally require hospitalization, surgeries, and ongoing medical care. Life-threatening injuries are certainly included in this list. However, some injuries may not seem at first as severe as they are. For example, if you are in a car accident and initially sustain just a broken leg but later on develop fibromyalgia as a result of the trauma, this could impact your ability to work and your quality of life, which could make the injury catastrophic.
How Is Fault Determined?
California is an at-fault state, which simply means that the person at fault for an accident can be sued for damages, including compensation related to medical bills and pain and suffering. However, determining who was at fault can be challenging. Few instances are cut and dried, and it can take months for a determination to be made.
In general, insurance companies are responsible for determining who is at fault in an accident. They will investigate the accident, including talking to both parties and any other witnesses, and review police reports to get a better idea of what happened and what actions — and whose — led to the accident. In complex cases, the insurance company may even do an accident reconstruction to assist in determining who was at fault.
If the other party is found at fault, you can then decide if you wish to pursue a civil lawsuit seeking compensation. It’s important to note that this is an option even if you were also found partially at fault, as long as your fault percentage was less than 50%. However, if you were found to be partially at fault, it could decrease the amount of money you’re able to get.
How Much Money Can I Get?
This is a common question that we get, but it’s not an easy one to answer. It’s normal to want to know what kind of compensation you may be entitled to, but this number is different for every situation. Some of the factors that can affect how much you may get if you win your case are:
- The severity of the injuries: Usually, more serious injuries result in higher compensation.
- The percentage of fault: The more fault that is attributed to the other party, the more money you may be able to get.
- The amount of expenses you’ve incurred as a result of the accident. Compensation is largely based on how much money you’ve lost by paying medical bills or taking time off of work, but you may also be able to get additional money for pain and suffering in some cases.
- How much insurance the other party had. Insurance companies sometimes have maximum payouts, which can limit your compensation.
- The quality of your legal representation. Having an experienced personal injury attorney representing you can increase the likelihood of winning your case and may help you get more money.
Should I Settle With the Insurance Company?
Insurance companies will often try to settle with you out of court to avoid going to trial. However, these offers are often much lower than what you could get if you countered or took the case to trial. If the insurance company has offered a settlement, it’s important to have your attorney review it to ensure that it’s adequate and in line with the expenses you’ve incurred so far and what you may continue to spend in the future. When you work with The Weinberger Law Firm, we can talk to and negotiate directly with the insurance company on your behalf to attempt to settle, but we’re also ready and willing to take your case to trial, if necessary.
What Is the Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury Cases in California?
The statute of limitations is the timeframe in which a person has to file a lawsuit after an accident. The time period usually begins on the date of the accident. However, there are some situations where this is changed to start when the person is made aware that they were injured. For example, if there is a medical error made during a surgery and you’re not aware until three years later when it starts causing symptoms, the statute of limitations would begin when you were aware of the malpractice.
The statute of limitation for personal injury cases in California is two years. However, this doesn’t mean that you should wait until close to the end of that period to file a claim. In general, it’s best to talk with an attorney as soon as possible after the accident once your immediate injuries have been dealt with. They can advise you of when to file the suit and what to do in the meantime to document your injuries and expenses.
Suffering severe or catastrophic injuries can alter the course of your life, and while money can’t restore your physical function or health, it can alleviate the financial burden and make it easier to adjust to a new normal. If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact The Weinberger Law Firm at 916-661-4464 to find out how our team can help you hold the other party responsible and get the money you deserve.