Personal Injury Process for California Injury—Step-By-Step Guide
After an accident, you probably need compensation to help cover your sudden medical expenses and lost wages. Fortunately, California law allows you to bring a personal injury case so you can hold the person who injured you accountable for money damages.
The personal injury process in California is confusing, and many people make critical errors when they try to handle their own case.
For help with your California injury, you should meet with an experienced attorney who understands the personal injury process inside and out. Below, we give you an overview of the steps to take.
Collect Evidence at the Scene of the Accident
To receive compensation, you need to show that someone else is at fault for your injuries. For example, in a car accident, you need to show that another driver was careless or reckless. If you fall inside a store, you need to show there was a dangerous condition that made the premises hazardous which the store owner did not fix.
To make the personal injury process go smoothly, gather as much evidence at the scene of the accident as possible:
- If you were in a car crash, take photos of the damage to all vehicles. Also, call the police to come out and file a police report.
- If you fell in a store, take a picture of the hazard. For example, you might have slipped in a puddle of water that had collected in an aisle.
- Get the names and contact information for anyone who witnessed your accident. You might need them to testify.
Hire a Seasoned Personal Injury Attorney
The personal injury process will be much easier if you have a lawyer by your side who has handled personal injury claims for a California injury before. At our firm, we have represented injured people like you for decades and have a long list of satisfied clients.
To find an attorney, you can get a referral from a friend or check out attorney websites online. Schedule a free consultation with the lawyer to discuss your case and, if you like the lawyer, formalize the attorney-client relationship.
Send the Defendant a Demand for Payment
Of all the steps in a personal injury case, this one is often overlooked. You can often settle a claim without having to go to court. Instead, the insurance company will investigate to find out whether its insured is responsible for your injuries and, if so, should negotiate a settlement with you. Once you have added up your losses, you can make a demand for compensation to the defendant or his insurer.
At Starpoint Law, we have negotiated several tough settlements on our clients’ behalf, and we are unafraid to go up against California’s largest insurance companies.
Keep the Statute of Limitations in Mind
This is key and might be the most important of all the personal injury lawsuit steps. The statute of limitations is the amount of time you have to sue in court. California gives injured victims a limited amount of time, after which you are barred from making a claim. For most personal injuries, the California Code of Civil Procedure 335.1 gives you only 2 years. In other situations, you will have far less time, so don’t delay contacting an attorney.
File Initial Paperwork in Court
You must file your “pleadings” before the statute of limitations expires. One pleading is your complaint, which identifies what happened and who you are suing. You also state how much compensation you are suing for. You file your complaint with the court and send a copy (along with other documents) to the defendant so he or she can respond.
Pleadings are technical legal documents which must contain certain information. If you hire an attorney, you won’t have to worry that it is filed correctly.
Engage in Discovery
Lawsuits revolve around facts, so every lawsuit has a fact-finding stage called “discovery.” You can request information or documents from the person you are suing, and he or she can request the same from you. This might be the lengthiest step in the personal injury process. In some cases, discovery can last 6 months or more.
Your attorney can negotiate a settlement for your California injury even as a lawsuit is ongoing. In our experience, a case can settle at any time but becomes more likely as trial approaches. If you can reach a settlement, then your lawyer will draft or review a settlement agreement which each side signs.
Go to Trial
When negotiations break down, trial is unavoidable. You might have waited a year or more from the date of your injury for your trial date. In court, your attorney can present evidence and witnesses on your behalf. The other side can do the same.
A jury will decide whether the defendant is to blame and, if so, how much he or she must pay you. After trial, you might need to work on collecting your judgment from the defendant, who might not be anxious to pay up.
Speak to Us Today
Starpoint Law, is a leader in personal injury law and is available to meet with you to start the personal injury process. Please contact us today to schedule your free consultation.