More than 700,000 civil cases of all kinds make their way into the California court system every year. More than 56,000 of those are personal injury suits of various kinds, including motor vehicle personal injury claims, claims for property damage, premises liability cases, dog bite cases, and others.
While 80 percent or more of those cases will be resolved before a trial even begins, it’s important for plaintiffs to understand how the process works as they consider or pursue a personal injury claim.
The Clock Is Ticking …
One key thing to be aware of is that civil suits, including personal injury claims, are governed by statutes of limitations. This means that the injured party in any case has only a limited amount of time to file a claim; otherwise, all rights to collect damages will be lost. In California, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is generally two years from the date of the injury.
There are a few exceptions, some shorter and some longer, which is why you should waste no time getting in touch with an attorney who can get started on any filings that need to be made. Claims against healthcare providers, for instance, have only a one-year window, while claims against government entities are even more restricted (six months).
Getting the Ball Rolling
One of the first things you or your lawyer will need to do is open a claim with the responsible insurance company (your own or someone else’s, depending on the type of claim and the circumstances).
At the same time, you’ll need to be examined and get treatment for your injuries. That’s ultimately what many cases are built on: the injuries and the costs of treatment and recovery. It’s vital that every step—every exam, every diagnosis, every treatment, every prescription—is carefully documented, which is an important part of the process an experienced attorney can help with.
At this point, your attorney will organize all the material collected so far about the incident and the injury into a demand package, or demand letter, which he or she will submit to the insurance company. This is the part of the process when you put a value on your injury and back it up with solid documentation.
Settle or Sue?
In the face of a solid claim (supported by a solid demand package), most defendants will choose to settle. Of course, they might not accept your demand at face value and might make a counteroffer; your attorney and theirs may be able to negotiate a settlement that both sides accept.
But some defendants will take a case to trial, for various reasons. Some might be unwilling to accept responsibility and will fight on principle. Others might recognize their own culpability but will feel the requested settlement is too large; they’ll take a chance that they’ll win in court and have to pay less (or nothing at all).
Still others might simply hope that the plaintiff is unwilling to get involved in a lengthy court proceeding and will abandon the case or accept a reduced settlement instead.
These tactics might deter some plaintiffs, but those with strong cases will persist. Even when a case goes to trial, most will still settle: In a typical year, less than 3 percent of all cases filed in California go all the way to a jury verdict or a judge’s ruling.
San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer
The end-to-end process of pursuing an injury claim can be very complicated, and there are many moments when even a simple mistake can derail a claim, sometimes permanently. To make sure your case has the best chance of success and that your settlement is what you deserve, it’s important to contact an experienced personal injury law firm.
The Kindley Firm, APC, focuses on personal injury law, and we offer a free consultation to all clients to discuss every unique case. Give us a call today at 619-550-1313 or complete the form below to learn more or schedule an appointment.