You are driving to work when a car comes out of nowhere, and the next thing you know, you are lying injured at a hospital. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, you are swarmed with medical bills and paperwork from insurance companies. They are pressuring you with a compensation price for the accident, and you aren’t satisfied with it. Now what?
The personal injury law in California allows anyone injured in a personal injury accident out of another party’s partial or complete fault to claim a certain amount of compensation from the defendant’s insurance company. If the claim demand is not met, you have the legal right to file a lawsuit under the jurisdiction to gain compensation for your physical injuries, pain, suffering, and damage to property. The amount of compensation is determined based on the accident, injury, sharing of fault, and insurance policies.
Insurance companies often take victims’ naiveness to their advantage and offer a much lower price than the deserving amount. You do not have to agree with their offer if it is unfairly calculated. Instead, you have the legal right to file a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant’s insurance company.
Here is a step-by-step guide for everything you need to know about filing a personal injury lawsuit in Orange County, California.
Statute of Limitation For Filing A Personal Injury Lawsuit
According to the statute of limitation in California, the deadline to file a lawsuit for personal injury is 2 years from the date of the accident. If the injury was later discovered, you need to file the lawsuit within 1 year of discovery. At the same time, the statute of limitation for property damage is 3 years from the date of the accident. And the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit against a governmental agency is within 6 months.
The accident investigation and negotiation with the at-fault party’s insurance company should be done immediately or as soon as possible after the accident. Therefore, you need to ensure the process is not delayed if your case must be taken to court on time.
A Step-By-Step Guide To Filing A Personal Injury Lawsuit
We have divided the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit into 6 important steps.
Step 1: Hire An Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
The state allows you to independently undergo your case and represent yourself in court with no obligation to hire a personal injury lawyer. But that may be your first mistake.
While you may have managed to do all the initial investigation and talk with the insurance company, a trial is much more complex. You will be treated no less than a professional personal injury lawyer in orange county when you represent yourself in court. You must follow the Code of Civil Procedure, the California Rules of Court, and the local Court Rules. You may not have the needed experience or familiarity with the environment that makes it easier to overpower your argument. There are chances of mistakes in the case file, meetings, evidence collection, and statements. The initial evidence may need a stronger base to make a factual statement.
An experienced personal injury lawyer is already familiar with all of those aspects that are new to you. They understand what the case demands in court, and they will undergo the investigation process based on that. There are fewer gaps in the case files, and they have a better grip on defending your claim against the defendant. All your court statements will be rehearsed to be 100% clear and concise to make no mistake for the opposing party to strain on. They will guide you through the court rules and ensure a clear understanding on your side.
With a lawyer, you have more chances to win the trial.
Step 2: Gather Evidence & Investigation
You must have already worked on gathering evidence when filing a claim to the insurance company, with or without a lawyer. As you take the case to trial, it is extremely important to revisit the evidence, especially the parts of the case questioned or counter-argued by the insurance company during negotiation. The reason for disagreement during the negotiation must be based on certain pieces of evidence that don’t align. And without a doubt, the opposing party will bring that up during their statement.
Medical reports, police reports, California Highway Patrol (CHP), and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reports are primary pieces of evidence that contain solid proof of the accident and define your injury. Additionally, CCTV footage, witness statements, photos or videos of the accident and injury, etc., are vital when backing up the division of fault and determining the accident’s severity. Background checks on the defendant play another prominent role in identifying the chances of intentional torts or patterns of negligence in the accident.
What To Do If You Are Partly Responsible?
The state of California follows the ‘Pure Comparative Negligence rule’ to determine the sharing of fault in a personal injury accident. If you are partly responsible for the accident, your share of fault is determined in percentage, like the rest of the party. Based on that, there is a deduction from the total compensation amount.
Let us put this into perspective. For example, you were overtaking a vehicle by stepping in the opposite lane. A speeding car comes from the opposite direction and collides with you. It was later discovered that the driver of the speeding car was drunk. Both of you are injured in the accident. In this case, with a detailed investigation, your personal injury lawyer will determine the fault sharing. Let’s say you were at 20% fault and the other driver was at 80%. If the total compensation amount is $100,000, 20% will be deducted from the amount you receive. That means you will receive $80,000. While for the other party, 80% will be deducted, and they will receive $20,000.
Step 3: Filing A Lawsuit
All evidence is taken in hand, and your lawyer will build a case and help you file a lawsuit. As per the Superior court of California – County of Orange, a plaintiff is required to file 3 forms; Summons, Complaint, and Civil Coversheet. A ‘Summons’ simply notifies that there is a lawsuit. In a ‘Complaint’, the plaintiff mentions the accident, how they were hurt, the damages, and the disagreement with the defendant’s insurance company. At the same time, a ‘Civil Coversheet’ mentions the type of case being filed.
If you’re considering filing a personal injury lawsuit in Orange County, it’s important to understand the potential costs involved. In addition to legal fees, you may be wondering how much a personal injury lawyer costs. Understanding these expenses can help you prepare for your case and make informed decisions throughout the legal process.
The Discovery Phase
A trial demands a much more in-depth investigation. At this phase, your personal injury attorney will review all the evidence to build a ‘complaint’ against the insurance company. They will consult with medical experts who have experience in accidental lawsuit cases to review your reports and further back the severity of the case. Engineers, road experts, or accident experts will also be brought in to determine whether the external factors of road structure played any role in the accident. Having professional practitioners review the accident, and the injury will make your case solid.
Based on the evidence and your injury, a claim for the compensation amount will be proposed and demanded in the lawsuit.
A ‘written discovery’ is a legal document that attorneys from both sides can apply to learn about what aspects the opposing party is covering while preparing for the case. You have the right to assess the other party’s important parts of the case file so you can prepare to stand the trial against that. Similarly, the defendant’s party has the right to assess important evidence you gathered and the direction your attorney plans to take so they come prepared.
Step 4: The Pre-Trial Mediation Process
As you and your attorney are set with the investigation, both parties will get a chance to sit together to work for a resolution in the presence of a neutral mediator. This process is called ‘Mediation’. It will happen at a date before the trial to potentially prevent the trial if the matters can be resolved beforehand. In California, a former judge or jury plays the role of the mediator. Both parties are given another chance to bring forth their arguments and discuss a fair settlement. If the mediation process is successful, there is a decrease in hassle on both ends. The case is resolved quickly, and the settlement amount is released and received sooner.
If there is still a disagreement, then comes the trial.
Step 5: The Trial Process
When the long-awaited trial date is finally around the corner, your personal injury lawyer will aggressively start preparing to represent you. As a plaintiff, you will have the right to choose whether you want a judge or a jury. A personal injury trial in California can take from 4 days to 2 months, depending on the case.
The trial starts with the attorneys of all parties given a 30 to 40-minute chance to make an opening statement of their argument. In California, the plaintiff is allowed to go first. At this phase, your injury lawyer will present the facts based on the gathered evidence about the accident and the injury.
After all the parties have given opening statements, now comes the time for the witness statements. Your attorney may bring in witnesses of the accidents, medical experts, and accident or road experts to back your claim of how the accident happened and what kind of injury you are claiming.
The trial moves to the closing statements after all parties have gradually presented their interpretation, argument, and pieces of evidence. All attorneys are again given a chance to wrap their arguments by taking the law in hand and making a final statement of the claim.
The judge or jury then moves to deliberation, where a verdict is made.
Step 6: The Potential Settlement
Based on the evidence and the law, the verdict of whether the plaintiff deserves the proposed amount and the defendant is at fault is made. In most cases, the verdict is well-thought-out based on the situation. However, if you are not satisfied with the verdict, believe there were empty spaces in the justification, or some evidence where overlooked or disregarded, you have the legal right to file for an appeal.
According to the California Courts, an appeal is when someone who loses a case in a trial court asks the appellate court (a higher court) to review the court’s decision because they believe the resolution was unfair. Filing for an appeal is not re-doing the trial. The jury will review your case, the presented evidence, and the argument to re-evaluate their decision. It can extend the process, and your personal injury case may be further delayed.
If both parties are satisfied with the justification behind the verdict, the settlement is made. Finding the right personal injury lawyer is important to increase your chances of winning the amount you claim in a personal injury lawsuit. A skilled lawyer can help you build a strong standpoint with solid evidence, increasing your chances of getting a fair settlement. The settlement might also be made at the midpoint if there was strong evidence from the opposing party. No matter the situation, the settlement amount decided by the court is the final compensation amount you will receive.
You will still work with your personal injury lawyer as they help you sign the release and undergo the policies for retrieving the cheque.
When Will The Trial Happen, And How Long Will It Take?
Remember, personal injury cases don’t happen overnight. It is a prolonged process with multiple sides associated with it. On average, the initial stages of the investigation, gathering evidence, and negotiation with insurance companies can take approximately six months at the most. Filing the lawsuit may go on until the next six months. You must officially file the lawsuit within two years of the accident as per the statute of limitation in California. After that, the court date is set for another six months to 2 years. Your lawyer will do the investigation and all the pre-trial formalities to prepare for the trial.
The trial itself, as mentioned earlier, will take 4 days to 2 months. The time frame depends on the complexity and severity of the case and the number of parties involved. All parties are given equal opportunity to present their statement and evidence, which may take time.
Contact A Top-Rated Personal Injury Law Firm
When filing a lawsuit for your personal injury case, there is much to know. It is best to hire a lawyer if your case is severe enough to be taken to court. There may be aspects of the suing process, trial phases, court rules, and negotiation aspects that you may need to become more familiar with. A personal injury lawyer will better understand everything that goes into filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Nordean Law is a team of passionate and dedicated lawyers practicing expertise in investigating and representing our clients in court. We have access to a wide spectrum of resources and the intellectual experience to make the most of them when preparing for your case. From giving consultancy for personal injury cases to filing a lawsuit, you deserve the best representation in the market to stand up for all the pain and suffering you had to endure after a sudden accident.
Filing a personal injury lawsuit for someone else’s fault can be overwhelming after a traumatic accident. While you may have already gathered evidence and investigated the accident during the negotiation with the insurance company, a lawsuit requires a much more in-depth investigation. They will help bring in expanded resources and experts to back your evidence and help you get through the pre-trial and trial process more smoothly. With an attorney, you do not have to worry about the court rules or the approach taken at court. We suggest finding a reliable law firm to stand up for you and help you win your personal injury case. Contact Nordean law for a free consultation today.