If you’ve recently been injured in an accident, you know the frustration and chaos that can come with it. You might be dealing with pain, recovery, lost wages, and mounting expenses. If your insurance doesn’t cover all of it, you might even be trying to figure out how you’ll ever rebound from the financial setback. If the accident was caused by someone else, however, you do have some legal recourse. Fighting the battle out in court is usually not anyone’s idea of a good time, but it may be necessary in your situation. When it comes to filing personal injury lawsuits, each state has its own laws and procedures. Here’s what you will need to do in California.
Statute of limitations
California is like most states in that the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years. That means you must file your claim within that time frame to even be heard in a court of law. Otherwise your case is irrelevant. The exception to this rule is if an injury is discovered later and proven to have been caused by the accident. Then you have one year from the date of discovery to file your lawsuit.
This rule is also different for claims against a government agency in California. If you’re injured on their property due to their negligence, you may be able to file a claim against them, but the process is slightly different. California requires such claims, called administrative claims, to be filed with the state within six months from the date of the accident. They then have 45 days to respond. If you receive a denial letter, you may appeal through a court of law, but if you don’t receive one, you can proceed as normal. At that point, the regular two-year statute of limitations applies.
You’ll hear the term damages used when referring to both economic and non-economic personal injury claims. Economic damages include specific monetary considerations, such as medical expenses, repair bills, and loss of earnings (present and future). Non-economic damages include damages that are not always measurable, such as mental anguish or the loss of a loved one.
There is no cap on economic damages as long as they are considered necessary to restore a victim’s life back to normal (as much as possible). And generally, there is no cap on non-economic damages with some exceptions. For one, an uninsured vehicle owner is not allowed to recoup non-economic damages unless they were caused by a driver under the influence. And a driver convicted of a DUI for the incident is not allowed to recover any non-economic damage at all. Also, anyone injured while committing a crime can’t recover any damages for that accident.
Filing your lawsuit
The first step in settling a matter of this nature is to contact a personal injury lawyer. Law experts, such as the lawyers at the Law Offices of Daniel Kim, can help you navigate the ins and outs of lawsuits. From there, your attorney will advise you how to proceed. In all cases, you’ll need to keep good records and all your paperwork from any money spent recovering from your injury. This will include medical records, photos of any damage, witness testimonies, and repair bills. Also, if you’ve exchanged texts, emails, or social media messages with the defendant, it’s important to keep those records, as well.
Once your attorney has built a case, he may begin by sending a demand letter to the defendant’s insurance company. This is usually a starting point for negotiation and could lead to a settlement outside of court. If the situation is not resolved this way, your lawyer will probably suggest filing suit and taking the matter to court.
No matter what state you are located in, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the filing process to ensure you are within the legal time frame and are following all rules and requirements. It is highly recommended that you seek out the help of an expert during this time, as personal injury lawyers can help speed up the process and work to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
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