What Is A Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Personal injury is a legal term used to describe when someone has been mentally or physically harmed due to the negligence of another person, party, or entity.
The legal principle of negligence is the basis for any personal injury claim. To win a personal injury case, you must be able to prove the four elements of negligence including:
- Duty: The party you are suing owed you a legal duty
- Breach: The party you are suing breached the legal duty by acting or failing to act
- Causation: The party’s action (or inaction) was the cause of the injury
- Damages: You need to prove you were harmed
In California, there are three common venues for filing personal injury claims:
- Division of Workers’ Compensation for a work-related injury
- Small claims court for a claim less than $10,000
- California civil court (Superior Court) for an amount greater than $10,000
Steps To Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in California
1. Establish Legal Standing
Legal standing is the right to file a lawsuit and it is required to file in the state of California. To have legal standing, you must:
- Be directly connected to the subject of the lawsuit. Meaning you must have been directly harmed by the defendant, either through action or inaction.
- Be an actual legal entity. Meaning you’re either a person or entity that has legal status
- Have legal capacity. Children under age 18 and adults who are mentally incompetent due to illness, age, or infirmity don’t have legal capacity. Someone with legal capacity can file a lawsuit as a representative on behalf of a person who doesn’t.
2. Hire a Lawyer
This is often the most important step in filing a lawsuit. You need to find a lawyer with whom you are comfortable sharing private information. You also need to trust that they will be there for you as your strongest advocate throughout the legal process.
3: Determine the venue for your lawsuit
The venue is where you file the lawsuit. There may be more than one venue that is appropriate for your case, and your lawyer will advise you which is the best.
A lawsuit must be filed in the county where:
- You live or have your principal place of business
- The majority of witnesses are or where the injury happened
- The defendant lives or has its principal place of business
4. File the Lawsuit
You need to file your personal injury lawsuit before the statute of limitations deadline expires. The statute of limitations is a law that limits the amount of time that can pass between an event and a lawsuit being filed. For California, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases is two years.
Oftentimes, your lawyer will attempt to negotiate a settlement with the prospective defendant prior to filing a lawsuit. If the two sides are able to come to an agreement, you can avoid having to go to court to settle the matter, benefiting everyone involved.
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, your lawyer will begin the lawsuit by filing a complaint with the court. The complaint is a formal legal document that identifies the legal and factual basis for your personal injury lawsuit. It starts by identifying the plaintiff (you), the defendant, and the court you’re filing your lawsuit in.
The next section explains the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case, identifies the legal theories behind your allegations, and states the facts related to your lawsuit. The complaint also needs to explain what relief you’re seeking, including the amount of money you’re demanding from the defendant.
Depending on your location, you may also be required to file a summons, a document that identifies the parties to the litigation, and explains to the defendant that they are being sued. Along with filing the summons and complaint, you will need to pay a filing fee. The exact amount will vary depending on the court and type of lawsuit.
After you file the complaint and summons with the court, you need to serve a copy of each on the defendant. This is essential because, without proper service, the court will not have jurisdiction over the defendant, meaning that the court can’t impose any judgment.
After filing your summons and complaint with the court, and serving the documents on the defendant, the next step is for the defendant to respond to your complaint. Once you receive a response from the defendant, your lawyer will likely negotiate with the other party to reach a settlement. If they are unable to reach a settlement trial preparation will begin, which will last sometime before the case ends up in court.
Tips for Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Here are some helpful tips to ensure the best possible results from your personal injury lawsuit:
1. Find the Right Personal Injury Attorney
Some people feel reluctant about hiring a lawyer and having to pay them a fee to handle their personal injury lawsuit. This is unwise as trying to handle the lawsuit yourself will likely lead to an unsuccessful case as the insurance company is specifically trained to pay you as little as possible.
When insurance companies see a person handling the case themselves, they know they can take advantage of them and pay far less than they would if the plaintiff had an attorney. This can result in you getting pennies on the dollar of what your claim is actually worth. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can handle a case involving personal injury without the help of an attorney.
With thousands of lawyers out there to choose from, finding the right one is not always an easy task. It is important to find an attorney that is trustworthy and experienced in personal injury law.
At Hann Law Firm, we have seen a wide variety of personal injury cases and know the ins and outs of each type of case. We have a proven track record of success in California and can help you get the compensation you need to heal and move forward with your life.
2. Do Not Give a Recorded Statement to the Insurance Company
During the personal injury lawsuit process, the insurance company will ask you to give a recorded statement.
Be aware that providing them with a statement is entirely optional and it is recommended that you exercise your right to not give them one.
This is because insurance companies seek a recorded statement in the hopes of you saying something that devalues your claim. The way you answer questions can ruin your case, so you should always talk to your attorney first.
Contact Hann Law
Hann Law Firm has the experience needed to protect your interests every step of the way. If you’ve been injured and are in need of an attorney, contact us today to learn how our personal injury law services can help you get the justice you deserve.