How Do I Know If I Have a Personal Injury Case?

An unexpected injury can turn your life upside down. The more severe your injury, the more of an impact it’s bound to have on your life, whether that means missing time from work because of your recovery or having to consult doctors or physical therapists for treatment.

What can you do if someone else’s negligent or intentional actions caused your injuries? Shouldn’t that person or company be responsible for the consequences?

That’s where California’s personal injury laws come into play. A personal injury claim or lawsuit can help you get financial compensation to make up for your losses after an injury. But how do you know when you have a legal claim for personal injury in California?

Understanding Personal Injury Law in California

When someone else’s negligent or wrongful conduct causes you harm, California’s personal injury laws exist to try to make things right. Some things can never be reversed. For example, serious injuries often have permanent or lifelong effects. But the law can help by making you whole – compensating you to offset the burden of your injury on your life.

Severe injuries can often result in large settlements because of how profoundly they can affect a person’s life, from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.

California law follows a comparative fault rule when it comes to negligence. That means even if you’re slightly at fault for your injuries, you can still hold the other people at fault responsible for their share. This applies to injuries resulting from car accidents, trucking accidents, slips and falls, defective products, even injuries at entertainment venues or amusement parks.

What Constitutes a Legitimate Personal Injury Claim?

Legally speaking, a personal injury claim must meet four requirements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you show:

  1. The person responsible owed a duty of care to you – for example, drivers on the road have a legal duty to follow traffic rules and drive with care for others.
  2. The person responsible breached their duty – for example, they ran a red light.
  3. That negligent action caused your injuries – for example, you were following traffic rules when the defendant ran the red light and crashed into you.
  4. You suffered losses, or damages, as a result of your injuries – for example, you couldn’t work for some time, you had to pay medical bills, or you endured severe pain.

At Sepulveda Sanchez Law, we offer free case consultations to assess each of these key elements and tell you whether your specific case has the legal merit to proceed.

The Role of Negligence in Your Case

Negligence is a critical factor in personal injury cases. A knowledgeable attorney is critical to establishing the legal requirements for negligence in a personal injury claim.

Proving negligence usually involves demonstrating that the person responsible did not act in a way that a reasonably careful person would have acted under similar circumstances. For example, a store owner fails to clean up a spill or display warning signs in time and a customer slips and falls as a result, hitting their head.

For a negligence claim to move forward, the wrongful behavior does not have to be intentional. Even simple carelessness can count as negligence if it results in harm.

Essential First Steps After an Injury

Taking prompt, proactive steps after you suffer an injury can make all the difference for both your health and the strength of your legal claims. Your first steps should include:

  1. Getting Medical Attention Immediately – No matter how severe you think your injury is, a doctor can provide the necessary treatment and create a medical record. Timing plays a big factor when it comes to establishing causation and fault.
  2. Reporting the Incident – Whether that means filing a police report, this type of “official” documentation can help pin down the actual facts surrounding the incident.
  3. Documenting Everything – Take detailed notes of what happened before, during, and after the incident, including the date, time, environmental conditions, witnesses, photographs, videos, and any other relevant details.
  4. Gathering Witness Information – Collect contact details for any witnesses who can strengthen your case by corroborating your account of the events.
  5. Preserving Physical Evidence – For example, if a defective product caused your injury, keep the product in its current condition as it may be key evidence.
  6. Avoid Social Media – Do not discuss your injuries or any legal action you’re considering on public platforms, as they may be used against you in your personal injury case.

Critically, you should talk to a personal injury lawyer about your case as soon as possible. Your attorney can provide valuable advice for how to proceed, start assembling your claim, and help preserve your rights and your best interests throughout your case.

Navigating Insurance Claims vs. Filing a Lawsuit

After an injury, should you pursue an insurance claim or file a lawsuit? This decision depends on the complexity of your case and whether the insurance company will actually provide coverage.

Typically, insurance claims are the first step in a personal injury claim. This involves filing for compensation either under your own insurance policy or the insurance policy of whoever was at fault for causing the injury. While this process may be straightforward, it doesn’t always result in satisfactory compensation, as insurance companies deliberately aim to minimize payouts as much as possible, sometimes with underhanded methods.

Fortunately, when you hire a lawyer to handle your case, they will also handle dealing with the insurance companies on your behalf – including negotiations.

If the person responsible is under-insured, or if negotiations with their insurance company fail to reach a fair settlement, filing a lawsuit may be your best course of action.

Filing a lawsuit allows you the possibility to get a wider range of damages, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, and even punitive damages in some cases, which are generally not covered by insurance claims. This process involves a strategic approach that’s best guided by a lawyer who can help you navigate the specific challenges of your case.

California Personal Injury Statute of Limitations

In California, personal injury claims are bound by a statute of limitations which dictates the amount of time you have for filing a lawsuit. For many personal injury claims, this is just 2 years – but for some specific types of claims, it could be as short as 6 months.As a result, it’s critical to contact a lawyer about your personal injury claims as soon as possible so that they can put together the strongest case on your behalf. Contact the team at Sepulveda Sanchez Law now to get started with your free case consultation. Our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis so you don’t pay legal fees unless you win.