How California Personal Injury Settlements Are Determined

personal injury

Personal injury claims are legal disputes that arise when one person suffers harm from an accident or injury, and someone else might be legally responsible for that harm. In California, personal injury settlements are determined through a complex process that considers various factors, such as the extent of injuries, liability, damages, and applicable laws. Understanding how these settlements are determined can provide insight into the legal framework that governs such cases in the state.

What is a Personal Injury Claim?

A personal injury claim arises when an individual suffers harm due to another party’s negligence or intentional actions. These claims can encompass many accidents and incidents, including car accidents, slip and fall accidents, medical malpractice, product defects, and more. A personal injury claim aims to seek compensation for the losses and damages incurred due to the injury, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.

Types of Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury claims encompass a wide range of accidents, incidents, and situations where an individual suffers harm due to another party’s negligence or intentional actions. Understanding the different types of personal injury cases is essential for navigating the legal process and seeking appropriate compensation. Some common types of personal injury cases in California include:

Traffic Accidents

Accidents such as car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, and pedestrian accidents are among the most common types of personal injury cases. These accidents can result in a wide range of injuries, from minor cuts and bruises to catastrophic injuries such as spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and paralysis. Establishing liability in accidents often involves determining factors such as negligence, reckless driving, or violations of traffic laws.

Product Malfunctions

Cases involving defective or malfunctioning products fall under product liability claims. When a defective product causes injury or harm to a consumer, the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer may be liable for damages. Product malfunction cases can include defective automobiles, faulty medical devices, dangerous pharmaceutical drugs, and poorly designed consumer goods.

Defective Medications

Personal injury claims arising from contaminated medication or pharmaceutical drugs involve situations where individuals suffer harm due to the ingestion of tainted or improperly manufactured medications. Contaminated medication cases can result in serious health complications, including adverse drug reactions, allergic reactions, and long-term health issues. Pharmaceutical companies, drug manufacturers, and healthcare providers may be held accountable for injuries caused by contaminated medication.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, surgeons, and hospitals, fail to provide a standard level of care, resulting in harm to patients. Medical malpractice cases can involve misdiagnosis, surgical errors, medication errors, birth injuries, anesthesia errors, and other instances of medical negligence. Proving medical malpractice requires demonstrating that the healthcare provider breached the standard of care, resulting in injury or harm to the patient.

Premises Liability

Premises liability cases arise when individuals are injured on someone else’s property due to hazardous conditions or negligent maintenance. Slip-and-fall accidents and injuries caused by inadequate security measures are typical examples of premises liability claims. Property owners, landlords, and business operators may be held liable for injuries sustained on their premises if they fail to maintain safe conditions or warn visitors of potential hazards.

By recognizing the various types of personal injury cases, individuals can better understand their legal rights and options for seeking compensation after suffering harm due to the negligence or misconduct of others. Consulting with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney can provide guidance and representation throughout the claims process, ensuring that injured parties receive fair and just compensation for their losses.

Determining Factors in California Personal Injury Settlements

Numerous factors come into play when determining personal injury compensation in California, shaping the outcome of compensation negotiations and legal proceedings. From establishing liability to assessing the extent of injuries and navigating insurance coverage, understanding these determining factors is crucial for individuals seeking recourse after an accident or injury.

In this section, we delve into the key elements that influence California personal injury settlements, shedding light on the complexities of the legal landscape and providing insight into how settlements are reached.

1. Liability – One of the key factors in determining a personal injury settlement in California is establishing liability, or who is at fault for the accident or injury. California follows a comparative negligence system, which means that even if the injured party shares some degree of fault for the accident, they may still be entitled to compensation. However, the compensation awarded can be reduced based on the percentage of fault assigned to each party.

2. Extent of Injuries – The severity and extent of the injuries suffered by the plaintiff play a significant role in determining the value of a personal injury settlement. In California, damages awarded in personal injury cases typically cover medical expenses, both current and future, associated with treating the injuries. Additionally, compensation may be awarded for lost wages, diminished earning capacity, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.

3. Insurance Coverage – Insurance coverage available to both the plaintiff and the defendant can impact the outcome of a personal injury settlement. California law requires drivers to carry minimum liability insurance coverage for bodily injury and property damage. In cases involving other types of accidents, such as slip and fall incidents or medical malpractice, the availability and extent of insurance coverage held by the responsible party can affect the settlement negotiations.

4. Statute of Limitations – California imposes a statute of limitations on personal injury claims, which sets a time limit for filing a lawsuit after an accident or injury occurs. In most cases, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in California is two years from the date of the injury. But that time limit is shortened depending on certain types of claims and certain types of defendants. Failing to file a lawsuit within this timeframe can result in the loss of the right to seek compensation.

5. Punitive Damages – In California, punitive damages may be awarded in personal injury cases to punish the defendant for egregious behavior and deter similar conduct. Unlike compensatory damages, which aim to compensate the plaintiff for losses suffered, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and serve as a deterrent to others. Courts consider factors such as the defendant’s actions, the severity of the misconduct, and the defendant’s financial status when determining whether to award punitive damages. However, punitive damages are only awarded in cases of extreme negligence or intentional wrongdoing and are subject to statutory limitations.

6. Wrongful Death – In cases where a person’s death is caused by the negligent or intentional actions of another party, California law allows for wrongful death claims to be filed on behalf of the deceased person’s surviving family members. Wrongful death claims seek compensation for damages such as funeral and burial expenses, loss of financial support, loss of companionship, and emotional distress. The determination of wrongful death settlements in California involves assessing various factors, including the economic dependence of the surviving family members on the deceased, the circumstances surrounding the death, and the extent of the losses suffered. Additionally, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim in California is typically two years from the date of death, underscoring the importance of timely legal action in seeking justice for the deceased and their loved ones.

7. Legal Representation – Having experienced legal representation can significantly impact the outcome of a personal injury settlement in California. Personal injury attorneys are well-versed in the state’s laws and procedures. They can advocate for their clients to negotiate fair settlements or take cases to trial if necessary. Additionally, attorneys can help gather evidence, assess damages, and navigate the complexities of the legal system.

The Personal Injury Lawsuit Process in California

Filing and litigating a personal injury lawsuit in California involves several key steps, from initial consultation with an attorney to resolution through settlement negotiations or trial. Understanding the personal injury lawsuit process is essential for individuals seeking legal recourse after suffering harm due to the negligence or misconduct of others. Below is an overview of the typical stages involved in a personal injury lawsuit in California:

1. Consultation with an Attorney – The first step in pursuing a personal injury lawsuit is to consult an experienced personal injury attorney. During the initial consultation, the attorney will evaluate the case’s merits, discuss legal options, and advise the injured party on the best course of action.

2. Investigation and Gathering Evidence – After agreeing to take on the case, the attorney will conduct a thorough investigation to gather evidence supporting the claim. This may involve obtaining witness statements, collecting medical records and bills, analyzing accident reports, and consulting with experts, such as accident reconstruction specialists or medical professionals.

3. Filing the Complaint – Once sufficient evidence has been gathered, the attorney will file a complaint in the appropriate court, initiating the lawsuit. The complaint outlines the allegations against the defendant and the damages sought by the plaintiff.

4. Discovery – During the discovery phase, both parties exchange information and evidence relevant to the case. This may include written interrogatories, requests for documents, and depositions, where witnesses and parties are questioned under oath. Discovery allows each side to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing party’s case.

5. Pre-Trial Motions and Settlement Negotiations – The parties may file pre-trial motions to address legal issues or seek dismissal of specific claims before trial. Additionally, settlement negotiations may occur, during which the parties attempt to resolve the case without going to trial. Settlement negotiations can be facilitated through mediation or arbitration, and if an agreement is reached, the case is resolved without needing a trial.

6. Trial – If the case proceeds to trial, both parties present their arguments and evidence to a judge or jury, who will determine liability and damages. The trial process typically involves opening statements, witness testimony, evidence presentation, and closing arguments. After deliberation, the judge or jury will render a verdict, either in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant.

7. Appeals – Following a trial verdict, either party may appeal the decision if they believe legal errors were made during the trial. Appeals are heard by higher courts, such as the California Court of Appeals or the California Supreme Court, and the appellate court may affirm, reverse, or modify the lower court’s decision.

Navigating California’s personal injury lawsuit process requires patience, diligence, and legal expertise. By understanding the various stages involved and working with a skilled attorney, injured parties can pursue fair compensation for their losses and hold responsible parties accountable for their actions.

Determining the Value of a California Personal Injury Claim

California personal injury settlements are determined by various factors, including liability, the extent of injuries, insurance coverage, the statute of limitations, and legal representation. By understanding these factors and how they influence the settlement process, individuals can better navigate the complexities of personal injury claims in the state. Seeking the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney can be instrumental in achieving a favorable outcome and obtaining the compensation deserved for injuries and losses suffered.

Call Our Orange County Personal Injury Attorney For Exceptional Legal Help

If you or a member of your family has been injured by another’s negligence in Orange County, call our firm to schedule a free legal consultation to talk about how we may be able to protect your legal rights. Our Orange County personal injury lawyers are dedicated to fighting for our clients’ full compensation.

Contact our personal injury lawyers at Law Office of Joseph Richards, P.C. by calling (888) 883-6588 to receive your free case review.

How To Recognize Signs Of Serious Brain Injury

brain injury

After a severe accident, you could have a variety of injuries. One of the most severe and potentially life-changing is a brain injury, which is often devastating and expensive to treat. This article describes signs of a severe brain injury, and if you have legal questions about an accident case, our Inland Empire personal injury attorney can answer them today.

How Common Are Serious Brain Injuries After Accidents?

The CDC reports that motor vehicle crashes are the #2 cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in the United States. Auto accidents comprise approximately 24% of hospitalizations for severe brain injuries annually.

Unfortunately, the CDC’s numbers might underestimate the severity of the brain injury problem. The CDC states that their numbers do not include serious brain injuries that receive treatment in ERs, urgent care facilities, and doctors’ offices. Even worse, sometimes they may go undiagnosed because the injured person shrugs off headaches or dizziness as normal.

What Are Common Signs Of Brain Injuries?

Traumatic brain injuries are challenging to recover from after a car accident. There are many symptoms, depending on the injury’s severity. Serious brain injury symptoms may appear in the first minutes after the crash. Or symptoms might take days or weeks to manifest. Even a relatively minor car accident can cause a disabling brain injury. Symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury could include:

  • Headache
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Problems with balance
  • Dizziness
  • Lapses in memory
  • Sensitivity to sound and light
  • Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
  • Changes in mood
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Sleep problems

Accident victims with moderate or severe brain injury could fall unconscious after the accident. Some signs of severe brain injuries are:

  • Headaches that worsen with time
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Dilation of the pupils
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble waking from sleep
  • Extreme confusion
  • Coma
  • Clear fluid coming from the ears
  • Difficulty with coordinating movements
  • Behavior changes

Also, a severe brain injury can have more subtle symptoms. For example, many accident victims have mental problems in the days and weeks after the accident that could be hard to connect to the incident. They could have difficulty concentrating and making good judgments. Concentrating could be compromised, and engaging in problem-solving, multitasking, and planning could be difficult.

A person with a severe brain injury could have verbal and written communication challenges and difficulty understanding body language. They could also need help understanding when and how to begin and end conversations.

Remember, anyone in a car accident is at risk of a severe brain injury, including young children and infants who may be unable to describe their symptoms. Parents should be alert for changes in nursing or eating, as well as odd behavior after the accident, such as constant crying and irritability. Also, kids who sleep too much or not enough or suffer seizures and mood changes also should be checked for severe brain injuries.

Types Of Brain Injury

There are two basic types of brain injury: primary and secondary. A primary brain injury is a profound, sudden injury to the head and brain that is essentially complete at the time of injury. A primary brain injury is common in serious car accidents, gunshot wounds, and falls.

A secondary brain injury means changes over time, such as hours or days, after the initial brain injury. The secondary injury involves many chemical, tissue, cellular, or blood vessel changes in the brain tissue, leading to further damage.

Brain injury from an accident can happen in two ways. The first is a closed brain injury with a non-penetrating injury with no skull fracture. This injury happens because of the strong forward and backward shaking or movement of the brain in the skull, possibly causing brain tissue tearing and bruising. For example, severe brain bruising and bleeding could occur in a serious car accident when the head strikes the windshield or driver’s side window.

The second is a penetrating brain injury. This injury happens when there is a penetration of the skull and brain, such as if a bullet or piece of metal penetrates the brain.

Actions To Take With A Serious Brain Injury

If you suspect you or a loved one has a severe brain injury after an accident, consider the matter an emergency. A severe TBI will worsen if it is not treated, so you should have a medical professional check the person over immediately.

Doctors use the Glasgow Coma Scale to determine if there has been a brain injury and the severity of the damage. This is a 15-point test; the higher the score, the less severe the injury. The doctor may order an MRI or CT scan at the hospital to check for brain damage.

For your health, it is vital to have immediate medical attention after an accident where a brain injury is suspected. This is vital to your health and recovery. Also, medical records may be vital to a potential personal injury claim or lawsuit, so a person with a brain injury should have a doctor look them over immediately after the incident.

Potential Compensation For A Serious Head Injury

If your Inland Empire personal injury attorney proves that someone’s negligence caused your brain injury, you may be able to receive compensation for your medical bills and other losses. Unfortunately, brain injuries are expensive and time-consuming to treat, and just the initial medical bills could be tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you need long-term medical care and rehabilitation, the medical expenses could run into seven figures.

Few Americans have the financial resources to pay for ongoing medical expenses for severe brain injuries. You should ask an experienced brain injury attorney to review your case as part of a no-obligation free consultation. If the attorney thinks you have a case that could result in compensation, they will let you know. You have nothing to lose by scheduling an appointment for a free consultation with an attorney that may be able to fight for your rights to receive compensation in a personal injury claim.

Contact Our Inland Empire Personal Injury Attorney For Legal Assistance

Did you or someone you love suffer a brain injury because of someone’s negligence? A victim of negligence should not be saddled with medical bills, lost earnings, and pain and suffering without compensation. Our Inland Empire personal injury attorney at Law Office of Joseph Richards, P.C. may be able to help today, so call (888) 883-6588 to schedule an appointment for a free consultation with a lawyer.

Proving Pain, Suffering, and Mental Trauma in a Personal Injury Case

personal injury

Say you are in Orange County enjoying the sights of Crystal Cove State Park or the Downtown Disney District. Suddenly, someone slams into your car at a red light. You are injured and have tremendous pain, suffering, and mental trauma as you recover. What should you do?

If the other party is at fault, you may benefit by filing a personal injury lawsuit. Proving your medical bills and lost earnings is one thing, but how to prove pain and suffering? Learn how attorneys prove mental and physical suffering below, then contact the Orange County personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of Joseph Richards P.C. for assistance.

What Are Damages For Pain And Suffering?

Pain, suffering, and mental trauma in a personal injury case seek to pay you for the physical and psychological discomfort you endure because of someone’s negligence that caused your injury. Receiving compensation for mental and physical suffering in a personal injury lawsuit can include remuneration for many things:

  • Aches and pains from your injuries
  • Mental anguish and trauma
  • Inconvenience
  • Discomfort
  • Loss of the use of a limb or bodily function
  • Lowered quality of life
  • Psychological trauma

You may be able to sue for your physical and mental pain and suffering in many personal injury cases. Some of the most common cases are:

  • Auto accidents: If you are in a car accident and injured because of someone’s negligence or careless action, you could receive compensation for your mental and physical discomfort.
  • Job accident: Were you in an accident during your work and suffered an injury caused by a third-party? You could have mental and physical pain, and you deserve compensation.
  • Premises liability: If you slipped and fell on someone’s property because of a hazardous condition, you could be entitled to compensation.

How Do You Prove Pain And Suffering?

Your injury attorney will likely use several ways to prove your pain, suffering, and mental trauma. There are many documents they can use to establish the level of your pain and suffering:

Medical Bills

Suppose you fall and injure your back in a restaurant on a slick floor. Your attorney will collect your hundreds or thousands of medical bills to illustrate your pain and suffering.

Medical Records

The attorney can point to your medical records to illustrate your back injury diagnosis and the pain you feel. In addition, the doctor may provide a statement that quantifies how much physical and mental discomfort you have.

Injury Images

If you were in an auto accident and had visible injuries, images can be a powerful testimony to prove mental and physical suffering. For instance, if you have severe lacerations on your face from broken glass in an auto accident, this is strong evidence of psychological and physical trauma.

Mental Health Records

If you need to go to a psychologist to deal with your mental and emotional state after an accident, this may prove your pain and suffering. Whatever the cause of pain and suffering after the accident, your attorney will work with your doctors to provide conclusive proof. Remember to share your medical records with your attorney after the accident. These documents are critical to show your pain is worth it.

Major Injuries That Are Worth Substantial Compensation For Pain And Suffering

Many personal injury cases involve pain and suffering compensation for mental and physical trauma. However, the following injuries could result in a much higher pain and suffering payout:

  • Spinal cord injuries that cause partial or complete paralysis
  • Amputation or limb-crushing injury
  • Traumatic head injuries or severe brain damage
  • Loss of the ability to talk or understand speech
  • Severe burns over much of the body
  • Injuries that cause total loss of your eyesight
  • Loss of the reproductive organs or infertility

How Is Suffering For Pain And Suffering Calculated?

There is no standard formula to determine your mental and physical suffering. These damages are subjective and often left to the jury to determine in a lawsuit. A jury may use many ways to decide how much pain and suffering compensation you deserve. Some popular ways include what avoiding pain is worth, a per diem rate for your pain, and a cost-benefit analysis.

However, many personal injury cases are resolved in a settlement, not in court. Therefore, the insurance company may calculate your damages using a multiplier of 1-5. This number may be multiplied by your amount of medical bills and lost earnings to value your mental and physical suffering.

The insurance company will review the details of your accident and the extent of your injuries to determine their offer for your pain and suffering. Your attorney may counter with his own estimate.

The Liable Party May Low-Ball Your Pain And Suffering

One of the many benefits of hiring a personal injury attorney is to contest an insurance company’s lowball estimate of your pain and suffering. Unfortunately, it is common for insurance companies to underestimate the plaintiff’s pain and suffering so the insurer can pay less in claims.

However, your Orange County personal injury attorney knows how to negotiate aggressively with stingy insurance companies. They will understand what your injuries and mental and physical discomfort are worth.

Remember The California Statute Of Limitations

Regardless of the amount of pain and suffering compensation you may deserve, filing your claim within California’s statute of limitations is critical. Unfortunately, for most personal injury claims, the statute of limitations for a personal injury case is only two years in California. This means you must file the lawsuit within two years of the date of injury to take legal action. With rare exceptions, the statute of limitations ‘clock’ begins to run on the day you were injured. If your injury was caused by a governmental entity, the statute of limitations may be as short as 6 months. So, talk to an attorney as soon as possible.

Speak To Our Orange County Personal Injury Attorneys Today

If you were in an accident because of someone’s negligence, you have legal rights in California. For example, you could be entitled to compensation for your physical and mental pain and suffering, lost earnings, and medical bills.

The Law Office of Joseph Richards P.C. has experienced personal injury attorneys who will safeguard your legal rights. Contact us now at 888-883-6588. Our Orange County personal injury attorneys also represent injured clients in Riverside County, San Bernardino County, and the Inland Empire.