If you believe you have a personal injury case to be heard in California, it is very important that you know how to file this suit. There are numerous laws, as well as the statute of limitations, to think about. If you miss the statute of limitations, for instance, it is unlikely that you will still be able to make a claim, bar some very rare situations.
California Personal Injury Statue of Limitations
In every state in the country, there is a limit as to how much time you have for filing a lawsuit after the harm you have suffered has occurred. This is known as the statute of limitations. Depending on the type of case you want to have heard, the statute of limitations will also vary.
In the state of California, the statute of limitations for a personal injury suit is two years from the day the injury occurred. This means that you must file a suit against those whom you deem to be responsible within that time period. If you don’t, it is likely that the court will not agree to hear your case either at that point or in the future. As a result, you will also no longer have any right to compensation.
The relevant laws on personal injury cases and the statute of limitations in California is covered under the California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1.
The statute of limitations is different if you want to file a case against a state government agency, a city or a county in California. If your case is related to one of these government entities, you will only have six months to file your claim. Furthermore, the procedural rules for these claims are different than from other cases. This is covered under Cal. Government Code section 911.2.
Shared Fault Laws in California
There are cases in which an accident was caused by multiple parties, one of which may be yourself. You may admit to this partial liability, or the defendant may claim it as part of his or her defense. In a shared blame case, the amount of compensation that you will receive will likely be affected as well. This is known as “comparative contributory fault.” For instance, if it is deemed that you were 20% responsible for the accident that caused you to be injured, 20% will be deducted from your final settlement, which is called the “pure comparative negligence rule”.
The courts in California have a legal obligation to follow the pure comparative negligence rule. However, many personal injury cases are settled out of court through discussions with insurance adjustors and legal representation. In most cases, the adjustor will raise the rule, but as the plaintiff, you are under no obligation to agree to have this rule applied to your settlement. Only if the case actually goes to court will this be applicable and will it be officially determined how much of the accident was actually your own fault.
“Strict” Liability in Cases of Dog Bites or Dog Attacks
Throughout the country, we have seen states offer some degree of protection for dog owners. Essentially, if they had no reason to believe that their dog could or would be a danger to someone, but it does attack somebody, they will not be held liable so long as it is the first time this has happened. This is known as the one bite rule.
California is different, however. Under the Cal. Civ. Code section 3342, a dog owner is “strictly liable”. This means that dog owners always hold legal responsibility for their dog if they attack or bite somebody. The plaintiff, in these cases, does not have to show negligence or fault.
The legal wording on the applicable statute in the state of California is: “the owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”
It is important to remember that many defense lawyers will try to work their way around this law by stating a dog may have attacked someone, but did not actually bite that person.
California Limitations of the Damages Payouts
A number of limitations have been set as to the types and amounts of damages that somebody can ask to be compensated for in the state of California.
In cases where there is no non-economic pain and suffering relating to an uninsured driver: the laws in California for the most part prevent any uninsured driver from being able to recover non-economic damages if they have been in a car accident, even if the negligence lies 100% with the other party. The term “non-economic damages” refers to things, such as inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement and pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is generally the element for which most people receive the highest amounts of payoffs for.
There is an important exception to this rule, however. If the injured party is an uninsured driver, but the defendant was operating a vehicle while under the influence of substances such as drugs and alcohol, and if a judge convicts the defendant of DUI for his or her behavior during the time of the accident, the uninsured driver is able to make a claim. This is covered under the California Civil Code section 3333.4.
There is also a cap on non-economic damages in cases alleging medical malpractice. This is covered under the MICRA (Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act), which California has adopted as a state law. In cases of medical malpractice, the cap on non-economic damages has been set at $250,000. This is outlined under California Civil Code section 3333.2.
More information on how to File a California Personal Injury Lawsuit
Numerous laws and regulations surround personal injury cases in the state of California. While it is certainly possible to find a lot of information on these legal elements by searching online and in libraries, it is generally best to seek legal advice as soon as possible. If, however, you just want to do some preliminary research, then the California Civil Code section 1714 is generally the best place to start. One of the main declarations of importance within that section is that “everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person.”