If you, or a loved one, has been the victim of the action or inaction of another entity, you are entitled to receive compensation for any of the damages you sustained. These include rehabilitation costs, medical bills, lost salaries and wages if you were incapable of working and emotional suffering and distress. Filing a compensation lawsuit is generally not overly difficult, as the law firm you choose will take all the hard work out of your hands. However, you do have to understand that there are a number of actions you will have to take, and that you must take these actions on time.
First of all, the statute of limitations in the jurisdiction that your accident took place in will determine how long after the accident you can file a claim. If you do not file within the statutory timeline, then your right to compensation for any of your losses will automatically be eliminated. Unfortunately, not everybody is aware of this. Furthermore, it would require at least a basic understanding of legal frameworks in order to know exactly what the statute of limitations is, as well as how you should file a slip and fall accident lawsuit in California. Hopefully, the information below may be of benefit to you.
Statute of Limitations in California for Slip and Fall Accidents and Injuries
It is important to know that the laws in California often become adopted across the rest of the country as well. At present, there is a two year statute of limitations on these types of cases. This means that you must file a claim within no more than two years since the date of the accident itself. If, however, the injury was not discovered immediately, then the plaintiff has one year from the date the injury was discovered to file a claim.
Statute of Limitations for Lawsuits Filed by Minors
If the persons injured are still a minor, meaning that they are under the age of 18, the statute of limitations is different. In this case, they will have two years from the date on which they turned 18 to file the claim. Naturally, they are not able to put in a claim if their parents or guardians have already done so on their behalf.
Claims Against the Government
If a slip and fall occurs in a government building, different rules and regulations apply. The first step in this process is for the claim to go through an administrative hearing. The administrative agency that oversees injuries caused by agencies within the government will look at the claim. In California, this is the Office of Administrative Law. The claim must be filed with this office within six months of the accident. The Office of Administrative Law can then reject or deny the claim. At that point, the plaintiff can file a claim with their local civil court.
Statute of Limitations Exceptions – Tolling
Under the Code of Civil Procedure, there are a few exceptions that can apply to the statute of limitations. In rare cases, the statute of limitations can be tolled, although this is only possible in very specific circumstances. In terms of slip and fall accidents, these circumstances are:
- If the victim is physically incapacitated and cannot file a claim before the statute of limitations runs out.
- If the victims are mentally incapacitated, which prevents them from filing a claim on time.
- If the injuries do not become apparent until after the time period under the statute of limitations has expired.
How to Start a Slip and Fall Injury Claim – Things to Do First
The success of your claim will depend greatly on the actions you took straight after the accident itself. Unfortunately, in many cases, people are too shook up to remember all of this, or they are physically or otherwise incapacitated, preventing them from doing so. However, it is always recommended to complete the following steps in order to maximize your chances of filing a successful claim:
- Report the accident to the premise owner as soon as possible. Make sure this is to the highest ranking person you can find. Even if the injury was not severe, you should report it. This will give the premise owner a chance to rectify the issue and ensure it does not happen to someone else. You are not under legal obligation to do so, but it will help your case, particularly if you did not have any witnesses.
- Get details from your witnesses if any were present. They can be critical to your case.
- Take pictures as soon as possible. Gathering evidence may be difficult depending on your condition, but if you can, you should take photographs of the scene from different angles before leaving it. You should also take photographs of your injuries, before and after they were seen to by a medical professional. If you are unable to take pictures immediately, ask a friend to do so on your behalf as soon as possible. This is particularly important if your slip or fall was due to weather conditions, which can change at a moment’s notice.
- Get medical treatment if you are hurt. Never wait. An insurance company, and most juries for that matter, will believe that if you did not seek medical assistance, you were not truly injured.
- Explain to your health care providers how the accident happened. This will ensure there are no inconsistencies between your medical records and the story that you are telling. Furthermore, if you see a health care provider for any other reason, you should make sure you tell them you have been injured through a slip or fall in the past.
- Complete an accident report. If your accident occurred on a commercial premise, it is likely that they will have an accident report procedure. You should complete these reports and sign them, even though this is not obliged by law. Naturally, if you are unwell, then this step is not as important. You should use this report to accurately describe your side of the story to the company that you will class as liable. Do not sign it unless you are happy with what has been completed in the report, however.
- Do not give insurance companies a tape recorded statement. It is not uncommon for the insurance adjuster to telephone or visit you, asking for a tape recorded account of events. You are not obliged to do this by law. Unless you have your own lawyer present at that time, it is unlikely that the recording will benefit you in any way. Hence, you should always refuse to give a recorded statement.
- Attend any medical appointments, as this shows a pattern that demonstrates to the insurance company and the potential jury that you truly have a significant injury that is making you seek treatment.
The actual legal work of filing a claim is something that will not be done by you. Simply choose a law firm that will work on your behalf and they will complete all the necessary steps for you. It will benefit them tremendously, however, if you have recorded evidence as listed in steps one through eight above.
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