If you’ve been injured in a Los Angeles accident you may be thinking about filing a personal injury claim for damages. The money you can recover from a successful claim can make a world of difference during your recovery. The more you understand about the process of filing a claim, the better your chances of maximizing the money you receive. This overview of the personal injury lawsuit process in California can help prepare you for the process.
Steps to Take Immediately After an Accident
Filing a personal injury claim may not be your first thought after an injury-causing accident. However, the decisions you make at this time will be incredibly important. Keeping these suggestions in mind will keep you safe and strengthen your future claim.
Get Medical Help
It is important to get medical help as soon as you can after an accident, even if you don’t think that your injuries are severe. There are two primary reasons for this. First, seeing a doctor will ensure that all of your injuries are properly diagnosed and treated right away. Left untreated, internal injuries can get worse and cause life-changing complications. Second, your visit will be thoroughly documented, which will help to prove that your injuries were a result of your accident.
Evidence will be crucial in a personal injury lawsuit. Unfortunately, many pieces of evidence may be lost or forgotten over time. You can help to strengthen a personal injury claim by taking the initiative to protect this valuable information. Take pictures of the scene of the accident and your injuries. Write down your memory of the event. Any details and evidence that can be preserved will be useful.
Report the Accident
Make sure that you report the accident as soon as possible. The investigating authority (e.g., police, employer) will document the situation. These reports can be incredibly helpful to preserve valuable information.
Find an Attorney
If you’ve suffered an injury in an accident you may be overwhelmed. Hiring an attorney to handle a complex personal injury claim will give you time to focus on your recovery and put your claim in the hands of a professional. Take advantage of free consultations offered by Los Angeles personal injury attorneys. At the meetings, ask questions and determine which attorney is the best fit for you and your case.
Keeping the Statute of Limitations in Mind
While California does allow accident victims the opportunity to recover damages, the state limits the amount of time the victim has the file a claim. Accident victims who sustain a bodily injury generally have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim for damages. If you do not file a claim within this period of time you will likely be prohibited from getting the money you deserve.
There are limited times when the statute of limitations may differ. The statute of limitations may be accelerated when the government is at fault, or extended when certain extenuating circumstances exist. If you’ve hired an attorney immediately after your accident, they will make sure that your claims are filed within the appropriate time frame.
Sending a Demand for Compensation
Once your attorney has completed a preliminary investigation and determined who is at fault for your injury, they will devise a demand letter. This letter, which will be sent to the at-fault party and/or their insurance company, will notify the party (defendant) of your intent to recover damages. The letter will contain information about why that person is liable, explain the extent of your injuries, and outline your request for compensation.
The defendant (or their insurance company) can respond to this demand letter or ignore it. If your demand letter is unsuccessful your attorney will create a legal claim for damages that will be served on the defendant.
Filing a Claim for Damages
If the defendant rejects your demand or fails to respond at all, your attorney will file a formal claim for damages. This claim notifies the court of your intent to recover compensation from the person who is responsible for your injuries. The claim will be based on information your attorney gathers from a thorough investigation and in-depth legal research. Your attorney will weave the law with the facts and evidence of your case to create a compelling legal argument about why you should be compensated for your injuries.
The defendant will be legally obligated to respond to your claim. If they don’t respond, the court will automatically enter judgment in your favor. In most cases, you can expect the defendant to contest your claim.
Once your claim has been filed and the defendant has answered, your case will proceed to the discovery phase. Discovery allows both parties to examine evidence and information from each other that may be relevant to the case. Parties are also allowed to formally question witnesses and interested parties through depositions. Since depositions are given under oath, they can be an incredibly helpful tool in gathering compelling evidence. Your attorney will use the information gathered in the discovery process to supplement the initial investigation that was conducted at the start of the legal process.
Negotiating a Settlement
95 percent of all personal injury cases are settled privately outside of court. When you agree to accept a private settlement, you also agree to drop your lawsuit. The filing of a formal legal claim can be enough to persuade defendants to negotiate a reasonable settlement. Your attorney will use the information and evidence contained in your claim and gathered during discovery to leverage the defendant into offering a fair settlement.
Taking Your Case to Trial
Some defendants will refuse to negotiate or extend offers that are simply not enough to cover the extent of your injuries. If you are not satisfied with the offers you receive you have the right to take your case to trial. Remember that trials tend to be much more time-consuming and expensive. You’ll want to keep costs in mind when you’re thinking about whether to accept an offer.
When you are hiring an attorney at the beginning of the process, it is important to keep the possibility of trial in mind. You’ll want an attorney who is an experienced litigator with success in the courtroom. If your attorney has a reputation for being a tough opponent in court, defendants may be more inclined to offer a fair settlement.
At trial, a judge or jury will have the authority to decide (1) if you should be awarded compensation and (2) how much you should get. Both the judgment and award can be appealed by you or the defendant.
Thinking About Filing a Personal Injury Claim?
Have you been injured in a Los Angeles accident? You may be entitled to compensation from the person who is responsible for your accident. Call the Citywide Law Group to speak with one of our experienced attorneys and learn about how we can help you file a personal injury claim for damages. Remember, you have a limited amount of time to act so do not hesitate to call us today. We will review your potential case, explain your rights as an accident victim, and explain the steps involved in filing a claim.