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Personal Injury FAQ

 

 

So you’ve been in an accident and now you’re dealing with a painful injury, expensive medical bills, and other physical, mental, and financial burdens. What makes the situation even worse is the fact that the accident wasn’t even your fault! Why should you have to suffer for someone else’s mistakes? The answer is, you don’t. Check out this FAQ provided by Wilshire Law Firm to learn about your rights and legal options after an accident. If you would like to discuss the specifics of your case with one of our dedicated personal injury attorneys, call (800) 522-7274. We offer FREE consultations.

How Much is my Personal Injury Claim or Lawsuit Worth?

While an attorney cannot provide you with an exact figure – and you should not trust one who claims otherwise – he or she can give you an estimate based on several factors, including but not limited to: the severity of your injuries, the circumstances surrounding your accident, the identity of the liable party, and the limits of his or her insurance policy.

The amount of compensation you receive will be affected by not only the extent of your damages but also the strength of the evidence supporting your claim. That is why it is essential to get help from a personal injury lawyer who has experienced investigating and resolving cases like yours.

 

How Much is Your Case WorthIf you are in the process or filing a personal injury lawsuit, it is perfectly natural to wonder how much compensation you are entitled to. And while this is not an easy question to answer, there are ways to predict a potential settlement or case resolution.

The answer will always rely on what are known as “damages.”

Damages are whatever harm has been inflicted on you, and how much that harm is worth:

  • Monetarily
  • Physically
  • Mentally

In some cases, the defendant may be punished further, which could also increase your reward. This is known as punitive damages.

Monetary damages will be paid to a successful plaintiff who can prove that the defendant was legally responsible (at fault) for any negligence that caused the plaintiff property damage or personal injury.

A damage reward is sometimes agreed upon with a negotiated settlement before the case goes to trial. These settlements must be agreed upon by the parties, the attorneys, and the insurance companies involved. If the parties cannot come to an agreement, the case will go to court, and a judge will decide the amount of your reward.

Before you can begin to guess what your reward will be, it’s important to know what kind of damages for which you’re claiming compensation.

Damages for which you can claim compensation

Compensatory damages are the most common form of personal injury rewards. They are meant to compensate the plaintiff for what was damaged or totaled, during the accident for which the defendant was at fault.

The parties will attempt to put a dollar amount on the actual damages, which can be tricky if you don’t have an experienced personal injury lawyer. The point of putting a dollar amount on the damages is to reimburse the plaintiff for their losses.

Some compensatory damages are easy to quantify, while others are not so straightforward. Check out some of the more common forms of compensatory damages below:

Medical treatment

Most personal injury cases involve some form of compensation for medical treatment. Hospital bills, doctor visits – these items add up fast. If you have sustained any type of injury, it is very important that you seek medical treatment. If you don’t have medical records for your injuries, with hospital bills, your chances at recovery for physical injuries will be severely diminished.

Income

If you’re unable to work, due to injuries sustained in your accident, and lose your ability to earn income, you may be entitled to compensation for future and past wages. This is commonly referred to as “loss of earning capacity.”

Property loss

Any personal property that is damaged or lost during your accident is potential for compensation. Repairs, replacements, and more, may be compensated for at fair market value.

Pain and suffering

Any pain and suffering that you experienced during the accident, in the immediate aftermath of the accident, or for extended periods of time after the accident will be factored into your reward.

Emotional distress

If you have any psychological damage from your accident, you may be entitled to emotional distress compensation. Types of emotional distress include, but are not limited to:

  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of sleep

Loss of enjoyment

Many cases involve injuries that deter the victim from participating in everyday hobbies and activities that, in the past, contributed to their happiness and overall enjoyment. If your injuries keep you from your favorite activities, you may be entitled to loss of enjoyment remedies.

Loss of consortium

If the injuries of your accident result in any negativity with regards to your spousal relationship, you may be entitled to consortium compensation. The loss of companionship or sexual relationship is common forms of consortium remedies.

Punitive damages in personal injury cases

When the defendant’s conduct is found to be egregious, or particularly careless, your compensation may include what are known as “punitive damages.”

Punitive damages are designed to inflict extra monetary punishment on the defendant, which, in turn, may deter them from repeating their actions.

Punitive damages are a major source of massive personal injury settlements and verdicts. In many states, punitive damages have caps because they run up so high.

How your actions affect your recovery amount

If you are deemed to have had any partial fault for the accident, that will be reflected in your claim.

Comparative negligence

If you are found to be at fault (wholly or partially), this can seriously diminish your chances at full compensation.

Contributory negligence

In some states, if you are deemed to have any fault for the accident, you may not recover any compensation.

Failure to mitigate damages

You need to take reasonable steps toward minimizing your damages, or else the courts may deem that you did the exact opposite. For instance, if you don’t go to the hospital and receive medical treatment, your injuries will not be recorded.

When Should I File a Lawsuit in California?

In California, the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit, also known as the statute of limitations, is two years from the injury or date of discovery in most cases. However, there are exceptions. It is best to speak with an attorney as soon as possible following your accident if you want to ensure that your suit is filed in time. Missing the deadline can result in you being barred from pursuing compensation for your injury.

How Long will my California Personal Injury Case Take?

To put it simply, it is extremely difficult to determine how long it will take to a resolve a personal injury case. Each and every case presents its own unique set of circumstances which affects its length, so it’s impossible to come up with a general timetable. Some lawsuits may settle in a few months without the need for litigation, while others can take years to complete.

Why Do Personal Injury Cases Take a Long Time to Settle?

Some personal injury cases take longer to settle than others. Does this mean there’s something wrong with your lawyer? No, probably not.

But there are many factors that may affect how long your personal injury case will take to settle, such as:

  1. Injuries you have suffered and recovery time
  2. Legal issues
  3. How extensive damages are in your case

Due to the numerous factors involved in personal injury cases, it’s impossible to determine exactly how long a case will take to settle.

gavel and stethoscope

Injuries you have suffered and recovery time

For a better representation of the compensation you deserve, you should reach your maximum medical improvement (MMI) before settling. Your MMI is the point where you have recovered enough to be considered stable. It is only once you have hit your MMI that your attorney can better assess how much your case is worth and any future impacts your accident will have on you. Unfortunately, there’s no universal formula dictating what everyone’s MMI is going to be. In fact, two people could experience the exact same type of collision and suffer from the same injuries, and their MMI’s still might be different! The only way to know for sure is to be patient and heal. If you settle before reaching your MMI, you could end up paying thousands of dollars out of your own pocket to pay off medical bills.

Legal issues

Insurance companies want to draw out the settlement process for as long as possible, hoping you’ll settle for a lower amount. They can do this by disputing liability, damages, and the value of your case. Insurance companies will fight your case, especially when liability is unclear. Settlement negotiations will open up once it has been made clear to an insurance company that your injuries were, in fact, from their client’s negligent and/or reckless action. But this process can take time. Sometimes, for insurance companies who refuse to acknowledge the plaintiff’s claim, a judge will have to grant them the right to sue.

A personal injury lawyer will fight to push through these legal issues as quickly as possible to help their client earn the money they need and deserve. But even the most experienced lawyers need time.

How extensive damages are in your case

Cases involving extensive damages are likely to be worth more. In situations like these, expect insurance adjusters to use delaying tactics.

Tactics can include:

  • Adjusters requesting small bits of information at a time, instead of asking for it all at once
  • Insurance companies constantly changing your adjuster
  • An adjuster trying to convince you to use your medical insurance to pay for your medical bills

Furthermore, when a lot of money is on the line, an insurance company will want to do their own investigation before settling. They will investigate every aspect of your case using a fine-tooth comb, until they are convinced of all the following:

  • Your injuries were not exaggerated
  • Your credibility is solid
  • Your defense is better than theirs

Experiencing harm and extensive damages from an accident is stressful. You want to get paid, quickly. But by moving and settling too quickly, you risk losing valuable compensation. By waiting, you can earn more money for your accident. Take, for example, a few of these cases Wilshire Law Firm’s lawyers have won on behalf of their clients:

  • $1,000,000 motorcycle vs. automobile settlement
  • $985,000,000 motorcycle vs. automobile settlement
  • $2,000,000 motorcycle vs. automobile settlement

Cases like these are not resolved in a manner of weeks, but the payoff was more than worth it! The key, though, is to wait.

What Is Involved in the Personal Injury Lawsuit Process?

personal injury

Hire a lawyer

Once you have decided to file a lawsuit, the first thing you need to do is hire a skilled and experienced personal injury lawyer. Although you can represent yourself, we would highly recommend hiring an attorney, anyways. They have a deep understanding of the law surrounding personal injury claims, the legal processes, and how to deal with insurance companies who will use many unsavory means to lower your compensation.

Schedule a free case consultation with a lawyer. During this consultation, a lawyer will ask you questions about your injuries and request information relating to the accident, such as medical treatments, repair costs, and potential witnesses.

File a lawsuit

Starting a lawsuit involves filing a complaint or petition, which is a document that identifies the plaintiff (you) and the defendant (the person or party that caused the injuries), sets the court’s jurisdiction over the dispute, states your legal claims, and relates the facts leading to the claim. In it, you will set forth what you want the court to require the defendant to do.

The court then issues a summons, which is an order stating where the lawsuit will be litigated (heard). The court notifies the defendant about the lawsuit and establishes the window within which he or she must file an answer or seek to have the lawsuit dismissed. If the defendant fails to respond within the given timeframe, he or she will be “in default”.

Discovery Process

The lawyers of both parties (the plaintiff and the defendant) collect the facts pertaining to the accident and injuries to present in the court as evidence. This is called ‘Discovery’. The discovery process involves the following:

  • Interrogatories and requests for admission: Interrogatories are written descriptions of your version of the facts. Request for admission involves asking a party (plaintiff or defendant) to admit or deny certain facts.
  • Document production: The lawyers of one or both parties may request the other party to provide documents pertaining to the case. The documents may include diaries, photos, letters, emails and computer files.
  • Depositions: A deposition is a question and answer session in which the opposing party’s attorney asks the plaintiff, defendant or a witness a series of questions in the presence of a court reporter, who records everything that is said and produces a transcription to be used at the trial. Deposition takes place in the attorney’s office and may last from a few hours to several days.

The discovery process may be long, but it is absolutely necessary to build your case. Once the discovery is finished, lawyers from both sides will begin preparing for trial.

Pretrial Motions

Before the lawsuit goes to trial, the lawyers of one or both parties may file a motion asking the court for a ruling on a particular matter. It may be to have the case dismissed, change the venue of the court, grant a summary judgment, etc. If the ruling on the motion can resolve the dispute and terminate the lawsuit before trial, it is called a dispositive motion. If the ruling resolves some questions that have arisen during the litigation, it is called a non-dispositive motion.

Trial

The trial is the final and the most high-profile phase of a lawsuit. In this phase, the judge or jury examines the evidence presented by both parties and decide, by a “preponderance of the evidence,” whether the defendant should be held liable for the injuries and harm caused to the plaintiff. The plaintiff is given the opportunity to present his or her version of the facts with evidence. The defendant is also given the opportunity to refute the plaintiff’s allegations, presenting his or her own version of facts with evidence. A trial has six phases:

  1. Jury selection: The judge selects jurors from a pool of eligible citizens, both the lawyers and judge will question jurors for bias, and dismiss biased jurors for cause.
  2. Opening statements: Both parties make their first statements through their lawyers.
  3. Witness testimony and cross-examinations: One or both parties call witnesses and ask questions. The opposing party’s lawyer cross-examines the witnesses with questions.
  4. Closing arguments: Both parties make their final statements through their lawyers.
  5. Jury instruction: The judge establishes a set of legal standards that the jury must adhere to when making their decision.
  6. Jury deliberation and verdict: The jurors gather in a separate room to discuss the case and make a decision. The verdict is then announced in the court.

That ends the lawsuit. If you win, you can collect your claim. If you lose, you can either forget about it or file an appeal in a higher court. Since a personal injury lawsuit can be a lengthy and complicated process, never go to the court without help from a skilled and experienced personal injury lawyer.

What Should I Expect at a Personal Injury Deposition?

If your case has a good chance of going to trial, you will likely undergo a deposition, an oral question and answer session with the opposing attorney.

Be prepared for the following questions:

  • Have you suffered other illnesses and/or injuries in the past?
  • Is this the first time you have been involved in a legal claim?
  • Can you produce any witnesses to the accident?
  • Have you filed an insurance claim?
  • What is your employment history?
  • How has your injury affected your life?
  • When was the last time you received medical treatment for your injury?

An attorney can help you prepare for a deposition by going over important documents related to your injury claim and coaching you on your answers. He or she will also be at your side during the deposition itself.

Can I Still Pursue Compensation if I was Partially at Fault for my Injuries?

Yes. The state of California uses a “pure comparative negligence” system for determining damages in a personal injury suit. Under this system, your compensation amount will be deducted by an amount equivalent to your percentage of fault. So, for instance, let’s say a jury awards you $100,000 in a verdict but also determines that you were 50 percent at fault for the accident. In the end, you will receive $50,000 ($100,000 minus 50 percent).

When Should I Sue in a Personal Injury Case?

Let’s say that you were injured in a car accident or when your new cellphone exploded in your hand. Besides the pain and suffering, there will be added burdens of medical bills, lost wages and other associated expenses. There may even be the possibility that you will never be able to work again. Naturally, you will want to be sufficiently compensated for your injuries and losses. The law offers two options: negotiated settlement and lawsuit.

Claim vs Lawsuit

Let’s say that you were injured in a car accident or when your new cellphone exploded in your hand. Besides the pain and suffering, there will be added burdens of medical bills, lost wages and other associated expenses. There may even be the possibility that you will never be able to work again. Naturally, you will want to be sufficiently compensated for your injuries and losses. The law offers two options: negotiated settlement and lawsuit.

Should you file a claim and try to negotiate a settlement or should you sue the person or entity responsible for your injury? You should talk to experienced personal injury lawyers for advice.

Before you can decide the right course of action, you need to know the difference between a claim and a lawsuit.

  • Personal injury claim: A personal injury claim is filed with the insurance company of the responsible person or entity. This is before considering any lawsuit. Once you have filed your claim, a series of negotiations take place between you and the insurance company. You may be asked to attend an independent medical examination (IME) to have your injuries assessed and verified. If the negotiations conclude with a mutually satisfactory settlement, then will be no need to go to the court.
  • Personal injury lawsuit: If a mutually satisfactory settlement can’t be reached with negotiations, then you should consider filing a personal injury lawsuit. A lawsuit is often a complicated and lengthy process that includes a petition, discovery of harm, depositions and trial. You will be required to appear several times at the court and produce witnesses. Before your cases reaches the trial stage, your defendant’s lawyer will try to have it have it thrown out. Even after the court gives a decision in your favor, the defendant may appeal to have the decision overturned or to have the compensation reduced.

Consider the Following Before Filing a Lawsuit

If you have received an offer of settlement that you did not find satisfactory, then consider the expenses and the time needed to pursue the lawsuit to its successful conclusion before rejecting it. Even when you have a strong case, there is no guarantee that you will win or that court will award you the full amount of your claim even if you win. If you lose the lawsuit, you will not be able to recover any of your expenses.

Your lawsuit expenses may include petition filing fees, payments to law enforcement officers, costs of depositions and transcripts, costs of medical examination, travel expenses, copying costs for medical records, witness statements and police reports, and other associated expenses. Add to that the loss of wages due to time off from work and even the possibility of losing your job.

Arbitration is Often a Better Recourse

If the negotiations for settlement have failed, then you should consider arbitration as the next step. Arbitration takes place after the failure of the negotiations but before filing a lawsuit. It is the use of an independent person or a group of persons officially appointed to settle a dispute. The arbitrator listens to both sides and gives his decision. In most cases, the arbitrator’s decision cannot be appealed.

Arbitration is an excellent alternative to a lawsuit. It takes less time and the costs are much lower. There are various types of arbitrations, including one that guarantees that you will be paid at least some amount of money even if the arbitrator’s decision goes against you.

Sue Only After You Have Run Out of All Other Options

Technically speaking, you can file a personal injury lawsuit at any time you like after the accident. You can file it the same day you were injured, if you want to. But considering the complexity of the legal process once it goes to court, it is sensible to seek a negotiated settlement first. Experienced personal injury lawyers will give you the same advice. Therefore, you should consider filing a lawsuit only after you have run out of all other options, including arbitration and mediation.

How Much will it Cost to Hire Wilshire Law Firm?

At Wilshire Law Firm, we provide our services on a contingency fee basis. In other words, you won’t have to pay us any attorney fees unless we make a recovery. We advance witness fees, court filing fees, deposition costs, and other legal expenses. We have ways to take care of your medical costs as well! Once we obtain a settlement or verdict, we will take a fair percentage of the proceedings as payment for our services. We won’t ask for even a single cent beforehand. So there is literally zero risk to seeking our help!

If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident caused by another party, contact Wilshire Law Firm today to get started on the road to recovery. Since opening the doors of our first Los Angeles office in 2007, we have obtained more than $100 million in verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients. Our attorneys have years of experience and the results to show for it. You won’t go wrong with our legal team at your side. Call us today and let us fight for you.

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