Personal Injury Law in CA

Personal Injury Law in California

Getting the hang of personal injury law in California enables you to know your rights if/when you have to deal with a personal injury. Ideally, these laws encompass the legal framework designed to hold accountable individuals who deliberately, mistakenly, or carelessly cause a form of personal injury.

In this post, you’ll learn what the laws in California entail so that you can confidently lay your personal injury claim when necessary.  Read more.

Question: Brad, may I pick your brain; what are California personal injury laws?

Answer: Sure! Below are articles that answer most of the frequently asked questions. If you have questions that are not answered in any of the articles, please let me know, and I will be happy to write about it.

The Theory of Negligence

Negligence generally involves doing the wrong thing or failing to do the right thing to prevent causing harm to oneself or others, especially when there are laws defining the right conduct. Examples are traffic laws and educational policies/guidelines.

To successfully prove a case of personal injury before a jury, the case has to fulfill the aspects of the theory of negligence. A jury often assesses the case based on how a sensible person would behave under similar conditions.

Below are the legal elements which must be included:

  1. The defendant was in the position to provide certain care to the plaintiff/victim
  2. However, the defendant failed to render this care suitably
  • This negligence, therefore, resulted in personal injury affecting the plaintiff
  1. And the negligence on the defendant’s part is a huge cause of the injury.

The Pure Comparative Negligence System

Despite the fact that California strictly recognizes the victim, it also works with the idea that more than one party could be responsible for accidents in a great number of personal injury cases.

With the use of a pure comparative negligence system, an accident victim gets to bear the responsibility for their wrong conduct. In essence, the court deducts a percentage which represents the amount of the victim’s fault from the victim’s total compensation.

As an example, if someone suffers $50,000 in damages and the court finds them at fault for about 30%, only $35,000 would be recovered. Nevertheless, it is impossible for victims who are largely at fault to file a lawsuit.

Common Personal Injury Laws

·         Automobile Accidents

Car accidents are guided by the following laws:

  1. Pedestrian-related Laws

Individuals who walk on the roadway should be guided by the following laws:

  • At roadways with marked/unmarked crosswalks, vehicle operators should stop and allow pedestrians to cross.
  • If traffic is imminent, pedestrians should keep from using the crosswalk as this could result in an injury.
  • Also, pedestrians should only cross the roadway when the signal facing them shows “walk.” This typically grants them passage. However, they must keep from crossing when the signal indicates “wait” or “don’t walk.”
  • If a roadway doesn’t indicate a marked/unmarked crosswalk, pedestrians are expected to stop so that vehicles can move.
  1. Driver-related Laws

Car drivers and operators in general are required to observe the following vital laws:

  • When following another driver, a driver must keep a reasonable distance and be defensive in observing traffic and the speed of other vehicle operators.
  • When taking a left turn, a driver must use an indicator and make the move only when it’s safe to do so.
  • The use of mobile devices while operating a motor vehicle is prohibited except if the electronic device supports hands-free and voice operations for speaking, listening, and sending messages.
  • When moving to the left lane, a driver mustn’t speed and should ensure that the distance is appropriate. Likewise, before returning to the right lane, the driver must maintain the passing lane until passing can be considered safe.
  • If two vehicle operators arrive at an intersection concurrently, the driver on the left should stop for the driver on the right to move.
  1. Laws Pertaining to Motorcycles

Below are laws which concern motorcyclists and their passengers:

  • The use of helmets when riding on a roadway is compulsory for both motorcyclists and passengers.
  • Equally, the headlights must be turned on in dark areas.
  1. Requirements for Insurance

California operates a no-fault insurance system for discovering which car operator/owner is responsible for the personal injury, property damage, or death of another. This system also provides clarity on the actual cause of the accident (negligence, inaction, or an error).

In fact, victims of auto accidents can file a lawsuit against a vehicle operator if they can prove the cause of the accident to be intentional misbehavior or driving under influence.

Every motor vehicle owner in California is required to own an insurance policy which provides liability coverage which satisfies the following minimum requirements:

  • $5,000/each time property damage occurs
  • $15,000/an individual
  • $30,000/two or more persons
  1. Laws about Rendering Aid and Giving Information

It is the obligation of the driver who causes an auto accident which results in personal injury or death to stop, assist the affected victims, and give their information.

Additionally, drivers involved in accidents are expected to report the situation in a space of 24 hours to the local police department or the California Highway Patrol.

·         Laws Relating to Products with Faults

Products with one fault or the other are also included in the laws in California. Such faults could be errors in manufacturing, harmful design or insufficient warning.

As a matter of fact, California has strict liability laws which hold the defendant accountable even when the plaintiff cannot provide sufficient proof of the defendant’s error. Usually, an injury is sufficient evidence.

Plaintiffs who have to file a lawsuit in this regard should emphasize these:

  1. The product was designed, produced, distributed, and sold by the defendant
  2. It developed or sustained a flaw while within the defendant’s custody
  • The consumer used the product the proper way but sustained an injury due to the product’s shortcoming.

A jury is usually interested in how the plaintiff used the product – wrongly or rightly. So, companies which produce goods must be guided by the way the average consumers put their products to use.

·         Dram Shop Law

This law pertains to establishments which are responsible for serving alcohol which brings about intoxication and subsequent personal injury to people. When such businesses sell even a little alcohol to customers and such individuals get intoxicated and get involved in accidents which bring about personal injury or death, the law holds the business accountable.

·         Laws Addressing Medical Misconduct

When a healthcare provider acts contrary to the acceptable care standard when providing medical services to a patient and this action results in a personal injury, such a person is liable for committing medical malpractice. In this case, the mistake which could happen during examination, diagnosis, medical care provision, or prescription of medication results in personal injury to the patient.

The ideal care here entails the laid-down medical procedures and clinical practices which other professional healthcare providers in similar specialties will employ when rendering services to patients with similar health problems. Nonetheless, factors such as a patient’s health history, lifestyle, and age might affect the kind of care the provider will give.

Before a patient can sue their healthcare provider, they must present a formal notice in a minimum of ninety days to them. This is meant to inform them of the lawsuit and it should include the legal grounds for the lawsuit, the injury suffered, and the extent of the injury. However, the lawsuit must be moved by another ninety days if the patient provides the formal notice within (not before) ninety days of the statute of limitations.

Such cases are dependent on the fees requested by the attorney. Below is the least amount lawyers charge:

  • 15% of any amount exceeding $600,000
  • 40% of the initial $50,000 recovered
  • 33% of the $50,000 recovered after the first one
  • 25% of the subsequent $500,000 recovered

To illustrate this, if a patient recovers $900,000 in damages, they would need to pay the attorney $206,500. Here’s the breakdown:

  • $20,000 from the initial $50,000
  • $16,500 from the subsequent $50,000
  • $45,000 from the next 300,000
  • $125,000 from the following $500,000

·         Laws about Statute of Limitations

This refers to the time period in which a person who has suffered a personal injury in an accident caused by another person can file a lawsuit. This period in California is two years, which implies that an accident victim has up to two years from the day an accident occurs to sue the individual responsible.

However, in cases of unknown injuries, an accident victim has a period of one year after figuring out the specific injury. Also, the personal injury victim has six months to file the complaint and take the necessary steps if the injury was caused by a governmental body.

·         Laws against Dog Bites

Unlike many states where the first dog bite doesn’t raise the issue of liability for the dog owner, in California, a dog owner bears the responsibility of their dog causing injury to someone.

Several states consider the fact that the individual might not be aware that the dog is harmful. But California ensures that the owner is liable for cases where their dog bites a person both in open and private spaces.

·         Laws Addressing Injuries on Premises

In California, the premises liability holds property owners and property managers responsible for personal injuries or damage caused to tenants or people using the property. A lawsuit can be filed for falls, construction accidents, slips/trips, dog bites, or other forms of injuries traceable to third-person negligence or intentional error.

Moreover, such complaints are based on the theory of negligence comprising duty of care, breach of duty, causation and damages. Key factors for identifying the people responsible for damages include:

  • Ownership/Possession
  • Control

With these two elements in place, the duty of care (though determined by situations) becomes crucial. Property must be safe to use so that people do not suffer injuries of any kind. To emphasize this:

  • Hidden dangers should be fixed and tenants should be warned about them.
  • Owners of stores should address prospective risks after proper inspection.
  • Property owners should find ways to control the unlawful behaviors of other persons using their property if they suspect that their wrong behaviors could cause future harm.

Other issues which a court takes into consideration to establish the absence of a legal duty are below:

  • The link between the defendant’s conduct and the personal injury of the plaintiff
  • The error(s) observed in the defendant
  • The likelihood of injury
  • Evidence that the plaintiff was injured
  • Plans to prevent a recurrence of such harm
  • The duty of care and liability for acting contrary on the part of the defendant
  • Available insurance plus the cost of insurance for the personal injury

Damage Caps and Limits

In California, some rules exist for setting limits or caps for damage. In other words, some forms of damage cannot be recovered especially when insurance is absent.

While economic damages are those with monetary value, non-economic damages have no financial consequence. For instance, medical expenses resulting from an auto accident qualifies as an economic damage whereas inconvenience, flaws, or pain lack monetary worth.

  • Vehicle Operators without Insurance

Drivers without insurance in California cannot recover non-economic damages done to them, for instance in automobile accidents irrespective of the fact that the other driver might be at fault.

But in a situation where the other driver was intoxicated and they had been convicted of driving under influence (DUI), there would be an exception.

  • Cases of Medical Misconduct

In situations where non-economic damages are considered under medical malpractice, a damage cap of $250,000 applies.

How to Choose a Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have suffered any of the above discussed forms of personal injury, you should find a personal injury lawyer that handles the specific claim you intend to make.

Personal injury lawyers in California generally do not receive payment for their legal services until their client receives compensation. While they often receive legal costs to cover for payment of expert witnesses, costs of filing the claim, charges for making copies and placing calls, these lawyers hardly receive upfront legal fees.

Yet, if a plaintiff cannot provide the costs upfront, the lawyer may decide to bear the costs until the jury award is available. And retainer agreement should be signed to this effect. However, if the plaintiff doesn’t win the case, the lawyer may not receive payment for their legal services.

Get in Touch with a Personal Injury Lawyer in California

Have you been involved in an accident in California? Your first point of call should be a personal injury lawyer who has spent several years working with people with similar issues.

This lawyer is in the best position to explain your legal rights and carry out all interactions with the insurance company. Besides, he/she can easily determine the persons liable for your personal injury or the damages done and the legal framework to employ.

Call Brad Nakase

Free Consultation

2221 CAMINO DEL RIO S. #300, SAN DIEGO, CA 92108