Important Personal Injury Frequently Asked Questions
Panish, Shea, and Boyle, LLP specialize in personal injury law in the Los Angeles area. We help victims of defective products, fraud, medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents, plane crashes, and more pursue their legal right to compensation. It doesn’t matter who caused the injury – a large corporation, the government, or an individual – your Los Angeles personal injury attorney team will hold them accountable for their negligence and help win you fair compensation.
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What is a personal injury case?
What qualifies as a personal injury case?
A personal injury case encompasses any legal dispute between an injured party (the plaintiff) and the party the injured person believes is responsible for the injury (the defendant). These cases may take one of two official forms.
1. Formal Lawsuit
This civil case begins when an injured party (plaintiff) files a lawsuit against another party (defendant), accusing the defendant of being liable or responsible for causing the injury. Unlike a civil case, the government initiates a criminal case. It is possible for the government and another party to file a criminal and civil case (respectively) against someone.
Most personal injury claims never go to trial because the parties involved – claimant, defendant, insuring party, and attorneys – resolve the dispute in a settlement. A negotiation takes places, usually leading to an agreement. Under this deal, the claimant accepts financial compensation a settlement details and agrees not to file a lawsuit.
After sustaining the initial injury, your personal injury case can go through many steps. The first one of these is, get treatment. If you don’t seek treatment for your injuries immediately, then you may not have a case at all. The next thing you’ll need to do is find an attorney. Having an attorney will help you get full compensation, even for a small claim. Once you do hire a lawyer, they will review every aspect of your case and medical records. This is why it’s important to keep all bills of any treatment you received.
Most of the time, a personal injury claim is settled before a lawsuit is even filed. Typically though, your lawyer won’t make a demand until you have reached the point of maximum medical improvement. If a lawsuit does get filed, then there is the discovery process, which gives both sides the chance to submit document requests and interview witnesses. This can take up to a year to complete. After this, mediation and negotiation begins, which is typically where settlement offers are made. If it does get all the way to trial, which can last more than a week due to the judge’s schedules.
How do I know if I have a claim?
Several types of incidents can qualify for a personal injury claim:
- Accidents. If a person behaves in a negligent manner and that lets someone come to harm, the injured party can file a personal injury claim. Such incidents include car accidents, falls, or medical malpractice.
- Defamation. Any attempt by a party to damage or harm another person’s reputation qualifies for protect under personal injury law. The defamed party may file a claim as a result.
- Defective Products. Some situations qualify as acts that cause harm without any willful or negligent behavior by another party. A defective toy or device that injures someone would result in a product liability claim and be subject to personal injury laws.
- Willful Action. If a party experiences injury or harm because of another person’s intentional act, personal injury law applies and the injured party can file a claim.
Who can file an injury claim?
While it’s not the only requirement, the injury needs to have been someone else’s fault, and caused by their negligence. Physically visible injuries are not necessary for a personal injury case; attacks of defamation, emotional distress, or the expectation of harm would all be grounds for filing a personal injury lawsuit against that person. Another thing to consider is whether the injury created compensatory damages, such as medical bills or lost wages. If all of these things are true, then you have a personal injury case.
Who carries the burden of proof?
When the willful or negligent act of another person or entitles cause someone to suffer an injury, that person may file a claim under personal injury law. Each state has different laws detailing what qualifies as a personal injury. For example, workers’ compensation covers any injury that occurs at work. To better determine whether your situation qualifies under California law, contact Panish, Shea, and Boyle, LLP to schedule a free consultation.
How do I prove negligence in a case?
In civil lawsuits, the burden of proof falls to the plaintiff, wherein the plaintiff must demonstrate a majority of available evidence clearly indicates the defendant holds liability for the damages. This is different from criminal cases, where the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a shadow of doubt. Because of this, the court can find a defendant who faces both civil and criminal cases not guilty of criminal charges but still responsible for damages.
What if I was partially to blame for my injuries?
Someone acting in a careless way, or even not acting when they should have, would qualify as negligence. So how will your Los Angeles accident lawyer prove this in your case?
There are four elements that comprise negligence, and you have to prove all of them for someone to be found negligent:
- Duty - The defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff. This can encompass many things, such as a doctor providing care, or another motorist driving their car. The defendant does not have to know the plaintiff to owe them a duty.
- Breach - The defendant breached that duty by failing to act as a “reasonably prudent person” should. In other words, the defendant should have known that their actions would likely cause injury to others.
- Causation - That action was the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injury. If someone was driving drunk or distracted, that unsafe action would qualify as causation.
- Damages - Harm was done to the plaintiff as a result of the defendant’s actions, and the court has the ability to pay the plaintiff.
What is affirmative defense?
California is a comparative negligence state, meaning that if you are found to be 25% at fault in a $100,000 settlement, you would receive $75,000. California also follows the pure comparative fault rule, which means that even if the defendant is found to be 99 percent at fault, they can still collect on damages. An example of this would be a drunk driving defendant proving negligence on the part of the plaintiff because they had a tail light out.
What is common law?
This defense takes place when the defendant claims he or she is not liable for reasons beyond the body of evidence gathered indicating liability. One example of this is comparative negligence, where both parties share fault. Another example of affirmative defense is assumption of risk, where a plaintiff knowingly assumed the risk, thus absolving the defendant – at least in part. However, California law limits the use of this defense because it uses the “pure comparative negligence” doctrine. This allows the plaintiff to receive compensation for damages even in circumstances were his or her share of fault exceeds 50 percent.
Who determines the personal injury laws in each state?
Many laws classified under personal injury originate from “common law rules” that have existed for quite some time. These rules come from any law created by a judge in forming a judgment. These differ from legislative laws and statutes.
A judge’s decision on a case creates a precedent that justices in future cases must consider in similar going forward in the state court system. However, this only applies to courts below that judge’s court level. Over time, this applied precedent becomes binding and enters the “common law” status.
Common law varies state to state; as such, the laws are not uniform. However, the Restatement of Torts collects many of these laws and is a kind of guidebook explaining the rules. Many states use this book when dealing with personal injury cases.
What types of questions are asked during deposition?
State legislatures can pass laws that touch on personal injury. Workers’ compensation laws separate workplace injuries from personal injury law, precluding many workers from suing their employers. States also passed laws regarding statute of limitations.
How much is my case worth?
Going through a deposition can be a nerve-racking thing, even if you’ve done everything properly. Being prepared for the types of questions the defense attorney might ask you if the case goes to trial can make a big difference in the settlement you get:
- What types of injuries and illnesses have you had prior to the accident?
- Have you previously been involved in any other lawsuits or legal claims?
- Were there any witnesses to the accident?
- Did you file an insurance claim?
- What is the nature of your injury?
- What is your job history?
- How has your injury affected your life?
- When was your last treatment?
Always answer questions honestly and truthfully. Your lawyer will be there to assist you in preparation and during the actual questioning.
How long will my case take to settle?
The value of a personal injury case varies based on the amount of damages the injuries have cost you physically, financially and mentally. Additionally, the Los Angeles personal injury law firm you choose can have a huge impact on the amount you recover. Panish Shea & Boyle, LLP is considered to be one of the top plaintiff’s law firms in the country and we regularly receive referrals from other personal injury lawyers because of our track record of getting very large settlements and verdicts.
How long will it take for me to receive the compensation?
Every case in Los Angeles is different, some can settle very quickly while others may take years to complete. This often depends on the insurance company you are dealing with. The insurance company will try to pay you as little as possible to resolve your claim and often will offer pennies on the dollar for what your case is actually worth in order to try and get you to settle quickly. If you want to get fair value for the harm that was caused, then it will take longer to settle. This is because, after you’ve hired an attorney, it takes time to assemble all of your medical records, and a case usually isn’t filed until you’ve been released from treatment. On top of all this, California has no law or deadline for insurance companies to respond to a demand package, so waiting on this may take a while. Our attorneys take great pride in standing up for our clients and making sure they get the maximum compensation possible for the damage that was caused, even if that takes a little longer.
How does a contingent fee work with my personal injury case?
In general, it can take anywhere from several weeks to several months for you to receive your settlement check. This variance in time results from several factors, including how long it takes for the attorneys to negotiate the final settlement paperwork, if you have medical liens that need to be negotiated and how long it takes the defendant and/or its insurance company to process the payment.
Is there a time limit on filing a claim?
Contingency fees allow injured parties to hire an experienced personal injury attorney without having to pay any upfront legal fees. This allows the injured party to focus on recovering, giving them peace of mind instead of more bills. In these contingent arrangements, the law firm will cover all of their costs of investigations, securing medical records and expert witnesses, depositions and a whole host of other fees and incidental costs.
California law requires a victim to file a claim or lawsuit within a predetermined amount of time from the date of injury. These “statute of limitations” differ according to the type of personal injury.
- Injury to Person – 2 years
- Libel/Slander – 1 year
- Trespassing – 3 years
- Fraud – 3 years
- Damage to Personal Property – 3 years
- Professional Malpractice:
- Legal – 1 year from discovery; maximum of 4 years from the act
- Medical – 1 year from discovery; 3 years if injury is known
- Veterinary – 1 year from injury/death of animal
At Panish, Shea, and Boyle, LLP, our personal injury lawyers champion the rights of victims and consumers. We are not afraid of the size, political power, or financial resources of the wrongdoer. Our skilled accident attorneys have fought these battles on many occasions over the years and know how to thoroughly prepare a case from investigation to trial.
The Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at Panish Shea & Boyle LLP handle many types of cases
If you don’t see the category for your type of case, please call us at (310) 477-1700 to discuss your legal matter
and whether we can help you. Also serving Orange County, Riverside, and San Bernardino.
Product Liability/ Product Recalls