Personal Injury FAQs
If you’ve been injured in an accident, you may think that the personal injury claim process is too complicated, which may deter you from filing a claim. In this article, we’ve curated answers to some of the most commonly asked questions our injury clients approach us with. Others involve information our clients wish they’d known at the time of their accident.
But first, it's important to know that an experienced attorney can help you with paperwork, advocate for you to insurance agents, and make your case to the court—increasing the chances of receiving the compensation you need to heal and get your life back on track.
If you’ve been in an accident and are thinking of filing a personal injury claim in California, start the process with confidence. Call us at G. Aldrich Law—located in Lakeport and Woodland Hills, California.
Frequently Asked Questions About Filing Personal Injury Claims in California
Is California a “fault state”? What does “fault state” mean?
Yes, California is a “fault state”—a “comparative fault state,” to be exact. In a “comparative fault” state, you can recover damages from the party responsible for your injury. Each accident is investigated to determine which of the parties were at fault. Even if you are found partially at fault, you can still receive compensation from the other party.
What should I do after a car accident?
You should first call the police and the paramedics if anyone, including yourself, is injured. Be sure to not leave the scene of the accident until after the police and paramedics arrive. According to California Vehicle Code 20002, you could face a hit-and-run charge if you flee the scene of a car accident; a hit-and-run in California is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
See if you can find witnesses who can stick around and tell the police what they saw. Take pictures of the accident and any apparent injuries. If you’ve been hit by a car and the driver flees the scene, ask if any witnesses managed to note the make, model, and color of the car, as well as the driver’s license plate number. This can help you when you file your personal injury claim.
What if I was partially at fault?
Firstly, even if you think you were partially at fault, do not state this to the police right away. Wait until the results of the police investigation. There is a chance that you were actually not liable at all, and any admission of fault can affect the amount of compensation that you receive.
Secondly, as outlined above, California is a “comparative fault” state. Each party will be assigned a percentage representing the amount that they were at fault, and the compensation they are able to seek reflects that. For example, if you are found to be 20 percent at fault for an accident and your damages come to $10,000, you would receive $8,000, or the amount of your damages minus the amount of your liability.
Further, California follows the “pure comparative fault” model. Even if you were 99 percent at fault for the accident, you can seek compensation of up to 1 percent of your damages from the other party. This is important to know, as many states enforce the “comparative fault” rule differently; in these states, you cannot pursue a personal injury claim if you are 50 percent or more at fault for an accident.
I don’t feel hurt. Should I still see a doctor?
Even if you feel fine, you may be severely injured; for example, head injuries sometimes don’t present as serious right away but can cause major damage if not treated immediately.
Further, you can sabotage your chances of success when you file a personal injury claim if you have not seen a doctor. If you find out later that you are indeed injured, insurers will use the fact that you did not see a doctor after the accident against you. They can claim that you are not really hurt, or not as hurt as you say you are.
Should I talk with the insurance adjuster?
Often, the other party’s insurance company will call you and ask you for a statement. Be careful when you talk to insurance claims adjusters. Their goal is to pay out as little as possible, and anything you say to them can be used against you.
For example, let’s say that you think you have one injury, and you state as much to the insurance adjuster. However, you soon begin to experience more pain, go to the doctor, and find that you have multiple injuries. If you try to pursue a personal injury claim for these further injuries, the insurance adjusters can claim that your testimony is inconsistent based on your original statement. You should always speak to an attorney before speaking with an insurance adjuster.
How long do I have to file a personal injury claim?
You have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury claim. If you miss this deadline, it is highly likely that your case will be dismissed. Exceptions can be made, however; for example, this time can be extended if a plaintiff was under 18 at the time of the injury or suffering from mental illness, or if the defendant has left California after the accident and before the plaintiff has had a chance to file a personal injury claim.
If the plaintiff does not discover their injury until later through no fault of their own—for example, if they have no symptoms and no one in the same position would reasonably be able to deduce that they were injured—they may also be able to take advantage of extra time to file a claim.
What if I’m injured and the other party has no insurance?
It is a good idea to purchase Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage from your own insurance company. This can pay for medical bills and other damages, both economic and non-economic (such as loss of income and pain and suffering, respectively).
I filed a lawsuit. What happens next?
If your damages total less than $10,000, you will most likely file a claim in small claims court. However, if your damages total more than $10,000, you will likely take the case to civil court.
Once the lawsuit has been filed, your attorney and the defendant’s attorney will begin to collect evidence. This is called “pre-trial discovery.” Occasionally, the defendant’s attorney will review the evidence and decide that settling would be the best option, and they will begin settlement negotiations with your attorney. If this does not happen, the case will go to trial, and your attorney will make your case to the judge.
Do I need to hire a personal injury attorney?
Hiring an attorney is essential when filing a personal injury claim. Your attorney will be there to help you collect evidence and craft a strong case as well as support you throughout the entire personal injury claim process. A good attorney will be able to present clear evidence to the judge to support your claim and argue effectively in court so that you receive the compensation you deserve.
Practical and Personal Legal Counsel
If you are considering filing a personal injury claim in California, don’t hesitate to call us at G. Aldrich Law. Our personal injury attorneys—George Aldrich and Matt Zavala—recognize that victims and their families need personalized support and guidance during the personal injury claims process.
We also know that insurance companies will find any excuse not to pay out the rightful amount of compensation to claimants—and we will fight aggressively in court to make sure that your voice is heard. Call us today at G. Aldrich Law, serving Lakeport and Woodland Hills, California, and other areas in Lake County, Los Angeles County, Colusa County, and Riverside County.