Filing a personal injury claim in California

If you have been injured from the negligence of another person it is important that you immediately take certain steps. In fact, following the right steps after an injury can be critical to ensuring you receive the compensation you deserve.

In California, like other states, if you win your personal injury claim, you will be entitled to receive payment for lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.

Below are the steps each injury claimant needs to take following an injury in California.

Steps to filing personal injury

Seek immediate medical care after the injury.

If you are injured the first step is to seek the proper medical care for your injuries. After you have seen the doctor you will need to follow their directions and do all you can to mitigate your injuries.

Maintain all of your medical records, doctor's names, phone numbers, and addresses, and make sure you keep all of the receipts for your medical care. All of this information will be needed as evidence for your injury claim.

Keep a diary about the events.

Winning an injury claim will require that you provide enough evidence to prove that another person's negligent actions contributed to your injuries, and writing down the events related to the accident may be critical to later testimony.

Other information you need to document after an injury includes the following:

  • Pictures of the scene of the accident, including the accident site and the surrounding areas
  • A picture of any injuries on your body
  • Witness statements, including their names, phone numbers, and addresses
  • Notes about the accident
  • Receipts of all lost wages and medical costs

Review California personal injury laws

If you have been injured and do not know anything about personal injury laws in California, it is important that you start to review your state's laws.

Did you know that you can receive compensation for your injuries even if your actions contributed to your accident? Did you know that medical malpractice compensation for non-economic damages is capped? Did you know that an injury lawyer will work on your case for a contingency fee, and it may cost you little to no money to hire a personal injury lawyer?

The internet is a great resource for information on a variety of legal topics. You may not be a lawyer, and you may not understand every bit of legal jargon you read, but a basic understanding of California injury laws can help ensure you get the compensation you deserve.

Talk to a lawyer if you have more questions about how California injury laws may affect your injury claim.

Know your insurance coverage and coverage of the defendant

Most personal injury claims are filed with the at-fault individual's insurance company. For example, if you are injured by the actions of another driver, the settlement is generally negotiated with the at-fault driver's insurance company. If a doctor's actions are negligent, you would file a claim against their medical malpractice insurance.

If insurance does not cover your expenses or if they refuse to settle, however, you can review your options for filing a California injury claim.

Decide whether you need to hire a California personal injury lawyer.

Not all California injury claims can be settled with the insurance company. In fact, sometimes the insurance company is not willing to negotiate a fair settlement, the plaintiff does not have insurance, or the injuries are so serious that insurance does not cover the full amount needed. If any of the above is true, it may be time to talk to a California personal injury lawyer.

Common questions to ask your California lawyer include:

  • Do they have experience handling cases like yours?
  • Do they work on a contingency fee basis, and if so, what percentage of the settlement would they get if you win your case?
  • Will they review your case for free?
  • Will they personally work on your case or off-load it to someone else?
  • How easy are they to reach if you have questions?
  • Do they provide references?

Send a demand letter.

If you have hired a California personal injury lawyer they will be responsible for contacting the insurance company, sending a demand letter, and attempting to negotiate a settlement.

If you do not have a lawyer and the injuries or property damage is minor, you can write and send the demand letter on your own. The demand letter should only be sent, however, after you understand the full cost and impact of your injuries and you have a thorough understanding of who is at fault.

The goal of the demand letter is to initiate serious settlement negotiations and allows you to make your case. The demand letter should include a description of your injuries, information about why the other person is at fault, the cost of your medical treatment, the cost of your lost income, information about any damages suffered, and the amount of compensation you need to make yourself whole.

Continue negotiations until you have reached a fair settlement.

After you send your demand letter the insurance company may counter with their own settlement offer. If this amount is not sufficient and you have a lawyer, they can continue to negotiate. If the amount is sufficient, you can accept the offer. If the amount is not sufficient and you have the skills to negotiate on your own settlement, continue negotiations until you have reached a fair settlement offer.

File the complaint and prepare for trial.

Most injury cases are settled before they ever get to court. Unfortunately, however, some insurance companies are more concerned with saving money and making money for their shareholders than making sure you are compensated for your losses.

If settlement discussions break down and you cannot come to an agreement, it may be time to initiate a lawsuit by serving the defendant with a complaint.
The complaint and answer will initiate the case and allow for the process of discovery, which includes gathering information from all available sources: witness testimony, investigative work, physical evidence, etc. After discovery you may want to revisit the idea of a settlement or proceed to court.