Personal Injury FAQs
You’ve been injured, and you think another party is to blame. What exactly are they liable to you for, and how long do you have to file your claim? Does it make a difference if the responsible party is a government employee? What if you weren’t wearing your seat belt or are partially to blame for the accident? What if the driver who hit you was drunk, uninsured, or fled the scene of the accident? How do all of these factors impact your claim?
We know that you are hurting and going through a confusing time. This experience is tough enough without worrying about how you are going to pay your medical bills, make up for lost wages, or get your life back in order. You focus on getting better, and let our legal team handle the job of getting you financial compensation for your injury.
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions that personal injury victims often have. If you have other questions or need immediate assistance after a car, truck or motorcycle accident, slip and fall, or other personal injury in Orange County, call Injured Now and get started right away with your free consultation.
Q. What kind of damages can I recover in a personal injury claim?
A. The compensation you receive in your case, known as money damages or simply “damages,” are generally divided into two categories: economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages have a definite or reasonably ascertainable value, such as the medical bills you have incurred or are likely to incur in the future, as well as lost income for the time you had to miss from work, or if your injury results in long-term or permanent disability. Noneconomic damages represent harm like pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, scarring or disfigurement, or loss in your quality of life. We calculate these damages based on factors such as the severity of the accident or injury, how painful or traumatic it was, what the economic costs are, and what juries have awarded for similar injuries in the past.
In some cases, you can recover punitive damages as well. Punitive or exemplary damages are awarded to punish the wrongdoer and deter future wrongful conduct by setting an example for others. Courts can award punitive damages for “despicable conduct” carried on with a “willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.” Examples of despicable conduct that might warrant punitive damages include drunk driving, drag racing on city streets, willfully ignoring a hidden danger on your property that is likely to cause an accident, or training a dog to be vicious and setting it loose in public or leaving it in an unfenced yard. Punitive damages must be proven with “clear and convincing evidence,” which is a higher standard than required for other damages. Our attorneys go after punitive damages in appropriate cases.
Q. How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit?
A. The general rule is two years from the date of injury. However, if the accident involved a crash with a government-owned vehicle or a fall on government property, you might have only six months to file your claim. Other factors can lengthen or shorten the two-year time frame, so it’s key to bring your case to a lawyer as soon as possible to make sure important deadlines are met. The courts will not let you file a lawsuit once the statute of limitations period has passed, and it can be tragic to be shut out from compensation due to a technical error.
A lawsuit should not be filed too soon, either, and an experienced personal injury lawyer will not try to settle your case until after your doctor declares you “medically stationary” and all your damages are reasonably known. Whether your lawyer files a lawsuit or not, your case will most likely not go to court. The majority of cases settle without a trial, but being prepared and able to litigate are critical to getting the best settlement value from the insurance company.
Q. What if the insurance company says I was partially at fault in the accident?
A. Insurance companies will try to avoid responsibility for their insured by saying you are the one to blame for the accident, at least in part. They’ll say you were speeding or distracted when you got hit in a car accident, you weren’t watching where you were going when you slipped or tripped and fell, or you recklessly approached and provoked a dog into attacking you. These defenses can lessen the amount you can recover by some or all of the compensation you might otherwise receive. Whatever percentage of negligence that gets assigned to you will reduce your reward proportionately. If your damages are $100,000 but you are 10% at fault, you’ll only get $90,000. If you are 90% to blame, your recovery will be $10,000.
The insurance company does not have the last word on who was to blame. We’ll argue forcefully to prove the other party was negligent and you weren’t. If we can’t get a fair settlement, we’ll take your case to court and let the jury decide. Don’t take the insurance company’s word for it without talking to an attorney first. In Orange County, call Injured Now.
Q. Does it matter if I wasn’t wearing a seat belt?
A. The so-called “seat belt defense” is an affirmative defense in California. The other party can raise this defense, but the burden is on them to prove you had access to a seat belt but didn’t wear it though a reasonable person would have. They also have to prove you would not have been injured or would have been much less had you been belted. Often their arguments are based on lab tests with crash test dummies under optimal conditions that don’t reflect the actual circumstances of your crash. The position of the seat and the seatback, the position of the shoulder restraint, the type of crash and type of injury are all factors that need to be considered when the negligent driver raises the seat belt defense. We’ll push back against attempts to deny you the compensation you need and deserve when a negligent or distracted driver hits you.
Q. Will an insurance company cover crashes caused by a drunk driver?
A. Yes. Many people mistakenly assume that insurance doesn’t cover drunk drivers, but it does. You can bring a claim against a drunk driver who crashes into you and recover compensation from their insurance company. A case against a drunk driver is often easier to prove because you can use the fact of a drunk driving arrest or conviction as proof of negligence. However, even if the driver wasn’t convicted or even arrested for DUI, you can still pursue a civil claim and prove they were intoxicated and at fault.
Q. What if the driver who hit me was uninsured?
A. Car insurance in Southern California is expensive, and so too many drivers choose to drive without it. If you get hit by a driver without insurance, you can file a claim with your insurance company under your Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage. This coverage comes with your liability policy unless you reject it. Insurance companies still try to limit their liability, so be sure and contact an attorney for help, even when your claim is with your insurance company and not the other driver’s.
Q. What if the driver who hit me flees the scene?
A. Leaving the scene of an accident (hit-and-run) is illegal and dangerous. Drivers are required to stop and render aid or get help, and they are required to share their name and insurance information with you. If the driver never stops or leaves without giving you their identity, you can file an uninsured motorist (UM) claim with your insurance company. Be sure to call the police to make a record of the accident and give them any information about the car that hit you. The police, or your attorney, might be able to locate the hit-and-run driver and make them pay. Punitive damages might be available after a hit-and-run car accident as well. In Orange County, call Injured Now for immediate assistance.