Personal Injury Attorneys Going to Court
California law allows victims who suffer harm from another to file personal injury lawsuits. If you have a claim, this entitles you to pursue financial recovery for your injuries and losses.
While many have the opportunity to fight for compensation, they shy away from the process for fear of going to court.
In reality, only about 5 percent of personal injury cases in the United States go to trial. Avoiding trial can mean saving time, money, and aggravation while ensuring you receive the compensation you’re entitled to.
After experiencing an accident resulting in serious injuries, always discuss your situation with a qualified personal injury attorney.
What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
When you suffer an injury at the hands of another, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Personal injury claims are civil lawsuits that arise when an individual’s actions or omissions cause another person harm. If a person causes your injuries, a personal injury lawsuit allows you to hold them accountable for their actions while pursuing financial recovery for your injuries and losses.
A personal injury claim occurs after many different types of accidents or incidents, including:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Construction accidents
- Slip and falls
- Dog bites
- Medical malpractice
- Product liability
- Workplace accidents
These cases usually have one thing in common: an individual or entity is ultimately responsible for causing the plaintiff’s injuries.
For example, perhaps you’re on a road trip and get into a serious accident with a commercial truck. Your personal injury attorney can investigate your accident, determining the cause and who was at fault.
If the truck driver was driving under the influence and speeding, you could hold the driver and even their employer liable because they caused your accident and injuries.
While the end goal of personal injury lawsuits is the same—to recover compensation for your injuries—getting to the finish line can look different for every case. Depending on your case, your personal injury lawyer knows how to get you what you’re owed.
Does Every Personal Injury Case Go to Court?
No, not every personal injury case goes to court.
When your attorney takes your case, they’re committing to do whatever is necessary to get you a favorable resolution, whether that includes court or not.
In most cases, personal injury attorneys try to negotiate with the opposing party’s insurance company. Lawyers frequently settle outside of court successfully, but that’s not always possible.
If your attorney feels it’s best to go to trial, follow their legal advice.
When Do Personal Injury Cases Need to Go to Trial?
Personal injury lawsuits don’t often end up in trial. When you have a skilled attorney working on your case, they’ll have a better chance to get you a fair settlement, eliminating the need for trial.
When a claim settles, it’s often because:
- The insurance company believes the plaintiff would succeed at trial
- The insurance company thinks it would be cost-efficient to settle vs. going to trial
- The insurance company feels the amount the plaintiff is requesting is fair
On the other hand, if your case ends up going to trial, it’s usually for one of the following reasons:
- Settlement offers are too low or unfair
- The insurance company is unwilling to settle
- There are disputes on liability or the value of your claim
- Your attorney believes going to trial is the best plan for your case
Should your case go to trial, you can feel confident knowing you’re in the best hands with top-quality legal representation from your personal injury attorney.
What to Expect From a Personal Injury Claim Process
Individuals that have never experienced a personal injury claim can easily feel overwhelmed and stressed. Getting familiar with the process can provide peace of mind and give you a better idea of what to expect.
Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer
As soon as possible after an accident, meet with a personal injury attorney. Your lawyer will ask the right questions, gather details, and create a plan of action.
Seek legal assistance quickly after your accident because if you need to file a lawsuit, the statute of limitations restricts your time to do so.
A statute of limitations restricts the time you have to file a lawsuit. Once your time runs out, you’re unlikely to be able to recover any financial compensation for your injuries.
In California, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years from the date of the accident or incident.
When you have a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer on your side, they’ll ensure your lawsuit is filed promptly, protecting your right to pursue compensation.
Demand for Settlement
When your lawyer begins working on your case, they’ll conduct a thorough investigation to better understand your case. An investigation can help your attorney determine what caused your accident, who’s at fault, and how much your case is truly worth.
After the investigation, your lawyer will likely send the defendant’s insurance company a demand letter.
A demand letter usually includes specific details, including:
- Why the company’s insured is responsible for the accident
- The extent and severity of your injuries
- Information regarding your losses
Demand letters also commonly include a figure for the insurance company to consider. This begins the settlement negotiation process.
After receiving the letter, the insurance company must respond to it. If the insurance company rejects the demand, does not wish to engage in settlement negotiations, or doesn’t respond, your lawyer will file a claim.
File a Lawsuit
If your attorney deems it necessary, they will proceed with filing a claim with the court. Initiating legal proceedings requires filing a complaint, detailing the specifics of your case and relief sought, and a summons, notifying the insurance company of the lawsuit.
Once you formally notify the insurance company of the lawsuit, they’ll file a response with the court. Should they fail to respond, the court may grant a default judgment, granting the relief requested in your complaint.
In most cases, the insurance company files its response promptly, contesting the complaints’ claims.
Once your lawyer has started the lawsuit process, your case will move on to the discovery phase. During this phase of a lawsuit, your attorney will build a strong case on your behalf.
The discovery phase can encompass many tasks, including:
- Requests for production
- Requests for admissions
Discovery helps your attorney gather important information that could help your case.
After discovery has concluded and both sides have all of the information they need, your lawyer will attempt to resolve your case through settlement negotiations.
About 95 percent of cases settle outside of court. There are many benefits to settling and avoiding trial, the most important being time and money saved.
Sometimes, insurance companies are unwilling to settle before the lawsuit is filed. After you take legal action, this may motivate them to reconsider settling.
If settlement negotiations are successful and you’re able to settle before trial, you agree to stop taking legal action, and your lawyer will drop the case.
If the defense is unwilling to negotiate or makes an unfair settlement offer, you have the right to take your case to trial.
When you take your case to trial, both sides will present their cases and make their arguments. Ultimately, the judge or jury will decide whether you’re entitled to compensation and if you are, how much you’re entitled to receive. Courts resolve only one in 20 personal injury cases.
Can I Get Damages Regardless of Whether My Case Goes to Court?
Whether your case goes to trial or not, you can still seek damages for your personal injury case.
Compensatory damages for personal injury claims help compensate you for your injuries and losses, whether tangible or intangible. Damages are either economic or non-economic.
Economic damages are damages directly related to your accident that are easily calculated, including:
- Medical bills
- Rehabilitation costs
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Property damage
Non-economic damages also stem from your incident but are a bit more challenging to quantify.
These can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Anguish, whether mental or emotional
- Permanent disability
- Disfigurement or scarring
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
Depending on your case, you may also qualify to receive punitive damages. You could receive punitive damages if the defendant’s actions went beyond negligence and were malicious. These damages punish the defendant and deter others from acting in such a manner in the future.
Many states have caps on the amount of compensation a plaintiff is entitled to receive. Fortunately, there are no limitations on damages for personal injury cases in California. However, California law caps non-economic damages for medical malpractice cases at $250,000.
While damages can be tricky to calculate, your personal injury attorney can review your circumstances and assign a value to your case.
Whether during settlement negotiations or at trial, your attorney will strive to get you the fairest possible recovery.
How Long Does It Take to Resolve a Personal Injury Case?
One of the most pressing questions plaintiffs have is how long a personal injury case takes to resolve. In reality, there is no “average” time you can expect your case to take.
The amount of time a personal injury case takes to conclude depends on the details of the case.
In addition, certain factors usually help dictate how long a case may take, including:
- The extent and severity of your injuries
- How long your medical treatment takes
- The amount of time it takes for you to recover
- The complexity of your case
- Whether the insurance company is willing to negotiate
- How long it takes to determine cause and liability
- The amount of time it takes to complete the discovery phase
Once they thoroughly review your case, your lawyer may be able to give you a rough estimate based on their previous experiences.
For the most part, personal injury cases take anywhere from six months to two years and beyond.
No matter how long your case takes, trust that your personal injury lawyer is doing everything right, helping you get the compensation you deserve.
Do I Need a Personal Injury Attorney?
If you believe you can handle your personal injury case on your own, think again.
There are no legal requirements to have an attorney represent you, but you should never take on the task of representing yourself.
Personal injury cases can be quite complex, especially if your case involves extensive injuries and financial losses.
Additionally, if an insurance company knows you represent yourself, they’ll take full advantage of the situation and try to pay out very little or avoid paying out anything at all.
In many cases, when individuals handle their own cases, they settle for much less than their case is worth. If you have no experience handling a personal injury claim, it can be challenging to know exactly how much your case is worth, and therefore you’ll end up settling for less.
If you’re pursuing maximum compensation for your accident and injuries, you should always hire a personal injury attorney to do the heavy lifting for you.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help?
A personal injury attorney will handle your case from inception to completion.
They’ll take on the most important tasks, including:
- Explaining your rights
- Coming up with a legal strategy
- Drafting and filing paperwork with the court
- Communicating with the insurance company
- Gathering important evidence
- Calculating your damages
- Engaging in settlement negotiations
- Representing you at trial
Having a personal injury lawyer on your side allows you to focus exclusively on your physical recovery while they handle your case.
Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer Today
If you were in an incident or accident resulting in injuries, do not hesitate to contact a qualified personal injury lawyer.
Your attorney will go the extra mile to ensure your rights are protected and you’re on the right path to receiving fair financial compensation. You can always rely on your lawyer, whether your case goes to court or settles outside the courtroom.