Orange County Law Firms
Personal injury law provides a legal remedy for people who have been harmed by the negligence or wrongdoing of others. It is a way to hold the person, business, or government entity that caused your injuries financially responsible for the harm they have caused. There is no need to prove intent. In this country there is a presumption that we owe each other a duty to use a reasonable amount of care to avoid hurting each other. Failure to do so is called negligence, and is the basis of most California personal injury lawsuits.
In general, the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits in California is two years from the date of the injury or one year from the date that the injury was discovered, whichever is later. However, for some types of cases, such as medical malpractice, the statute of limitations is different. Certain circumstances can cause the time to be tolled, which means put on hold.
If you are suing a government agency, you have less time and follow a different procedure. First, you file an administrative claim with the agency within six months of the date of your injury. The agency has 45 days to respond. If it denies your claim, you have six months from the date of denial to file your lawsuit.
California uses the doctrine of pure comparative fault, also referred to as pure comparative negligence. This means you can sue for your injuries even if you were partly to blame. In “pure” comparative fault you can sue if you were 99% to blame, although it is unlikely that it would be worth it. You compensation is reduced by your share of the fault so if your damages were $100,000 and you were 40% to blame, your compensation would be reduced to $60,000.
Personal injury damages, in California, can include:
- Lost earnings and future earning capacity
- Medical expenses and future medical expenses
- Therapy and rehabilitation
- Home health care
- Long-term care
- End-of-life care
- Special equipment to accommodate disability
- Pain, suffering, and inconvenience
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of the capacity to enjoy life
- Property damage
- Exemplary (punitive) damages
Economic and non-economic compensatory damages are meant to compensate you for your losses. Economic damages are your losses which have a specific existing and estimable future dollar amount, such as your medical bills and lost income. Non-economic damages include harm such as pain and suffering, which does not have a specific dollar value and is different for each person and each situation.
Exemplary damages are not compensatory. They are meant to punish and make an example out of the wrongdoer and are only available in cases of malice, fraud, or oppression. For example, punitive damages would not be available in a case of simple negligence, such as a car accident caused by a distracted driver, but would be available in a case where a driver hit you on purpose in a moment of road rage.