Personal Injury FAQ
1. How do I know if I have a personal injury case?
If you sustained injuries to your body due to the actions of another, that is a personal injury claim. Most times the injuries have resulted from the unintentional negligent act of another, but it could also be as a result of an intentional act, such as a physical assault. If you are injured as a result of the acts of another you should contact a personal injury attorney immediately to ensure that you are able to be seen by a physician as timely as possible and your injuries are properly treated.
2. How soon after I am injured do I have to file a lawsuit?
In California, you have two (2) years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit. The time limit for a minor starts to run two (2) years from the date the minor reaches age 18. However these are just general rules and the time limits for your particular case may vary.
For example, if a governmental agency is involved, there are additional time limit requirements, in that you must file a formal written claim on the governmental agency with six (6) months, and if the claim is formally rejected by the governmental agency, you then have to file the lawsuit within six (6) months from the date of the rejection of the claim.
3. What should I bring with me for my meeting with a lawyer?
If your claim is involving an automobile accident, you would bring a copy of your proof on insurance and the declaration page of your insurance policy that shows the types of coverages you have. You should also bring any information you have on the other driver, his insurance carrier, the police report accident number or agency and copies of any medical records or bills you have received.
4. What if a person dies before bringing a personal injury lawsuit?
If the injured person made the claim before death, some of the damages carry on for the benefit of the heirs, but not general damages for pain and suffering for instance. If the death was as a result of the injury in any way, then the heirs may have a wrongful death claim, separate and apart from the decedent’s injury claim.
5. What if I can't prove someone's negligence caused my injury? Is there any other basis for personal injury liability besides negligence?
The most common cause of injury by another is when the other party is negligent, but there are other situation involving intentional acts. The main item to prove is that the conduct of another somehow caused injury to the claimant.
6. Will the person who caused my injury be punished?
If the case involved criminal conduct, such as drunk driving, that person may be punished by the criminal justice system, as well as having to pay monetary damages to the injured person.
7. Are medical bills included in a bodily injury claim?
Yes, medical bills are one aspect of the damages in a bodily injury claim, but there are others, such as past and future lost earnings, and general damages such as pain & suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
8. Can a health care insurer be repaid from a personal injury settlement?
Yes, most healthcare insurers now have a contractual right of reimbursement in their policies which allows them to make a claim against any settlement with the party who caused the injury which resulted in medical treatment. Your attorney will try to negotiate and reduce this re-payment amount as much as possible so the injured person receives the most money possible.
9. Can I ask my lawyer for a copy of the settlement check?
Yes, you can and our office, like most, give the client a copy of the settlement check, and we have our client’s endorse the settlement draft, give them an itemization on how the settlement funds will be disbursed before it is deposited in the bank.
10. Can I gain access to my child's settlement money?
It is possible, but you would have to go to Court and seek permission from the Judge to release a sum of money and show the purpose of the funds and that it is being paid to benefit the minor.
11. Can my lawyer settle my case without my consent?
No, you must consent and the other party will require a Release of All Claims forms to be signed by you before any settlement will be official. Your attorney can give you advice on the settlement, but you are the one who makes the decision.
12. How do I collect my personal injury award?
Assuming the other person has insurance, you would collect from the insurance company. If you have a judgment against a person with no insurance, you would have to try to collect it as a debt by wage garnishment, bank account attachments and other procedures depending on the judgment debtors assets.
13. What is a proper contingency fee?
Generally, the fee is 33.3% if a settlement can reached before litigation and it may go up to 40% to 50% if a case has to be litigated. If the client is a minor, then the fee is generally limited to 25%.