What Is a Personal Injury Claim?
A person who is injured as a result of another person’s actions has a legal right to seek compensation for the financial impact and the subjective experience caused by the injury. In order to collect compensation, a personal injury claim must be made against the wrongdoing party or parties.
However, a claimant is only entitled to compensation if they can meet the necessary legal criteria for imposing liability on the wrongdoer. A successful personal injury claim requires knowledge of the laws, thoughtful preparation, assertive advocacy, and a compelling sense of justice.
The Right to Be Compensated for Personal Injuries in California
California law says everyone is responsible for the results of their willful actions and also for injuries caused to others by want of ordinary care or skill in the management of themselves or the property they control.
Fault for causing injuries will be apportioned among the people or entities whose actions contributed to the circumstances that resulted in the injuries. Each at-fault party is only liable for the percentage of fault they are found to have.
If an injured party has some fault for causing the accident that resulted in their injuries, they can still obtain partial compensation. California follows the rule of pure comparative fault. As long as a claimant is not 100% at fault, they can still be compensated for the percentage of fault attributed to others.
Limited Liability for Those Who Serve or Sell Alcohol
The liability attributed to a social or business provider of alcohol for the actions of the person who drank there – whether they harm themselves or someone else – is called a social host or dram shop liability.
The California Legislature has taken a narrow approach to holding liable those who merely make alcohol available to those who choose to drink it. So generally, when an alcohol-impaired adult gets into a car accident after leaving a bar or their buddy’s house, the provider of alcohol is not always liable for the actions of the intoxicated person even if that person was noticeably intoxicated and they continued to serve them or let them drive. However, it is always worth discussing these facts with an experienced personal injury lawyer in California to learn more about your legal rights.
State law makes an exception when the alcohol is provided to a person under 21 years old and is tougher on social hosts than licensed businesses. Adults who knowingly serve alcohol to underage drinkers in their homes can be held liable just for furnishing the booze. Businesses are only liable if they serve or sell alcohol to an underage drinker who is ‘obviously intoxicated.’
Despite the statutes, there may be other legal theories under which to hold a provider of alcohol liable for injuries caused by someone who was intoxicated.
Limited Parental Liability for Intentional Acts of Minor Children
Any willful act of misconduct by a minor (under age 18) that injures or kills someone else will be imputed to the parent or guardian having physical control of the minor. The parent will only be liable for medical, dental, and / or hospital expenses, and the maximum amount of liability is set by the California Legislature with periodic adjustments. The maximum amount of damages is $52,700 as of July 1, 2023.
Parental Liability for Minor Driving Accidents
With limited exceptions, the California Vehicle Code makes the person who signed a minor’s driver’s license application liable for the damage done by a minor driver. Parents typically cover this liability exposure by adding a newly licensed driver to their auto insurance policies.
How Most Actionable Personal Injuries Occur
The events that give rise to the most types of personal injury claims are falls and motor vehicle accidents. Falls were the leading cause of non-fatal, preventable injuries in the most recent reporting year, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). Close to seven million people were treated in hospital emergency departments for fall-related injuries.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reported 4,285 fatalities and 17,920 serious injuries from traffic accidents in California in the most recent year of data collection. These figures represent a 27% increase in car accident fatalities and a 50% increase in serious traffic-related injuries since 2015.
Other incidents that can lead to personal injury claims include dog bites, medical mistakes, and defective products.
What an Injured Claimant Needs to Prove to Succeed with a Personal Injury Claim
Most personal injury claims are the result of someone’s carelessness in not doing what they should have done. Negligence is the term for a person’s behavior that falls short of what is legally required. To succeed with a personal injury claim, the following elements must usually be proven:
- A legal duty of care was owed
- The legal duty was breached
- The breach was the proximate cause of the injuries
- The injuries caused the damage
Legal duties are often created by law and violating the law is a breach of the duty. In other situations, the appropriate legal duty is what a reasonable person would have done under similar circumstances. There must be a causal connection between the failure to perform the required duty and the subsequent injuries.
The injuries must be a direct result of the breach and a foreseeable consequence of the conduct. Damages are proven by records of medical treatment and other evidence of how the injuries have affected a claimant’s life.
Time Limit for Making a Personal Injury Claim
Personal injury claims must be made within a certain time period – called a statute of limitations – or the right to make the claim expires. In California, an injured person has two years from the date the injury occurs to bring a claim. If an injury is not discovered until sometime after it occurred, the injured person has one year from the date the injury was discovered to file a personal injury lawsuit in California.
Damages That Can Be Recovered in a Personal Injury Claim
When a person is injured by someone else, they may have resulting medical bills from the injury. They may have had to hire someone to help with daily activities. They may have missed time from work and couldn’t earn a living. They may be in pain and unable to do the things they used to do. All of these losses are entitled to compensation in California.
Some money that may be collected in a personal injury claim is not intended to compensate the victim for injuries or other damages. Punitive or exemplary damages may be awarded in cases where a wrongdoer’s conduct is more intentional than careless. Exemplary damages are intended to punish someone whose behavior was especially bad.
Get Help Making a Personal Injury Claim in Northern California
Making a personal injury claim initiates the legal process. The legal process involves taking the facts of what happened, applying the relevant laws, and adhering to formal procedures, all in an attempt to achieve the desired result. Succeeding with a personal injury claim requires legal knowledge and advocacy skills that can only be developed with years of experience.
At Curtis Legal Group, our personal injury lawyers have over 100 years of combined experience handling personal injury cases. Whether you’ve been injured by another driver, at work, or on the property of someone else, Curtis Legal Group can help you get the compensation you are entitled to.