Every state has slightly different rules regarding personal injury lawsuits. California is no exception. If another vehicle hits you in that state, you’ll need to consider the situation carefully before deciding on the best path forward.
We’ll talk about California car accident personal injury lawsuits in the following article. You should know about some of the basics, just in case you ever have to deal with this situation.
How Long Do You Have to File Your Lawsuit?
According to missionlegalcenter.com, You have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit in California. Every once in a while, you could have longer. For example, if you lapse into a coma right after the accident, you have two years to decide from when you wake up.
For the most part, you’ll need those two years to think about whether a lawsuit makes sense based on what occurred. Two years might strike you as a long time, but it can pass quickly when you’re facing a decision this monumental.
Maybe another car hits you, and you don’t realize until sometime afterward that the crash severely injured you. Perhaps you try to get back to your life, but you realize you can’t until you get surgery or until you go through months of painful physical therapy.
If you face this situation, you might feel like the money the other driver’s insurance paid as a settlement isn’t enough to cover what you’re experiencing now. That’s when you might need to file a lawsuit to try and get more money in damages, even several months after the wreck.
How Can You Decide Whether to Bring a Lawsuit?
Ultimately, you’re the one who decides whether to bring a lawsuit against the other driver or their insurance company. No one can actually force you to do this. However, you need to consider several factors before moving forward with this decision.
You may find that the money you got from the other driver’s insurance company does not come close to paying your medical bills. You might need additional funds to pay for things like your rent or mortgage payments, groceries, car payments, utilities, and so forth. Maybe you can’t work because of the accident, so you don’t have any money coming in for any of that.
If so, you may have little choice but to file a lawsuit. You’ll need to talk to your immediate family about it, though. This lawsuit will doubtless take up a lot of time, and they should know what to expect during the process.
You’ll Need to Find the Right Attorney
You’ll find many attorneys in California, and some only do car accident cases. Since car accidents occur all the time, some lawyers and law offices do them exclusively.
You will need to find an attorney with strong online reviews. You want to see former clients praising their work. If you see only tepid reviews, you might go with someone else.
You need to find a lawyer who’s not too far away from you. You can certainly meet with an attorney via Zoom or Skype, but you’ll have to meet with them in person at some point. Ideally, you want a lawyer who’s not further than an hour away, at the most.
How Will You Pay for the Lawyer?
When you meet with the attorney, you’ll need to talk to them about the accident. You must tell them truthfully what occurred and not embellish in any way. They may hire an accident scene reconstructionist to help you win your case, so you shouldn’t make up or exaggerate any details.
You must also work out how you will pay them. The lawyer won’t represent you for free, but maybe you don’t have a lot of money if you are out of work because of the accident.
You can look for a lawyer that will work for you on a contingency basis. That means you must only pay them if they win your case for you. That makes them work harder for you than if you’re paying them regardless of whether you win or lose.
You and your lawyer must tell the defendant that you’re bringing a lawsuit against them. In this situation, you’re the plaintiff, and the other driver or their insurance company is the defendant, depending on who you’re suing.
You can tell them any evidence you have during the discovery phase. They can then decide whether they will try to settle or whether they’ll proceed to trial.
A car insurance company often has lawyers standing by to represent them in these cases. Their lawyers will look at the evidence and determine whether it’s in their best interest to offer you a settlement. If they do, they might try to low-ball you. They’ll offer you a token amount to see if you’ll go away.
You and your lawyer can discuss whether the settlement offer makes sense for you. If it does, you might avoid a lengthy jury trial. If you and your lawyer feel you can get more, you might refuse and go to trial, but get ready for a long, knock-down, drag-out affair in some instances.
The Trial Phase
During the trial, the lawyer representing either the other driver or their car insurance company might suggest that you caused the accident. They might say that any injuries you sustained existed before the accident occurred. They will often stop at nothing to make you appear at fault.
It is not easy having to sit through that. It takes time and patience in many cases. You should also know that jury trials can have unexpected outcomes. Maybe a jury will find in your favor, but perhaps they won’t because of some small technicality.
If you go through this process in California, you might walk away with money, or you could get nothing but frustration in the end. If you feel like you have a valid case, though, you may think you have no alternative but to move forward.