How does personal injury law work in California?

If you have been injured in a car crash, a slip and fall, or some other accident that someone else caused, it’s likely that you have already wondered about what your options are to collect damages in a personal injury lawsuit. California, like most other states, has its own specific guidelines for tort law and civil lawsuits, so it is important that you have a good idea of what to expect throughout your own case.

Below is a brief explanation of some major things you should know about personal injury law in California – of course, you will get a chance to understand each of these issues in greater detail when you are working with a personal injury lawyer in Orange County, but this is a good place to start.

Types Of Personal Injury Damages in California

A lawsuit is generally divided into a few different sections – economic, non-economic, and occasionally, punitive damages. Economic damages seek repayment for parts of the injury that have accrued actual expenses, such as medical bills and lost wages. Non-economic damages address “intangible” aspects of the injury, such as the pain and suffering a victim endures following their injuries. Punitive damages are awarded when the injuries come from reckless and egregious actions, and act as a way to dissuade the defendant from acting that way again.

Damage Caps: What They Are, And Where They Apply

In some states, there are damage caps for non-economic damages, meaning that no matter the situation, a lawsuit may not exceed a certain amount of money for the non-economic impacts on the victim. This is only the case in certain types of personal injury lawsuits in California:

In a medical malpractice lawsuit in California, non-economic damages are capped at $250, 000, but there is no cap to the economic damages that can be sought in the case. This means that if a victim were to suffer $200, 000 of economic damages, and they had determined that their non-economic multiplier was anywhere over 1.25x, they will not be allowed to seek NON-ECONOMIC damages in excess of $250, 000. If the judge were to award the entire amount of damages sought in this case, the victim would be awarded $450, 000 – $200, 000 of compensatory damages and $250, 000 of non-economic damages.

California Statute of Limitations For Personal Injuries

If you have been injured in California and plan to file a personal injury lawsuit, it is also important that you know about the statute of limitations. You have two years from the accident, or a year from discovering the injury (whichever comes first) to file a lawsuit. After the statute expires, you have no legal right to seek compensation. There are a lot of reasons that someone might drag their feet on filing a lawsuit, but no matter what, make sure that you are working with a lawyer well within the allotted time.

Shared Fault Laws in California

During the course of a personal injury lawsuit, the defendant may try to prove that you were partially responsible for the accident. If you are found to have been somewhat liable, then the jury will determine a percentage of fault to apply to your own actions, and reduce your final award by that percentage.

For example: if you were in a motorcycle accident and it was determined that you were 10% responsible for the accident, you would be allowed to proceed with the lawsuit and would have your award reduced accordingly. If you were awarded $100, 000 at the end of the lawsuit, you would end up with $90, 000 after your fault was factored into the amount. It’s important that your attorney works to be sure that your percentage of fault is fair and accurate.

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Melissa Thompson

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.