About Personal Injury
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What is Personal Injury Law?
Personal injury law is an area of California law that is designed to compensate an individual for the injuries they have suffered as a result of another person’s negligent or reckless actions.
For example, a driver who is texting on the road and collides into a bicyclist may be liable to the bicyclist for any damages he sustained.
Another example would be where an elderly woman slips and falls in a grocery store because the manager neglected to clean up a spilled liquid from a grocery aisle; in this case, the grocery store may be liable to the woman for any damages she sustained.
As you can see, personal injury can result in various different ways. We commonly see personal injury occur as a result of the following:
- Car Accidents
- Truck Accidents
- Bike Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Slip and Fall Accidents
- Nursing Home Abuse
- Medical Malpractice
- Defective Products
Regardless of how the injury arises, it is critical that you take legal action as soon as possible. California law allows only two (2) years to file a lawsuit – and the clock starts ticking the moment you sustain your injuries. This two-year time period is legally referred to as a Statute of Limitations, and it is very unforgiving. Regardless the extent of your injuries, if you file a claim two years and one day after your accident, your claim will be barred – and you will get nothing. Therefore, we cannot emphasize enough how important it is to seek expert advice and act quickly when an injury has been sustained.
Why Does Personal Injury Law Exist?
So now you know what Personal Injury Law is, but why does this area of law even exist?
Well, we all know that life isn’t always fair. But it would be even less fair if we had to pay out of pocket for damages caused to us by another person. It only makes sense that if someone acts carelessly, that they should be responsible for paying for the damages they’ve caused – no matter how big or small those damages might be.
For example, if a driver negligently rams into the back of your vehicle and you suffer neck injuries, that negligent driver (or his insurance company) should pay for your medical bills and any other damages you’ve sustained. It’s only fair.
Fairness. That’s really the essence of personal injury law. And at Sky Law Group, APC, we fight very hard on behalf of our clients to enforce it.
What Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?
This is probably the most frequently asked question by our clients. It is also the question that is the most difficult to answer. This is because countless factors affect the value of a personal injury case – and the circumstances of every case are unique.
To understand the value of your case, you have to understand the concept of Compensatory Damages. In California, “compensatory damages” refers to the dollar amount that you should be awarded in order to compensate you for the damages you’ve sustained. Compensatory damages are designed to make you whole again – or, in other words, to place you in the same position you would have been in had the accident not occurred.
Some compensatory damages are easy to quantify. For example, if the injuries you sustained in your accident have prevented you from working for three months, then the equivalent of three months’ salary should be awarded to you as compensatory damages. And, for example, if your medical bills totaled $15,000, then that amount should also be awarded to you.
However, not all damages are easy to quantify. For example, perhaps you’ve recovered from your physical injuries but you now suffer from emotional distress every time you hop on a bike. Or perhaps your broken bones have healed but the shooting pains in your right leg will never go away. As you can imagine, it is not easy to assign a dollar value to these types of damages.
Some common factors that are taken into consideration when determining the value of your claim include, but are not limited to:
- Type of Injury – a soft tissue injury is one that does not involve broken bones or damage to internal organs and, therefore, is less serious in nature and results in lesser damages paid out. On the other hand, broken bones, spinal, and brain injuries are much more serious in nature and will result in greater damages being awarded.
- Extent of Injuries – if the injuries are superficial, such as a minor cut or scratch, then you can expect less damages to be awarded than if you suffered broken bones or need surgery. The extent of your injuries will certainly affect how much you can recover.
- Permanent injury – Remember, compensatory damages are designed to make you whole again. Well if you suffer an injury from which you are not expected to recover, such as the amputation of a limb or permanent brain or nerve damage, then you can expect to be awarded much more in damages to compensate for the fact that you have permanently lost the use of a limb or certain cognitive functions.
- Likelihood of Recovery – If the injury is not permanent, as discussed above, and there is a likelihood of recovery, then one may expect to receive a smaller amount of damages. For example, a person who breaks their leg in a motorcycle accident (but is expected to recover) is likely to be awarded less in damages than someone whose leg has to be amputated after a motorcycle accident.
- Loss of Consortium – If the injury you have suffered prevents you from enjoying the companionship and/or physical relationship that you once had with your spouse or partner, then this is a damage that you may be compensated for and the value of your case will increase as a result of it.
- Medical Bills – The value of your case will be affected by the amount of medical bills that you incur. This includes medical bills in the past, present and future that directly relate to the injury you have suffered.
- Lost Wages / Income – Naturally, if the injuries you have sustained have prevented you from working and earning your typical income, then the value of your claim may be greater because you may be able to recover the wages or income that you have lost as a result of the accident. However, insurance companies insist on seeing proof of lost wages, therefore, after an accident, it is very important to keep accurate records of how many work days you’ve missed, and how many vacation days or paid time off you have used. This will help us to substantiate the “lost wages” portion of your claim.
- Property damage – Property damage and personal damage are two very different types of damage. One occurs to your vehicle, the other damage occurs to your physical self. However, they are definitely related when it comes to evaluating the value of your claim. This is because insurance companies will often look to the extent of the property damage to determine whether the physical injury is believable or significant.
For example, many insurance carriers believe that if the property damage is $1,500 or below, that injury to the person could not have resulted and therefore they will offer next to nothing for your case. Insurance companies will even direct you to go to a mechanic or body shop with whom they have a preexisting relationship – and you may receive a less-than-fair value estimate of your property damages. Legally, you are not obligated to have your vehicle serviced or evaluated by these mechanics or body shops. In fact, it is best that you go to an independent mechanic or body shop, one which has no prior relationship with the insurance carrier; this will allow you to obtain the true and full value of your property damage and therefore potentially increase the value of your personal injury claim.
- Pain and Suffering – Unlike lost wages, this is not an easy figure to quantify. The physical pain and suffering that a person can experience for an indefinite period of time after an accident is difficult to value. Therefore, the amount of money awarded for pain and suffering damages varies greatly and is based on the circumstances surrounding each particular case. Pain and suffering damages take into great account the medical bills and the severity of the injuries, and can increase the value of an individual’s claim.
- Emotional Distress – In some cases, damages may be awarded to a person if they are suffering from emotional distress. Emotional distress refers to any number of psychological issues that you may be experiencing as a direct result of an incident caused by the negligent or intentional act of another person. Generally, emotional distress is seen in the form of fear or anxiety that is so severe it impairs the person from enjoying certain daily activities.
- Comparative negligence – In California, even if the other party is clearly liable for your injuries, if it is determined that you contributed to the accident in some way because of your own negligence, then your damages may be reduced by an amount proportionate to your degree of negligence. For example, if a driver runs a red light and strikes your vehicle, but you were speeding, you may be found 20% at fault, where the other driver is 80% at fault – and your damages may be reduced accordingly.
- Gaps in medical treatment – One of the biggest mistakes you could make after an accident is waiting to receive medical treatment. A “gap in treatment” refers to the period of time from the date of the incident to the date that you began medical treatment or rehabilitation. The larger the gap, the lesser the value of your claim. It’s that simple. To avoid this, our law firm will put you in contact with medical providers who will be able to treat you immediately and preserve the value of your claim.
- Insurance Policy Limits – One of the biggest factors affecting the value of a claim is the policy limit of the negligent party’s insurance coverage. Regardless of the extent of injuries and damages, the insurance carrier will not offer more than the policy limits for your injuries. Therefore, if the driver who hit you only has a $30,000 insurance policy, then that is the maximum the insurance company will pay out for your injuries.
I Think I Have a Case — What Should I Do Next?
As you can see, countless factors affect the value of your claim. One thing that is clear is this: you should NOT try to handle your claim on your own. Our attorneys have years of experience negotiating settlements with insurance carriers and are skilled at obtaining the maximum value for our client’s claims.
For a free evaluation of your case by an experienced attorney, contact Sky Law Group APC today and schedule a complimentary consultation. You don’t pay us anything unless we obtain results.