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Types of injury cases in California

Although not all accidents are considered personal injuries, if you have been injured by the negligent, intentional, or unintentional actions of another person or entity, you may have the right to compensation.
Proving personal injury, however, will require proving certain elements of your case, generally through a preponderance of evidence. For example, to win a California injury case, you must prove the following:

  • The defendant owed you a duty of care.
  • The defendant breached their duty towards you.
  • The defendant's breach was the proximate cause of your injuries.
  • You, the plaintiff, suffered loss or injury due to the breach.

If you win your personal injury claim the defendant will have to pay compensation to you for your current and future medical expenses, current and future lost wages, and your pain and suffering.

Common personal injury claims in California

As mentioned above, many common accidents are not considered personal injuries, and if you are wholly responsible for your own injuries you cannot recover damages.

Common personal injury claims in California, however, can include auto accidents, dog bites, medical malpractice claims, bicycle accidents, and workers' compensation cases.

Car Accidents

Car accident victims in California, who are not fully compensated by the at-fault driver's insurance company, who are unable to come to a fair settlement with the insurance company, or who have an accident with an uninsured driver have the legal right to file a tort claim against the at-fault driver.

For minor injuries and accidents drivers can generally negotiate directly with the insurance company. Consider, however, the payment amount offered by the insurance company will not be more than the policy coverage amount purchased by the at-fault driver.

For more serious injuries or those which are not fully covered by the driver's insurance policy, you may want to discuss additional compensation with an injury lawyer.

Consider, however, all car accident claims for personal injury must be filed within 2 years from the date of injury (Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. § 335.1). Property damage claims must be filed within 3 years from the date of the accident (Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. § 338). These limits apply specifically to filing a personal injury claim, not the required time limit for filing a claim with an insurance company.

Medical Malpractice lawsuits

In California, if you are injured due to the negligence of a medical professional, you may have the legal right to seek compensation. Compensation for medical injuries is generally paid by the doctor's insurance company, but you may also have the right to sue for additional compensation.

If you win your California medical malpractice claim, you may be entitled to receive payment for medical expenses and lost wages. You may also seek compensation for non-economic damages, such as loss of companionship, pain and suffering, and mental anguish.

In 1975, California passed the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act which capped the payment amount for non-economic damages in a medical malpractice claim to $250,000. This cap specifically applies to non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and does not limit the amount of compensation paid for economic damages, including lost income or medical expenses.

Capping non-economic damages remains controversial in California, and opponents of the measure have fought for the last 30 years to have it raised.

Dog Bites

California dog owners are strictly responsible for any injuries caused by their dog, assuming the victim was not trespassing, did not provoke the dog, or was not performing a paid service on the dog.

California dog bite laws are different from other state's laws, including Texas, which is considered a "one bite state." Under this notion, the owner of the dog is not liable for injuries unless it is proven the owner knew or should have known about the propensity of the dog to be violent or vicious.

Another consideration is whether the victim's actions contributed to their own injuries. Under California's pure comparative fault rules an injured party's compensation may be reduced if the victim is 5 years of age or older and the court determines their actions contributed to their own injuries.

More information about California's dog bite laws can be found in California Civil Code section 3342.

Bicycle accidents

Thousands of California bicyclists are injured each year. In fact, California leads the nation in bicycle accidents. Unfortunately, recent reports also indicate that bicyclist deaths have increased in recent years, primarily because roads were built to accommodate motor vehicles and integrating an ever-increasing number of cyclists into the environment has been challenging.

If you are injured from the negligent actions of driver you may have the legal right to file a California bicycle accident claim against the at-fault driver. The process is similar to a car accident claim.

Although you may be able to settle minor injuries and accidents directly with the insurance company, if negotiations fail or you do not receive a fair settlement, you may need to consider talking to a lawyer and filing a personal injury lawsuit.

Workers' Compensation injuries

California law mandates that employers carry workers' compensation coverage. This means if you are injured on your job while performing your normal job duties your employer has the legal obligation to provide insurance coverage for your work-related injuries.

Compensation under California workers' compensation laws can include lost wage compensation, payment for medical expenses, and death benefits.

Additionally, workers' compensation is offered to injured workers without the injured worker taking their employer to court and proving the employer was negligent for the worker's injuries. Workers' compensation does, however, generally eliminate the right of the worker to sue for additional compensation unless they can prove a third party is also responsible for their injuries.

The California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Workers' Compensation manages California workers' compensation cases and workers' compensation benefits. More information about California's workers compensation laws and regulations can be found by reviewing the Division of Workers' Compensation, Title 8 regulations.