Your PI claim is based on who is at fault, the seriousness of your injury, the amount of your medical bills, the amount of time you lost (or will lose) from work or school, the likelihood of future ("residual") problems and your pain and suffering. Personal injury claims are generally worth making if you've incurred medical expenses to treat your injury, and/or if you've lost money because you had to take time off from work (or school) because of the injury.
Determining Fault in Personal Injury Cases
Personal injury claims turn on who is at fault. Sometimes, the other side is completely at fault and none of the fault is yours. Other times, both sides have some fault and each will be responsible for a percentage of that fault - what we call "comparative negligence" in California.
Putting a number on the percentage of fault each person bears in a PI case is part of the claims negotiating process. If the claim cannot be settled, then the jury (or the judge if the parties waive a jury) will decide the allocation of fault.
Time Limits Regarding Personal Injury Claims
All claims have time limits. Most of these time limits are based on statutes of limitation - laws that govern how long you have to file claims in the appropriate tribunal (usually the court with proper jurisdiction for the case). Waiting too long to file a claim can result in losing the claim forever. In some case, like when a claim is against a government entity or even your own insurance company, claims must be filed with the appropriate office even before the ordinary statute of limitations deadline expires. There is some complexity here, so it's never a good idea to wait once you have a claim; consult a competent PI lawyer right away so that your rights are protected and your claims are not forever barred.
Settling vs. Trying the Case
The vast majority of personal injury cases settle. Of these, most will settle before they are filed in court. Of those that are filed in court, the vast majority settle before trial. Only a small percentage of PI cases actually go to trial.
Reasons to Settle a Personal Injury Case
If the other side (or their insurance company) offers a reasonable amount of money to compensate the injured person for his or her injuries, the case should probably settle. What is considered "reasonable" is usually the sticking point. In general, settlement should occur if the amount of money offered sufficiently compensates you for out-of-pocket medical bills, lost earnings (including future earnings), and reasonable pain and suffering. Other factors include local politics (attitudes regarding "tort reform"), the expense of actually going to trial (expert witness costs (e.g. $8,000 daily for a testifying orthopaedic surgeon), exhibit and audio-visual equipment costs, jury fees, etc. - all of which reduce the settlement or collected verdict) and the likelihood that the wrongdoer will declare bankruptcy wiping out all or most of the recovery.
Reasons Not to Settle a Personal Injury Case
Some cases do not settle because the injured person believes the person who caused the injury is not offering enough (or any) money to adequately compensate for the injury. This leaves the injured person with virtually no option but to sue the wrongdoer and ask a court to impose a judgment.
Questions Regarding the Personal Injury Claim Process
The information shown here is a summary. PI claims can be complex and always depend on the facts. Each case is different. If you have a PI case you would like to discuss, feel free to contact me at 818-500-0678 to schedule a free consultation.