Personal injury is the branch of civil law pertaining to claims for damages between private entities. An injured claimant can file a personal injury claim against another individual, a privately-owned company, or another entity that they believe to be responsible for damages in the form of medical expenses, lost income, disability, property losses, and pain and suffering. The amount of potential compensation available in a personal injury claim varies based on the value of the plaintiff’s claimed damages. The personal injury laws of Folsom and the rest of California aim to compensate personal injury victims fairly for their losses and ensure negligent defendants do not escape liability for their actions. A Sacramento personal injury lawyer can be your best asset if you have recently been injured by another party’s negligence or intentional misconduct.
Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers Serving the Sacramento Area
In many personal injury cases, insurance is the first formal step toward recovery for the injured victim. For example, under California’s fault-based rules for determining car accident liability, an injured driver can file an insurance claim against an at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy. However, an insurance claim may be insufficient or unavailable for a severe personal injury. Unfortunately, dealing with an insurance company is rarely an easy or enjoyable experience. Hiring a reliable Sacramento personal injury lawyer will mean an easier time dealing with insurance companies and determining your options for legal recourse against the party responsible for your damages.
If you have been hurt due to someone else’s carelessness or misconduct, you may be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit. In many situations, insurers are reluctant to pay the full amount of damages to which you may be entitled unless you have knowledgeable legal representation on your side. A California personal injury attorney may be a vital tool in asserting your rights to the fullest extent of the law. At the Law Office of Black & DePaoli, PC, we can assist victims who need a car accident lawyer or guidance with other personal injury claims, such as those arising out of slips and falls or dog bites. Based in Folsom, we also represent families who have lost a loved one in a fatal accident.
Bringing a Personal Injury Claim in California
Most personal injury cases are based on the theory of negligence, which has four basic elements. These may be defined as the defendant’s duty of care, a breach of duty, causation, and damages:
- “Duty of care” refers to a defendant’s responsibility to act with reasonable care in a given situation. In a personal injury case over a car accident, the plaintiff would need to prove that the defendant was involved in the accident and had a responsibility to operate the vehicle safely and responsibly.
- “Breach of duty” defines the action or inaction of the defendant that prevented them from fulfilling their duty of care. A driver breaches their duty of care when they drive while intoxicated, at excessive speeds, or while too tired to operate the vehicle safely.
- “Causation” refers to the link between the defendant’s breach of duty and the plaintiff’s claimed losses. The plaintiff and their Sacramento, CA personal injury attorney would need to prove that the plaintiff’s claimed damages only occurred due to the defendant’s breached duty of care and not some other cause. This typically requires producing records of medical treatment and financial statements that prove economic losses.
- “Damages” defines the losses claimed in a personal injury lawsuit. California generally allows personal injury plaintiffs to recover any and all compensatory damages from a personal injury claim such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. The law also permits plaintiffs to claim compensation for the physical pain and psychological suffering a defendant causes. The plaintiff’s legal team must provide clear evidence of tangible or measurable losses to pursue a personal injury lawsuit.
Even a seemingly simple personal injury claim can quickly evolve into a complex legal battle for a wide variety of reasons. A defendant may dispute their responsibility for a plaintiff’s claimed damages, or the defendant may claim that the plaintiff’s claim for compensation is excessive or unjustified.
Defining the Duty of Care in California Civil Law
Everyone in California is expected to take reasonable precautions to avoid causing foreseeable injuries to others. However, the standard of care may vary depending on the situation. In some cases, laws or regulations establish the standard of care, and a violation of a certain rule will be considered negligence per se, or negligence as a matter of law. For example, if a defendant violates the California Vehicle Code by running a red light, and the violation was a substantial factor in bringing about the car crash in which the victim was hurt, there will be a presumption of negligence.
Personal injury claims arise from many different causes in Folsom and throughout California, and it’s vital for anyone facing a personal injury claim of any kind to know what to expect when it comes to proving a defendant’s negligence and collecting compensation for damages. Defining the standard or duty of care a defendant should have upheld in a given situation is the first step toward legal recovery after a personal injury.
Pure Comparative Negligence in California
Sometimes defendants may raise the issue of comparative negligence. This means that they want the jury to evaluate whether the plaintiff’s own negligence may have caused or contributed to an accident. The jury will assess the number of damages and the percentage of responsibility of all of the parties. The plaintiff’s recovery may be reduced by any percentage of fault attributed to him or her. In contrast to some other states, however, California does not bar the right to compensation unless the plaintiff was completely responsible for causing his or her own injuries.
California’s pure comparative negligence statute means a plaintiff simply loses a percentage of their case value in proportion to their percentage of fault for causing those damages. For example, if a case unfolds and the jury determines the plaintiff was 25% to blame for a $100,000 personal injury claim, the plaintiff will lose 25% or $25,000 of this case award to reflect their liability under California’s pure comparative negligence statute.
California follows the rule of joint and several liabilities with respect to economic damages arising from an accident. Economic damages are tangible losses that may include medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, household services, lost income, and lost earning capacity. Each defendant that bears some responsibility for an accident, however little, may be held responsible for all of a victim’s economic damages.
In addition to economic damages, a plaintiff may seek non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment. Non-economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for relatively subjective forms of harm, and their value may vary significantly depending on how persuasively you present your case. This is just one reason why consulting an aggressive and knowledgeable Folsom personal injury attorney is an important step to take after an accident.
Personal Injury Cases Our Firm Accepts
When you need legal representation from a Folsom, CA personal injury attorney, it’s vital to find an attorney with solid experience handling the type of case you hold. At the Law Office of Black & DePaoli, PC, our attorneys represent clients in a variety of personal injury cases arising from many different circumstances, including:
- Car Accidents. Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of personal injury claims in California and throughout the United States. When a negligent driver damaged your vehicle and causes physical injuries, a Folsom, CA personal injury lawyer can help you hold them accountable and recover your medical expenses, vehicle repair costs, and other losses.
- Truck Accidents. Accidents involving large commercial vehicles tend to be much more damaging than accidents involving smaller passenger vehicles. Truck accident claims typically involve substantial damages, and liability may be uncertain, depending on how the accident happened. A plaintiff in a truck accident claim may face multiple defendants; an experienced Folsom, CA personal injury attorney may be the only party capable of helping the injured plaintiff determine liability and secure compensation for their losses.
- Motorcycle Accidents. Motorcyclists are some of the most vulnerable drivers on the road. They are also often unfairly accused of driving unsafely or being reckless when most motorcycle accidents occur due to the negligence of nearby drivers of larger vehicles. When negligent motorists cause accidents with motorcycles, it is almost always the motorcyclist who suffers the worst of the damages. A Sacramento, CA personal injury lawyer can help an injured rider recover their losses from severe injuries and fight claims of comparative negligence from the defendant if necessary.
- Dog Bites. California state law considers dog bite cases as strict liability issues. Suppose another person’s dog bit or otherwise injured you while you were lawfully present at the place of the incident. The dog’s owner is strictly liable for any and all resulting damages. This liability holds regardless of whether or not the owner knew the dog had any potential to bite unprovoked. Dog bite strict liability does not apply in cases where dogs injure trespassers or intruders on private property.
- Premises Liability. Property owners have a duty of care to the lawful visitors on their premises to address known safety issues promptly, or at the very least, warn visitors about them if those visitors are likely to encounter the hazard while on the property. Premises liability lawsuits can involve private homeowners, commercial building owners, companies, hotel owners, or apartment building proprietors. If the hazard that caused the damages listed in the lawsuit was a foreseeable safety risk, the property owner will likely absorb liability for the plaintiff’s losses.
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. This condition is a common result of traumatic accidents. While it can at first appear that Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy is a series of minor medical issues, it can eventually coalesce into a very painful condition that is difficult to manage. People who experience Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy often report chronic pain, heightened touch sensitivity, aggravated pain reflexes, excessive sweating, difficulty walking, extended periods of numbness in different parts of the body, and a host of other symptoms. It can be difficult to treat Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, and a Folsom, CA personal injury attorney can help an individual who developed this condition due to another party’s negligence secure compensation for their current and future medical expenses.
- Wrongful Death. When a personal injury results in the victim’s death, the right to file legal action on behalf of the deceased falls to a close relative, typically a spouse, grown child, sibling, or a personal representative named in the deceased’s will, trust, or estate plan. A wrongful death claim shares many similarities with a personal injury claim. However, there are some key exceptions, such as restrictions on who may pursue a wrongful death claim and the damages available from a successful claim. A Folsom, CA personal injury lawyer is the ideal resource if you believe you have grounds for a wrongful death claim.
- Day Care Negligence. When you trust another party to care for your children, it can be devastating to face an injury to one of your children due to daycare negligence or the negligence of any other childcare provider. A Folsom, CA personal injury attorney will help you determine who bears liability for your child’s injuries and any other losses associated with your claim.
- Catastrophic Injuries. Some personal injuries are so severe they lead to the victim developing permanent disabilities. They may be unable to return to their previous job or unable to work at all in the future. Some may become paralyzed or unable to live independently due to the severity of their injuries. An extreme personal injury case that involves permanent loss of mobility or independence, the ability to support oneself and one’s family financially, permanent disfigurement, or any other long-term medical complication that reduces the victim’s quality of life, can be devastating. In this situation, it is especially important to have reliable legal counsel from a Folsom, CA personal injury lawyer to ensure fair compensation for such devastating losses.
This is not an exhaustive list of the personal injury cases we represent. Time is a critical factor when pursuing any kind of civil claim in California, and the state places a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims for damages filed in the state. If you recently suffered an injury in a car accident, from a dog bite, or due to a property owner’s negligence, starting the legal process toward recovery sooner rather than later is a wise choice.
Compensatory Damages Available From Personal Injury Claims
California state law allows personal injury plaintiffs to recover all losses resulting from another party’s negligence. Once the plaintiff’s legal team has established the defendant’s negligence, they must provide the court with a complete and accurate accounting of all of the current and projected losses resulting from the incident in question.
Plaintiffs typically first seek compensation for their medical expenses. If a defendant’s behavior resulted in the plaintiff’s hospitalization and medical treatment, the plaintiff could claim compensation for their hospital bills, surgery fees, and any costs predicted for the necessary long-term care they will require. California law allows plaintiffs to recover as much medical expense compensation as they need to reach maximum medical improvement.
Plaintiffs may also claim the cost of the property damages they incur due to a defendant’s negligence. For example, in a car accident lawsuit, the plaintiff may claim property damages for the cost of repairing or replacing their vehicle and any damaged or broken personal belongings inside of it. It is also possible for a personal injury claim to include other economic losses such as lost business or lost property valuation depending on the nature of the defendant’s actions.
“Pain and suffering” may sound nebulous, but the state takes it seriously. California law defines pain and suffering compensation as a monetary award intended to compensate physical pain, emotional distress, and other intangible losses a personal injury plaintiff suffers. Different courts use different formulas for calculating pain and suffering compensation. In some cases, the judge may deem it appropriate to award consistent payments until the plaintiff reaches maximum medical improvement. In others, judges may award lump sums in proportion to plaintiffs’ claimed medical expenses.
Punitive Damages in California Personal Injury Lawsuits
Some personal injury claims involve defendants whose behavior falls outside the scope of standard negligence. Gross negligence, criminal negligence, and intentional torts can also lead to personal injury proceedings in California. For example, if a daycare staff member abuses a child in their care or individual assaults and injures another person in an attempted robbery, the offender will likely face criminal prosecution from the state in addition to civil claims from their victims.
California judges overseeing personal injury claims have the authority to award punitive damages when defendants’ behavior was grossly negligent or willfully dangerous. In some cases, these proceedings may align with criminal proceedings against the defendant. Punitive damages exist to further punish those who commit personal injuries against others and to serve as a warning to those who might engage in similar behavior in the future.
Unlike some other states, California does not place a limit on the amount a plaintiff may receive in punitive damages. The state also allows punitive damages to be paid alongside a plaintiff’s compensatory and special damages, and the amount the defendant pays typically hinges on their individual financial situation.