Being injured in an accident or other personal injury incident can create a significant financial burden for you and your family. Holding the person who caused your injury liable for damages allows you to receive a monetary award for your injuries and losses. While many personal injury cases settle through negotiations, a small percentage of cases cannot be settled. For those cases, a California personal injury attorney may file a lawsuit to pursue the claim in court.
What Are the Steps to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Los Angeles?
Each personal injury case is unique. The facts and circumstances of the case determine the timeline for settlement and how much the personal injury claim is worth. However, most personal injury cases go through similar steps to resolve the claim.
The first step in a personal injury case is to investigate how your injury occurred. We must identify all factors that led to your injury and the parties responsible for each factor. Only parties who directly and proximately contributed to the cause of your injury are liable for your damages.
During the investigation, we gather evidence to prove the elements of a negligence or intentional tort claim. Typically, we must prove that the other party owed you a duty of care and breached the duty of care. Then, we must prove the party caused the injury and that you sustained damages.
Depending on the complexity of the case, it could take several months to complete an investigation. In some cases, we might hire experts to assist us with the case, including medical specialists, accident reconstructionists, financial professionals, and experts in other fields related to the case.
Complete Medical Treatment
While we investigate the cause of your injury, you receive medical treatment. The duration of your recovery is one of the most significant factors that impact the timeline for a personal injury case.
We must wait until you reach maximum medical improvement before attempting to settle the injury claim. Settling the claim before your complete treatment and your doctor discharges you could result in a much lower award for damages.
Typically, negotiations begin with a settlement offer. We prepare a settlement demand letter to send to the insurance company. The demand letter includes the following:
- A description of how the accident occurred
- A legal analysis of why the other party is legally liable for your damages
- A detailed discussion explaining the type and severity of your injuries
- An accounting of your economic and non-economic damages
- A specific amount for settlement
The insurance company may accept the settlement demand. If so, it issues a settlement check, and you sign a settlement agreement. However, most insurance companies make a counteroffer for a lower amount. The settlement negotiations could continue for several weeks with multiple counteroffers. If the insurance company refuses to agree to a fair settlement amount, the next step is filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Los Angeles
It could take up to a year or longer for a lawsuit to go to trial. There are no guarantees that you will win the case. Therefore, before filing a lawsuit, we discuss all options, the likelihood of success, and any potential weaknesses that could hurt the case. If you decide to proceed with the lawsuit, the steps are:
- The plaintiff (injured party) files a complaint with the clerk of court
- The complaint is served on the defendant (the party alleged to have injured the plaintiff)
- The defendant has a specific number of days to respond to the complaint
- The parties engage in discovery by exchanging information, evidence, and documentation
- One or both parties might conduct depositions to obtain sworn testimony outside of a court
- The parties may engage in settlement negotiations before going to trial
- At trial, both parties present their evidence
- The jurors decide whether they believe the allegations and evidence made by the plaintiff or the defendant and provide a verdict
A verdict for the plaintiff includes an award for damages. The jurors decide how much money the defendant must pay the plaintiff for damages. However, the defendant might appeal the judgment, so the case might not be resolved at this stage.
Most personal injury lawsuits in California must be filed within two years of the date of injury or one year from the date the injury was discovered. However, there are exceptions to the statute of limitations. To avoid losing your right to file a lawsuit, contact an attorney as soon as possible after an injury or accident.
Contact Our California Personal Injury Attorney for a Free Consultation
Did another person injure or harm you? If so, we want to help you recover compensation for your injuries, losses, and other damages. Contact our law office to schedule a free consultation with an experienced California personal injury attorney to discuss a personal injury claim.