When it comes to personal injury, knowing a bit about the unique laws and statutes in California can help you better understand your rights. It can also help you know when it’s time to get a California personal injury attorney on your side.
According to California law, if the plaintiff in a personal injury case is partially at fault for an accident, their compensation can be reduced by the same percentage they were at fault. To understand what this means, consider the following example:
If a driver hits your car because he ran a red light, but at the time you were texting, you might be assigned 15 percent of the blame for the accident. If the courts award you $20,000 in compensation, that amount would then be reduced by 15 percent to $17,000 because of your contributory negligence.
Like most states, California has some limits to how much non-economic compensation you can receive in a personal injury lawsuit. There is no cap on the economic damages you can receive, though.
Economic damages are verifiable, concrete expenses you may have suffered as a direct result of the accident. They include things like your medical bills, loss of income from work, or property damage to your car or other personal items.
As long as you can show proof of these expenses and demonstrate that they are a result of the accident, there is no limit to how much you can be compensated. The other party owes you whatever amount is necessary to return you, economically, to where you were before the accident occured.
Non-economic damages cover losses that cannot be quantified in monetary terms. Courts have ruled that it is impossible to put a dollar price on something like “mental suffering,” and that factors like inconvenience or pain and suffering can’t ever be made up for with just money.
Because it is impossible for anyone to say exactly how many dollars would compensate for something like disfigurement, California put cap on certain types of non-economic damages. Medical malpractice, for example, has a cap of $250,000.
Proposition 213 is a special case. This rule states that if a driver was uninsured at the time of an accident, even if the accident was not that driver’s fault, the driver cannot sue for non-economic damages. The same rule applies to drivers who are committing a felony or fleeing a felony at the time of an accident.
The reasoning is that an uninsured or criminal driver is clearly not willing to take steps to protect others from their own negligent actions; therefore they forfeit their right to certain protections from the negligence of others. This rule does not keep any driver from getting the economic damage awards they deserve.
Every state has time limits for personal injury cases. In most cases in California, you have two years from the dates of the accident — or the date you discover your accident-related injury — to file suit.
The only exception to this is if you have been injured by a city, county, or state government party. In that case, you only have six months to file your claim. This is just one reason it is crucial to get a personal injury lawyer on your side as soon as possible after your injury.
Strict liability for dog bites
In some states, a dog’s owner is not held liable for the dog’s first bite on the assumption that, in many cases, they could not have known the dog would be dangerous. In California, owners are legally responsible for their dog from the first bite, and the victim does not need to prove any fault or negligence in order to claim compensation.
These are the basic personal injury laws specific to California, but there are many more. If you have been injured, it is always wise to get the help of an experienced California attorney as soon as possible. This is the best way to protect your rights.