How to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Sustaining an injury in an accident in Los Angeles could make you eligible for financial compensation from the person or party that caused your accident. Obtaining this compensation takes filing a personal injury lawsuit in California. In theory, filing a lawsuit is straightforward. You must file paperwork with the civil courts and support your case with evidence. Unique factors related to your case, however, could complicate the filing process. You may or may not need to hire a personal injury attorney to help you file a lawsuit.
Talk To A Lawyer
The first thing you should do is contact a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer for a free consultation about your case. A lawyer can give you an honest professional opinion as to whether you have grounds for a lawsuit, what your damages are worth and whether your case would benefit from legal representation. Legal advice could make it easier to know what and what not to do while filing a lawsuit. If you decide to hire an attorney, he or she can handle the personal injury claims filing process on your behalf.
Understand Your Rights
Before you can file a personal injury lawsuit, you need to understand at least the basic laws related to your case. You must determine the legal grounds on which you are bringing your claim. If you slipped and fell and broke a hip, for example, you will need to read up on California’s premises liability laws. Learning about your case type could provide important information such as the statute of limitations on filing a claim. Understanding your rights is something else a personal injury lawyer can help you with during a claim.
File Your Claim With The Civil Courts In Your County
Once a lawyer has confirmed you have grounds for a personal injury claim, bring your cause of action with the correct civil court in your county. In most cases, you will need to file in the county where your injury occurred or where the defendant resides. Look for the civil claims court in your county. If you estimate your accident-related damages are worth less than $10,000, file your claim with the Los Angeles County Small Claims Division. You can find the paperwork you must download, fill out and submit to file a claim on the courthouse’s website. You generally will not need a lawyer’s assistance to bring a small claim.
If your case is worth more than $10,000, hire an attorney to represent you during a lawsuit and/or insurance settlement negotiations. An attorney can make sure you do not settle for an amount that undervalues your injuries and damages. Your lawyer can help you fill out complex paperwork and file it with the correct civil court by California’s statute of limitations. This is a deadline that gives you a maximum of two years from the date of your accident to file. If you do not file your personal injury lawsuit within two years in California, you will most likely give up your right to file.
Serve The Defendant
After filing your claim, you or a hired professional must serve the papers on the defendant. This gives the defendant the information about your claim and lets him or her know you plan on pursuing compensation through a trial, if necessary. The defendant will then have the opportunity to respond to your claim, either by accepting your damages and offering a settlement or denying liability.
Prove Your Case
It will be up to you or your lawyer to prove the defendant’s liability for your damages. Bringing a successful personal injury suit takes proving the defendant’s fault through a preponderance of the evidence – the defendant is more likely to be at fault than not at fault. An attorney in Los Angeles can help you with the burden of proof to optimize your odds of winning a settlement or judgment award. If you successfully prove your case, you could receive financial compensation for your past and future damages.