Understanding California Personal Injury Laws
In California, personal injuries are covered by tort laws, which are settled by either negotiated settlements or civil lawsuits. The laws allow anyone who is has sustained injuries as a result of a motor vehicle accident, defective product, negligence of medical professionals, dog bite or other causes to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit to recover the costs of medical treatment, lost wages and other expenses.
The following is an overview of the personal injury laws in California. If you need to know in greater details, talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Types of Personal Injury Torts
In Latin, tort means to twist, wrong or harm. There are basically three types of torts that can result in a civil lawsuit in California:
- Intentional tort: It occurs when a wrongdoer intentionally engages in a conduct that results in causing injuries and damages to another person. Striking another person in with intention to harm him or her is an example of intentional tort.
- Negligence: It occurs when a wrongdoer’s careless conduct, when he is aware of the risks involved, causes injuries or damages to another person. Driving a car when you are drunk is an example of negligence.
- Strict liability: It occurs when the wrongdoer is neither careless nor has the intention to harm anyone, but still his actions cause injuries to another person. Your dog biting and injuring another person is an example of strict liability.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for filing personal injury claims against an individual or business entity in California is two years from the date of injury or date the injury was discovered. This means the injured person must file the lawsuit within two years from the date he was injured or the date his injury was diagnosed. If he fails to file a lawsuit within that period, then he will lose his right to get compensation.
The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim against a county, city or the California state government is six months. There is a strict set of procedural rules that claimants must adhere to when suing any government entity.
Limits on Non-economic Damages
In California, there are limits on the amounts and types of non-economic damages that an injured person can claim. They include:
- Uninsured drivers injured in a motor vehicle crash cannot file a claim for non-economic damages even if the other driver was found to be totally responsible for the accident. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, physical impairment, disfigurement and inconvenience.
- The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) has placed a cap of $250,000 on non-economic damages resulting from medical malpractice.
The Rule Governing Shared Fault
In the case of share of fault, which means the plaintiff is partially responsible for the injury caused to him, California follows a pure comparative negligence rule. This rule states that an amount of money equivalent to the plaintiff’s percentage of fault be deducted from his or her total compensation. For example, if you are deemed to share 20 percent of the blame for an accident and the total compensation amount awarded to you is $10,000, then you will receive only $8,000.
Strict Liability for Dog Bites
In California, the owner of a dog is held strictly liable if his down bites another person, regardless of whether it is the first time or repeat cases. This means the dog owner must pay compensation for any injuries caused to a plaintiff resulting from his or her dog’s bite. In this case, the plaintiff is not required to show any evidence of negligence or intentional tort. This is in contrast to the “one-bite” rule many states have, which protects dog owners from injury liability the first time their dog bites and injures someone.
Most of California’s personal injury laws are the same as or similar to the personal injury laws of other states. If you are injured in a car crash, as a result of a dog bite or any other mishaps, then phone a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to explore your legal options.