California Personal Injury Guide

The California Personal Injury Guide was created by our attorneys to help residents obtain maximum compensation from the negligent party. If you have been seriously injured, contact our office for a free consultation.

Accidents happen and when they do it can sometimes be embarrassing and can leave you seriously hurt. Whether you fell in a store, got bit by a dog, or got hit by someone running a red light, personal injury has one thing in common. You want compensation for your injuries and damages. Mindy Bish can help you through your personal injury case and take the stress off your plate so you can focus on healing and medical treatment.

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Getting Compensation You Deserve

California Personal Injury GuideCalifornia is a pure comparative negligence state which basically means that you can get compensation for your damages and injuries. The caveat here is that your compensation will be reduced by however much at fault you are found to be. For instance, if you were riding a motorcycle and a driver merged into your lane without checking their blind spots, but you were going over the speed limit by a little bit, you may be found at fault for some of the accident. Let’s say you are 20% at fault. If you were to be awarded $10,000 for your injuries, you would only be able to recover $8,000.

It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to have a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer work with you to keep the insurance company from blaming you for your accident. You might get yourself into trouble if you agree to make a statement with the insurance company if you haven’t already obtained counsel. The adjusters are trained to ask you questions that will lead you down a path to incriminate yourself. That is something you want to avoid at all costs. They have the capability of barring you from receiving compensation if you answer the questions the way they hope you will.

Types of Personal Injury Claims

Personal injury is a broad term that includes many different kinds of accidents. We defend people who were injured in:

  • Slip and Falls
  • Car Accidents
  • Motorcycle Accidents
  • Bus Accidents
  • Pedestrian Accidents
  • Truck Accidents
  • Construction Accidents
  • Dog Bites
  • Wrongful Death
  • Medical Malpractice

Each case is unique and we have extensive experience in all of them. They all have to do with injury and that’s the common denominator. The auto accidents are all handled similarly. Motorcycle accidents present challenges when we have to deal with bias against motorcyclists. People tend to mistrust them and think they’re inherently reckless drivers. Dog bites are a challenge as well because if someone does not have insurance that covers their home, we might not be able to get compensation from them. Wrongful death is in and of itself a bit trickier to bring a claim for because you have to find out who is eligible in your family to do so. We are familiar with all of these facts and more. You would be in good hands with us.

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Understanding Personal Injury Claims

There are some universal rules that apply, in the most part, with all of these cases. One of these being the statute of limitations. In California, you will have two years from the date of your accident to bring your claim or to settle. This might differ for certain cases such as slip and falls on municipal property as well as medical malpractice. It would be wise to sit down with a Los Angeles persona injury lawyer to determine if your statute of limitations is two years, or if your case is different.

Our advice pertaining to the statute of limitations is to not wait them out. You should not be bringing your claim to an attorney with a week to spare. There is a lot of preparation that goes into these cases and we need time to do them. There is also a significance to calling an attorney as soon as you possibly can. A huge part of our job is to collect evidence. We do that by taking pictures, talking to witnesses, and recreating the scene. The sooner you come to us, the better the results are going to be. Here’s why: imagine seeing a car accident on the highway one day. You offer your contact information to the injured driver as a witness. You think they’re going to call you soon so you keep your ringer on your phone looking for a phone call. What if they were to call you eight months later? Do you think you could give them an accurate memory from that event? Most likely not. When we take on a case, we always hope that we’ve been contacted as soon as possible so that we can get the clearest memories from people about the accident. Your witnesses might remember something very fuzzy even a few weeks after the accident, so there is no time to waste.

Secondly, let’s say you were involved in a construction accident. If we are not contacted in a timely manner, by the time we get to the scene of the accident, your coworkers have most likely continued to do their job and keep building or repairing. If we can’t get to the scene right away, the hazard that caused your accident could have disappeared or been cleaned up. That goes for accidents such as slip and falls as well. The hotel might have repaired the broken sidewalk that you tripped on, or the jutting tile in the lobby that made you fall.

You can help us with these cases by collecting as much evidence as possible. If you’re physically able to, take photos and videos of the scene of the accident. Get a picture of your injuries, if you were in a bike accident for instance, a photo the damage to your bike would be worth a thousand words to the insurance company when you ask for property damage compensation.

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Frequently Asked Personal Injury Questions

How Do I File a Personal Injury Claim?

Step number one is to find a good personal injury attorney. That is the simplest way to deal with the process, especially if you’re the one who’s injured, because your priority and our priority would be to get you better as quickly as possible. While you may have two years to file a lawsuit by law, it’s important that you take the steps, mostly through finding a good personal injury attorney, to start gathering evidence and preparing the case to be filed as a lawsuit from inception, and then line up the process in a way that makes sense and in a way that your lawyer will present to you, so that it presents well for the claims insurance companies and opposing counsel.

Is There a Minimum for Medical Bills to Be Covered?

The simple answer is there is no threshold or minimum. Medical bills are what they are. Oftentimes, especially at the beginning of a case, what you think hurts is minor could and sometimes develop into something much more significant and long-lasting, and medical bills will go up with the treatment that we will set you up with. The answer is they don’t matter, especially in the beginning.

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What if I Have a Preexisting Injury?

I have a client who was involved in a car accident that we’re going to trial for, but he’s had multiple previous accidents, one of which resulted in two neck surgeries. In our accident, he also injured his neck and he was very concerned about how his previous injuries would affect or impact the injuries he suffered in our wreck. Luckily, in the state of California, laws make accommodations for people with preexisting conditions. The law essentially states that you take the person as they are. As someone who violates the laws and the rules of our state, you don’t get the benefit of somebody being already injured before to escape responsibility. If you an injury that you suffered previously that was re-aggravated by the current situation, you are entitled to compensation for that re-aggravation, and for the new or heightened pain you’re suffering.

Can I Sue for Emotional Distress?

Part of any personal injury claim, in addition to the injuries themselves, is an emotional component, the human losses. What has this injury cost you emotionally? What has it done for your family, for your mental health, or for your self-esteem? To me, most times, that is actually a bigger claim than the injuries. It is also a much more difficult claim to prove because it’s not tangible and it’s very subjective. That is where a good lawyer and a good relationship with a lawyer that’s built on trust helps bolster that claim.

Should I Take a Settlement Offer?

Our job as lawyers is to get the best possible outcome for you as a client. That, essentially, is how cases get resolved. It’s a haggling process that we like to think of something as a back and forth negotiation, same as when you buy a car or when you negotiate for a price of a house; usually the first offer is not the best. There’s usually more money, and it never hurts to ask to see if there is more money. My suggestion is, if there’s an offer and it’s the first offer, go back to that party and see if there’s more money available.

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Can I Switch Personal Injury Attorneys?

Yesterday I met with a person who is represented by an attorney in a lawsuit and one of her concerns was whether or not she could switch attorneys because she wasn’t happy with her representation. The answer is yes, you are the client and the holder of your case. You can switch attorneys at any time you want. If the lawsuit has been filed, that’s simply done through a substitution of attorney; it’s a legal form. Your current counsel has to sign it. It is an ethical obligation. They have to turn over your file within five days of request. The process is much simpler if the lawsuit hasn’t been filed yet; that is simply just calling your attorney and telling them that you’re going to find someone else, and then they should turn over your file. No documents need to be filed, although I would recommend and suggest that you put that in writing so there’s a paper trail.

Will My Case Go to Trial?

The majority of those clients would probably prefer that their case doesn’t go to trial because it’s a setting that’s unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and scary to a lot of people. Statistically speaking, about 95 to 96% of the cases resolve before trial, whether that’s through litigation or informal discussions with insurance companies directly. The decision is always going to be yours. Offers will be made on cases, and it will be up to you as a client to decide whether the offer makes sense, whether we can make or obtain a higher offer through additional work or counter-discussions, and ultimately, the decision to go to trial will be up to you. We will never force you to go to trial. All we can do as lawyers is give you the best advice and present you with both sides of the situation for you to make an informed decision.

Can I Avoid Going to Trial?

The simple answer is yes. Again, as the client, you are the holder of the case and the ultimate decision whether or not the case goes to trial will lay on your shoulders. However, some cases, to get the best possible outcome, have to go to trial. Whether the offer is low or you feel like you’re being treated unfairly by the other side, sometimes the only way to make a point and to take a stand is to go to trial. Part of having a good lawyer that you trust is to have somebody who can prepare you for trial, remove a lot of the stigma and the fear of the process, and make it comfortable enough as to where you can sit, have a conversation, and relay your story to the jury to get the verdict you believe is just.

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Will My Case Settle Before Trial?

Few people want to go to trial. I always say trials are either to make a point or if you have a lot of money and are willing to take the risk. Some cases, of course, have to go to trial for various reasons; most people want to avoid that, and I understand that part. The answer is that cases often resolve well in advance of trial, but sometimes trial is inevitable.

Will I Have to Testify in Court?

If after months or years of back and forth negotiations, the case does go to trial, testimony by all the people involved in the lawsuit is very important. That is how the jury hear what happened and are able to frame the story in a way that makes sense to them. If the case goes to trial, you will have to testify. You are the holder of the truth. You know what happened like no one else. No matter what the paperwork says or what the police report says, you are the only one who knows what happened to you in a way that makes sense to you, and that is the role of a plaintiff to present to the jury.

What Do Expert Witnesses Do?

In cases that do go to trial, oftentimes the issues can be complicated or complex that require expert opinions, opinions that you or I am not allowed to offer in court. That can be in the form of medical opinions coming from doctors who examined you and prescribed future treatment. It can be from engineers who reconstruct the car collision, or safety experts who can explain the role of a store owner keeping the floors safe. Experts are critical. In a lot of cases, the issues are so complex that without experts, the law would not translate to everyday scenarios for the juries, and that is the role of an expert. Experts work with attorneys to present the case in a way that makes sense to the jury, because ultimately, that is who’s going to make the decision.

How Long Will This Case Take?

One of the most important questions that I’m asked, and it’s also maybe the most valid question to a person who’s been injured, is about how long this is going to take, because closure is very important in every aspect of our life, but especially when you’re hurt. The answer is not as simple. We have up to two years to file a lawsuit. Oftentimes, lawsuits are filed sooner than that, and also other variables, such as who the party is that injured you, dictates how quickly we have to file a lawsuit. Depending on the complexity of your injuries and the treatment, how quickly your injuries are resolved or stabilized, what evidence we can gather at the beginning of the case, that will dictate how long it will take. While most cases resolve at the earliest possible opportunity, often well before the two-year statute of limitations, some may take two to four years to resolve, depending on the cooperation of the other side and the complexity of the case.

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How Much Will My Case Be Worth?

If you’re injured in a motor wreck and you’re wondering what insurance companies look at to evaluate your claim, you’re not alone. Everybody is wondering that. There are simple and easy things that they look at. Those include medical bills for past treatment. It includes severity of the collision, severity of your injuries and also, written recommendations for future treatment. Obviously, if you need surgery going forward, that would increase the value of the case. If you have the surgery, that does increase the value of the case.

There are factors, also, that are much more difficult to prove to insurance companies, such as human losses. Those come through family members and how they see this accident affecting your life. It comes through co-workers, or people at church. In addition to medical bills or maybe loss of earnings (showing income statements that are decreasing because you can’t go to work) also consider witnesses who can testify about how your life has changed day to day.

Contact our Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer

If you were seriously injured in an accident, please call our lawyer today for a free consultation. We will be there to support you and guide you through this difficult time. You don’t need the insurance company pestering you and trying to trick you out of getting compensation. We can take them on so you can focus on getting better. Call us today!

About the Author

Mindy Bish made the best decision of her life when she decided to attend law school in her thirties. She has been practicing law since being licensed in 1993, and specifically been fighting for injured people since 1995. She has always strongly believed that injured people should be awarded fair compensation both for their medical bills, but also their pain and suffering. This belief was strengthened when Mindy suffered from her own collision, when driving 50 miles per hour on the highway, she was struck by a semi-truck. This led to multiple surgeries and an even stronger conviction to helping clients after being on the other side of a lawsuit.

Mindy has devoted her life to the practice of law, staying up to date on the new ways of practicing and how she can assist clients. She has graduated from the Trial Lawyer’s College and is co-dean of the Keenan Trial Institute and is qualified to teach seven of their twelve available courses. Mindy also monitors a California Listserve for trial attorneys, as well as a national one.