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Personal Injury FAQs

It’s understandable to have a host of questions after suffering a personal injury in San Jose. You might be wondering who is to blame, whether you have the right to seek compensation, and how to speak to insurance claims adjusters. Our San Jose injury attorneys offer free, no-obligation legal consultations so you can ask a lawyer your most pressing case questions. Before meeting with an injury attorney, use these personal injury FAQs (frequently asked questions) for general information about the claims process in California.

What is a Personal Injury?

A personal injury is a term given to any physical or mental injury that another person’s negligence or harmful act caused. Another common term for personal injury is bodily injury, which insurance companies typically use to discuss harms after an accident.

What Should I Do After a Personal Injury Accident?

One of the best things you can do for yourself and your case after suffering a personal injury is to speak to a lawyer about your options. A lawyer can immediately listen to your story and offer advice about what to do next – free of cost and obligation. You should also seek medical attention for your injuries, as well as start putting together a file of information about your case. This file should include police or accident reports, medical records, photographs, and any other evidence that may pertain to your claim.

What Injuries Qualify for a Lawsuit?

The California courts permit people with personal injuries of all types to seek restitution through the civil justice system. If an accident caused you any type of injury, property damage, lost income, or other types of damages, discuss your compensation options with an accident attorney. Note, however, that most attorneys will only accept cases involving serious to catastrophic injuries. More minor injuries and smaller-value claims often don’t need legal representation.

How Do I Know if My Case Can Be a Personal Injury Claim?

If you’re unsure whether your case is a personal injury claim, check it against these four factors:

  1. The at-fault party owed a duty of care to do or not do something, such as follow traffic rules to avoid car accidents or prescribe correct medication.
  2. The at-fault party breached that duty.
  3. You suffered damages, such as physical injuries or property damage.
  4. The damages you suffered are a result of the at-fault party’s actions.

 

I Don’t Feel Hurt. Should I Visit a Doctor?

Absolutely. Many personal injury claimants initially avoid medical attention because they don’t believe their injuries are severe enough for a personal injury claim. This is not the case at all. Your doctor may uncover concussions, bruising, fractures, and other injuries that you did not know you had. Always visit a doctor following an accident to receive a proper diagnosis of your injuries.

My Case Doesn’t Feel Big or Important Enough for a Lawsuit.

It’s a common misconception that a personal injury claims needs to be severe or high profile to win in court. Whatever your injury is, you deserve fair compensation to recover your financial, physical, and psychological losses.

How Do I Talk to Insurance Companies?

You will need to file an insurance claim of some sort after most personal injury accidents in California. This is the case for most car accidents, slips and falls, dog bites, etc. The insurance company you contact will depend on who you believe caused your injuries. The at-fault person’s insurer will be the one to take your claim. Keep these tips in mind when speaking to insurance companies:

A lawyer can take care of insurance company communications on your behalf, making sure insurers don’t take advantage of you. Most of the time, the first settlement offer isn’t the best the company can do. Help from a lawyer could lead to significantly higher settlement amounts.

What Should I Do if an Adjuster from the At-Fault Party’s Insurance Company Contacts Me?

If an insurance adjuster calls you, refer the adjuster to your attorney or insurance company.

Usually, the adjuster’s goal during these calls is to get you to settle your personal injury claim for a smaller amount than what you deserve. If an adjuster calls you, this is typically a sign that the insurance company knows that it should pay you a larger amount.

An adjuster may call you to conduct a preliminary investigation into the incident that caused your injuries. During this call, the adjuster may attempt to gain your trust and offer to pay for certain expenses, such as medical bills. At the end, he or she may ask you to sign a release. It’s best to avoid signing anything until you’ve discussed it with your attorney

What Should I Do if the At-Fault Driver’s Attorney Calls Me?

Do not speak with any attorney who doesn’t have your best interests in mind. If he or she does try to talk with you, refer this person to your own lawyer.

What if the Other Driver Didn’t Have Insurance?

If an uninsured driver injures you, you will have to file an insurance claim with your own company. Usually, your policy will contain Uninsured Motorist (UM) protection for these situations. For these situations, think of your own insurance company as the at-fault party’s insurance company as well. However, the liability limits provided by your insurance company will limit the compensation you receive. To receive maximum compensation, your best option is to file a personal injury lawsuit.

What if I Suffer Injury from an Underinsured Driver?

The same situation as sustaining injuries from an uninsured driver applies. You will have to file an insurance claim with your own company using Uninsured Motorist (UIM) protection. However, if your plan does not include UIM protection or limits the amount of compensation you will receive, consider filing a personal injury lawsuit

How Do I File a Personal Injury Claim in San Jose?

Your personal injury case might constitute grounds for a lawsuit if someone else’s negligence caused your damages. If a drunk driver crashed into you, for example, consider your legal options. A lawsuit may generate a better compensation amount than an insurance settlement, especially if your case involves catastrophic injuries or significant pain and suffering. You can file a personal injury claim with the San Jose civil courts by visiting the courthouse and following the instructions for bringing a claim against someone. An experienced San Jose injury attorney can help if you aren’t sure where to start.

How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?

The deadline to file a personal injury claim in California is two years from the date of your accident. If you don’t discover your injuries until days or weeks after the accident, the clock starts ticking on the date of discovery. The statute of limitations extends to three years for claims involving property-damage only.

How Long Will It Take to Settle My Claim?

Each case is different and will take a different amount of time depending on the case’s complexity. We can’t give any estimates for how long or short your case will take to reach a settlement. Insurance companies settle many personal injury claims out of court. Complex claims that involve questions of liability, extensive injuries, and multiple parties will take longer to settle — sometimes a year or longer, for example.

What Elements Do I Need for a Case?

The California courts require four basic elements for a successful personal injury claim.

  1. The first is duty. You must prove the defendant owed you a duty of care at the time of your incident, such as a property owner’s duty to keep premises free from hazards.
  2. The second element is breach of duty. You need proof that the defendant breached, or went against, his or her duties to you.
  3. The third is causation. Ehe defendant’s breach must be what caused your injuries.
  4. The final element is damages. You cannot file a claim unless the incident caused compensable damages. These can include medical bills and property damage.

What Are the Most Common Types of Personal Injury Claims?

It’s worthwhile to discuss your options with an attorney after suffering an injury in any type of accident in San Jose – especially if you suspect someone else is to blame for your incident. However, certain types of accidents lead to personal injury claims more than others. These include:

If you sustain injuries under any circumstances, contact a lawyer. Having grounds for a personal injury claim could mean someone else is legally responsible for your damages. In other words, you could qualify for total reimbursement of your financial losses.

 

Can I Bring a Claim Against the Government?

Governments enjoy certain protections against lawsuits, known as “sovereign immunity.” However, the California Tort Claims Act opens the state government to liability for some personal injury accidents; namely, if a government entity or employee causes an injury through an act of negligence. You have the right to file a personal injury claim against the state or federal government if it contributed to your injuries. The deadline and rules for filing are different from typical claims.

In California, you have six months from the date of your injury (or date you discover your injury) to file a claim for personal injury against the government. You must adhere to specific procedures for these claims. Your initial claim must include your name, address, the date and circumstances of your accident, a general description of your losses, the name of the government employee you believe caused the injury, and the dollar amount you’re claiming.

What Is My Case Worth?

It’s necessary to determine what your case is worth before you can file a personal injury claim in San Jose. You must know the value of your case, so you can file your claim with the correct courts – either the San Jose Small Claims Court or the Municipal Court. Talk to a lawyer for an accurate idea of the value of your case. Each claim is unique, and the values change depending on the specific damages the victim suffered because of the defendant’s misconduct.

To get a general idea of case value, add up your special damages first. These include medical bills, lost wages, and property damage costs. Then, calculate your general damages (pain and suffering, emotional damage, mental anguish, and other intangible losses) by multiplying your special damages by a number from one to five, based on the severity of your losses. Add special and general damages together for a total estimate.

What Are Damages?

Damages is a legal term that refers to any losses or expenses you incurred as the result of your accident.

 

What Type of Damages Are Available for Recovery?

Again, the types of damages you may be eligible to recover will vary depending on your unique losses. You will need to assess how the accident and your injuries affected you. Did they cause property damage you must now repair? Injuries that required hospital stays or extensive rehabilitation? Thousands of dollars in missed income from months of recovery? You could be eligible to recover these damages, as well as pain and suffering, lost quality of life, and loss of consortium, depending on your case.

Who Is Liable for My Damages?

In California, the liable party is the one most responsible for causing your accident and injuries. You must first identify the proximate, or main cause of your accident to get to the bottom of liability. From there, you can examine who failed to fulfill his or her standards of care to you in the situation.

Liable parties can range from drivers to doctors, depending on the circumstances of your case. Many cases involve more than one liable party. For example, a distracted driver and an auto parts manufacturer could share liability for car accident damages. A San Jose car accident lawyer is a great asset when trying to determine who may be liable for your damages after a collision.

Can I Recover Damages if I Have a Pre-Existing Condition?

Yes. You can recover damages if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Courts will not penalize your damages if you have a pre-existing condition since the at-fault party still injured you with this condition. The courts may ask if the accident aggravated this condition, which may contribute to your final settlement amount.

Do I Need a San Jose Personal Injury Attorney?

You might need help from an attorney if your accident caused catastrophic injuries, such as disfigurement, scars, amputation, or a permanent disability. Traumatic brain injuries and spinal injuries are examples of cases that would benefit from a lawyer’s attention. A lawyer can level the playing field between you and a large insurance company. Legal representation can also prepare you to take your case to court in pursuit of fair compensation. More minor injury claims may be easier to navigate on your own. When in doubt, talk an injury lawyer to see if he or she can help you.

Can I Still Hire an Attorney in the Middle of the Claim Process?

Yes. Many personal injury attorneys will take cases at all stages of the legal process, from the investigation phase to halfway through settlement negotiations with an insurance company. Most firms can jump right into an ongoing case, come up with a strong legal strategy, and fight for better results than the client was getting on his/her own. Your lawyer may, however, charge different amounts for services depending on how much work he or she must put into the case.

What Should I Expect During My First Meeting With an Attorney?

Expect a warm welcome, a friendly and knowledgeable lawyer, and a team of professionals ready to listen to your story. If you get anything less, move onto a different San Jose personal injury law firm. Your initial case evaluation should focus on you – how the accident impacted you and your family, what types of injuries you suffered, and what your goals are for pursuing an injury claim.

Bring all your case documentation with you to your first meeting, such as medical records and communications between you and an insurance company. A lawyer should be able to review the elements of your case, listen to what you believe happened, and give you an idea whether you have grounds for a case. From there, if the lawyer offers to take your case, you’ll discuss details such as service fees.

How Much Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Cost?

Nothing, unless you win! Henshaw & Henry, PC, offers contingency-based personal injury legal services. That means you’ll only pay our fees if we win you a monetary award. We’ll agree upon a percentage of your award as compensation before you sign any contracts. We’re always upfront and honest about our services and costs. Initial consultations with our lawyers are always free. Contact us today to schedule yours!