Personal Injury FAQ's
Q: How long do I have before I must file a lawsuit for my accident injury? What is the statute of limitations in California?
A: For a personal injury claim, the injury accident victim generally has two (2) years to settle their claim with the person at fault for causing the accident or their insurance company. If you cannot settle your claim within this time period, you must file a lawsuit to preserve your rights. Otherwise, at the end of the two year statute of limitations your rights are eliminated.
The purpose of the statute of limitations is to prevent liability claims for existing forever and to encourage victims to actively pursue their claims rather than rest on their rights.
There are two notable exceptions to the two year statute of limitations period. The first is when the alleged wrongdoer is a government entity, such as a city, county, or state agency. In those cases, a government tort claim form must be filed the government entity within six (6) months from the date of the accident. The government entity then has forty-five (45) days to take action on the claim. If no action is taken or the claim is rejected, which happens in virtually every case, the victim then has six (6) months from the date the claim is rejected to file suit.
The second exception is in cases of medical malpractice. The medical malpractice victim has twelve (12) months from the date of the injury or the discovery of the injury to file a claim with the medical provider notifying it of the victim's claim.
Do not wait until your statute of limitations is about to expire. It is better to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible to determine your legal rights and remedies. Many attorneys will not accept clients with a statute of limitations deadline looming.
Q: How are my medical bills going to be paid after I was injured in an accident?
A: Medical bills can be very costly, and sometimes you just don't have enough money or are not insured to cover the payment. Yet, you still need to receive the medical treatment following an accident and you did not ask for someone else’s carelessness and negligence to injure you.
However, there are many things a person can do to help with payment relief. One idea is to apply for charity programs, which are available at most hospitals. If you are suitable for the grant, the payment of the medical fees will be recalculated. Another idea would be to apply for MediCal or MediCare for health care coverage. Unfortunately, all of these programs require that your income don’t exceed a certain level.
The best way, though, to get your medical bills paid and to receive the health care you need if you do not have insurance, is to work with your personal injury attorney to help locate and work with doctors, dentists, surgeons, and chiropractors who provide care “on a lien”. Under this payment arrangement, the patient remains responsible for paying the full amount of a doctor’s medical bill. However, the doctor will hold off on collecting your medical bill until your case is over and it has been settled or you have received a judgment from the Court.
Q: Is there a time limit for how long I can receive medical treatment or how long I can wait to first see a doctor?
A: No, there is no absolute time limit for when you must go and make a trip to the doctor for the first time. But the insurance company will find it suspicious if it takes you months after the accident to get medical attention and will not believe the injuries were caused by the accident.
Not only will the insurance company not believe this, but you will have a difficult time convincing the jury as well. Therefore, even though there is no official time restraint for you to see a doctor, the insurance company is wagering that you cannot prove the causation link between the accident and the medical treatment.
Every case varies, however. In most car accident cases, if you wait too long to see a doctor, then claim the accident was the result of that doctor's visit, it will be extremely difficult for you to get anywhere with that claim. To lower the chances of the insurance company winning, you should seek medical help immediately following an accident, rather than holding it off and waiting. How quickly you go in to see a doctor can be the difference between getting compensation or not.
Q: How do I get my lost wages paid after an accident? And what kind of lost wages am I entitled to have compensated?
A: After an injury occurs which leaves you unable to perform your work duties or missing work hours, the injured person should provide a written documentation from his/her doctor explaining the reason for his absences to both his employer and to his personal injury lawyer. Under California law, a person injured in an accident is entitled to both his past loss of earnings (up to the date of settlement or judgment) and future loss of earnings (from the date of settlement or judgment going forward throughout the rest of the injured person’s life). Both of these amounts must be proven by a "preponderance of the evidence", which means that the loss of earnings claimed must be more likely than not to be lost by the injured person due to the accident.
Lost compensation is not affected by using paid time off (PTO), vacation, or sick pay. These resources should be used by the injured worker to receive his lost wages prior to settlement or judgment. Using these resources does not reduce the claimed amount for compensation since these resources have a cash value and could have been used by the injured worker to do something more beneficial than to make up for wages lost due to the carelessness of another person.
Q: Should I give a recorded statement to the insurance company? The adjustor for the other driver’s insurance company wants to record my version of the accident.
A: It is very normal for the insurance company to request you to provide a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster right after an accident. The main reason is to have you commit to specific information about how the accident happened and your injuries. We recommend that you do not give a recorded statement at all! You are not required to give one and it only helps the insurance company to destroy your case (no matter what you say, they will use it against you). If you believe you should go ahead and give a recorded statement, please don't do so until you are fully prepared and have given wise thought to your words. It may be in your benefit to seek assistance from an attorney first since an adjuster's goal is to use that recorded statement to gain proof to use against your best interest. You must understand that anything you say may be used as a tactic against you and can lessen your chances or ruin your claim. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to give our law office a call before giving a statement and obtain all the valuable information and knowledge needed to fight your claim and be able to use your recorded statement to your best advantage.