California Personal Injury Overview
Personal injury law applies to many types of cases including auto accidents, slip and fall, negligent security, medical malpractice, property damage, and many other types of losses. Although the general concepts of personal injury are the same across the country, each state has unique laws which will affect your case.
When a person fails to use reasonable care, either through their actions or inactions, and that failure causes injury, it is considered negligence. All of the following conditions must exist in order to prove negligence in California:
- The person who caused your injury owed you a duty
- He or she breached that duty
- The failure to live up to that duty caused your injury
- You suffered damages
In cases involving defective products, the doctrine of strict liability, rather than negligence, normally applies. A product may be defective for many reasons including inferior materials, faulty assembly, or design flaw. In the state of California several elements must be present in order to prove strict liability:
- The product was defective and unreasonable dangerous, even if used properly
- The danger was not “open and obvious”
- The defect caused your injury
- You suffered damages
If you are injured in the state of California, you may be entitled to compensation including:
- Past, current and future medical expenses
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Interference with family relationships
- Property damage
- Other costs incurred as a direct result of your injury
If you are partly to blame for your injuries
California uses the doctrine of pure comparative negligence. If you were partly responsible for your injuries, your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of the blame. However, you can still sue for the remaining portion of fault. Even if you were 95% to blame for your accident, you can still hold the other party responsible for their five percent of the damages.
Who pays when there are multiple responsible parties?
Recovering the money owed to you can be complicated when multiple responsible parties are involved. California follows the rule of joint and several liability.
Joint liability applies to the economic damages, such as medical expenses and property damage. Under joint liability each responsible party is liable for the full amount of damages, so if one party fails to pay, the other party can be held responsible for the unpaid portion.
Several liability provisions apply to the non-economic damages. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering and emotional distress. Under several liability each responsible party is liable for their portion of damages only. If one party fails to pay their part of non-economic damages you cannot recovery their portion from the other party or parties.
You must act quickly
Every type of lawsuit has a time limit for filing, called the statute of limitations, after which you give up you right to sue. In general you have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit in California. However, in certain types of personal injury cases you only have one year, while in others you are allowed three years.
For more in depth information about time limits in California read our California Statute of Limitations page.
Personal injury laws vary from state to state. If you believe you have a personal injury claim and you live in California, please contact one of our California personal injury lawyers for a free claim evaluation.