Personal Injury Claims and Their Limitations in California

Plaintiffs who file a personal injury claim in California must be aware of the various limitations of personal injury claims in the state. Being fully aware of this information usually requires a thorough understanding of civil procedure in accordance with California law. Personal injury victims must ensure that they are acquainted with the following laws in order to avoid compromising their own case.

Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations is a time limit in which a person must take certain legal action. If the plaintiff does not take the specific legal action by this time period, his or her claim can be forever barred. In civil law, the legal action that is required is usually filing a lawsuit. In criminal law, it may be the time by which charges must be filed or an indictment be issued. There are also statutes of limitations for the repayment and collection of debts. According to Sections 335.1 and 340 of California’s Code of Civil Procedure, a personal injury victim must generally file a claim within two years of sustaining the harm. This means that the plaintiff usually has two years in which to file a personal injury lawsuit from the date of his or her injury.

There is a special rule when the plaintiff did not learn about the harm until later. This rule is called the “discovery of harm” rule. It applies when the personal injury victim is not aware that he or she has sustained an injury. The victim may not be able to determine the exact extent of their injuries caused by an accident and may not realize this information until much later. In these instances, the clock does not start ticking until the victim actually discovers the injury. In this sense, the victim has longer to file the lawsuit. However, he or she may have to establish that the injury was not established until a later date. Medical records can provide crucial information on this subject.

If a personal injury victim files a claim after the applicable statute of limitations, the defendant can raise this as a defense. He or she may even ask the court to award attorney fees for defending an invalid claim.

Damages Cap on Personal Injury Cases

Another important limitation that personal injury victims should be aware of is the maximum damages cap on California personal injury cases. This limitation can have a dramatic impact on the potential value of a claim and on whether or not a personal injury attorney may agree to accept a particular case.

Personal injury victims who file claims in California are subject to certain maximum caps on their claims. They can receive an amount of economic damages that is not restricted to a specific limitation and that is based on the amount of funds that the victim needs to be restored to the physical and mental condition that he or she was at prior to the accident. Economic damages include medical expenses, such as hospital bills, follow-up treatment, prescription medicines, rehabilitative treatment and anticipated future medical expenses. Economic damages also includes lost wages, loss of earning capacity and compensation for disability. Home renovation projects to make a home handicap-suitable may also be encompassed in the economic damages portion of the award.

However, personal injury victims have a limit related to the non-economic damages portion of their claim. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish and inconvenience. In California, personal injury victims can only receive a single-digit multiplier of the economic damages that they are awarded. For example, if a personal injury victim is awarded $50,000 in economic damages, the maximum amount of non-economic damages that he or she can receive is $450,000 if the number 9 is the single-digit multiplier that is used because 9 multiplied by $50,000.

Legal Assistance

Personal injury victims may wish to speak to a personal injury lawyer to ensure that they are familiar with the relevant limitations and how these may affect their case. Knowing this information can help victims increase their likelihood of receiving adequate compensation for their injuries.

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Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws they may affect a case.

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