How California Statutes Affect Personal Injury Claims

Statutes are laws enacted by a legislature. There are statutes that set the deadlines for filing claims and lawsuits. There are also statutes governing who has standing to file a personal injury lawsuit and the damages they can pursue.

The laws affecting personal injury claims vary by state. In California, several statutes have a significant impact on personal injury claims.

Five statutes that might affect your personal injury claim are:

1. California Statute of Limitations For Personal Injury Claims

A statute of limitations is the deadline for filing a lawsuit. Each state enacts statutes of limitations to set time limits for filing personal injury lawsuits (and other lawsuits) within the state. In California, the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is two years from the date of the injury.

For example, if you were injured in a car accident, the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit would generally be two years from the accident date. If you miss the deadline, you will not be able to initiate a lawsuit to recover damages. However, there are some exceptions.

If the injury did not become apparent until well after the accident, your deadline to file a lawsuit could be one year from the date you reasonably should have discovered the injury. This exception is referred to as the “discovery rule.”

There are other exceptions to the general two-year rule. For example, the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit related to a childhood injury is tolled until the person is no longer a minor. “Tolling” means delayed or extended. In this case, the time period does not begin until the child is 18 years of age. The statute of limitations may also be tolled for defendants who are in prison or who flee the state.

The case type could also result in a different statute of limitation. For example, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice is generally one year after you knew or should have reasonably known about the injury or three years from the date of the injury, whichever is earlier.

The statute of limitations may vary depending on the facts of your case. Furthermore, the applicable statute directly impacts your right to sue the party who injured you. Therefore, it is best to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to verify the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit in California.

2. Cap on Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases

Compensatory damages in a personal injury case include economic damages, such as medical expenses and loss of income. They also include non-economic damages, such as physical pain, mental trauma, and emotional suffering.

California does not place a cap on damages for most personal injury claims. However, there is an exception in medical malpractice cases.

California Code §3333.2 states that a person may sue a health care provider for non-economic damages. Non-economic damages include, but are not limited to:

  • Physical pain
  • Mental anguish
  • Emotional distress
  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Loss of use of an organ or limb
  • Physical impairment or disability
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

However, the statute also caps the amount of non-economic damages at $250,000. Compensation for punitive damages and economic damages are not limited.

3. California Torts Claims Act

State governments are protected from being sued by their citizens under a legal doctrine called “sovereign immunity.” Governments can waive sovereign immunity in some cases. For example, the California Tort Claims Act waives sovereign immunity for specific actions, including personal injury and wrongful death.

However, there are special rules for claims against a government entity. For example, you must file an administrative claim with the appropriate government agency within six months of your injury date. Failing to file an administrative claim could bar you from filing a personal injury lawsuit.

The government agency has 45 days to respond to your claim. If it denies your claim, you have just six months to file your lawsuit in court. If the government agency does not respond to your claim, you have two years from the injury date to file your lawsuit.

4. California Wrongful Death Act

Wrongful death claims occur when a party intentionally or negligently causes another person’s death. The California Wrongful Death Act sets the rules for filing a wrongful death act.

The act governs issues such as deadlines, standing, and damages. The rules for a wrongful death claim are slightly different from the rules for a personal injury claim. An injury attorney can help you determine if you are eligible to file a wrongful death claim.

5. Comparative Fault

California is a pure comparative fault state. Pure comparative fault comes into play when multiple parties share responsibility for an accident. The rule divides damages between blameworthy parties according to their share of fault. If an injury victim contributed to their injury, their damages would be reduced by their percentage of blame.

Ask for Legal Advice to Protect Your Best Interests

These California laws and others can impact the outcome of your personal injury case. A personal injury lawyer will review your case, analyze the applicable laws, and provide a strategy for recovering compensation for your damages and losses. If you are unsure about your legal rights, it is best to seek legal advice from an experienced attorney to protect your rights.

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