Personal Injury Law in California

Personal Injury Cases in California

byJon Mitchell Jackson, Esq.

What is a Personal Injury Case?

A personal injury or catastrophic injury case occurs when a person has suffered some form of severe physical or psychological injury as a result of another person or company’s wrongful conduct. The wrongful conduct may be simple negligence or intentional, willful, wanton or reckless conduct.

In some instances, a party may be strictly liable for injury to another without the injured person having to show any wrongdoing by the other party.

Personal injury cases we’ve helped families with over the past 25 years include the following…

Automobile Accident Injuries- Each year in the United States there are more than six million motor vehicle accidents. This year, approximately 10,839 people will die in drunk-driving crashes – one every 50 minutes.

Motorcycle Accident Injuries- Each year, about 4,000 riders sustain fatal injuries in motorcycle accidents. And each year, another 76,000 are injured. Statistically, about 12 motorcycle riders are involved in fatal accidents each day with another 208 riders sustaining injury on U.S. roadways.

Large Truck Accident Injuries- On an annual basis, there are about 5,000 large truck related fatal accidents in the United States.

Slip and Fall Injuries- Most people are not aware of the fact that slip and fall injuries are the second leading cause of injuries in the United States. On an average, they account for about 16,000 deaths every year.

Dog Bite Injuries- Each year across the United States, almost 5,000,000 people are bitten or attacked by dogs and 334,000 dog bite and dog attack victims require emergency medical treatment.

Spinal Cord and Paralysis Injuries- Every year, about 11,000 Americans experience spinal cord injuries, adding up to 200,000 people living with spinal cord injury disability in the United States.

Burn Injuries- Each year in the United States, about 4,500 people die from severe burn injuries. Another 45,000 people are hospitalized. Up to 10,000 people in the United States die each year of burn-related infections. When you look at the total numbers, more than 1.1 million of our citizens experience some type of burn injury each and every year.

Head and Brain Injuries- About 1,000,000 Americans experience major head and brain injuries each year.

Drowning- For any given year, there is one drowning of a child for every 11,000 residential pools in the United States. What this means is that in a country with 6 million pools, roughly 550 children under the age of ten drown each year.

Medical Malpractice- It is conservatively estimated that about 90,000 people lose their lives annually in the hospital because of medical malpractice. Medication errors affect almost 1.5 million people each year.

Other personal injury cases we’ve helped clients with include animal attacks, boat and watercraft accidents, brain injuries, construction accidents, hazardous products, insurance bad faith cases, medical malpractice, product liability, professional malpractice, railroad accidents, and wrongful death cases.

What Damages are Available in a California Personal Injury Case?

In most catastrophic personal injury cases, a victim may be entitled to monetary compensation for bodily injury and pain and suffering from the person or company whose negligent or wrongful conduct caused the injury. This includes a momentary lapse in judgment, a mistake or simple negligence.

Injuries caused by intentional, willful, wanton or reckless conduct may also allow an injured party to receive punitive damages which are designed to punish the responsible party. Over the past two decades, we’ve handled both types of case.

The primary damages you may be entitled to if you are a victim of personal injury are called compensatory or actual damages. These damages are intended to provide reimbursement or payment to you for your past and future “out of pocket” expenses or losses. Please keep in mind that an expert is normally required to help prove the full extent of your recoverable damages.

The most common compensatory damages include the following:

Medical Expenses- Past and future bills and expenses for health care services from an ambulance or emergency providers, hospitals, doctors, medication, and related services from nurses or other health care providers related to your injury, care and treatment.

Lost Earnings- If you were unable to work for a period of time after the incident, you are entitled to recover reimbursement of all lost wages.

Impaired Earning Capacity- Any reduction of your ability to earn a living (can’t do the same job anymore) is recoverable. In many instances, an expert economist is retained to help determine what the actual loss of income is.

Future Medical Expenses- All reasonably necessary future medical care and treatment is recoverable. Again, this is normally proven with the help of experts.

Pain and Suffering- These damages are awarded to compensate an injury victim for all past and future pain and suffering related to the incident and injury.

Mental Anguish- Personal injury victims who have sustained extreme mental or emotional suffering or distress are entitled to compensation. In some cases, this may also include someone who has witnessed the severe injury or death of a loved one.

Loss of Consortium- If, because of a personal injury, the victim’s spouse is unable to enjoy the benefits of marriage (companionship, affection, comfort, or sexual relations), a claim for monetary damages may be sought. Please note that these claims will normally “open the door” to many privacy issues.

Loss of Society and Companionship- In wrongful death cases, these damages are awarded to an heir for the loss of love, comfort, and companionship.

Property Damage- Any property damage to a vehicle or personal items may be recovered by the victim in a personal injury case.

What is the Standard of Proof in a California Personal Injury Case?

The standard of proof in the United States is typically preponderance of the evidence as opposed to clear and convincing or beyond a reasonable doubt. Because proving a case beyond a preponderance of the evidence (slight tipping of scales) is usually easier than a criminal prosecution (beyond a reasonable doubt), most personal injury cases are handled in the civil court system.

Are There Any Special Time Limits to Asserting a California Personal Injury Case?

Yes there are. Time is of the essence in many personal injury actions. In civil personal injury cases, most states have a strict statute of limitations which means that court proceedings must be properly commenced within a certain period of time after the incident or the victim will lose his or her right to bring a claim.

Other time sensitive issues and areas of possible concern involve preserving evidence and identifying defendants, insurance coverage and assets. This normally requires retaining investigators and experts to commence investigations and evaluations as promptly as possible. In fact, our office has a checklist of more than 140 items that we review in every new case that comes in to our office.

For these reasons alone, most personal injury victims agree that hiring an experienced California personal injury lawyer should not be delayed.

Can a Person Who Causes Harm to Another Human Being be Prosecuted for Both the Criminal Harm and the Civil Personal Injury?

The answer is yes. In some instances, a civil and criminal case can both be filed at the same time. People are routinely charged with the crimes of assault, battery, attempted murder and even murder. False imprisonment and fraud are other crimes that sometimes involve civil rights too.

In these cases, we work with the District Attorney’s Office to coordinate their prosecution of the crime with our handling of the civil personal injury case.

From a Lawyers Perspective, What Does it Take to Be a Good Personal Injury Lawyer?

Well, first of all it takes many years and many cases before a lawyer “learns” how to properly handle and persuasively argue a personal injury case. By their very nature, the available damages in a personal injury case are not always quantifiable through formulas or expert testimony.

The extent of compensation a personal injury victim may be entitled to recover is normally related to the preparation and artfulness of the lawyers who are retained to help them. Convincing insurance companies and jurors to award all reasonable and necessary damages takes practice and experience. The ultimate amount recovered is normally directly related to the attorney’s skills of persuasion and advocacy.

What Happens Next in a Personal Injury Case?

When you or a family member is involved in a personal injury , it’s extremely important to act quickly and make smart decisions from the very beginning of your case.

Being seen and properly diagnosed by an experienced and well respected health care provider shortly after your accident or injury is important for two reasons. First, making sure you get proper medical treatment is important to your short and long-term recovery. Second, it’s absolutely necessary in personal injury cases to have your doctors properly document (medical records, reports, photographs, x-rays, CT/MRI scans…) all of your injuries and treatment. This record or history will be used to confirm all of your injuries and injury related issues later in the claim, litigation, or trial process.

Doctors such as orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, physical therapists and chiropractors may be needed to help you recover as fast as possible. Economists, life-case planners, as well as experts in vocational rehab are sometimes necessary to help calculate, explain and prove your financial losses.

Investigation and Protecting Evidence

When it comes to investigating the incident that caused your injuries and damages, it’s important to keep in mind that evidence can be difficult to locate as time passes. Objects get moved or removed from the accident scene. Skid marks wash away with rain and other evidence such as broken asphalt, walls, and buildings get repaired or replaced. Damage to vehicles may get repaired before being photographed and the memories of defendants and witnesses fade over time (or after being coached by the other side). In some cases these people simply “disappear.”

To avoid having this happen to you, photographs and video should be taken and all evidence preserved. Investigators should be used to talk to and record the statements of the people involved in your incident and to interview all witnesses.

In most cases, experts in areas such as accident reconstruction or bio-mechanical engineering should be retained and used to review the facts and help establish liability, force of impact, and damages in your case.

Claim and Lawsuit Filing Deadlines

In almost every case, you only have a certain period of time to file a claim or lawsuit. If you fail to properly file or serve the required legal documents in a timely fashion, you will forever lose your legal right to pursue a claim or case against the responsible party. The requirements and time period you have to file a claim against a governmental entity such as a city, county or state is different than when dealing with a private party or company in a slip and fall or automobile, motorcycle, or large truck accident case. Medical malpractice cases also have their own unique requirements and limited time periods to take action.

Legal Documents

Legal documents called claims, pleadings, and motions are normally prepared to file with the court to protect your rights and maximize your chances of obtaining a full and complete settlement or verdict. Settlement demand packages are also sometimes necessary to attempt settlement of a case before the need for a lawsuit becomes necessary. Mediation, arbitration and trials are all used to obtain a final decision in a personal injury and wrongful death case.

Who Pays in a Personal Injury Case?

When it comes to recovering damages in most vehicle accident cases, most experienced personal injury law firms look to the responsible party’s automobile liability insurance or homeowners insurance. If the person who caused your injuries was employed with a company at the time he or she caused the accident and, was in the scope and course of employment, we may also pursue a claim against the employer company based upon a legal theory of respondent superior (the employer is liable for the wrongful conduct of its employees while on the job).

Other theories of liability may also be reviewed and pursued which might include a dangerous or defective product claim against the manufacturer or a maker of one of the vehicles parts or components (defective brakes, tires, unsafe/exploding gas tank design…).

If the other party has insufficient insurance or no insurance at all, you may be entitled to bring an uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist claim available against your own insurance company. In these circumstances, we will also use experts to undertake an asset background check to see whether or not there is any real property, bank accounts, home equity, or other significant assets to cover your losses. In many cases where the other party was either uninsured or insufficiently insured, we’ve been able to use these techniques to get payment on a large judgment against the other side.

The bottom line is that no settlement should take place and no settlement releases should be signed until you have full and complete answers to all of the above questions and issues.


Get Your Questions Answered Today!

Since 1986, we’ve truly enjoyed helping people, not big corporations and insurance companies. Our daily focus involves protecting the injured, the wronged, and the voiceless, not large businesses that routinely trample, abuse, and exploit the rights of the less fortunate.

Our drive and motivation has always been devoted to leveling the playing field for our clients and families against the self-serving goals of corporate greed and higher corporate profits.

We truly look forward to answering any questions you may have about your personal injury or wrongful death case. Give us a call or visit our web site for more help and information.

More About How and Why We Can Help You…

The nationally recognized firm of Jackson & Wilson, has been helping victims of personal injury and wrongful death since 1986. Both Lisa and Mitch have received the top “AV” rating for ability and ethics by Martindale-Hubbell and their firm is listed in the prestigious Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers. They are also proud to be multiple time members of the Million Dollar Advocates Club with membership limited to only those lawyers who have achieved a settlement or verdict of $1,000,000 or more.

More information, case results, and testimonials can be found at the firm’s web site at

Also feel free to call with your legal questions or needs: 800-661-7044

Copyright 2011 Jackson & Wilson, Inc. Jon Mitchell Jackson was named an Orange County Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association. Mitch is the founding partner and Senior Litigation Partner of Jackson and Wilson, Inc., a top AV rated firm by Martindale-Hubbell. The firm is also listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, an exclusive listing reserved for the best law firms in the United States. This recent award follows several earlier recognitions this year naming Mitch as a Southern California Super Lawyer and, a rating of 10.0 or Superb by the national AVVO lawyer rating system. Mitch also serves as a Judge Pro Tem with the Orange County Superior Court and in his spare time, enjoys Rotary International. Mitch invites potential clients, family, friends, and fellow Rotarians to visit his web site and say hello.
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