5 Factors That Could Affect Accident Cases in CA

California personal injury accidents happen every day. Car crashes, slip and falls, dog attacks, workplace accidents, and other incidents cause thousands of personal injuries and wrongful deaths each year. Civil laws offer a remedy to victims of personal injury accidents: claims to damages. Filing an injury claim against an at-fault party could result in financial compensation for the victim’s economic and noneconomic damages. The award amount recovered, if any, can depend on many factors unique to the case.

Factors That Could Affect Accident Cases

Insurance Coverage

One of the first elements a personal injury lawyer will examine when assessing the strength of an accident case is whether or not the at-fault party has insurance. Without an insurance company providing proof of financial responsibility, the defendant may not have the funds out of pocket to pay a settlement or judgment award even if the lawyer wins the case. Most attorneys, therefore, will not agree to take cases that have no insurance policies available to pay claimants.

The amount of insurance available can also affect the outcome of an accident case. An insurance company will only pay up to the limits of the defendant’s policy. During car accident claims, for example, all drivers in California must carry at least $5,000 in property damage coverage and $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident in injury liability coverage. A defendant may have more or less than this coverage depending on the case. A judgment award over the maximum policy limit may remain unpaid.

The Availability of Evidence

The provability of a case can also determine whether or not the plaintiff should file. In California, claimants bear the burden of proving fault during injury claims. Rather than the defendant having to prove that he or she was not negligent, the plaintiff has to prove the defendant’s negligence, based on a preponderance of evidence. The lack of any clear and convincing evidence as to the defendant’s fault could make for a weak or nonexistent case. Evidence against the defendant may include photographs, eyewitness statements, expert testimony, accident reconstruction demonstrations, police reports and medical records.

Fault Laws

Each state uses different fault and liability laws. These laws can have a significant impact on claims. California is a comparative fault state, meaning a defendant could allege the plaintiff’s comparative fault to reduce his or her liability for damages. If the courts find a plaintiff partially responsible for the accident in question, the plaintiff will receive a smaller compensatory award due to the state’s comparative negligence law.

California’s tort-based car insurance law could also affect a claim. Under this law, the party responsible for causing a car accident will be the one legally responsible for paying for damage repairs and medical bills. Tort-based laws allow plaintiffs to take their cases to court in California for maximum compensation, if necessary. In a no-fault state, on the other hand, a plaintiff may only go to trial if he or she has serious injuries.

Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations is a deadline for claimants on filing accident claims. Missing the statute of limitations in California could end a claim before it begins. Most courts will not accept cases filed past the expiration of their time limits, with a few exceptions. If an injured party files his or her case too late (later than two years after the accident in California), he or she may forfeit the right to recover compensation.

Severity of Injuries

The severity of the injuries in question can determine the overall value and outcome of a case. In general, California civil courts give higher judgment awards to plaintiffs with more serious and debilitating injuries. Injuries that cause permanent scarring, disfigurement, loss of limb, loss of life, disabilities, lifelong medical bills, and significant pain and suffering will typically receive greater settlements or verdicts than minor injuries. Factors related to the individual plaintiff, such as how the injury impacted his or her life, the victim’s age, and the victim’s income level can also affect a case’s outcome and value.