Frequently Asked Questions

Quick Resources

Personal injury law pertains to civil cases between private individuals or entities. When one party causes injury or harm to another, the injured party can seek compensation for the resulting losses through a personal injury claim. The Sacramento personal injury attorneys at Eric Ratinoff Law Corp want California residents to understand how personal injury law works. Consider the following frequently asked questions about personal injury if you are unsure about any aspect of a claim, and contact us today to schedule a consultation if you believe your claim holds merit.

Q: What are the grounds for filing a personal injury lawsuit?

A: An individual may file a personal injury claim after sustaining some type of measurable loss or harm due to the negligent actions of another party. For example, John runs a red light and T-bones Dave’s car, causing severe injuries and property damage. John’s insurance is insufficient to cover Dave’s losses, so Dave files a personal injury claim against John to recover his damages. Personal injury claims can also arise from dog attacks, slip and fall injuries, or as civil actions from the victims of criminal acts.

Q: How much is my personal injury claim worth?

A: To determine the worth of a personal injury claim, first calculate the total economic damages resulting from the incident. For example, after a car accident that resulted in severe property damage to your vehicle and a broken arm, your economic losses could likely include the cost of repairing or replacing your damaged vehicle and the medical expenses for treating your broken arm. If your injury prevents you from working until you recover, you can also claim the wages lost in that time as damages in your lawsuit.

Additionally, some claimants will qualify for pain and suffering damages to compensate them for the physical pain, emotional distress, and psychological anguish resulting from an accident. There is no firm rule for calculating pain and suffering damages. Some courts will use a “per diem” rule and award a set amount of compensation per day until the claimant reaches maximum recovery. Others will multiply the claimant’s medical expenses by a certain amount, sometimes two to five times, and award that amounts as pain and suffering compensation.

Q: How long do I have to file a personal injury claim?

A: Generally, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim in California is two years. This starts counting down on the date the injury occurred or on the date the plaintiff discovered the injury.

Q: What if I was partially at fault for my accident?

A: California follows a pure comparative negligence law, meaning that a plaintiff may recover damages, even if he or she is partially at fault for the incident in question. The jury will assess the facts of the case and assign the plaintiff a fault percentage, if necessary, and the plaintiff will lose a portion of the case award equal to this fault percentage. For example, a plaintiff found 30% at fault in a case worth $100,000 would lose 30% of the case award for a net total of $70,000 instead.

Q: Who pays the medical bills associated with my injury?

A: There are different answers to this question. The first answer is that if you have health insurance, then your health insurance pays. This includes private insurance, as well as Medical/Medicare. Once a recovery is made from your lawsuit, in most cases your insurance provider will also need to be repaid. So the amounts they paid out because of your injury will be negotiated and repaid from the funds recovered from your lawsuit, allowing for the insurance provider to pay their fair share in attorney’s fees.

If you don’t have health insurance, however, then either you pay out of pocket, or we can set up what’s called a lien. This is where doctors and medical providers will treat you on a “lien basis,” and they’ll keep a running tab of your charges, and then when we make a recovery on your lawsuit, those liens get paid out from your recovery.

Q: What will I have to do to be involved in a personal injury lawsuit?

A:  You are the most important part of any lawsuit. Initially, during the investigation phase you will need to provide as much information as you can regarding your injury. Once the lawsuit is filed, there will be a process called “Discovery” where there will be written questions, documents exchanged, and depositions. Depositions are when we all sit in a conference room with defense counsel and a court reporter, they ask questions, you answer honestly, and the reporter records it all. But the most important role you have is to recover. Follow up with all of your medical treatment and don’t give up! The treatment process can move slowly, so you must be patient. What we’ve found over the years is that people who actively participate in the treatment process recover quicker and also tend to get better results from their personal injury lawsuit.

Q: Won’t the defendant’s insurance company just take care of my damages?

A: Yes… eventually! Eventually they’ll do it, because we make them do it. For the most part insurance companies don’t voluntarily part with their money. They fight. They try to demean and belittle people who have been injured, because they know most people will just give up. It works in the insurance company’s favor to frustrate you, which is why you want to hire a lawyer. Once you hire a lawyer you never have to talk to that adjustor again. A good lawyer with trial experience will not let an insurance company take advantage of you. So do your homework and find the right lawyer who will go to bat for your case.

Q: Will the person I sue suffer negative consequences?

A: For the most part, that never happens. When somebody who has insurance causes your injury, that person’s insurance company must provide them with a lawyer, and when there’s a judgement or settlement, the insurance company must pay it. So in most cases, the person you’re suing never has to pay a dollar of the judgement or settlement. Even when the defendant doesn’t have enough insurance, the insurance company can pay the policy limits in full. When they do not, they can be exposed to an excess verdict, which is larger than the amount of insurance that the defendant holds.

So, if you’re one of the people who is concerned about the effect of a lawsuit against the person who hurt you, that’s a wonderful characteristic that you possess as a human being! But for the most part, you don’t have to worry about it. That person’s going to be alright.

Q: What is the difference between Attorney’s Fees and Attorney’s Costs?

A: Attorney’s fees cover the attorney’s time and overhead, including what the attorney must pay employees to work on your case. Attorney’s costs cover lawsuit expenses, such as court filing fees, expert witness fees, deposition fees, medical record fees, etc.

Our firm works on a contingency fee basis. This means we don’t get paid unless and until we make a recovery on your behalf. The great thing about a contingency fee is that if the case doesn’t work out, you don’t owe anything. And if the case does work out, you pay a percentage. Because it’s a percentage basis, lawyers aren’t motivated to just generate work, we’re motivated to efficiently generate as large a settlement or verdict as we can get you. The more we get you, the more we earn.

Another thing to note is that almost all contingency lawyers charge the exact same fee. So, if you’re going to pay the same fee, it makes sense to get the best lawyer you can find. There are a lot of lawyers who are in the profession to settle as many cases as they can as early as possible. But there are also lawyers like us who want to put their best foot forward and get the maximum recovery we can get for you. So be sure to do your homework and find the lawyer you

Q: Do I need to hire an attorney, or can I represent myself in court?

A: While you always have the option of attempting to represent your own interests in court, doing so without any legal training or experience is not a wise decision. Even if you believe your claim is open-and-shut, the average person does not know how to navigate the court’s filing requirements and deadlines. It’s very likely you could have your case thrown out before it even reaches trial. It may cost more to hire an attorney, but an experienced and reliable personal injury attorney will strengthen your claim and explore every available channel of compensation for your damages.

If you have recently suffered injuries you believe occurred due to the negligence of another party, call the Eric Ratinoff Law Corp today to schedule a free consultation. We will review the details of your claim and let you know what type of compensation you could expect from a lawsuit.