Santa Rosa Personal Injury Lawyers
Accidents happen all of the time in Santa Rosa, California. These accidents often lead to injuries, which may require medical attention or can lead to mental, physical, or emotional damages. These accidents are often the fault of a negligent party. Whether by driving poorly and causing a car accident, not maintaining a property site safely enough to prevent a slip and fall, or making and selling a dangerous product, accidental injuries are a part of life.
Even though injury situations may be accidental, the victim should not bear the costs. Between an innocent victim and a negligent person, the negligent actor is more at fault—they should compensate the people they hurt.
A personal injury lawyer works diligently by your side to guarantee that happens. Whether by helping individuals recover an adequate settlement offer from an insurance company or by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party, personal injury attorneys have one goal in mind: make sure the victim recovers the compensation they deserve.
What is a personal injury claim?
A personal injury claim is a formal demand for compensation. Victims who have been hurt by someone else’s negligence make these claims to avoid paying for the costs of the accident out of their own pockets. By demanding monetary compensation for their losses, victims try to hold the at-fault person responsible for their actions in the matter.
Legal claims often begin with the insurance company that represents the victim or the negligent party. Depending on the type of personal injury case, the insurance company will send an adjuster to evaluate the accident by investigating the injuries, property damage, or other losses that it caused.
Based on the adjuster’s investigation of the accident case, the insurance company will make a settlement offer. It is important to remember that insurance companies are for-profit companies, so their concerns are not for the victim’s recovery. The settlement offer that they make is designed to seem enticing to the victim, while also drastically under-compensating them for their injury costs.
If the insurance company’s settlement offer is inadequate, victims can escalate their claim by filing a personal injury lawsuit. This is an official court filing that details what happened, how the victim was hurt, and why the negligent person should pay compensation. A trial date will be set and if no settlement is reached before then, a courtroom judge or jury will decide whether the negligent person should pay the victim compensation, and how much should be paid.
What types of cases does a personal injury attorney handle?
Because accidents can happen and hurt people in a wide variety of ways, personal injury lawyers handle lots of different types of injury cases. Each individual case has its own unique elements. Some of the most common practice areas include:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Bus accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accident
- Premises liability
- Workplace accidents
- Dog bites
- Medical malpractice
- Products liability
- Wrongful death
The key common feature is negligence or other wrongful conduct. In each type of personal injury suit, the person who caused the victim’s injuries or losses must have acted negligently or wrongfully. If someone else’s negligence caused you or a family member injuries, you do not have to seek justice in your personal injury matters alone.
How common are accidents in Santa Rosa?
Santa Rosa, CA, near Petaluma, Rohnert park, and Cloverdale, is a bustling city of over 175,000 people and the seat of Sonoma County. There are many businesses, plenty of event activities, world-famous wineries, and well-traveled thoroughfares like Route 12 and Route 101.
With all of this activity, it should come as no surprise that people get hurt in accidents all the time in the area. The largest hospital in the area, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, has 338 beds and regularly treats around 1,500 people in the surrounding area for severe injuries. Many of these injuries are the results of accidents, including car crashes, defective products, and falls on the job or outside of work.
Out of these types of accidents, though, car crashes are often the most common. According to City Data, there are around 10 fatal car accidents in Santa Rosa every year. And for every crash that is fatal, there are also hundreds of smaller accidents that cause significant injuries.
How do I know if I have a case?
Victims can prove their personal injury claim and recover the compensation they deserve by showing 4 things at trial:
- The other person had a legal responsibility to keep them safe,
- That other person failed to uphold that responsibility,
- That failure caused the victim’s injuries, and
- The victim suffered legal damages in the accident.
Because these elements have to be proven at jury trial, they influence all of the earlier stages of the personal injury claims process. Insurance companies keep these 4 elements in mind when they decide how much to offer in their initial settlement. For example, if it appears that the accident was caused by something other than the negligent party’s poor conduct, the insurance company will likely reduce its settlement offer.
In many cases, but especially for multi-vehicle car accidents and premises liability claims, the victim may have been partially at fault for his or her injuries. In these cases, California’s comparative negligence law comes into play in the legal system.
California has a “pure comparative fault law.” This means that when both the victim and the negligent party shared responsibility for the accident, then the victim’s compensation will be reduced by their percentage of fault.
For example, imagine a crash where 2 cars hit each other and a driver suffers $100,000 in losses. The victim files a personal injury claim and the case goes to trial. If the jury decides that the injured driver was 10 percent at fault for the crash, then the driver would receive $90,000. However, if the jury decides that the driver was 75 percent at fault, then the driver would only receive $25,000.
Personal injury lawyer experts can help victims prove each of the 4 elements in a personal injury claim. Professionals can build a case to show that the victim was not the one at fault for his or her injuries.
What should I do if my insurance adjuster calls me?
Whenever an insurance company’s client gets hurt in an accident, the company will send out an adjuster to see what happened and how bad the victim’s losses were. After the adjuster investigates the accident and the victim’s injuries, the adjuster will make a settlement offer.
This settlement offer is very important. Victims who accept their insurance company’s settlement money relinquish their right to pursue a personal injury claim. Victims cannot accept the offer and then file a personal injury lawsuit if they realize that the settlement offer does not cover all of their losses.
Unfortunately, this is often what happens, as the settlement offer is designed to entice victims. It usually covers medical bills and other medical costs that have already accumulated, and the offer is usually made right when the victim starts to feel the financial pinch from their accident and injuries.
Insurance companies maximize their profits by getting victims to settle their claim for as little as possible. For best results, Santa Rosa injury victims should strongly consider having a consultation with a personal injury lawyer before talking to an insurance adjuster or accepting a settlement offer.
How long do I have to file a personal injury claim?
Accident victims have a time limit for filing a personal injury lawsuit in California. This timeframe is governed by the state’s statute of limitations. For most personal injury cases, victims have 2 years to file their lawsuit. However, certain types of claims are different. For example, claims against public entities must be filed within 6 months of the date of injury. The statute of limitations for medical malpractice, for example, is 1 year from the discovery of the injury or 3 years after the malpractice occurred, whichever comes first.
Not complying with the statute of limitations can create legal issues. Lawsuits that are filed after the statute has expired can easily be dismissed by the person being sued. Even if the victim’s case is extremely strong, filing late will likely get it thrown out of court.
However, there are some exceptions and complications that can delay the start of this crucial time window.
The most important is the discovery rule. If it was not reasonably possible for the victim to discover that they had been hurt, it will delay the statute of limitations. The time limit for filing the lawsuit will only begin when the victim discovers, or reasonably should have discovered, the injury. This is especially important for medical malpractice injuries, where a doctor’s negligence causes serious injuries, but the problems do not begin to show for years after the mistake.
What damages can I recover for?
In a personal injury claim, victims can recover their “legal damages” by receiving compensation for all of the losses that they suffered in an accident. Case results are dependent on the unique factors of a case. Contrary to popular belief and what many insurance companies will say, damages are not limited to the victim’s medical expenses. They include:
- Medical expenses already paid
- Medical expenses that are likely to occur in the future
- Lost wages from missing work
- Reduced earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Property damage
- Loss of consortium for the victim’s spouse
- Punitive damages, in rare and exceptional cases
Damages are 1 of the 4 elements that victims have to prove in the legal matter. This means that a victim has to show that he or she has been hurt and the extent of the injury. Gathering and presenting this documentation is crucial for the success of a claim. A personal injury lawyer can help a victim prove the true extent of their legal damages in civil litigation and recover the compensation they need and deserve.
Economic versus non-economic damages
There are 2 main types of legal damages in California:
- Economic damages
- Non-economic damages
Economic damages are those that can be easily shown and presented in a monetary amount. Proving the extent of a victim’s economic damages can be as easy as showing the bills and receipts. Examples include:
- Medical bills
- Property damage
- Lost wages
Non-economic damages are those that are difficult to state in a monetary amount. They are often internal or emotional injuries, like:
- Physical pain from any injuries. The most common types of injuries include back injuries, neck injuries, traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, and other physical injuries.
- Mental suffering and anguish
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment for life
- Losing the love and best friend of one’s life
Just because a hospital does not bill patients for these losses, does not mean that victims do not suffer them. Because the victim would not have suffered them, were it not for the other person’s negligence, the victim deserves to be compensated for them.
How much is my case worth?
Every case is unique, and so is every jury that might be called upon to issue a verdict. For case results, it is very difficult to make a close estimate of how much a particular case is worth. However, there are some factors that play a stake in the case:
- Medical care required: Serious injuries that require extensive and costly medical care should increase the amount of economic damages that a victim is entitled to recover.
- Income: Victims who earn more will suffer more in lost wages.
- Painful procedures: Some types of injuries or medical procedures, like broken femurs or skin grafts, are known to be more painful. These tend to lead to higher non-economic damages.
- Losing life’s enjoyments: Victims who lose their life’s passion, like an avid runner who suffers permanent leg injuries, tend to recover more in non-economic damages.
- Comparative negligence: If the victim was partially to blame for the accident or their injuries, it can reduce the compensation.
How long will a personal injury case take?
As with the value of the case, the time it will take to bring a personal injury claim from start to finish can vary. While the statute of limitations requires the lawsuit to be filed before a certain number of years have passed, once the lawsuit is filed, it can take as little as one week for an adequate settlement offer to be made, or as long as several years for all appeals to be exhausted.
Some important factors include:
- Whether an insurance company or the negligent party, personally, is being sued
- Whether a novel or unsettled area of law is at issue
- Whether the court’s docket is filled up
- The victim’s intent to go to trial rather than take a settlement
How can a Santa Rosa personal injury lawyer help me?
Having an experienced attorney from one of the best law firms represent you throughout the personal injury claims process is crucial. A lawyer can:
- Handle all of the communications with the other parties involved
- Explain your legal rights, answer all your questions, and handle your personal information with care
- Deal with the insurance claims process
- Gather evidence of the accident, including statements from expert witnesses and witness testimonies
- Write and file the complaint in court
- Provide experienced legal advice and knowledgeable insight into the adequacy of a settlement offer
- Present the personal injury case to a jury
- Give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing that super lawyers are handling your case from start to finish
Is hiring a Santa Rosa personal injury attorney worth it?
Yes. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney is one of the best ways for victims to recover the compensation they actually deserve. You should reach out to an experienced Law office for a free consultation today.
From the start, as soon as an insurance company finds out that a victim is legally represented, the settlement offer that the client receives can go up. Insurance companies know that a lawyer will see through a lowball offer. And as the case progresses, the evidence that a lawyer can uncover in their investigations can challenge the insurance company’s narrative and show that the client is entitled to more compensation than the insurance company is letting on.
Additionally, many personal injury cases are accepted on a contingency fee basis. This means that the client will only have to pay their attorney if they win a settlement or a verdict.
Finally, in some cases, the party that was liable for the accident may be made to pay the victim’s attorneys’ fees.
When should I contact a Santa Rosa personal injury lawyer?
Victims should always reach out to a personal injury lawyer with years of experience at at Santa Rosa law firm as soon as they can. Waiting will only make the evidence stale. Getting a lawyer on the case as soon as possible helps the attorney gather the evidence that can lead to a larger settlement or verdict.
Contact our legal team at Cutter Law today through phone, website, or email, to get a free case evaluation from our experienced personal injury lawyers.