Typically when all medical treatment is complete and you have been discharged from medical care, your attorney will create a demand package to submit to the defendant’s insurance company. Once the insurance company has evaluated the demand package they will contact the attorney and begin settlement negotiations. The initial settlement offer is the starting point and it is almost always a low offer. Once an offer is made on a case the attorney must contact you to relay the offer, counsel you on the value of your case, and advise whether or not you should accept the settlement offer. From this moment forward the attorney will begin to negotiate on your behalf. In the event that settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, a lawsuit will need to be filed.
In California, plaintiffs have two years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit. Once a lawsuit is filed the plaintiff must serve the defendant and file a proof of service with the court within 60 days of having filed the complaint. From the date of service, the defendant must file an answer to the lawsuit within 30 days of having been served. Once the defendant files their answer, your attorney will begin the discovery process and your lawsuit will begin to take its course. Litigation is a process that can take several months or over a year before your case goes to trial.
Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution technique. The process is similar to litigation. The plaintiff and the defendant present their case before an arbitrator which both parties choose and agree upon. Arbitrators commonly have years more experience than the standard judge. The arbitrator will take into account all of the factors supplied by the attorneys representing the plaintiff and defendant when making their ruling. Arbitration is commonly a faster process than litigation and has fewer costs. Arbitration has as many pros as it has cons, and for this reason, the arbitration process should thoroughly be explained by a personal injury attorney experienced in alternative dispute resolution.
In the state of California if you have been in an accident and sustained an injury as a result of someone else's negligence you have the right to be compensated. Economic damages are out-of-pocket expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, and gas mileage for doctor appointments because of your injury.
Non-economic damages are subjective in nature and more complex to prove. Common examples of California non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of Consortium
- Loss of a limb or organ or its use
Punitive damages are not usually awarded in personal injury cases but that is not always the case. California Code, Civil Code CIV § 3294 (a), states “where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice, the plaintiff, in addition to the actual damages, may recover damages for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.” If you feel that you're entitled to punitive damages it is important that you speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can determine the damages you are legally able to recover.