When another driver, a property owner, a healthcare provider, or the manufacturer of a consumer product is negligent – and when that negligence leads to an accident that injures you – do you really need to retain a personal injury attorney? Obviously, not always. If an injury is genuinely trivial – like a paper cut or a stubbed toe – we usually just shrug it off. Some injuries happen because of bad weather or because of natural disasters, and in those cases, typically no one is “at fault.” However, if you are injured because of another person’s negligence, the only certain and absolute way to find out if you have grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit is to seek the legal advice of a good personal injury lawyer, and in southern California, you’ll want to speak with an experienced Orange County personal injury attorney.

When a negligent person injures you – for example, an intoxicated or distracted driver, an irresponsible property owner, or even a negligent physician – you are legally entitled to complete compensation for all of the medical expenses related to your injury, beginning with the first healthcare provider who sees you and continuing until you have fully recovered. If your injury is catastrophic, permanent, and/or disabling, you’ll need the maximum available compensation to cover your medical expenses for as long as you require care or rehabilitation. You are also entitled to compensation for your lost wages, lost earning ability, and for any other expenses or losses related to your injury.

YOU NEED CANDID, IMPARTIAL ADVICE

A good personal injury attorney will give you candid, impartial advice based on years of experience handling personal injury claims. In fact, you might end up with advice that you didn’t anticipate. A personal injury lawyer may explain to you that you don’t really need to take legal action. Alternately, if you have been injured by someone else’s negligence but you have no way to prove it, an attorney will explain why a filing a personal injury lawsuit can’t help you. When you have a legitimate personal injury claim, and you can prove it, whether or not to move forward with the claim is still your choice. You’ll have to consider the pros and cons of proceeding with a personal injury claim. Have an experienced personal injury attorney outline those pros and cons to you and help you to understand how the law applies in your case.

Orange County personal injury attorney

If a dog breaks free of a leash and bites you, an intoxicated and speeding driver injures you, or if you fall and suffer injuries on a wobbly staircase at an apartment building, you probably have a solid legal claim. Obviously, any time an accident results in an injury, seeking immediate medical attention must be your first concern. However, if it’s possible, take plenty of photos of both the accident scene and of your injuries if they’re visible. You want to report the accident – to the police if it’s a traffic accident or to the owner if you’re injured on private property – and be sure to get the names and contact information of any witnesses. If it’s a traffic accident, be sure to get driver’s license and license tag numbers and insurance contact information, and make certain that you obtain a copy of the accident report from the police. When you consult with an experienced personal injury attorney, you’ll need to bring some documents, but the main points that you’ll discuss are the three facts that you must prove to prevail with a personal injury claim. Those three facts are:

  • You were injured in the accident, and you have the medical documentation to prove it.
  • The party you are suing was negligent in the accident.
  • The party you are suing caused your injury through negligence in the accident.

DOCUMENTS YOU WILL NEED

If you sustain a personal injury in an accident caused by another’s negligence, start collecting all of the pertinent paperwork. You’ll need it when you consult with your personal injury lawyer. Bring a copy of the police accident report, your driver’s license, and your auto insurance policy. If you were seen at a hospital, bring the medical documentation. Your attorney may also want to make a copy of your health insurance card. These documents need to be available from the start of the case if at all possible. Other documents you may need include:

  • your homeowner’s insurance policy or your rental agreement
  • any correspondence, including email, about the accident and your injuries
  • other policies including medical, hospitalization, veterans, or disability insurance

You should also have the name of the hospital you visited, the date or dates you were there, the names of the doctors who examined you, the names and employers of any insurance adjustors who contact you, and the dates and number of days you missed work because of your injury. Ask your attorney which documents he or she will require for your first face-to-face consultation, and be sure that you don’t forget to bring them.

At the end of your first consultation, your personal injury lawyer may or may not be able to tell you if you have valid grounds for a personal injury claim. Your attorney may need some time for further investigation. He or she may also ask you to see another doctor before proceeding with the personal injury claim. You attorney may also need time to investigate the person or persons who injured you. If the negligent party is unemployed or underemployed and has no insurance, a personal injury claim may not be worth your effort, although it’s possible in some cases that your own insurer might cover all or part of your injury-related expenses. Your attorney may also need time to determine if other compensation sources are available. In a traffic accident, if the vehicle that hit yours was not owned by the person driving it – let’s say it was owned by a parent, or by an employer – it’s possible that the vehicle owner might also be named in your lawsuit. Everything depends on the unique details of the specific accident and injury.

PERSONAL INJURY SETTLEMENTS AND TRIALS

When you take your case to an experienced personal injury attorney and your claim is filed, the case will probably be settled informally, outside of a courtroom. More than ninety percent of all personal injury claims conclude with a settlement that is reached through informal, out-of-court negotiations when both parties sign a document promising no further legal action. Personal injury attorneys routinely negotiate these settlements. It’s almost always better to reach an out-of-court settlement. You’ll save yourself time, money, and no doubt a good deal of grief and anxiety as well.

When a personal injury settlement cannot be obtained informally, the next step isn’t necessarily a courtroom trial. It may be mediation or arbitration. In arbitration, a neutral arbitrator hears both sides argue their cases and makes a ruling which may or may not be binding on the parties. In mediation, a neutral mediator helps the two sides arrive at their own agreement. If no informal, arbitrated, or mediated settlement can be agreed upon, then a personal injury lawsuit may proceed to a trial. A personal injury trial is an adversarial proceeding that includes the consideration of evidence, the interrogation of witnesses, a trial judge, and a jury of your peers. Both sides are allowed to challenge a prospective juror’s qualifications for reasons such as:

  • an inability to be impartial or an unwillingness to follow the law
  • being related to or acquainted with one of the parties in the case
  • having been a party in a similar case

After a jury is selected, your version of the events will be presented by your attorney. Evidence including medical documents, the police report, photographs, and more may be offered as exhibits. The defendant’s attorney may cross-examine your witnesses. When your side rests its case, the defense presents its alternate version of the story. When the defense rests, your attorney may present evidence in a rebuttal to the defendant’s evidence and arguments. Then a judge will instruct the jurors to make a determination based on the law and the evidence. If the jury cannot reach a verdict, the judge declares a mistrial, and the case may be retried with another jury at a later date, or another effort may be made to reach a settlement out-of-court. It is extremely rare for a jury to fail to reach a verdict in a personal injury trial.

Orange County personal injury attorney

TO LEARN MORE

Often, merely retaining the advice and services of a good personal injury lawyer is enough to make an insurance company treat you fairly and meet its responsibility to you. However, if you are injured in an accident, until you consult with an experienced personal injury attorney, you may not know if you have a case, or if you do, what it is worth. If you’re injured by negligence now or in the future, seek medical attention first, start compiling documents, and contact a personal injury attorney immediately. If you’ve been injured by negligence in southern California, or if you simply need more information about personal injury law, contact an experienced Orange County personal injury attorney at once.

By: Chris Purcell

Attorney Chris Purcell is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara College of Law. He exclusively represents the victims of personal injury and wrongful death. Chris was part of the team that won California’s largest-ever wrongful death judgment – a $150 million verdict for a family devastated by a tragic trucking accident. In 2011, he received the Top Gun Award given by the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association.