California Personal Injury Law: An Overview

Unlike other areas of the law that find their rules in statutes (such as penal codes in criminal cases), the development of personal injury law has taken place mostly through court decisions, and in treatises written by legal scholars. Many states have taken steps to summarize the development of personal injury law in written statutes, but for practical purposes court decisions remain the main source of the law in any legal case arising from an accident or injury. However, the State of California has its own set of personal injury statutes. Here is a brief overview of California statutes governing some areas of personal injury law:

  • Statute of limitations
    • In California, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases gives an injured person two years from the date of the injury to go to court and file a lawsuit against those who could be responsible.
    • There is a time limit of six months from the date of injury to file an injury claim against a government entity, and claimants must adhere to a strict set of procedural rules.
    • In medical malpractice cases, the injured party generally has one year from the date she discovered a negligently caused injury to file a lawsuit, but in no event more than 3 years from the date of injury.  Further, a claimant must provide the malpractice defendant with a 90 day letter of intent to sue (and wait 90 days) prior to filing a lawsuit.  Much like governmental claims, the rules governing statute of limitations in medical malpractice are intricate and must be strictly adhered to or you risk losing your case.
  • Comparative negligence
    • In shared fault injury cases, California follows a “pure comparative negligence” rule. In basic terms, the amount of compensation you’re entitled to receive will be reduced by an amount that is equal to your percentage of fault for the accident.
    • If there is a dispute about fault, ultimately it would be a jury that would render a decision allocating fault between the parties.  However, in any settlement phase of a claim, this area is always an area for argument.
  • Dog attacks
    • In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a “one bite” rule.
    • In California, however, a specific statute makes the owner “strictly liable,” meaning the dog owner is legally responsible in most situations where their dog bites someone, regardless of fault or negligence.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to the fault of another, contact the experts at Sisneros Graziani LLP. We will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Schedule a consultation for more information about what we can do for you.