How to File a Personal Injury Claim in California
If you’ve been hurt because of the actions of someone else. You have a valid personal injury claim – but where do you start? To receive compensation, you must file a claim. Where do you even begin?
Our lawyers explain how to file a personal injury claim in California.
Filing a personal injury claim is complex. If you’d like to learn more about how our lawyers can make filing your claim easy, contact us for a consultation.
10 Steps for Filing a Personal Injury Claim in California
1. Determine if you have standing
The first step to filing a personal injury claim in California is determining if you have standing to bring a claim. If you’re the injured victim, you likely have standing. If you’re a surviving family member bringing a wrongful death claim, you likely have standing.
There is no standing for near-misses, where a person was close by when something dangerous happened, but they weren’t harmed. A minor may need the help of a guardian ad litem in order to have standing to file. Once you determine that you have standing, you can proceed to the next steps in preparing your claim.
2. Identify the defendants
You bring a personal injury claim against the party or parties responsible for the accident. The person (or other legal entity) that caused you harm is responsible for damages.
Remember to investigate the underlying causes of what happened. A driver might be working on behalf of an employer, for example. If you’re injured on someone else’s property, the party in control of the property may be liable. A defendant may be a person or another legal entity like a business or corporation. There may be one defendant or several defendants.
There are several different standards for legal liability. Our lawyers can evaluate your situation to determine who may be a defendant in your personal injury claim.
3. See what kind of case you have
There are several causes of actions for personal injury. Your claim may be based on:
- Intentional torts
- Premises liability
- Product liability
- Medical malpractice
- Other personal injury
The legal basis for compensation is called the cause of action. You need to know what causes of action to state in your claim.
4. Find the court with jurisdiction and venue
In California, most cases begin in Superior Courts. These are trial courts organized by county throughout the state. Cases involving less than $10,000 may be heard in small claims court.
When the value of the case is $25,000 or less, it is a limited civil case. If it’s worth $25,000 or more, it’s an unlimited civil case. Jurisdiction and venue determine where to file the claim. The specific venue may be where the defendant residents, where they conduct business, or where the injury occurred.
As part of our representation, we determine the appropriate jurisdiction and venue to file your claim.
5. Know how long you have to file
There are time limits to filing a personal injury claim in California. Usually, it’s two years, but there are many exceptions. The type of case or the circumstances may make the timeline longer or much shorter. You must file the claim before the last day of the timeline. If you meet the deadline, even by one day, you’ve fulfilled the requirement, but you should never wait to prepare your claim.
6. Determine your damages
When you bring a personal injury suit, you’re claiming damages for the ways that you’ve been harmed by the actions of the defendant. California typically allows the victim to claim a wide range of economic and non-economic losses. To bring a claim, you need to know what you’re asking for.
There are many categories of losses. Many of them are overlooked by victims who try to proceed independently. Damages must be identified in the complaint and proven in the claims process.
7. Prepare your summons and complaint – and other documents
Once you have all the information you need, it’s time to prepare your legal documents to file the case. While there may be local variations, in general, you need a summons, complaint, and a civil cover sheet.
A complaint must contain:
- Court information
- Type of case
- Plaintiff information
- Defendant information
- Statement of jurisdiction
- Causes of action
- Statement of losses
- Prayer for damages
The California courts have created a form complaint for personal injury claims. There are also reply and cross-complaint forms available. The documents you submit give the court the information they need to process the claim. They also notify the defendant that they are being brought into court on a complaint for personal injury damages.
8. File your claim
When all your documents are complete, it’s time to file your claim. You file the claim in the court with jurisdiction. Lawyers filing on behalf of their clients must use the electronic filing system. People who represent themselves do not have to use the e-filing system, but it’s encouraged.
9. Pay the filing fee
There is a filing fee to initiate a personal injury claim. As of this writing, the filing fee is $435 for an unlimited civil claim. The fees are lower for limited and small claims cases.
10. Complete other steps involved in beginning a personal injury claim
Filing a personal injury claim is only the beginning. You must serve the defendant with copies of the legal documents. Discovery proceedings can start quickly. It’s important to be prepared for what comes after you begin a personal injury case. You must attend court hearings, prepare evidence and pursue your claim.
Lawyers for help filing a personal injury claim
Filing a personal injury claim isn’t easy. When you represent yourself, you must follow all the legal procedures and know the law just like you were a lawyer.
Our lawyers represent individuals and families in personal injury claims. We know that being injured is a life-changing experience, and we’re here to help. We’re committed to helping you get fair compensation for your injuries and harms. Contact us today to see how we can help you file your personal injury claim.