How to Find a Good Personal Injury Attorney California

Why Should I Hire a Personal Injury LawyerAfter an accident, you may need an attorney to help you get the money you deserve.

In this post, San Diego personal injury attorney Curtis Quay shares his tips on choosing a good accident lawyer in California. For the past 15 years, Mr. Quay has successfully handled thousands of personal injury cases. See his suggestions below.

Table of Contents

  1. Search Online
  2. Legal Directories
  3. Online Reviews
  4. California State Bar
  5. What To Ask During the Initial Consultation
  6. Preparing for the Initial Consultation
  7. Understand the Fee Structure
  8. Personality

1. Searching Online

Google

When choosing a personal injury lawyer, start by searching via a search engine like Google.

You can search by using terms like “good personal injury lawyers near me” or “personal injury attorney” followed by your City and State. So if you live in Pasadena, CA, you would simply type, “personal injury attorney Pasadena CA” into the search bar.

This type of search will usually give you a list of attorneys in your area and a list of legal (and non-legal) directories. See more about those below.

 

2. Legal Directories

Avvo

Legal directories are like mini-search engines of their own, but focus only on attorneys. We’ll go over the most popular ones and one non-legal directory, Yelp.

Avvo

Avvo is one of the more popular attorneys directories. Avvo offers a lot of great info including ratings, law school attended, and contact info. More importantly, Avvo tells you if the attorney has ever been disciplined by the California State Bar. Visit Avvo by clicking here.

FindLaw

FindLaw is another popular legal directory that may show up in the search results. FindLaw includes attorney contact info and a bio. FindLaw lacks the robust review system you’ll find in Avvo, but given FindLaw’s search engine placement, we included it in our list. Visit them by clicking here.

Lawyers.com

Lawyers.com is owned by Martindale-Hubble. They’ve been around for years providing info on attorneys. Lawyers.com provides contact info, client reviews, and peer reviews. You can see more by clicking here.

Yelp

Although not a legal directory, Yelp has established itself as a go-to location for those seeking an attorney. Yelp includes contact info, bio, and reviews. Visit Yelp them here.

 

3. Online Reviews

Yelp Reviews

Many of the online directories listed above include personal injury lawyers reviews. When looking at reviews, make sure you don’t just look at the amount of reviews or overall ratings.

Instead, take the time to read the reviews – especially the longer ones. A long review might give you more insight into an attorney.

Another way to find attorney reviews is by using Google Maps. Once you’re there, type “personal injury attorney” and you’ll see results below with reviews.

 

4. California State Bar Page

California State Bar

No attorney search is complete without visiting their profile on the California State Bar website. On this site you’ll see their official contact info, educational background, and further detail on their disciplinary history, if any.

You can lookup a lawyer by clicking here.

 

5. Asking the Right Questions During the Initial Consultation

People with with attorney

Most, if not all, personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation. This is a great time to ask a lot of questions regarding their practice and your case.

Here are a list of questions to ask a personal injury lawyer during the free consultation.

  • How many years have you been practicing?
  • Have you handled my type of case before?
  • Where did you attend law school?
  • Do you exclusively practice personal injury law?
  • How long have you exclusively practiced personal injury law?
  • Have you taken any cases to trial?
  • Have you been disciplined by the California State Bar?
  • Ask for a list of their previous victories – both verdicts and settlements
  • How much do you think my case is worth?

 

6. Be Prepared During Your Initial Consult

Prior to meeting with an attorney, take some time to learn a little about personal injury law in your state. For example, most personal injury attorneys will not take a car accident case which solely resulted in property damage.

Additionally, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with tort law and legal terms like negligence.

 

7. Understand the Fee Structure

Don’t sign a retainer agreement without making sure you understand the fee structure. We’ve all heard personal injury attorneys say, “I get nothing unless you win.” This means they work on a contingency basis. While that my be true, make sure you understand what they get in the even that you do win.

In California, an accident attorney will typically take somewhere between 25% – 40%. However, many attorneys will also require that you pay for any fees incurred throughout the process. Your attorney will charge these fees on top of the percentage. What you’ll want to know is exactly what these fees include. For example, it might include the cost for experts, private investigators, and depositions.

Make sure you don’t get blindsided, as these fees can significantly cut into your award settlement.

 

8. Personality

People meeting with an attorney

The last thing to consider is how well you got a long during the initial consultation. Did you find it easy to speak with the attorney? If not, you might want to consider continuing your search until you find someone who is a good personality fit for you.

 

Did We Miss Anything?

We hope that this guide will help you find a reputable personal injury lawyer in your area. Did we miss something? If so, please comment below.

About the Author: Attorney Curtis Quay has over 15 years experience handling both plaintiff and defendant personal injury claims. Mr. Quay earned his J.D. at prestigious Temple Law School.

 

Reasons Why You Should Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer:

We put together this infographic dealing the benefits of hiring a personal injury lawyer after an accident. These reasons include:

  1. Medical Issues: A good attorney will work with a team of experts that can properly evaluate your injuries.
  2. Financial Issues: An attorney will help you with the financial issues that inevitably arise after an accident.
  3. Higher Settlements: An experienced attorney can often help you negotiate higher settlements with the negligent party’s insurance company.

 

Why Should I Hire A Personal Injury Lawyer?

Statute of Limitations in California Personal Injury Cases

If you have been injured in a California accident you are probably all-too familiar with the costs and expenses that can add up in the days, weeks, and months that follow. In 2013, one study found that the average cost of a bodily injury claim was approximately $15,000 and the average cost of a property damage claim was approximately $3,000. When lost earnings and reduced earning capacity are factored into the equation, a California accident victim can face truly staggering costs as they try to recover.

How can an accident victim be expected to manage these costs? Most Americans do not have enough in savings to cover a $500 emergency, let alone tens of thousands of dollars for damage control after an accident. In California, personal injury accident victims may recover compensation through personal injury lawsuits. These lawsuits, however, must be filed within a certain period of time. This period of time is known as the statute of limitations.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims in California?

So, if you’ve been involved in an accident, how much time do you have to file a personal injury claim for damages? The answer will depend on the type of injury you sustain, who you are filing the claim against, and when you discover your injury. For most bodily injury claims in California, however, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the accident that caused the injury. This means that the clock begins to run as soon as you are injured in the accident.

This, however, is the general rule. California law has evolved to include more specific time frames for more specific harms. It also includes protections for accident victims that may not immediately notice an injury.

  • Bodily Injury Claims: must be filed within two years of the date of the accident or within one year of the date you discover a related injury. Common causes of bodily injuries may include assault, battery, product liability, premises liability, and negligence.
  • Property Injury Claims: must be filed within three years of the date that your property is damaged or destroyed. Claims for damage to property may be brought for theft, trespass, fraud, nuisance, and physical destruction.
  • Injuries Caused By Medical Malpractice: must be filed within three years of the incident causing your injury or within one year of the discovery of the malpractice.

However, special circumstances may cause the applicable statute of limitations to be paused or accelerated.

Tolling the Statute of Limitations in California

What happens if there are circumstances beyond your immediate control that make it impossible for you to file a claim for damages within the appropriate statute of limitations?

California may permit the statute of limitations to be “tolled” in certain situations. Tolling the statute of limitations is basically like hitting the pause button. They are paused until the special circumstance no longer exists. Circumstances that may cause the statute of limitations to toll include having a defendant who is a minor, out of state, imprisoned, or mentally insane.

Government Defendants May Cause Limitations on Time Permitted Under Statute of Limitations

If you are injured in a California accident and believe that the government is responsible you are permitted to ask for the government to compensate you for your injuries. However, the process involved in seeking compensation from the government is different than for other defendants. If you are interested in seeking compensation from the government you will have to move quickly. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims is significantly shorter when the government is involved.

In order to recover compensation from the government, you must file an administrative claim with the government within six months of the accident that caused your injury. If you do not file this administrative claim within that six month period your chances of recovering compensation (from the government) are slim. (There are certain exceptions to the rule.) After you submit your administrative claim the government must respond. They have 45 days to approve or deny your claim. The government, more often than not, will deny your claim, if only to avoid the repercussions of not responding at all. If the government does not respond to your administrative claim the original two-year statute of limitations is reinstated. When the government issues a denial, you then have six months to file a personal injury claim in the appropriate civil court.

Hire an Attorney to Ensure Your Claim is Filed Within the Statute of Limitations

The steps you take immediately following a California accident can really affect your ability to recover the compensation you may truly need in the future. The best way to ensure that your personal injury claim for damages is filed on time is to hire an experienced California personal injury attorney. An attorney will focus on making sure that your claim meets all legal and procedural requirements while you focus on your physical and emotional recovery after an accident.

This article is from Citywide Law Group – a team of Los Angeles personal injury attorneys with a track record of success.

What Is Negligence?

Most personal injury lawsuits are based on the argument that another person’s negligence was the cause of an injury. What exactly is negligence, though? Negligence is defined as “the failure to behave with the level of care” that a reasonable person “would have exercised under the same circumstances.” Put another way, negligence is the failure to use reasonable care and which results in harm to another person. Negligence can be based on someone’s actions or failure to act in a certain situation.

Negligence is made up of four distinct elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. A successful negligence claim requires a plaintiff to prove each element of the offense. According to Los Angeles personal injury lawyer Sherwin Arzani, “Failing to prove one of these four elements will defeat a claim based on negligence.” Let’s take a closer look at the elements of negligence.

Duty

The first element of negligence requires that the defendant has a duty to the plaintiff to exercise reasonable care and/or act in a specific manner. What is reasonable care? Reasonable care is a subjective standard and is calculated by weighing facts and circumstances relevant to a specific case. Factors that should be of primary consideration in determining whether a person’s conduct lacked reasonable care include:

  1. Reasonable likelihood that conduct will result in harm to another;
  2. Severity of any harm that could result from the conduct; and
  3. The burden on the defendant of taking precautions to eliminate or reduce the risk of harm to others.

When does a duty exist? A person may be encumbered with a duty to exercise reasonable care in many situations. Common situations that may impose a duty include the defendant voluntarily assuming responsibility for protecting a plaintiff from harm; the defendant knowing that his or her conduct could reasonably harm plaintiff; or defendant and plaintiff establish a special relationship. Relationships that may trigger a duty include:

  1. Doctor/patient;
  2. Lawyer/client;
  3. Innkeeper/guest;
  4. Landlord/tenant; and
  5. Business owner/customer.

Breach

The second element of negligence requires that the defendant breaches his or her duty to the plaintiff. A breach occurs when the defendant acted or failed to act to uphold their duty. A breach is determined by asking if a “reasonable person” would have acted in the same way as the defendant under similar circumstances. A breach occurs when a reasonable person would have acted differently.

Causation

The third element of negligence requires that the plaintiff’s injury (or injuries) were caused by the defendant’s behavior. Causation is broken down into two subcategories: actual causation and proximate causation. States have variations and exceptions for determining actual and proximate causation, but the general concept remains the same in each.

What is actual causation? A plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s behavior was the actual cause of his or her injuries. If A was injured in a car accident after B drove through a stop sign and hit her car, A would only need to show that B operated the car that hit her. B’s car hitting A’s car was the actual cause of her injury.

What is proximate causation? is more complicated. Defense attorneys may try to sink a plaintiff’s case by showing that while a defendant’s behavior may have been the actual cause of an accident, it was not the proximate cause. Attorneys use a “but for” test to show proximate causation. A plaintiff must show that “but for” the defendant’s negligence, he or she would not have been injured. The injury to the plaintiff must be a foreseeable risk of the plaintiff’s behavior.

Simply put: the plaintiff’s injury must be a probable and foreseeable risk of the plaintiff’s behavior. For example, if a truck drives into the side of a building, it would be foreseeable that a person inside the building could be injured by the truck or debris. If a window breaks and falls on a person inside the building, it could be said that the truck driver’s negligence was the proximate cause of that person’s injuries. If, after the truck has crashed into the building, a burglar climbs through the wreckage and stabs someone in the building, the driver’s actions will probably not be considered the proximate cause of the subsequent injuries. Being injured by a burglar is not a foreseeable risk of negligently driving a truck into a building.

Damages

The final element of negligence requires that the plaintiff suffer some sort of compensable harm. Simply put, a court must be able to compensate a plaintiff for an injury they sustain. Generally, a physical injury or property damage that caused the plaintiff to suffer monetary losses will satisfy this element.

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If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident because of another person’s negligence you may be entitled to compensation. Finding an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident will help to ensure that your legal rights are protected.