With mild weather, numerous annual festivals, and the focus of local law enforcement in recent years on reducing crime, Riverside provides plenty of safe activities to keep its population and its visitors busy. However, even in a place where fun abounds, accidents happen. Many people don’t think about needing a personal injury lawyer until they have been injured and need compensation to assist with their recovery.
If you were injured in an accident in Riverside that someone else’s careless or reckless actions caused, you are entitled to pursue compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. Read on for more information about personal injury law and how the team of Riverside personal injury lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys can help you seek accident-related damages.
What Is Personal Injury Law?
As the American Bar Association explains, personal injury law is a form of tort law that focuses on holding a person or entity legally liable for injuries and other damages they cause to others. California law notes: “Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself.”
Liability in personal injury cases is proved by establishing the following elements:
The at-fault party (defendant) owed the victim (plaintiff) a duty of care. The duty of care in a personal injury case depends on the unique facts of the case. For example, if the case involves a car accident, the duty of care that one driver owes to another is to operate their motor vehicle in a safe and legal manner.
There was a breach in this duty of care. The breach is the defendant’s actions that led to the accident. Let’s say the car accident case in the scenario above involved an alcohol-impaired driver. The defendant, who chose to engage in the illegal and unsafe act of drunk driving, breached their duty of care to other drivers on the road, including the plaintiff.
This breach caused the accident, which led to the plaintiff’s injuries.
The American Bar Association adds that, in addition to proving liability, the plaintiff in a personal injury case must also prove damages. In personal injury law, damages refers to both the out-of-pocket and non-economic expenses that the plaintiff has incurred or will incur as a result of the accident.
Some damages that plaintiffs commonly seek to recover in personal injury lawsuits include:
Present and future medical expenses relating to the injury, including emergency medical treatment both at the scene of the accident as well as in the emergency department; transport to the hospital by ambulance or air; diagnostic testing; physician’s services; surgical services; prescription medication, hospitalization; physical therapy; rehabilitation; assistive devices such as wheelchairs or crutches; prostheses, etc.
Lost wages due to being too injured to work or missing work to attend injury-related medical appointments.
Loss of future earning capacity or lost business opportunities if the plaintiff’s injuries result in their inability to continue working in the same capacity as they did before the accident.
The cost of repairing or replacing the plaintiff’s personal property that was damaged or destroyed in the accident.
Physical pain and suffering related to the injuries incurred in the accident.
Loss of companionship and consortium, which is a damage sought by the injured person’s spouse for loss of physical and emotional intimacy if the plaintiff’s injuries are very severe.
In some cases in which the defendant’s behavior was particularly egregious, plaintiffs may also recover punitive damages. This type of damages does not compensate the plaintiff for actual expenses, but rather is designed to punish the defendant and discourage such careless or reckless behavior in the future. Your attorney can advise you if punitive damages may be available in your case.
Accidents That Riverside Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help You With
Nearly every type of accident that one can suffer in California is covered by personal injury law, provided someone else is at fault.
Some of the more common types of accidents that might lead to personal injury cases include:
Product liability issues, including dangerous drugs, defective car parts, and defective appliances. Manufacturers and distributors of products that Californians use every day must ensure that their products—when used as directed—are safe for consumers. If a defective or improperly labeled product causes injury or illness, the manufacturer and distributor of that product may be found legally liable.
Nursing home abuse and neglect, which is a cause for serious concern in California and everywhere else, both in nursing home settings as well as in home-settings where vulnerable people may be at risk of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.
Intentional acts, such as domestic violence, child abuse, and Riverside sexual abuse. In 2019, California expanded the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits filed on behalf of childhood sexual abuse victims until the victim reaches the age of 40, or five years after the abuse was discovered. Additionally, the state has suspended the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases for three years, allowing victims of abuse that occurred years or even decades ago to seek compensation for the damages caused by the abuse.
Premises liability claims, where an injury occurs due to an unsafe feature on someone else’s property. Property owners owe guests who are visiting their property a duty of care when it comes to the safety of their property. The duty of care is highest for guests who have been invited onto the property to do business. Property owners must also keep their property safe for social visitors, trespassers, and trespassing children.
Some individuals, after becoming injured in an accident that was caused by someone else’s carelessness or recklessness, choose to attempt to navigate the legal process of pursuing compensation without an attorney. This is almost always a mistake, as attorneys possess specific knowledge and skills that can greatly improve their clients’ potential for recovering fair compensation through a personal injury award or settlement.
Some of the services that Gomez Trial Attorneys can perform on behalf of their personal injury clients include:
Providing thoughtful guidance to help their clients understand the legal options available to them through the personal injury claims process.
Determining a value for the case based on the client’s out-of-pocket expenses and the impacts that the injury has on the client’s life.
Filing legal paperwork in the proper jurisdiction within the legally-mandated time frame.
Carefully examining the facts of the case to identify all potentially liable parties and all insurance resources the client might access to provide compensation.
Gathering evidence as well as testimony from eyewitnesses and experts that will help to make their client’s case in court. Often, personal injury attorneys rely on experts such as medical professionals or accident reconstruction specialists who have specific expertise in the type of injury the client suffered, or in the type of accident the client experienced.
Engaging in skilled negotiation with the liable party’s insurance provider in an attempt to obtain a fair settlement offer on behalf of the client.
Having candid discussions with the client about the pros and cons of accepting any settlement offer.
Representing their client’s case at pre-trial conferences and hearings.
Litigating the case.
Assisting the client in collecting any settlement or jury award.
Providing continued representation if the defendant files an appeal.
The “Average” (Case, Length of Time, Settlement)
In personal injury law, there are very few averages. There is no average amount that a case is worth. A case’s value is determined by:
The amount of insurance coverage that the at-fault party carries. Insurance most often pays settlements and court awards. While it is possible to file a lawsuit against a person who doesn’t have insurance, it is generally very difficult to collect that award, as the defendant likely does not have the means to pay for damages out-of-pocket.
The client’s credibility. If an injured person makes vastly differing statements about how the accident occurred, their credibility can become damaged, leading to potential difficulties. In this situation, the insurance company may hesitate to settle the case or it may be difficult to convince a judge or jury that the defendant is responsible.
The severity of the client’s injuries. More severe injuries often result in higher medical expenses, more missed time from work, and can result in more serious impacts on the person’s lifestyle as a result of permanent disability. In general, the greater the impacts of an accident are on a person’s life, the higher the settlement.
The clarity of liability. If the situation is unclear or there is not much evidence, it may be difficult for the injured person to recover damages.
The anticipated complications that the plaintiff will have as a result of their injuries. For example, spinal cord injuries frequently lead to complications that, throughout the plaintiff’s life, are likely to create the need for future medical treatment and hospitalization.
The injured person’s age, education, overall health, and occupation at the time of the accident. Individuals in the middle of their careers often recover more damages than someone younger or older, not because their lives are more important, but because they have more on the line; an established career that took years to build up and that may be significantly impacted by serious injuries, resulting in higher economic costs. On the other hand, individuals who had a lot of pre-existing conditions before the accident might see their settlement or award reduced because it is difficult to prove whether damages were caused by the accident itself or by a previous condition.
Just as there is no average value to a personal injury case, there is also no average length of time that it will take to settle a case. The vast majority of personal injury cases settle out of court. However, how long it takes to reach a settlement also depends on whether the court has a case backlog, as well as the plaintiff’s level of patience. Insurance companies will often offer lowball settlements as a way to attempt to appease an accident victim without facing the true costs of the case.
While these early settlement offers may be attractive, particularly as injury-related expenses continue to climb, it is often the most patient plaintiffs who receive the largest settlements. Large settlements are often not forthcoming until just before, or, in some instances, after the trial begins.
Riverside Personal Injury FAQ
Personal injuries often occur when you’re simply living your life. They’re usually sudden and accidental, and they can occur just about anywhere. Trucks crash into cars while they’re rolling along in traffic. People slip and fall due to poorly maintained walkways. Workers sustain injuries because of faulty equipment. Defective products fail. These unanticipated circumstances cause serious, catastrophic, and sometimes fatal injuries. They can also leave injured victims managing a lifetime of personal and financial consequences as a result.
Although people usually label these events, “accidents,” sometimes they’re not accidents at all. They are often the result of preventable acts, negligent circumstances, or bad behavior. You can’t always avoid a personal injury, but we created our Riverside Personal Injury FAQ to help you understand the potential consequences.
How do Riverside personal injuries occur?
A personal injury is any physical harm a person sustains due to someone else’s actions. They occur under varied circumstances and often involve negligent acts. Some common scenarios include:
Vehicle crashes: Collisions often occur when negligent drivers engage in what the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration calls risky driving. These can include drug and/or alcohol-influenced driving, distracted driving, speeding, and other careless behaviors. The most recent annual data from the California Office of Traffic Safety confirms that 2,119 people sustained injuries or died in one year due to vehicle accidents in Riverside County. Of these incidents, 220 involved alcohol consumption, and 342 were speed-related.
Commercial vehicle accidents: When a large truck crashes into a private passenger vehicle, the chances of serious or catastrophic injuries are higher than in a crash involving similarly-sized vehicles. The NHTSA defines large trucks based on a 10,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating. Large trucks involved in fatal accidents usually have a GVWR in excess of 26,000 pounds. Tractor-trailers, garbage trucks, dump trucks, and other commercial vehicles fit within the large truck designation. NHTSA statistics for Riverside County show that large trucks were involved in 24 fatal accidents during one recent year.
Premises accidents: Negligent property owners sometimes contribute to injuries when they fail to maintain their properties or warn of hazards. People fall on deteriorating walkways, stairs, and floors. Incidents occur in stores, play areas, and public venues. The CDC reports that older adults are particularly vulnerable to falls. Nationally, falls cause 28,000 deaths each year for people over age 65. They’re also a leading cause of injury for children 19 and younger.
Drownings: Property owner negligence is often a factor in drowning incidents. They occur due to inadequate pool safeguards, including a lack of fencing and security. Small children also drown in tubs and buckets of water. CDC statistics show that drowning causes more childhood deaths than any other accidental event. Riverside County’s most recent statistics show that 16 adults and seven children died due to drowning incidents and 17 adults and 94 children sustained injuries due to near-drownings in just one year. A near-drowning occurs when a victim ingests water and may stop breathing but doesn’t die. The temporary lack of oxygen often causes the victim functional, cognitive, and emotional issues.
Workplace injuries: 422 workers in California sustained fatal injuries while on the job in one recent year. These occurrences involved falls, violence (by animals and people), transportation, exposure to harmful substances, damaging contact with equipment, and other hazards.
Dog attack injuries: With 777 mail carrier dog bites reported in a recent year, California is the number one state on the United States Postal Service’s Dog Attack National Ranking List. When a dog attacks, they often cause serious injuries. They have sharp teeth that can easily tear into flesh. Under the California Civil Code, dog owners are strictly liable when their dog causes an injury.
Medical malpractice/professional negligence: When a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional commits a negligent act, they won’t necessarily tell you. You must not only detect the problem, you must also prove the provider’s negligence and comply with statutory time frames to make a claim. A medical negligence study conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers determined that medical errors caused 250,000 deaths per year nationwide. Often the cause of death goes unreported due to a documentation issue.
Product injuries: Products often cause injuries due to design, manufacturing, and packaging flaws, as well as inadequate warnings. Product injuries vary depending on the product. Defective products such as airbags, prescription drugs, medical devices, chemicals, and asbestos products can cause catastrophic or fatal injuries.
How do I know if I have a valid Riverside personal injury claim?
A Riverside personal injury attorney is your best resource for determining if you have a valid claim. If you choose to hire them, they can work on your behalf to determine if a person, company, or organization is legally responsible for your injuries. If the evidence shows that a negligent party injured you, a Riverside personal injury attorney can help you pursue a claim to recover damages.
When a responsible party has liability insurance, they often file a claim with their insurance carrier. The insurance company claims department conducts an investigation but their decision is often biased in favor of their insured.
If an insurer denies liability for your damages, you still have options:
Negotiation. It’s best to discuss your injuries with an attorney immediately after your accident. Even if an insurer denies liability, our Riverside personal injury attorneys can still push to recover damages for our clients. You have a right to negotiate and settle your claim up until the statute of limitations runs out on your claim. If your attorney sees no progress, there are other means to attempt to resolve your claim.
Mediation. If settlement discussions are not going well, your attorney can set up a mediation. In many cases, mediation is a required step in the litigation process. This is an informal process that brings the parties together for a meaningful exchange of information. An impartial mediator works with both sides to help negotiate a settlement. Parties sometimes resolve injury cases this way.
Lawsuit. When the parties can’t resolve the case informally, a lawsuit allows your attorney to present your evidence in court. The court determines if the other party was negligent and the amount of any damages you will receive.
How do I prove that someone else is liable for my damages after a Riverside accident?
When you file a claim for damages, the evidence must prove that the other party is liable. You must also prove that their negligence caused your injuries.
The negligence formula is a traditional framework for making this determination, and requires you to show:
The other party owed you a duty of care. A property owner must maintain, inspect, and repair their property and warn of hazards. For an auto accident, a driver has a duty to operate his vehicle safely.
The other party breached that duty. When a person or entity doesn’t comply with their duty, they are responsible for the consequences.
That breach was the proximate cause of your injuries. When you claim an injury, your evidence must show that the breach of duty caused the injury.
Your injuries resulted in damages. Your evidence must also show that the damages you claim were a result of the person or entity’s negligence.
This standard doesn’t apply to all situations, however. Dog owners are strictly liable for injuries their dogs cause. Product manufacturers, medical professionals, and certain others must comply with different standards of care.
Is an owner always liable for a dog bite injury in Riverside?
Dogs have some of the same instincts as wild, undomesticated animals. When a person owns or cares for a dog, they must accept that responsibility. Dogs often respond instinctively to everyday situations. They bite children who are too young to understand the danger. They bite mail carriers so frequently that the USPS publicizes an annual dog attack list to reduce the numbers. California statutes provide only one exception to strict liability for dog bites: An owner isn’t responsible for your injuries if you’re on a property unlawfully when the dog bites you.
How do courts determine liability for an injury caused by a defective product?
If a defective product injures you, those in the chain of manufacture, distribution, and sales may share legal responsibility for your injuries. You must prove defective design or manufacture, negligence, fraud or deceit, or that the involved entities failed to warn of danger. You must also show evidence that the defective product caused your injuries.
How do I prove that someone caused my injuries after a Riverside accident?
Evidence is crucial to proving both liability and damages. Regardless of the type of accident, no insurance company or court takes your word without proof. A Riverside personal injury attorney can help document your evidence and prepare it for presentation. Until your attorney becomes involved, you must do your part as well.
Evidence often begins to fade within moments after an incident occurs. Drivers move their cars. Property owners clear up maintenance issues. If you are the only one at the scene with a legal and financial interest, you must document whatever you can. Your cell phone is a great documentation tool. Use it to capture and preserve the evidence before it changes or disappears. If you’re physically incapable of moving, seek assistance from a bystander.
You should (if you are safely able to do so):
Get photos of the accident scene and the immediate area.
Look for witnesses and get their contact information.
If you fall, try to identify and take a photo of the problem that caused your fall.
If you are involved in an auto accident take photos of the vehicles’ points of impact and stopping locations. Document the damage, traffic signals, street layout, and other relevant information. Get a photo of the other vehicles’ license plates and the drivers’ licenses.
If a defective product injures you, remember that the product itself is evidence. Never turn a defective product, or its identifying packaging, over to anyone except your Riverside personal injury attorney.
When you’re injured, you should consult with a Riverside personal injury attorney immediately. Attorneys understand the legal issues and know what evidence they need to prove that someone else is liable. An early investigation is important to proving your case.
Can I file a lawsuit for on-the-job injuries in Riverside?
In California, your employer is required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance to pay for your work-related injuries.
However, you retain your right to pursue a Riverside personal injury claim in certain situations, including:
You sustain an injury due to your employer’s intentional act.
Your employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance.
A subcontractor, someone else’s employee, or an unrelated individual causes your injuries.
You sustain an injury due to a defective product manufactured by a company other than your employer.
You sustain an injury while on a property that your employer doesn’t own.
A non-co-worker or non-fellow employee injures you in a vehicle accident.
Should I talk to my insurance carriers about my Riverside accident?
Your insurance policies include language that explains your duties after an accident or occurrence.
Auto insurance. If you are injured in an auto accident, your auto insurance carrier requires that you report the accident. It’s important to contact your insurer even if you believe the other driver’s carrier has a duty to pay. This is important because:
You must allow your insurer to determine if they owe damages under your liability coverage.
Even if you don’t feel that you contributed to the accident, they have a right to figure that out for themselves.
Even if you believe the other person is at fault, that person’s insurer may take a different position. Or the other driver might not have insurance.
You may want to submit your medical bills for payment under your auto medical payments coverage.
Your insurer will want to determine if they have valid subrogation rights.
If the responsible person has no insurance, you may wish to make an uninsured motorist claim.
Workers’ compensation insurance. If you are injured on the job, your employer’s coverage pays your medical bills and lost income. You must report any injury you sustain on the job to your employer as soon as possible, and your employer must then submit a claim to their insurance company.
Health insurance. Hospitals and doctors want to know who is going to pay their bills. Your healthcare insurer and your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer confirm their duty to pay so you have continued access to treatment.
If your insurers have subrogation rights, they pay your medical bills and other benefits and advise you of any right to recover the money they paid. Your policies explain your duty to protect your insurers’ subrogation rights.
What is an uninsured motorist claim?
California motorists must have uninsured motorist coverage in an amount equal to the state’s minimum liability coverage: $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident.
The coverage applies under these circumstances:
The other driver has no liability insurance.
An unidentifiable hit-and-run driver injures you.
The responsible driver’s liability insurance company declines coverage or becomes insolvent.
The responsible driver doesn’t carry the state minimum liability limit.
When one of these situations occurs, your insurer steps in to pay the damages that the other person’s insurer should have paid. Your carrier investigates liability and evaluates damages. They negotiate your injury claim based on the other person’s legal responsibility.
Do I need an attorney to handle my Riverside personal injury claim?
When you’re seriously injured in any type of accident, a Riverside personal injury attorney can provide valuable services. They understand legal and damage issues and have experience dealing with insurance companies. Attorneys recognize the significant factors that contribute to a claim’s value. They negotiate aggressively with liability insurers to obtain the most reasonable settlements for their clients. If necessary, they file a lawsuit on their client’s behalf.
A legal consultation is an information-only meeting. You discuss your legal options and you decide if you want to make a claim or file a lawsuit.
Call Our Riverside Personal Injury Lawyers Now
If you were injured in a Riverside accident that someone else’s recklessness or carelessness caused, you face strict time limits for filing a personal injury lawsuit in court. Call now and let us help you understand the process of obtaining compensation for your injuries. The team at Gomez Trial Attorneys is committed to achieving extraordinary results for the people of Riverside. For a free case evaluation, contact us online or call (619) 237-3490.