Find a California Personal Injury Attorney

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California Personal Injury Law

Statutes of Limitations: The amount of time you have to sue whoever caused your injury or damage.

  • Personal Injury – 2 years
  • Damage to Personal Property – 3 years
  • Medical malpractice – 3 years from the date of discovery of the injury or 1 year from the date the plaintiff discovers or reasonably should have discovered the injury.
  • Legal malpractice – 1 year from the date of discovery to a maximum of 4 years from the date of injury
  • Other professional malpractice – 1 year from the date of discovery

Where to Sue:

  • Personal injury claims under $7,500 – Small Claims Court
  • Personal injury claims $7,500 or more – California Superior Court

How to Sue:

Small Claims Court:

  • Forms: Form SC-100, Plaintiff's Claim and Order to Go to Small Claims Court.
  • Where to file: Where the defendant lives or does business, or where the injury occurred.
  • How to notify the defendant (service): The defendant should be personally handed copies of the stamped forms after filing.
  • Proving the defendant was notified: You must fill out and file a proof of service, Form SC-104, at least 15 days from your trial date.
  • Attorneys: Lawyer representation at the trial is not allowed.
  • Appealing a small claim: Only the defendant may appeal, except where the defendant has sued the plaintiff (a "countersuit") and won.

California Superior Court: You should seek the help of a qualified personal injury attorney for help. The forms and process for filing a personal injury suit are complex. Errors could cause you to have your claim dismissed, cause you to lose your claim, or could even subject you to court fines.

  • Forms: Summons (SUM-100), Personal Injury Complaint (PLD-PI-001), and Civil Case Coversheet (CM-010). Make copies for yourself, for the defendant, and for the court.
  • How to File: Bring all the copies to the court clerk in the court where the defendant lives or does business, or where the injury occurred and pay a filing fee. The court will stamp the copies.
  • How to Notify the Defendant: A registered process server or have a person over 18 who is not involved in the case must give the stamped forms to the defendant personally and fill out a Proof of Service of Summons (POS-101). Then, bring a copy and the original to the clerk and file the POS-010, keep a stamped copy for yourself.

What to Do if You Are Being Sued:

  • Time to Respond to a Summons in California: 30 days.
  • You should seek the help of an attorney right away.
  • If the injury is related to an incident that occurred at your home or business, contact your insurance company immediately. Your insurance company should provide a lawyer to represent you if you are covered for the claim.

What to Do if A Judgment Was Entered Against You:

If you do not respond to a summons and complaint, a judgment will be entered against you, meaning that the plaintiff wins and you must pay whatever they claim you owe for damages.

  • Time to Set Aside a Judgment in California:
    • 6 months from the entry of default for mistake, surprise, or excusable neglect
    • Within 2 years if you did not have "actual" notice of the lawsuit
  • Seek the help of an attorney if a default judgment has been entered against you.

Ways to Collect Your Judgment:

  • If you are successful in your California personal injury lawsuit, you may collect your judgment by putting a lien on the debtor's property, having the sheriff take the money directly from the debtor's bank account, or even by garnishing the debtor's wages.
  • Seek help from a qualified California debt collection attorney to collect your judgment.
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