California has been ranked as the fifth worst state for drivers, with high numbers of DUIs and thousands of fatal car accidents every year. This means that there are a lot of wounded victims and even more families who must care for their loved ones during recovery. After being injured, a car accident lawsuit is the best way to get justice.
You may be facing medical bills and missed work time, not to mention the emotional toll of being in an accident. The other driver’s negligence caused this damage, so it’s only fair that you receive compensation to ease the financial burden. Keep reading to learn how to file a car accident lawsuit in California.
Who Can File?
If you have sustained car accident injuries, you can file a lawsuit against the other driver. Victims of an accident can include another driver, a passenger inside one of the vehicles, a pedestrian, or anyone who was injured in the crash. The only stipulations to file a claim are:
- The person filing must be 18 years old
- Only those directly involved in the crash can
- Must file within 2 years of the car accident
- Surviving family members if the victim died
Before Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit
Before suing the other driver, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention to check for injuries and begin a medical trail related to the treatment that became necessary due to the accident. Also, contact your insurance company and file a claim. After you’ve seen a doctor, your next step should be to do the following.
Gather Medical Records and Police Reports
As the plaintiff, you have the right to obtain any information that is in the possession of law enforcement regarding the accident. This includes witness statements, crash reports, and photographs.
The police report will prove who was at fault for causing your car accident and help you determine what damages you should be seeking from them. In addition, hold on to your medical records. These records will help you prove the extent of your injuries.
Determine the Right Court to File In
If you’re filing a car accident lawsuit in California, you’ll likely be filing in small claims court. This is because most car accidents are worth less than $10,000, and small claims courts handle lawsuits for damages under that amount.
The filing fees for small claims court cases vary by the county in California, but it’s typically under $150. You will also have to determine the correct jurisdiction for filing. This is usually:
- Where the accident occurred
- The address of the defendant
- Where the vehicle under dispute is housed
If you file your claim in the wrong court (for example, if you live in Los Angeles County but choose to file your case with Orange County), the court may dismiss your case, regardless of the evidence that proves fault on the other party.
Hire an Attorney
You should hire an attorney when you’re ready to seek compensation. In general, you want to look for someone who has experience with car accident cases and preferably has been practicing in California for a longer period of time. Your attorney must be familiar with local laws and procedures. Therefore, they won’t have difficulty finding the right people or places that can help with your case.
How to File a Car Accident Lawsuit in California
You can file a claim online with the help of an experienced car accident attorney, or you can file it yourself. Either way, it’s important to understand how this process works so that when it comes time for your case to go before a judge or jury, you have all the facts straight.
You might be able to receive a car accident settlement without litigation. In order to do so, you will need to demand payment from the other driver directly before filing a claim with them. If they refuse to pay or don’t respond, then you can file your lawsuit against them.
Submit Your Claim to the Court
You must file your small claims lawsuit within the time specified by law. If you do not file your claim within this time, you will lose any right to recover money from the defendant.
In most cases, you must submit your small claims lawsuit in person at the courthouse. However, some courts may permit you to mail in or submit your completed forms online instead of appearing in person before a clerk.
- In Person: You should go to the county courthouse or small claims court clerk’s office in person. You will need to bring identification and 2 copies of your small claims lawsuit, as well as any other documents that support your claim. It also helps to bring a witness, so there’s no confusion about the date you filed the claim.
- By Mail: If you file your small claims lawsuit by mail, be sure to send two copies of the complaint and all other required forms to the court. In addition, enclose an envelope so that a copy of your filed suit can be returned to you. The envelope must include your name and address. Also, you need enough stamps so that the court can send your filing fee and a copy of the complaint back to you.
- Online: You can file a lawsuit online in California if your local small claims court has adopted e-filing. This is not something you want to do on your own. If you need help with e-filing, consult with an experienced car accident attorney. They will be more familiar with the platform.
Notify the Person You’re Suing
In California, you cannot personally notify the person you are suing. A friend or family member can notify them in person or by mail. If this is not an option for you, then a process server or sheriff can deliver your lawsuit to the defendant’s residence or place of business in California.
Navigate the Legal Process With Help From Your Lawyer
Once you’ve decided to pursue your car accident lawsuit, the most important thing you can do is find a good lawyer. The legal process can get complicated if you don’t have experience dealing with these issues.
Contact Sycamore Accident Lawyers today and we will work with you to make sure that your rights are protected. We will do everything in our power to ensure that you get the compensation that you deserve.