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How Do You File a Complaint in a Personal Injury Case in California?

Was you or your loved one hurt in an accident in Stockton? If the incident happened because of negligence—failure to take due care—of another party, then you have the right to hold them responsible through a personal injury claim. This raises an important question: How do you file a personal injury complaint? Here, our Stockton personal injury lawyer answers the questions by providing a guide to the most important things that you should know about filing a complaint in a personal injury case in California. 

What to Do After Being Hurt in an Accident in California?

Well before you actually file a personal injury complaint in California, you will need to take action to protect your health, your well-being, and your legal rights. Here are two vital things that you should be prepared to do in the immediate aftermath of any accident in Stockton: 

  • Get Medical Care: First and foremost, prioritize your health by getting medical care. Emergencies must always come first. To be clear, even if you think your injuries are relatively minor, it is still crucial to see a doctor. Injuries from accidents can sometimes hide or become worse with time, so getting a professional evaluation is key. Not only will this help you heal but it will also create the medical records you need to pursue a claim.
  • Document Your Accident: In California, liability for a personal injury is generally based on negligence. To hold another party responsible, you need to prove that they bear fault for your accident. A prompt and thorough investigation is a must. Document everything about your accident. You should take pictures, get the contact details for any eyewitnesses, and secure all other relevant information.  

Most Personal Injury Claims are Settled (Dealing With Insurance Company)

In California, personal injury claims—whether a slip and fall accident, car crash, or any other type of case—will generally be handled by an insurance company. Most of these claims are actually settled outside of court, prior to litigation. In effect, this means that an actual legal complaint is not necessary in every personal injury case. You may be able to resolve your case through a claim made directly to the insurance before you ever need to file a formal legal complaint. 

To be clear, this does not mean that insurers are easy to work with. They put their own best interests above what is right for your family. When dealing with insurance companies during a settlement, you need to be prepared. You should have all your documentation in order, understand the value of your claim, and, if necessary, and get legal guidance and support from an experienced Stockton, CA personal injury lawyer.  

Personal Injury Claims Tip: Be Proactive. As explained by the Judicial Branch of California, there is a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. The sooner you take action, the better position that you will be in to get justice and financial compensation. Consult with a Stockton personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after a bad accident. 

How You File a Complaint Will Depend On the Extent of Your Alleged Damages

A complaint in legal terms is a formal document that initiates a lawsuit. Most notably, it outlines the plaintiff’s allegations against the defendant, the harm suffered, and the legal basis for holding the defendant responsible. In other words, your personal injury complaint is how you tell the court your story, what you believe you are owed because of the defendant’s actions, and why the defendant should be held legally liable. How exactly you will file your personal injury claim in California depends on the extent of the damages. Here is an overview: 

  • Small Claims Court ($5,000 or Less): If your alleged damages total $5,000 or less, small claims court is the appropriate venue. The court is designed for simpler, more straightforward cases. The process is faster and less formal than other courts, making it an accessible option for resolving smaller disputes. Of course, medical care is extremely expensive. Most personal injury cases are too big for small claims court. 
  • Superior Court, Limited Case ($5,001 to $25,000): For cases where the damages fall between $5,001 and $25,000, you would file your complaint in the Superior Court as a limited case. It is a track that is meant for more substantial claims than small claims courts can handle. At the same time, it is a type of case that limits the complexity and potential costs compared to unlimited jurisdiction cases. Procedures in limited cases are streamlined to expedite the resolution process. 
  • Superior Court ($25,001 or More): When your damages exceed $25,001, your complaint goes to the Superior Court under its unlimited jurisdiction. It is the way to file a personal injury complaint for all cases involving major injuries. The Superior Court complaint provides the full breadth of legal procedures and resources. As the process is more complex and time-consuming, it is especially important that injured victims are represented by an experienced attorney. You can be sure that the defense will have legal representation. 

Filing a personal injury complaint if complicated. If your case gets to the point where a formal complaint is necessary—which typically comes after a demand letter has been sent and settlement negotiations have stalled—it is imperative that you are represented by an experienced Stockton personal injury lawyer. The sooner you have an attorney, the better. 

Get Help From a Personal Injury Attorney in Stockton, California

At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton personal injury lawyers go above and beyond to help victims get the best possible outcome—including the maximum financial compensation. If you have any questions about filing a complaint in a personal injury case, we are here to help. Call us now or contact us online for your free, no obligation case review. With a legal office in Stockton, we fight aggressively to protect the rights of injured victims all across the surrounding region.