When you’re involved in an accident, the path to compensation often begins with an insurance claim. However, if negotiations stall or the insurance company’s offer doesn’t fairly cover your damages, your case may proceed to personal injury court. Understanding this process in California and the significance of having a skilled lawyer can be vital.

Personal Injury Claim vs Personal Injury Lawsuit

A personal injury claim is typically the initial step in seeking compensation for an injury, usually filed with an insurance company and involving negotiations to reach a settlement.


In contrast, a personal injury lawsuit is a formal legal action taken in court when a satisfactory settlement cannot be achieved through the claim process. Claims are generally quicker and less complex, often resolved without court intervention. Lawsuits involve a more detailed legal procedure, including filing a complaint, discovery, and possibly a trial, and can potentially result in higher compensation.


The decision to pursue a lawsuit is often taken when negotiations fail, or the offered settlement is insufficient to cover the damages incurred.

Need to take your personal injury case to court?


The Transition from Claim to Court: Why Cases Go To Trial

personal injury court

Your case might end up in California personal injury court for various reasons, such as disputed liability, inadequate settlement offers, or disagreements about the severity of injuries. When it becomes clear that a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiations, filing a lawsuit is the next step.


The transition from a personal injury claim to filing a lawsuit in California court often occurs due these reasons:

Disputed Liability

When there is a dispute regarding who is at fault for the accident, insurance companies may be unable to reach a consensus through negotiations. In such cases, the court via judge or jury can determine liability.

Inadequate Settlement Offers

Insurance companies may offer settlements that do not adequately cover the extent of the damages suffered by the injured party. If the victim believes the offer is insufficient from the level of settlement negotiations, they may opt for a trial to seek fair compensation.

Disagreements on Damages

The nature of the case, covering severity of injuries and the resulting damages, can be a contentious issue. Insurance companies may contest the extent of injuries or the necessity of certain medical treatments, leading to a court intervention to determine the appropriate compensation based on facts of the case.

Complex Cases

Some personal injury cases, especially those involving multiple parties, complex legal issues, or significant damages, may be more suitable for resolution through a formal legal process in court.

Statute of Limitations to File a Lawsuit

There is a time limit, known as the statute of limitations, within which you can file a personal injury lawsuit. As per California injury law, it’s two years from the date the accident happened. If negotiations are prolonged, claimants may file a lawsuit to ensure their case is not time-barred.

Duty to Shareholder Interests

Insurance companies have a duty to their shareholders to minimize payouts. This can lead to situations where they are unwilling to offer a fair settlement, prompting claimants to pursue a trial to protect their interests. As injury victims, know that insurance providers will not be on your side. That’s why having the right personal injury lawyer to represent you is critical.

Disagreement on Legal Issues

Sometimes, legal issues related to the case, such as the interpretation of California law or its application to the specific circumstances, may be in dispute, necessitating a court’s interpretation.

In essence, when negotiations between the injured party and the insurance company reach an impasse, or when there are disputes about liability, negligence, damages, or legal issues, pursuing a personal injury lawsuit through the court system becomes a viable option to seek a fair resolution.

Why Each Type of Evidence Matters
in Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit

personal injury court process in california

1. Filing a Complaint

The process begins with your personal injury attorney filing a complaint against the party at fault (defendant). This document outlines your legal claims and the damages sought.

2. The Discovery Phase

  • Exchange of Information: Both sides exchange evidence and information. This can include medical records, witness statements, and expert testimonies.
  • Depositions: Parties involved may be required to give depositions, or sworn out-of-court testimonies.

3. Pre-Trial Motions and Hearings

Before the trial, there may be various motions and hearings. These can determine what evidence will be admissible or even if the case should be dismissed.

4. Mediation or Arbitration

Sometimes, cases go through mediation or arbitration, which are less formal ways to resolve disputes outside of the courtroom.

5. The Trial

  • Presentation of Evidence: Both sides present their evidence, call witnesses, and make legal arguments.
  • Jury Deliberation: If your case is before a jury, they deliberate and make a decision on liability and damages.
  • Judge’s Ruling: In a bench trial, the judge makes the decision.

6. Post-Trial Motions and Appeals

After a verdict, there can be post-trial motions or appeals, which can prolong the process.

Why You Need an Experienced
California Personal Injury Lawyer

Having a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury lawyer is crucial in navigating the complexities of personal injury court. Here’s why:

  • Legal Expertise: Personal injury laws in California are complex. A good lawyer knows the ins and outs of these laws and can navigate the legal system effectively.
  • Evidence Handling: Gathering and presenting evidence in a compelling way is key to winning a case. Lawyers have the skills and resources to do this effectively.
  • Negotiation Skills: Even in court, there’s room for negotiation. A skilled lawyer can negotiate for a better settlement even at the later stages of the lawsuit.
  • Emotional Support: Going to court can be stressful. A good lawyer provides not just legal support but also emotional support through this challenging process.

California Personal Injury Court: Role of the Plaintiff When the Case Goes to Trial

As the plaintiff, your role is also important:

  • Stay Informed: Understand each step of the process. Your lawyer should keep you updated and explain the legal jargon.
  • Be Patient: Resolving personal injury cases in California can take time. Patience is key.
  • Provide Evidence: Be proactive in providing any necessary documentation or information that can support your case.

Questions to Ask Your Lawyer If Your Case Goes To Personal Injury Court in California

questions to ask your lawyer if your case goes to personal injury court in california

When your personal injury case related to a car accident is heading to court, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of your situation and the legal process. Asking your attorney the right questions can help you feel more prepared and informed.

How much experience do you have handling car accident cases that go to court?

Knowing your attorney’s experience with similar cases can give you insight into their expertise and familiarity with court proceedings. An experienced attorney is more likely to navigate the complexities of a trial effectively.

Will you be able to represent me throughout the entire trial process?

It’s essential to confirm that your lawyer will be with you every step of the way. Consistent representation ensures that your attorney is fully aware of all aspects of your case.

What are my chances of getting a favorable outcome in court?

While no attorney can guarantee a specific outcome, they can give you a realistic assessment based on their experience and the specifics of your case. This can help set appropriate expectations.

Do you think alternative dispute resolution such as mediation or arbitration can help resolve my case without taking the case to trial?

Understanding all your options, including alternative dispute resolution methods, is important. These options, done outside of court, can often lead to a quicker and less stressful resolution than a full trial.

Will I have time to prepare for the hearings or trial, and what kind of evidence should I bring with me?

Preparation is key to a successful trial. Your attorney should guide you on how to prepare, including what evidence is necessary and how to present yourself in court.

Are there any potential legal risks associated with taking my case to court that I need to be aware of?

Being aware of the risks, such as the potential for an unfavorable judgment or the costs associated with a trial, allows you to make a more informed decision about proceeding to court.

Work With the Right California Lawyer
for Your Personal Injury Case.
Contact Us For a Free Case Review.

Proceeding to personal injury court in California can be stressful. It’s a path laden with legal intricacies and requires patience and resilience.


The role of an experienced personal injury attorney here cannot be overstated. They not only guide you through the legal maze but also ensure your case is presented in the strongest possible light.


If you find yourself navigating this challenging journey, remember that with the right legal support, you can effectively fight for the compensation you deserve.


RTM Law specializes in filing a personal injury lawsuit in California in case out-of-court settlement negotiations fall apart. We can help take your case to trial and make sure your best interests are always prioritized.


Our California personal injury attorneys have the expertise and experience to deeply understand the value of your case, develop an effective strategy, and negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf. With our help, you can feel confident that you’re getting the justice you deserve.



    We Help Accident Victims File
    a Personal Injury Claim in California

    Our California personal injury attorneys handle a wide range of personal injury claims in several areas, including:

    ✔ Anaheim, CA
    ✔ Bakersfield, CA

    ✔ Buena Park, CA
    ✔ Chula Vista, CA
    ✔ Compton, CA
    ✔ Costa Mesa, CA
    ✔ Dana Point, CA
    ✔ Fountain Valley, CA
    ✔ Glendale, CA
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    ✔ Inglewood, CA

    ✔ Irvine, CA
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    ✔ Laguna Hills, CA
    ✔ Laguna Niguel, CA
    ✔ Long Beach, CA
    ✔ Los Angeles, CA
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    ✔ Newport Beach, CA
    ✔ Orange County, CA
    ✔ Pasadena, CA
    ✔ Riverside, CA

    ✔ San Bernardino, CA
    ✔ San Clemente, CA

    ✔ San Diego, CA
    ✔ San Juan Capistrano, CA
    ✔ Santa Ana, CA
    ✔ Seal Beach, CA
    ✔ Torrance, CA
    ✔ Tustin, CA
    ✔ Visalia, CA

    ✔ Vista, CA
    ✔ Westminster, CA