Personal injury cases are a legal contest, with one party demanding money and the other trying
to not pay them. As with any contest, no matter how civil things seem
to be, there will usually be one party who is dissatisfied with the outcome.
In legal settings, when one party thinks the outcome of a claim or case
is problematic, they might be able to file for an appeal. In the appellate
system, the case will get another look from a higher court to determine
if the final decision needs revision or if the entire thing should be redone.
With that said, California does allow personal injury cases to be appealed,
but only under certain circumstances.
Who Can File a Personal Injury Appeal?
California allows both parties to file an appeal after a case comes to
an end. Most people assume that plaintiffs cannot appeal since the prosecution
cannot appeal in a criminal case, but this is not the case for personal
Furthermore, an appeal can be made by either party, even if they technically
“won” the case. For example, a plaintiff can file an appeal
if the judge or jury ruled in their favor, but they do not think they
have been provided enough compensation. Again, there are certain conditions
that need to be met before an appeal can be approved, though.
Viable Reasons to Appeal a Case Result
The reasons for an appeal are outlined in California law. To many peoples’
surprise, simply disagreeing with the outcome of a case is not a valid
reason to appeal it. Instead, there needs to be some sort of clerical
issue or clear flaw with the case or trial process.
There are five typical grounds to appeal a personal injury claim:
- Error in how the law was interpreted and used
- Jury misconduct
- Incorrect court procedures
- Lack of evidence to justify the verdict
- Damages rewarded are too low or too high
In regard to the first three items on this list, the mistakes themselves
are not enough to validate an appeal either. There must be something that
happens due to that mistake that compromised the integrity of the entire
case and that more than likely affected the case outcome. For example,
if there was an error in the interpretation of a law, but that mistake
did not have the ability to affect the judge’s or jury’s decision,
then it would not be enough to appeal the case.
What Happens with a Successful Appeal?
For personal injury cases, one of the most common outcomes of an appeal
is that the higher court orders a retrial at the lower court stage. The
new trial will need to use exactly the same evidence as before, though.
New evidence cannot be used, as this would give a sudden and unfair advantage
to one side or the other.
An appeal can end in other ways, though, including a new ruling from the
higher court. For example, if a defendant prevailed, but the case was
appealed due to a technicality, then the higher court could end up ruling
in favor of the plaintiff and requiring the defendant to pay a set amount
of compensation. Of course, at that point, the defendant could have a
chance to appeal to an even higher court if one exists and the same reasons
to appeal still apply.
Settlements Cannot Be Appealed
It is also worth noting that a settlement reached at the end of a personal
injury case cannot be appealed. Settlements are carefully negotiated agreements
between the plaintiff and the defendant absent of any court interference
or input. Because the matter is closed out of court, it will not go to
court for further review.
Also, except for forced arbitration, a settlement will be reached voluntarily.
Plaintiffs and defendants should be fully capable of deciding on an outcome
that they think is fair before signing the settlement agreement. If they
decide later that they are unhappy with the outcome of a settlement, then
that is more or less a personal issue, not something that would concern
the court or even the other party.
Avoiding Appeals Altogether
The appellate process for personal injury claims is not simple or easy.
It can be extremely stressful to find out that your victory as a plaintiff
in court is being appealed by the defendant. If your case was worth a
large amount, such as a six-figure jury verdict after being in a car accident,
then it is almost guaranteed that the defending insurance company will
want to try to appeal it, even if they know they do not have valid grounds
for an appeal.
To avoid the stress of an appeal, it is worth working with an attorney
who knows how to build a solid personal injury claim and negotiate a fair
settlement without the need for court. If you can lock in a great settlement
amount, then you do not need to worry about appeals at all. Of course,
there is no promise that any case will end with a settlement, but an experienced
personal injury lawyer should be able to read the opposition and determine
if a settlement is even an option.
For personal injury cases in the greater San Diego metropolitan area, you
can count on Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin LLP for fair and honest
(888) 998-2031 to
schedule a consultation
with our attorneys today.