In personal injury cases, if you have sustained an injury, property damage, or other types of loss, you could seek compensation from the party was responsible for your losses.
The term compensation is commonly known as “damages.” Damages that are awarded to a victim of personal injury in the state of California fall under basic categories, including special damages (economic damages) and general damages (non-economic damages).
Both of these types of damages are commonly known as compensatory damages.
Personal injury is a complex area of law, with different types of compensation available depending on the nature of the injury suffered and the actions of the person who inflicted the injury.
Finding the right Los Angeles personal injury attorney to help you navigate these complexities will help you make sure that you are fully protected and that you get the compensation to which you are entitled under the law.
Let's examine some common types of compensation in California personal injury cases below.
Compensatory damages are meant to make the injured person whole again – to “pay them back” for injuries inflicted by the other party.
Special damages compensate a victim for monetary expenses incurred due to an injury.
In basic terms, an award for these damages should make the victim whole for money lost because of the accident that caused their injuries.
Medical bills are the most obvious item which falls into this category. If you are forced to go to the doctor because of someone else's action, it makes sense that they should reimburse you for the costs you paid.
In addition to doctor's fees, you may need to pay for things like rehabilitation, medical devices, or medication – costs you would not have incurred if you had not been injured, and which can be easily counted up.
Other injuries are equally easy to put into numbers. If your car was damaged in an accident by a negligent driver, you will have a repair bill; if you are forced to take cabs instead of driving, you will have receipts.
If you miss work or lose a job as a result, the amount you lose may be slightly harder to pin down, but it is still an amount which can be put into numbers.
Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are not designed to compensate a victim. Instead, they are intended to punish a defendant or make an example out of them.
In some cases where the defendant's behavior was particularly wrongful or egregious, punitive damages may be available.
Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages do not have the goal of “making you whole” after an injury.
Punitive damages have a different goal – to punish the defendant for his bad actions, in hopes that being forced to pay money above and beyond the actual amount of damage inflicted will make the defendant – and others – think twice before engaging in the same type of behavior.
In California, punitive damages are covered under Civil Code section 3294 that provides an award of damages when a defendant is found guilty of wanton or malicious acts or of fraud.
These acts could include sexual assault, aggravated battery, or serious fraudulent behavior that causes significant financial harm.
Damages for Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering damages are also compensatory, intended to compensate you for real losses you suffered as a result of the injury, are not quite as easy to put into numbers.
If a car accident leaves you with a limp and makes you unable to play soccer with your child, that's a real loss – just not one which can easily have a dollar value.
Other things – like the pain inflicted on you during and after the injury, anxiety and sleep loss as a result, and even damage to your relationship with your spouse – are similarly real injuries, which a jury will have to – difficult though it is – put a dollar value to.
A Personal Injury Attorney Will Help Maximize Your Damages after an Accident
If you are involved in a personal injury case in which the insurance company has already made a settlement offer, it is important to consider whether the amount they are offering adequately compensates you for your injuries.
While it may be easy to look at your medical expenses or repair bills and determine how much your compensatory damages should be, what about the pain and suffering you have experienced?
How do you determine how much that is worth? The truth is most personal injury victims do not know how to calculate the actual value of their case, which is why it is so important for anyone that has been involved in an accident to retain an experienced personal injury lawyer before accepting any settlement offer that has been made.
When you retain our personal injury lawyers, we will take the time to fully understand the extent of your damages and may even consult with experts to determine how your injuries will affect you in the future.
In addition, our attorneys will negotiate with the insurance company for you, ensuring that any settlement you accept adequately compensates you for the losses you have experienced.
Finally, if the insurance company refuses to treat you fairly, our lawyers will likely file a lawsuit in order to make sure you get the compensation to which you are entitled.
When you've been injured by someone else's negligence, hire an attorney who understands that your experience doesn't start and end with your medical bills.
We understand how important it is for people who have been hurt in preventable accidents to get the compensation they deserve and know how to obtain the largest possible settlement or award available under the law.
To schedule a free consultation with a lawyer, call our office at 310-734-7974 or send us an email through our online contact form.