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Damages Overview in Personal Injury Cases in California

Posted by Inna Gorin | Dec 20, 2017

The term “damages” refers to the type of loss that an individual suffers. In California personal injury cases, typically, there are losses sustained by someone in an accident.

California recognizes several types of damages in a personal injury claim. It's based on the concept that money will provide a form of fair justice when a person has been wronged.

Money damages penalize the party responsible for the accident and provide the victim with compensation for the losses they have sustained. In personal injury cases, the plaintiff (victim) suing is entitled to monetary damages.

They are specifically intended to compensate the victim for their injuries and return them to their financial position before the injury occurs. However, in some personal injury cases, damages are intended for more than just compensation.  

California Personal Injury Damages

There are specific situations where a court will attempt to make an example of bad conduct by the person responsible for the accident and punitive award damages designed to punish the responsible party.

The most common issue to address in personal injury cases is….what exactly is fair compensation for someone's injuries? In many personal injury cases, a compromise between the victim and the responsible party is challenging to reach.

There are generally disagreements on some facts of the case, such as the severity of injuries, loss of wages, and the future economic situation of the victim.

This is just one reason you need an experienced personal injury attorney to work on your behalf after an accident. Insurance companies are not on your side, and their primary goal is to settle your case for the least amount possible.

In fact, in some cases, an insurance company adjuster will attempt to get you to agree to a quick settlement offer to minimize their loss.

They will often try to give you the impression they are on your side by showing forced compassion. Don't be fooled by these common tactics.

See our blog: How Insurance Companies Try to Limit Your Recovery.

If you have been injured due to negligence in LA County, you should call a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer at Injury Justice Law Firm LLP.

Our attorneys will assess your damages for your case. Correctly calculating potential damages is often a vital tool for negotiating with an insurance company.

Our skilled lawyers have the experience to represent your damages that will put your injury case in the best position for a favorable outcome. Let's take a closer look at what type of damages are available in a California personal injury case.

Categories of Personal Injury Compensation in California

Damages awarded to a victim of a California personal injury will fall into basic categories.

These include special damages (economic damages) and general damages (non-economic damages). These damages are also known as compensatory damages or actual damages. Let's examine each category below.

Special Damages

Special damages are the financial losses the victim suffered due to their injuries. Economic damages in the context of personal injury damages mean money lost or debts incurred. This is frequently called “out-of-pocket” damages, proven by documented evidence.

This includes items like medical bills, receipts, and canceled checks. In simple terms, special damages have a financial, monetary value, including:

  • Medical expenses – this includes current and future expenses, such as surgeries and treatment
  • Loss of wages – includes how much money is currently lost and what was left unearned due to your injuries. May include overtime
  • Loss of future earning capacity – includes the amount you would have made in the future if you had not sustained an injury
  • Property damages – includes damage to your car, home, etc. The cost of repair

Keep in mind that these special damages listed above are typically predictable and pretty easy to calculate due to documented evidence. However, loss of future earning capacity is more challenging to correctly figure due to age, available jobs, or education level. Please consult with a Los Angeles, personal injury lawyer at our law firm for more information about special damages.

General Damages

General damages are typically intangible and don't have an easily calculated monetary value, like special damages.

They include the victim's negative physical and emotional experiences after the injury. General damages are commonly known as “quality of life” damages. They can't be calculated with medical bills or receipts. They are speculative but presumed to exist when special damages are proven.

Common general damages in a California personal injury case include:

  • Physical disabilities – includes any impairment after the injury has impacted your quality of life, such as family events, social events, etc.
  • Loss of consortium – includes companionship from family members, loss of financial support or intimacy
  • Pain and suffering – includes conditions after the injury, such as anxiety, stress, depression, insomnia

Again, it's important to note that non-economic damages are not always easily quantifiable, but they are actual damages suffered due to the injury. Typically, it's not an easy task to place a dollar value on months of sleepless nights worrying about your future. Call our Los Angeles personal injury law firm for additional information on potential general damages in your case.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are typically never awarded in a general California personal injury negligence case. They are only recoverable when the victim has been harmed by highly reckless conduct; The court decides it would benefit the public to punish the person responsible for the accident.

It's meant to deter similar reckless conduct in the future. In other words, the court wants to send a message to the general public not to take part in the same behavior. Under California Civil Code Section 3294, it states:

Where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant was guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice, the victim, in addition to the actual damages, may recover damages for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.

Punitive damages have to be proven by a higher standard of proof than a typical personal injury claim. There must be clear and convincing evidence.

An example of when punitive damages could be awarded in a Los Angeles personal injury case includes a situation where a drunk driver injured you. An experienced lawyer at our law firm may be able to argue your case for punitive damages successfully.

Call a Personal Injury Lawyer for Help

If you have been injured in an accident due to negligence, you need to call a Los Angeles personal injury attorney at Injury Justice Law Firm LLP.

Our lawyers will need to evaluate your case to determine options thoroughly. It's essential to note that litigation of your injury case is expensive. During the normal litigation process, other issues might come up, such as new information about the accident.

This could require hiring expensive experts to evaluate the scene of the accident. This additional cost could but into the damages you are rewarded.

Therefore, in most personal injury cases, it's typically beneficial for both parties involved in the accident to settle rather than go to trial.

However, our law firm certainly recognizes that there are personal injury cases where going to trial is the best solution.

Our injury attorneys will effectively advocate on your behalf throughout the process. Contact our law firm for a free case evaluation. Call us at 310-734-7974.

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About the Author

Inna Gorin

Inna Gorin, the founding Partner of Injury Justice Law Firm modeled the Firm after her ideals and principles of what skilled, aggressive and tenacious representation of individual clients should embody. Ms. Gorin's mission is to level the playing field, and provide her clients with the same level...


If you have been injured in an accident, our experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorneys will protect your legal rights and help you recover compensation for your injuries. We are available 24/7 for your risk free initial consultation in Beverly Hills, Encino, Glendale, Hermosa Beach, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Marina Del Rey, Redondo Beach, Torrance, Santa Monica, San Fernando Valley, Valencia and Ventura County areas.