Damages Overview in Personal Injury Cases in California

Basically, the term “damages” refers to the type of loss that an individual suffers. In California personal injury cases, typically there are losses sustainedCalifornia Personal Injury Damages by someone in an accident. The state of 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 not only penalize the party responsible for the accident, but they also 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 provide compensation to the victim for their injuries and return them to their financial position before the injury occurred. However, in some types of personal injury cases, damages are intended for more than just compensation.  There are specific situations where a court will attempt to make an example of bad conduct by the person responsible for the accident, and could award punitive damages, which are 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 responsible party are difficult 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 the negligence of another 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. Properly calculating potential damages is often a strong tool for negotiating with an insurance company. Our skilled lawyers have the experience to represent your damages that will put your personal 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 (commonly known as 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 means money actually lost, or debts actually incurred. This is frequently called “out-of-pocket” damages, which can be proven by documented evidence. This includes items like medical bills, receipts, and cancelled checks, among others. 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 currently lost and what was left unearned as a result of your injuries. May include overtime
  • Loss of future earning capacity – includes the amount you would have earned 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 harder to properly calculate due to age, available jobs, or education level. 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 negative physical and emotional experiences of the victim after the injury. General damages are commonly known as “quality of life” damages. They can’t be calculated with medical bill 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 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 real damages suffered as a result of 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 on 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 extremely reckless conduct and the court decides it would benefit the public at large 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 a Los Angeles personal injury case includes a situation where you are injured by a drunk driver. An experienced lawyer at our law firm may be able to successfully argue your case for punitive damages.

Call a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have been injured in an accident due to the negligence of another, you need to call a Los Angeles personal injury attorney at Injury Justice Law Firm LLP. Our lawyers will need to thoroughly evaluate your case to determine options. It’s important to make note that litigation of your personal injury case is expensive. During the normal process of litigation, 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 reach a settlement rather than go to trial. However, our law firm certainly recognizes the fact that there are personal injury cases where going to trial is the best solution. Our personal injury attorneys will be able to 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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