LA traffic is legendary, and with all of that congestion comes a serious risk of car accidents. Unfortunately, car wrecks in LA County are on the rise. The Los Angeles Times reports that 21% more people were killed in traffic collisions in 2021 than in 2020. The same article also notes an increasing risk to pedestrians, with 486 injuries and 128 fatalities in 2021.
Those who've been seriously hurt, or whose loved ones were tragically killed in a car wreck may be entitled to significant compensation for expenses that include but aren't limited to:
- Property damage
- Hospital bills and long-term health care costs
- Lost wages
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death
- Punitive damages
Determining what your case is worth will depend on how seriously you or your loved one was injured and how that injury impacted your ability to continue with your life, both professionally and emotionally.
Suing for Economic Damages After a Car Wreck
Victims who've suffered injury or property damage in a car wreck caused by someone else are generally entitled to compensatory damages. Compensatory claims for economic relief are calculated based on the specific amount of economic loss that occurred due to the wreck. In theory, calculating your economic loss should be easy, but various factors can muddy the water.
Property damage claims are separate from personal injury claims. In California, drivers are required by law to carry liability insurance that covers property damage in addition to bodily injury. If the driver who hit you caused damage to your vehicle or other belongings, you're likely entitled to recover costs associated with the replacement value of the property.
Like property damages, you can sue to recover medical expenses resulting from a car wreck caused by another's negligence or recklessness. Average costs for common expenses associated with a car wreck include:
- Ambulance transport – $1,189
- Life flight – between $12,000 and $25,000
- Emergency care – $2,200
- Hospital stay – $11,000 or more per night
These costs can vary greatly depending on how extensive you or your loved one's injuries are, and ongoing medical needs will severely impact your financial well-being. Medical debt is the number one reason people file for bankruptcy in the United States, and it's imperative those who've been financially impacted by injuries sustained in a car wreck sue for the economic relief they deserve.
In addition to property damage and personal injury, you may have to take time off work, resulting in lost wages. Again, the severity of your injuries may require you to take months off work, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars lost due to your recovery. In a worst-case scenario, you or your loved one may never be able to work again.
Suing for Non-Economic Damages After a Car Wreck
Non-economic compensatory damages pertain to costs associated with losses that are subjective. Pursuant to California law, non-economic compensatory damages include but aren't limited to:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of society and companionship
- Loss of consortium
Calculating non-economic losses won't be black and white, and there's no set formula in California for determining what the victim of a car wreck is owed in terms of pain and suffering or loss of consortium. Often, the amount awarded to the victim or victims seeking non-economic losses will be determined by a jury. Importantly, there is no maximum amount that can be awarded in car accident cases, and an experienced attorney will help you understand what you're entitled to recover.
Suing for Punitive Damages After a Car Wreck
Punitive damages are also considered non-economic, and you may be entitled to sue for punitive damages if the driver who hit you exhibited egregious disregard for your well-being. These claims are designed to impose financial punishment on the wrongdoer, and there is no cap to the amount you may sue for.
Calculating How Much You Can Sue for after a Car Wreck in LA
In calculating how much you should sue for after you've been in a car wreck caused by someone else, you'll need to consider both:
- Economic damages
- Non-economic damages
Economic damages are evidenced by good record-keeping that evidences the actual expenses you incurred because of the wreck. These damages can easily be tens of thousands of dollars and are designed to help you recover financially.
In addition to your actual expenses, your attorney may advise you to sue for non-economic damages for which there is no maximum amount. These claims are designed to compensate you for emotional anguish. Finally, punitive damages may be justified in scenarios where the wrongdoer's actions are deserving of financial punishment.