Can I Collect Damages After a ‘Minor’ Auto Accident?
Yes, even after a seemingly “minor” auto accident, you can claim damages like “pain and suffering.”
Car accidents result in expenses for the motorists involved. A trip to the E.R. or an auto repair bill is fairly straightforward to account for with proper documentation. But what about the stress, diminished quality of life, and personal losses suffered as a result of the accident? These damages are more difficult to prove, particularly in a seemingly minor fender-bender, but a good car accident attorney can do it.
When can you claim pain and suffering damages in a California car accident?
California is a fault-based “tort” state for car accidents. In other words, the person who caused the accident is deemed negligent and financially responsible for all reasonable damages arising from the crash. As long as you can prove another person’s negligence contributed to the cause of the auto accident, you can claim economic and non-economic damages like “pain and suffering?”
What are pain and suffering damages?
“Pain and suffering” is a broad term that includes physical pain and mental anguish. When the plaintiff has suffered physical injuries, they encounter physical pain and discomfort at the time of the crash and potentially for years to come. Mentally, suffering may include anguish, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment in life, fear, anger, humiliation, shock, stress, and anxiety. Significant mental pain and suffering can result in depression, explosive anger, loss of appetite, loss of energy, sexual dysfunction, sleep disturbances, and PTSD.
On the extreme end of the spectrum, a person may require mental health counseling and medication to cope with the fallout from the accident. To a lesser degree, a musician may have broken a bone that makes him unable to play his guitar during recovery, which results in anger, frustration, and depression; these feelings may not require mental health assistance, but qualify as “pain and suffering” regardless.
How are pain and suffering damages calculated after a minor car accident?
There is no standard formula for the collection of pain and suffering damages after a car accident. Sometimes the courts use a “multiplier” of 1.5 to 4 times the value of the tangible losses. So, for instance, if you broke your arm in a car accident, resulting in medical bills, lost wages, and automobile repair bills total $5,000, the court may award an additional 1.5x (or $7,500) in “pain and suffering” for a total award of $12,500. The multiplier model is often used in minor injury cases, where total economic damages are less than $50,000.
Another way of calculating pain and suffering is to apply a “per diem” model, where a dollar figure of pain and suffering is applied for every day of recovery. So, for instance, if the courts assign a per diem of $100 and it took you 100 days to reach “maximum medical improvement,” the pain and suffering damages would be valued at $10,000. The per diem model has been successfully applied to cases in Alabama, California, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas, Utah, and Washington state jurisdictions, as well as in federal courts. However, the daily approach is more commonly used in cases of severe injury.
What other damages can Californians claim after minor car accidents?
In addition to “pain and suffering,” a Californian motorist can claim:
- All related medical expenses
- Motor vehicle damage
- Lost wages during recovery
How does comparative fault affect the amount of money California drivers can collect?
You can collect damages after a minor accident even if you were partially to blame, but the amount you receive will be reduced. For instance, if you received a moving violation and are deemed “25% responsible” for the accident, your $100,000 damage award will be reduced to $75,000, as your liability costs you 25% (or $25,000).
Who cannot collect damages after a minor auto accident in California?
Under California law, certain motorists are prohibited from collecting damages after a car accident big or small:
- Uninsured drivers
- Drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol
These parties may not collect on pain and suffering, according to California Civil Code 3333.4.
Contact a Los Angeles attorney to collect maximum damages
Insurance adjusters are notorious for undervaluing pain and suffering, especially in minor collisions. It costs nothing upfront or out-of-pocket to work with car accident lawyers at Ellis Injury Law in Los Angeles. You only pay the legal fee and costs if we secure compensation on your behalf. Results are not guaranteed, but most plaintiffs achieve 3.5 times higher compensation with legal representation. Reach out to us today to see how we can help you.