What Damages Am I Entitled To Recover?
If you sustain an injury in an accident in California, you may be entitled to compensation for economic losses like medical bills and lost wages, as well as for non-economic losses like pain and suffering. In some special cases, you may even be eligible for punitive damages designed to punish the wrongdoer.
The damages available in a case depend on the specific facts of the accident. The best way to find out what kind of damages are available in your case is to talk to an experienced lawyer. The Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at Ellis Injury Law have secured over $350 Million on behalf of injured victims in Southern California. Here are some of the factors that we see affect personal injury compensation.
Types of damages available in a CA personal injury case
In most personal injury cases, compensation is intended to restore the victim, as closely as possible, to the position they would have been in had it not been for the accident. The one exception is in cases of intentional torts – where the wrongdoer intended to hurt the victim – punitive damages may be awarded to punish or deter outrageous conduct.
Regardless of whether the injury was caused by an intentional or an unintentional tort, the victim may be entitled to both economic damages (also known as “special damages”) and non-economic damages (also called “general damages”).
Economic damages are the out-of-pocket expenses that are caused by the injury. They are fairly straightforward to calculate because they match up with expenses and receipts. Some examples include:
- Past and future medical bills
- Cost of medications and medical equipment
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity and lost job opportunities
- Property damage
Non-economic damages compensate for more subjective losses so they are not easily measured. However, subjective losses are still eligible for compensation in California so long as a plaintiff can prove them with reasonable certainty. Some examples of eligible non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss in quality of life
- Loss of enjoyment
- Loss of companionship
Punitive damages are not common in personal injury cases but they may be awarded in special situations. Since they are awarded to punish a wrongdoer rather than to make a victim “whole”, they are only awarded in some intentional tort cases or strict liability cases.
Under California Civil Code 3294, punitive damages may be awarded when a jury finds that the defendant acted with malice, oppression, or fraud. They are awarded in addition to compensatory damages but they are harder to collect because, as a matter of public policy, punitive damages are not covered by insurance.
If you believe the circumstances of your injury may warrant punitive damages, discuss this with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can give you an honest assessment of your claim.
Damage caps in California
Some states place caps on the amount of compensatory damages that a claimant may receive in a personal injury case. California is not one of these; in most cases, an award can be any amount that fairly and reasonably compensates the victim for the loss. The one exception is medical malpractice; economic damages are not subject to a cap but the maximum that a party can receive for non-economic damages like pain and suffering is $250,000.
How much is your case worth?
It is difficult to say with absolute certainty how much compensation will be available for a personal injury. The compensatory damages are made up of economic plus non-economic damages but the non-economic damages first need to be calculated. A common method is to start with the total of the economic damages and then apply a multiplier, like 3 for an injury of moderate severity. The result may be that with economic damages of $20,000, the non-economic damages would be $60,000 and the total compensation would equal $80,000.
Many factors can affect this calculation, including:
- The severity of the injury
- Whether the victim was partly to blame
- Prognosis for recovery
- Subjective factors like how truthful the parties and witnesses appear
- Pre-existing conditions that may not have been caused by the accident
In any case, you can expect the insurance companies to err on the low side when calculating compensation. The personal injury attorneys at Ellis Injury Law understand how the industry works so we go to bat for our clients, advocating for full compensation.
Consult with a CA lawyer
At Ellis Injury Law, we treat every client with respect and compassion. We understand how much your case means to you and we fight for what it takes to make you as whole as possible. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer.