Calculating Compensation After a California Auto Accident

Car Accident Compensation

If you’re like most people, you understand that you are entitled to compensation after a car accident caused by someone else’s carelessness, but you aren’t quite sure what that compensation is supposed to include… or how it gets calculated… or how to go about actually claiming it (or proving it).

What follows is a general guide to the compensation available for a car accident claim in California, as well as the steps you can take toward getting the full and fair financial recovery you deserve.

Economic Damages

The first type of compensation available for a car accident claim in California is referred to as economic damages (or “special damages”). These are losses that are financial in nature. Unlike non-economic damages (which we will discuss in the next section), economic damages have a direct and demonstrable financial value.

Let’s look at some of the most common types of economic damages:

Medical Expenses

If someone else is at fault for your accident, you are entitled to recover reimbursement for your medical expenses. This includes things like:

  • Doctor bills
  • Hospital bills
  • Ambulance transport fees
  • Medical imaging costs
  • Medication costs
  • Surgical bills
  • Physical therapy / rehabilitation
  • Medical equipment and accessories required for your recovery

Lost Wages

Auto accident victims often end up missing at least a few days of work. In some cases, the victim spends weeks or months away from their job, either because they’ve been admitted to the hospital or because their injuries make them unable to carry out their job duties. In California, victims are entitled to compensation for lost income caused by the accident.

Loss of Future Earnings

If your injuries are especially severe, they might make it impossible for you to continue in your current line of work. You might have to learn a new skill or switch careers. In the event of disability, some people are never able to return to regular employment. Using objective criteria such as your pay history and your likelihood of career advancement, an experienced Bakersfield personal injury lawyer can help you calculate the compensation you should receive for your loss of potential future earnings.

Property Damage

The most common type of property damage in an auto accident is damage to the vehicle itself. In some cases, property damage compensation might extend to personal property inside the car, structures you own that might have been impacted in the crash, and so on. Depending on the circumstances, you may be entitled to recover for the cost of replacement or repair, or for the amount of the property’s loss in value.

Rental Car

Getting a rental car after a car accident in California is an important topic, and it’s a little different from other economic damages because you might need rental coverage to begin the day of the accident or soon thereafter. There’s a lot to say on the subject, and the specifics go beyond the scope of this article. However, you should know that you may be able to get rental car coverage under your own auto insurance policy or from the at-fault driver’s policy. In some cases (but not all), we may be able to negotiate coverage for a rental car while your claim is still in negotiation. We encourage you to call our office and talk about your situation.

Other Economic Damages

When discussing what compensation is available for a car accident claim in California, it’s important to remember that every crash situation is unique. You might have damages different from those outlined here. As a general rule, you are entitled to recover for any reasonable incidental or out-of-pocket costs caused by the defendant’s negligence.

Non-Economic Damages

As opposed to the economic damages described above, non-economic damages are losses you experience that are not financial in nature. Even though these are not monetary losses, they are significant losses nonetheless, and you deserve to be compensated for them.

The legal system can’t adequately make up for these losses, but it can do its best by awarding you a reasonable amount of money as compensation. An experienced Bakersfield car accident attorney can advocate for a full and fair valuation of your non-economic damages.

Common examples of non-economic losses that are generally recognized under California law include:

  • Pain and suffering / mental anguish
  • Emotional distress
  • Post-traumatic stress (PTSD)
  • Anxiety, fear, depression
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Loss of sexual intimacy
  • Loss of love, affection, or companionship
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Disfigurement and/or disability
  • Embarrassment, humiliation, or shame
  • Other psychological injuries

Punitive Damages

Before we close our discussion about what compensation is available for a car accident claim in California, let’s look at one more category of damages: punitive damages.

Punitive damages (also known as “non-compensatory damages”) are not intended to compensate the victim for their economic or non-economic losses. Rather, punitive damages are intended for just one purpose: punishing the defendant (and sending a message to others).

Courts will sometimes award punitive damages (and give the money to the victim) if the defendant’s conduct is so egregious that it deserves financial punishment, or where a defendant is so powerful that it will take a large financial judgment to get their attention.

Punitive damages are rarely available as compensation for a car accident claim. However, there are exceptions. Talk to a Bakersfield auto accident attorney whether punitive damages might be available for your claim.

The Law Offices of Mickey Fine Can Fight to Maximize Your Compensation

To learn more about what compensation is available for a car accident claim in California, please contact The Law Offices of Mickey Fine and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Contacting our office will help you take your first steps toward claiming the full and fair compensation you deserve.

We will never charge a fee for our services unless we get you money first. The initial consultation is absolutely free. Call 661-333-3333 or contact us online right away.

Car Accident
by Mickey Fine Law
Last updated on - Originally published on