In California, when you get injured in an accident that is someone else’s fault, you are entitled to recover financial compensation for your accident-related losses. The compensation you are entitled to recover is referred to as “damages,” and proving the amount of damages in your case is a key aspect of filing a successful personal injury claim.
What Damages Can You Recover in a Personal Injury Claim in California?
When you have a personal injury claim, your damages fall into two categories:
- Economic Losses
- Non-Economic Losses
Depending on the specifics of your claim, compensation may be available for both types of damages. In order to maximize your financial recovery, you must accurately calculate and prove your losses in each category.
1. Economic Losses
Economic or financial losses are those that have a direct impact on your bank account—either as a result of money going out or money not coming in. In a typical personal injury case, financial losses will include:
- Medical Expenses – As an accident victim, you are entitled to have all of your accident-related medical expenses covered. This includes medical expenses for emergency treatment, follow-up visits, surgical procedures, rehabilitation and therapy, and future medical needs.
- Prescription Costs – Accident victims in California can also recover compensation for their current and future prescription costs.
- Property Damage – If you were injured in a vehicle accident, you are entitled to have your car repaired (or replaced if it was totaled). If other personal property was damaged in the accident (i.e., your clothing, watch, or phone), you are entitled to compensation for the cost of repairing or replacing these items as well.
- Other Out–of-Pocket Expenses – From transportation expenses to the cost of hiring someone to clean your house or mow your lawn, you can recover compensation for any other out-of-pocket expenses you incur as a result of your injuries and medical needs.
- Lost Income – If you have been unable to work as a result of your injuries, you can recover compensation for your lost wages, salary, commissions, tips, benefits, and any other forms of income you would have otherwise earned.
- Lost Future Earning Capacity – If your injuries will prevent you from working in the future, you can recover damages for your lost future earning capacity as well.
2. Non-Economic Losses
Non-economic (non-financial) losses are those that are not monetary in nature, but that nonetheless have a dramatic impact on your day-to-day life. Common examples of non-financial losses in personal injury cases include:
- Pain and Suffering – Pain and suffering describes the physical effects of living with a traumatic injury. This includes acute pain (i.e., pain at the site of the injury), pain with exercise or movement, and chronic pain resulting from a debilitating injury.
- Emotional Trauma – Emotional trauma describes the psychological effects of living through a serious accident and coping with the effects of your accident-related injuries. In many cases, emotional trauma will manifest in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Scarring and Disfigurement – If your injuries will leave you permanently scarred or disfigured, or if you need surgery that will leave you with a scar, this is a form of non-financial loss for which damages are available in California as well.
- Loss of Companionship, Consortium, Services, and Society – If the physical or psychological effects of your injuries negatively impact your relationship with your spouse, children, and other family members, you can recover damages for loss of companionship, consortium, services, and society.
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life – In addition to all of the above, individuals who suffer debilitating injuries in accidents resulting from other people’s negligence can also recover damages for their loss of enjoyment of life.
How Much Can You Recover for Your Financial and Non-Financial Losses?
Once you determine what types of losses you have sustained (or will sustain in the future), the next step toward recovering damages is to calculate the amount of your losses. There are different methods for calculating damages for financial and non-financial harm:
1. Calculating Your Economic Losses
For current financial losses, calculating damages is a matter of adding up the costs you have incurred to date. This includes costs you have paid, as well as amounts that you currently owe.
For future financial losses, calculating damages involves working with your doctors and other experts to calculate your long-term medical and financial needs. What treatment will you need in the future? Is there a chance that you will need surgery? What is the risk that you will never fully recover? How much would you have earned were it not for your injuries?
These are all questions that need to be answered in order to calculate your future financial losses.
2. Calculating Your Non-Economic Losses
When it comes to calculating non-financial losses, there are two primary methods that are used. There is not a specific dollar amount that applies to loss of consortium or pain and suffering. Instead, non-economic losses are typically calculated in the aggregate based on either:
- The Multiplier Method – The victim’s financial losses are multiplied by a number, typically between 1.5 and 5, based on various factors pertaining to the severity of the accident and the victim’s injuries.
- The Per Diem Method – The victim is awarded a daily amount for his or her non-financial losses, and this amount is multiplied by the number of days that the victim is expected to experience these losses during his or her lifetime.
What about Punitive Damages?
Many accident victims have questions about their right to recover punitive damages. While these damages are available in some cases, California law reserves punitive damages awards for situations in which the conduct of the person or company that caused the accident is so egregious that some form of punishment is warranted.
If you believe you may be entitled to punitive damages (or would like to find out if you are entitled to punitive damages), we encourage you to schedule a free consultation to learn more about your legal rights.
Are You Entitled to Financial Compensation?
The first step of any personal injury claim is speaking to a lawyer about your legal options. After hearing about the case, the attorney can advise you of the steps for building your claim and how much you may be able to recover.
The Law Offices of Mickey Fine has achieved millions of dollars in recoveries on behalf of clients in personal injury claims. Our personal injury lawyer and his team thoroughly investigate your case and pursue maximum compensation on your behalf.
Please call (661) 333-3333 today for a free consultation. The Law Offices of Mickey Fine serves clients in Bakersfield, Manhattan Beach, and nearby areas of California.