What Are Personal Injury Damages?
After a serious personal injury, medical professionals may be able to heal some of the wounds that the victim sustained. However, many people continue to feel the effects of their injuries – physically, financially and emotionally – for years to come. A successful personal injury claim is intended to make the victim “whole” again after an injury by awarding an appropriate amount of damages.
What Are Damages?
In personal injury claims, damages are the losses for which injured parties can seek financial compensation. Damage calculations are based on a wide range of factors, including the type of injury sustained, the past and future needs of the victim, the circumstances of the accident and the conduct of the responsible party. Calculating damages is not a “one size fits all” endeavor; each case is unique and courts award damages very carefully to ensure justice is served as appropriate in each case.
What Is My Personal Injury Case Worth?
As attorneys, this is one of the most common questions we hear from clients during their initial consultation. Understandably, most of them want to know what kind of compensation they can expect, and whether it will be enough to cover their medical bills, lost wages and other expenses.
In truth, no attorney can guarantee a certain result for an injury claim. Not only is it against our rules of professional responsibility, but it is also irresponsible and unethical. With so many unique variables in each case, it is impossible to know what the final result will be. What we can provide, however, is a picture of our past results in similar cases and an overview of what damages we may be able to pursue.
Three Types of Personal Injury Damages in California
Compensatory damages in California fall into three major categories:
1. Special damages – Special damages, also called economic damages, are the easiest to identify and quantify in personal injury claims. These damages compensate injured parties for their
out-of-pocket expenses associated with the injury, which may include:
- Lost wages
- Past and future medical expenses, including treatment, surgery, medication, rehabilitation, physical therapy and any necessary modifications to the victim’s home, workspace or vehicle
- Replacement of lost property or repairs to damaged property
- Loss of future earning potential and job opportunities
2. General damages – General damages, which are sometimes called noneconomic damages, are less tangible than special damages. They are meant to compensate injury victims for their pain and emotional suffering caused by an injury. In assessing one’s general damages, courts may consider:
- Emotional distress, which may include grief, anxiety, humiliation, anger and other suffering brought on by the injury
- The effects of the injury or disability on the victim’s quality of life
- Physical pain and suffering
3. Punitive damages – Punitive damages are unique because they are not designed to compensate the victim of an injury. Rather, they are intended to punish the defendant for misconduct or make an example of the defendant to discourage similar behavior by others. These damages are not available in all personal injury claims, so it is important to work with an attorney who knows how to pursue them appropriately and fight for the maximum damages award.
Wrongful Death Damages
Losing a loved one because of someone else’s negligence is heartbreaking. While no amount of money can turn back the clock and bring them back, a wrongful death claim can ease the financial strain of the loss so those left behind can focus on grieving and recovering.
All of the damages above may apply in wrongful death claims, particularly if the deceased incurred medical bills or other expenses in between the accident and the time of death. In addition, there are several types of damages that are available to compensate the deceased person’s next of kin:
- Funeral costs – Funerals can quickly get expensive, particularly when the death was an unforeseen accident. Wrongful death damages can compensate families for these costs.
- Loss of future income – If the accident victim was a breadwinner in his or her household, the family is left with a much smaller income. These damages are often based on the deceased’s career, prospects and life expectancy.
- Loss of consortium – This refers to a loss of love or companionship. Loss of consortium can be pursued by anyone who is eligible to bring a wrongful death claim, but is most likely to be awarded if the deceased person had minor children who will miss out on their parental love and guidance.
Limits on Damages
There are several factors that can limit the damages recovered by a personal injury plaintiff. For example:
- Punitive damages are not awarded in injury cases involving mere negligence. In cases involving negligence, the law does not support punishing the defendant for his or her conduct, which is the purpose of punitive damages.
- In order to recover damages for future expenses, such as ongoing medical care, the plaintiff must show with reasonable certainty that those expenses will be incurred.
- By statute, general/noneconomic damages in medical malpractice claims are limited to $250,000.
- There are also certain caps on the damages available to uninsured drivers, even those who are not at fault in an accident.
We Know How to Pursue Every Dollar You Deserve
At Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP, success is a tradition. When you work with our team of highly trained, experienced personal injury lawyers, you benefit from our years of experience and a reputation that makes the opposition sit up and take notice.
We have secured more million-dollar verdicts and settlements than any other law firm in California for a reason: We have the resources, reputation and drive to take every case to the highest level possible. We will not overlook a single opportunity to hold the negligent party accountable and demand appropriate compensation for your injuries.
Do Not Leave Money on the Table After a Life-Changing Accident. Call for a Free Consultation.
After a catastrophic injury, your ability to recover physically, psychologically and financially can hinge on the financial award in your personal injury case. Make sure you are protecting your interests and working with a lawyer who can maximize the compensation you are entitled to receive.
To learn more and arrange a consultation with one of our reputable personal injury attorneys, please contact us at 310-576-1200. We look forward to helping you fight for what you deserve.