You understandably want to settle your personal injury case as quickly as possible for the maximum amount available. However, many factors can impact the value of your claim, including the length of your recovery, the severity of your damages, and fault for the accident.
The types of damages you can receive also impact how much money you recover for a settlement or jury verdict. Each case is different, but some damages are common in most personal injury claims.
Understanding the types of damages available in Los Angeles personal injury cases can help you recover fair compensation for your injuries and losses.
Compensatory Damages vs. Non-Compensatory Damages
Most damages in a personal injury case are compensatory damages. These damages “compensate” you for specific losses. Some of the losses are financial, and other losses relate to your pain and suffering.
The other type of damage is non-compensatory. This type of damage does not compensate you for any losses, even though you receive the money. For example, a punitive damage award falls into this category.
Compensatory Damages for Economic Losses
Economic damages represent the financial losses you incur because of an accident and/or injury. These damages include, but are not limited to:
You are entitled to receive reimbursement for the medical bills you incurred to treat your accident injuries.
Examples of medical expenses for a personal injury include:
- Medical bills for physicians, hospitals, and other medical providers
- Emergency room and ambulance bills
- Over-the-counter and prescription medications
- Home health care costs
- Long-term nursing care
- Cost of surgery and therapy
- Medical supplies, equipment, and devices
- Mobility equipment
Your health insurance company may pay some of these costs while waiting to settle your personal injury claim. However, you might be required to reimburse the health insurance provider from your settlement proceeds.
If you sustain a permanent impairment, you may also receive compensation for ongoing care and future medical costs.
Loss of Income
Your injury may prevent you from returning to work during your recovery. If so, you are entitled to reimbursement for all loss of income while you are out of work.
Income includes, but is not limited to:
- Hourly wages
- Self-employment income
- Retirement contributions
- Part-time wages from another job
As with medical expenses, if you sustain a permanent impairment that prevents you from working, you could recover compensation for future lost wages. In addition, if the impairment impacts the wages you can earn in the future, you might recover damages for diminished working capacity.
Out-of-pocket expenses encompass a broad category that includes all other costs you incur because of the accident or injury. The costs must be reasonable and necessary.
For example, you could include the travel expense to and from medical appointments, such as mileage or public transportation costs. You could also include the cost of paying someone to cut your grass or clean your home if your injuries prevent you from performing these tasks.
Compensatory Damages for Non-Economic Losses
This category of damages represents the pain and suffering you experience after a car accident, slip and fall, or other incident.
When you file a claim for non-economic damages, it may include:
- Permanent disabilities and impairments
- Mental anguish and trauma
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Physical pain and discomfort
- Emotional distress and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- A decrease in your overall quality of life
- Loss of consortium
The value of non-economic damages can be challenging to calculate. Unlike economic damages, there is no receipt, bill, or invoice telling you how much the damages are worth.
Many courts and insurance providers use a multiplier method to calculate pain and suffering damages. They’ll generally multiply your economic damages by a number between 1.5 and five.
For example, if your economic damages total $100,000, the value of your non-economic damages could be two, three, or four times that amount.
The multiplier used to calculate the value depends on the facts of the case, such as:
- Whether you sustained permanent impairments or disabilities
- The severity and type of your injuries
- Your overall health and age
- The duration of your recovery
- Your lifestyle and quality of life before the injury
- Whether you sustained scarring or disfigurement
- How your injuries impact your daily life
Generally, the more severe the injuries, the higher the multiplier. It is presumed that catastrophic injuries and permanent disabilities cause more pain and suffering for the individual.
However, everyone suffers in their own way. Your lawyer should document your damages to create a narrative that maximizes both types of damages.
Non-Compensatory Damages in a Personal Injury Case
Punitive damages are also known as exemplary damages. These damages “punish” the defendant for malice, oppression, and fraud, according to California Civil Code §3294. The plaintiff has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s conduct met one of these criteria.
The code defines malice as intentional acts to injure the plaintiff. Oppression means appalling conduct without thought to another person’s safety that subjects a person to unjust and cruel hardship. Finally, fraud is the conscious effort to deprive someone of their rights or otherwise cause injury through deceitful acts.
In addition to punishing a defendant for terrible behavior, punitive damages are intended to discourage the defendant and others from repeating the behavior that led to punitive damages.
Caps on Damages in California Personal Injury Cases
Some states place “caps” or limits on the amount of money a person can receive for a personal injury claim.
California does not cap economic damages in any personal injury case. It also does not limit punitive damages in personal injury cases.
There is no cap on non-economic damages in California in most personal injury cases. However, there is a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act set the cap.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss the Damages Available in Your Case
Being injured by another person causes significant losses, pain, and suffering. An experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorney can help you file a personal injury claim seeking maximum compensation for damages. Most personal injury lawyers offer an initial consultation that is confidential and free of charge, so there’s no risk in reaching out for help.