What Are Compensatory Damages In California Personal Injury Cases?

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An accident can lead to serious harm or injury to the victim. Apart from physical and mental harm to the victim, they may incur huge financial losses from medical expenses and loss of their source of income. For this reason, California’s injury law sets out to alleviate this difficulty by giving them the right to initiate a compensation claim.

Essentially, a claim may lead them to recover compensatory damages whose objective is to attempt to compensate the victim for the injuries and damages they suffered due to someone else’s negligence or intentional act.

Suppose you or your loved one is seeking compensatory damage. In that case, it is imperative to have a competent and qualified personal injury attorney who will work hard to ensure that your rights and interests are safeguarded.

The Legal Basis of Compensatory Damages In California

Although no amount of money can help undo the damage caused by someone else’s negligence, compensation can help the victim and the victim’s family recover the losses incurred and cushion them from suffering further losses in the future.

Civil Code 3281 of California’s injury law emphasizes a victim’s right to recover compensatory damages if they suffered detriment due to someone else’s unlawful act or omission. In addition, Civil Code 32333 further elaborates this by providing that the amount of compensatory damage that the victim is entitled to recover should be an amount that compensates for all the detriment proximately caused, whether anticipated or not.

That said, compensatory damages for accident or personal injury cases fall under two basic categories: economic and non-economic damages.

What Are Economic Damages in a Personal Injury Case in California?

Also known as special damages, economic damages are those to which a dollar amount can be readily attached. Essentially, economic damages are designed to cover out-of-pocket amounts the plaintiff has incurred or is likely to incur. For instance, the amount spent, by a car accident victim, to see a physician is covered under the limb of economic damages.

Put briefly; economic damages cover the following:

  • Lost earning capacity
  • Property damage
  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages/loss of earnings

What Are Non-Economic Damages in a Personal Injury Case in California?

Also known as general damages, non-economic damages refer to subjective losses that can’t be measured similarly to economic losses. In simpler terms, non-economic damages don’t involve out-of-pocket expenses or a particular sum of money.

As such, non-economic damages tend to cover the following:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress and mental anguish
  • Inconvenience
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Unjust hardship
  • Disfigurement

While attaching a dollar figure to mental anguish or pain and suffering may seem difficult, non-economic damages aim to achieve this. However, it may be difficult to understand how non-economic damages are calculated. For this reason, it is imperative to consult a competent and qualified personal injury attorney who can provide guidance on your specific claim’s value.

Punitive vs. Compensatory Damages: What’s the Difference?

Often, claimants in a personal injury claim confuse punitive damages with compensatory damages. However, these two terms refer to two different types of compensation.

Compensatory damages are money meant to compensate a claimant whose injury occurred due to someone else’s negligence or intentional act. On the other hand, punitive damages aim to penalize the person responsibly and discourage others from similar behavior.

If a drunk driver strikes you, the judge or the jury in your case may award you compensatory damages, which sets out to cover expenses incurred as a result of the harm or injury sustained.

The judge or jury may decide to award punitive damages when they feel that the negligent driver has demonstrated harmful conduct that affects public safety. There is a need to discourage others from similar behavior.

Does California Have Damage Caps for Personal Injury Cases?

The simple answer is no. California’s injury law doesn’t limit the amount of compensatory damages in a personal injury case. Instead, the law requires judges or juries to award any fair or reasonable amount in any personal injury claim in California.

How Do Insurance Companies in California Handle Compensatory Damages?

Insurance companies are typically involved in almost all claims in California. Generally speaking, they are involved in assessing and calculating compensatory damages.

Noteworthy is that most insurance companies tend to minimize the amount of compensatory damages payable. This is because they seek to maximize their profit; to do this, they must ensure that they pay you a minimum amount of compensation. In other words, the insurance company is out to safeguard their interest and doesn’t have your best interest at heart.

For this reason, you need a competent and qualified personal injury attorney who will help safeguard your rights and interests throughout the claim process. An attorney can compute, with the help of an economist, the amount of damages you need to compensate you for your losses.

The Statute of Limitations

California has a statute of limitations governing compensation claims. Put briefly; the law provides that victims of an accident have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim or personal injury lawsuit. If you fail to file the claim within this period, you may end up having the claim thrown away.

To avoid any legal hurdles that may arise, it is imperative to file a claim or lawsuit as soon as the accident occurs. It would be best to have a competent and qualified personal injury attorney at Attorney Jeff Injury Lawyers to help you navigate the claim process easily.

Injured in an Accident in California? Contact an Attorney

If you or your loved one sustained an injury due to someone else’s negligence or intentional act, you might be entitled to Compensatory damages. Contact us for a free case evaluation.

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