When an individual is injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity, they are entitled to file a claim for compensation for their economic and non-economic losses. This enables the person to be compensated for their medical bills, lost wages and other expenses due to accident injuries. In addition, they are entitled to claim damages for the pain and suffering they endured because of the accident.
How Do Damages Work in California?
In California, the only type of damages that are limited are those caused by medical negligence, which is capped at $250,000. In addition, the amount awarded can vary depending on the severity of the injury and whether it is expected to continue into the future. Although motor vehicle accidents represent the most common claims in a personal injury case, injuries can also occur in a slip and fall or trip and fall, through the use of a defective product, in medical malpractice and in other areas.
Other injuries such as those incurred when someone falls due to defective sidewalks or roads can be challenged by filing a claim against the government agency in charge. It is important to file these within the proper time limit or a chance your case will be heard is lost.
What Can Be Claimed in Damages in an Auto Accident?
The areas that are covered by personal injury claims include medical expenses, lost time at work and pain and suffering. However, these claims are more complex than these simple explanations. Some specific types of economic loss can be reimbursed as you’ll see in the following sections.
Medical Costs and Wages Are Economic Damages
Medical bills and related expenses are calculated to present an accurate financial loss. Documenting all medical costs is important to obtain the compensation you deserve. If the injury is expected to last into the future, such as with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or spinal cord trauma, the amount is adjusted to compensate for that.
Medical costs can include:
- Ambulance service
- Physicians’ bills, including specialists
- Rehabilitation care
- Prescription medications
- Over the counter medicines prescribed by the doctor
- Medical testing such as an MRI or blood work
- Physical therapy
- Trips to and from the doctor
- Parking fees to go to the doctor or for physical therapy
- Gas mileage
- Home health care such as nursing
- Adjustments made to accommodate the home such as ramps
- Medical devices such as wheelchairs, walkers, respirators, etc.
- Taxi, bus or common carrier service if driving isn’t possible
Lost Wages Are Often Included With Damages
In some cases, calculating lost wages is simple by adding up the number of days and multiplying by the hourly rate. Individuals who are self-employed may use tax and business records to report their loss. Good documentation is important to claim what you deserve. In addition to wages on a regular or hourly job, the injured person may be losing:
- Overtime: This can be documented using work pay stubs. It may be especially important for those who do seasonal work or are often called in for overtime.
- Bonuses: These can be added to your economic damages by using past records of receiving them.
- Perks: Some perks come with your job and are reimbursable. They can be for the use of a company car, cell phone, gym membership and other extras.
- Vacation and sick days: These are used by some injured persons. The money for the days can be reimbursed.
- Reported tips in jobs such as waitressing are reimbursable. However, if some tips were not reported, they cannot be included in the claim.
Recovering Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are those that are awarded to an injury victim to compensate them for non-financial losses. This provides compensation in areas such as emotional and physical pain as well as disfigurement or loss of a limb. It includes:
- Emotional pain: Those who have experienced an accident injury may face emotional problems afterward. These can range from sleepless nights to nightmares, anxiety attacks, nervousness and personality changes to post-traumatic stress.
- Physical pain: The amount of physical pain suffered in an accident can depend on the injury and duration. It may include having to go through multiple surgeries in some cases to having burns treated and enduring long bouts of physical therapy.
- Loss of consortium and damage to personal relationships: This is commonly claimed in a personal injury case.
- Humiliation: Some people suffer permanent and visible damage from an accident. It may embarrass and humiliate a person out in public, around co-workers or even in private among family members and friends.
- Disfigurement: Scarring or disfigurement can be a permanent result of some accidents. It may make a person hesitant to return to work or unable to work. It may also be a source of embarrassment and affect an individual’s confidence. In extreme cases, the injured person may refuse to go out of the home.
- Mental difficulties: Psychological injuries to an injured person following an accident may be severe. They can include anxiety, feelings of stress, depression and fear. In some cases, the person may be afraid to go out in public, not want to drive again and cause anxiety attacks or agoraphobia, which has to be professionally treated.
- Loss of the enjoyment of life: This category addresses life changes that have to be made following an accident injury. For example, suppose the person liked to go water skiing, hiking or played the violin and can no longer do so. A claim for damages can be made for this loss.