What Damages Are Available In A Personal Injury Case?
There are two main categories of damages in a personal injury case. There are economic losses and non-economic losses. Economic losses or damages are dollars for dollar losses that you incur for past and future expenses, such as medical bills, hospitals, doctors, x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and other diagnostic tests, prescription items, assistive devices like canes, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, physical therapy, and chiropractic care. When you incur these expenses, they are dollar for dollar losses that need to be paid to you. Property damage is also an economic loss. It includes the cost to repair your vehicle or, if it’s a total loss, it is the cost to pay the fair market value of your car so that you can purchase another vehicle. The amount owed to you must include loss of use of your vehicle. This would include the cost to rent a vehicle while your car is being repaired or until the total loss is paid. BUT, did you know that you are also entitled to payment for loss of use of your car even if you do not rent a vehicle? Damages to personal property like broken glasses, damaged cellphones, or other personal items that were damaged in the crash are also economic losses.
If your car was in a bad wreck, and you have frame damage, even though your car was repaired, you’re likely to get less money for it if you decide to sell it because of the fact that your car was in a bad collision. This is called the diminution of value. For a leased vehicle this diminished value may be charged against you when you turn the car in at the end of the lease! You are allowed to make a claim for diminution of value, even if the car was repaired. It usually requires retaining a professional appraiser to evaluate the car and market conditions to determine this diminution of value, but it is often a significant loss that is overlooked by consumers and inexperienced attorneys.
You may have a loss of income because you couldn’t work for a period of time after the collision, or because you had to take time off of work to see doctors or get treatment. You may not be able to return to do the same type of work you were able to do before the collision. You also may have a loss of benefits if you’re out of work. There may be diminished contributions to your vacation and retirement plan. Therefore, these losses, what you have incurred up to the time of settlement and what you are reasonably likely to incur in the future, are all economic losses that you may claim.
Another area of expenses that is considered to be economic losses are things that you no longer can do for yourself but must now pay someone else to do. If you used to maintain your own home, for instance, doing your own gardening, housekeeping, maintenance and repairs, caring for your spouse, children, or parents, maybe things that you can longer do because of your injuries, and you have to hire someone else to do them. You are entitled to compensation for these expenses.
Non-economic loss is a general term that refers to compensation for physical pain and suffering, mental suffering, emotional distress, grief, embarrassment, humiliation, disfigurement, and inconvenience. You are entitled to these non-economic damages for those losses you incurred from the date of the collision and into the future, even if it’s for the rest of your life. We call these losses human losses and they are usually the most important and the largest because they reflect changes in the quality of life. Chronic pain from an injury can be devastating in a way that is difficult to imagine unless and until you are unfortunate enough to have to live with it. Experienced attorneys understand this and are uniquely experienced and capable of proving either to an insurance company or a jury the impact of serious injuries on your life and the lives of your spouse and family.
Your spouse may also have a claim for damages, which is called loss of consortium. If your injuries are so serious that they negatively affect your marriage. Your husband or your wife, who was not injured in the collision, may well suffer a loss of love, support, comfort, and society as a result of your injuries which may have a significant impact on the quality of his or her life. For that reason, your spouse may have a claim for loss of consortium.
All of these areas of damages require proof or documentation when you are pursuing a claim for damages. They are all important and they require diligent and attentive effort to prove them. The failure to do all of this will result in incomplete compensation and inadequate justice for you.
How Are Personal Injury Settlement Amounts Calculated In California?
A personal injury settlement amount or verdict will depend upon the liability, the nature, extent and severity of your damages and losses, and communicating how those damages affect your life.
So, how do we calculate this? We look at what the injury is. What treatment did you require? Did you make a full recovery? Are you going to suffer from your injuries for the rest of your life? How much were your medical bills? Will you require medical care into the future? Did you have a loss of income? Will you have to endure loss of income in the future? All of these things are your economic losses. But an even bigger question is, how do these injuries affect you in your life? How do they affect your ability to engage in your activities of daily living or to even enjoy the pleasures of life. We often employ life care planners to calculate and explain what our clients’ needs will be into the future so that we can get compensation for those losses now.
There is no simple formula that helps you decide how much money a person should get for compensation for their injuries. There is no multiple of the medical bills that provides a fair result and insurance companies, juries and experienced attorneys do not use such a simplistic approach to determine fairness. In some cases, you may have very small economic losses, but very grave, lifelong harms, in which case the real value in the case is through demonstrating to a jury, or to an insurance company, how the injury affected you and your life. This may be the most profound element of loss that requires thought and understanding to express in order to recover it through a settlement or trial.
Past results obtained by an attorney may be an indicator of his or her experience and competence in handling personal injury claims like yours. But past results are only a part of what you need to learn about before you retain an attorney. Any lawyer can have a big case drop into his or her lap now and then. What is more important is whether the attorney has the skill, the dedication and has been doing personal injury work for a long time AND whether he or she is willing to dedicate the time, effort and resources to you and your case. Occasional big results do not answer this more important question. Firms that advertise on television bring in a lot of cases. Will they allocate the resources necessary to individualize you, your case and your needs. Obtaining the best recovery in your case depends on it.
For more information on Damages Available In A Personal Injury Case, a personalized consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (818) 530-1770 today.