If you have sustained injuries due to the negligent actions of another party, you may be considering filing a personal injury lawsuit. Under California’s statute of limitations, you must do this within two years. You may also be wondering how much financial compensation you could potentially recover, and how the legal system determines amounts and categories of damages.
The first thing to understand about a personal injury lawsuit is that you must prove that the injuries have significantly impacted your life and that you would not be in this position if not for the actions of the other party. Secondly, the categories of financial compensation you can receive are either economic or non-economic damages.
Punitive damages, which is an additional amount the defendant must pay if he or she acted with reckless disregard for safety, are less common in California. When awarded, you must demonstrate clear and convincing evidence of the defendant’s reckless behavior. Additionally, the court considers his or her financial situation before awarding punitive damages.
Economic Damages in a Personal Injury Case
Economic damages include financial losses you have experienced due to the accident as well as potential financial losses. The most common examples include:
- Medical expenses: This includes doctor and hospital charges, physical therapy, prescription medication, travel costs to receive treatment, medical equipment, revisions to your home or vehicle if necessary, and anything else directly related to injuries you sustained from the accident. Since many accident victims suffer permanent injuries, the judge and jury consider your future cost of medical care as well.
- Lost income: If you had to miss work due to your injuries, your personal injury settlement should include payment for that time. This is true even if you did receive sick or vacation pay from your employer.
- Loss of earning capacity: Some injuries are significant enough to force employees to retire, work part-time, or accept a less-demanding position that also pays a lower salary. In these situations, the judge and jury would consider what you currently make and set your compensation accordingly. They would also consider whether you would have qualified for promotions if not for the injury.
- Property damage: You’re entitled to sue for economic damages if you need to replace or repair your vehicle or any of its contents. For example, perhaps you were on your way to work and had a compute laptop in the vehicle with you.
If you plan to file a personal injury lawsuit, it’s important to retain records of any out-of-pocket costs you paid so you can seek reimbursement later.
Examples of Non-Economic Damages
Unlike economic damages that have an actual cost correlated with them, non-economic damages are subjective. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not real. Some common examples of non-economic damages awarded in personal injury lawsuits include:
- Pain and suffering: This can cover a wide range of issues such as physical pain, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, damage to reputation, and feelings of humiliation. You must prove a direct connection between the pain and suffering you’re currently experiencing and the accident that caused it.
- Loss of enjoyment: A good example here would be someone who previously enjoyed going for long walks every day but who can no longer walk because the accident left him or her a paraplegic. This type of non-economic damage can include anything you once enjoyed but can do longer do.
In some cases, family members may be able to recover non-economic damages if your injuries severely or permanently altered the relationship they once enjoyed with you. Because everyone experiences pain and loss differently, it is impossible to say upfront the potential award for this part of your personal injury lawsuit.
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Garmo & Garmo, Attorneys at Law, have helped thousands of accident victims recover the financial compensation they deserve to help get their life back in order. Please call our office in El Cajon, California at 619-441-2500 to request an appointment with a personal injury attorney today.