Personal Injury Damages Defined
If someone is injured due to the fault of another individual or a business, the injured party can file a personal injury lawsuit to recover financial compensation for their injuries and other damages. Damages serve as a monetary amount intended to pay back a victim for their losses – or to make them as “whole again” or as similar to their condition prior to the incident as possible. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney adds immeasurable value to your potential claim for damages. Lawyers who routinely handle these cases know how to deal with insurance adjusters, defense lawyers, and court proceedings, and will help you stand tall and be as successful as possible against well-funded defendants.
In a California personal injury case, there are multiple types of damages that injury victims can recover. Below, we will explain all of the different types of potentially available personal injury damages as well as when they might be available in a particular case.
Types of Personal Injury Damages
Compensatory damages are designed to pay an injury victim all that is needed to adequately compensate them for their financial costs and/or losses directly related to the injury. There is no set method by which California courts determine the number of compensatory damages to award. Courts will allow a plaintiff to recover compensatory damages for losses already incurred, present damages, and future damages.
Compensatory damages are also often called actual damages, and they fall into two distinct categories:
- Economic Damages: Also called pecuniary damages or special damages, economic damages pay victims back for their actual financial expenses incurred as a result of the incident that injured them, including medical bills and lost wages, among others. Your personal injury lawyer will ask for past and future medical costs, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, and more.
- Non-Economic Damages: Non-economic damages are more challenging to quantify because they are not tied to a doctor’s bill or a receipt; however, personal injury damages definitely include them and victims should be compensated for them. Non-economic damages, also called general damages, can include pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, loss of consortium, loss of enjoyment of life, and more.
While most of the focus of personal injury damages is to help the victim recover, other damages – called punitive damages – serve a different but important purpose. Punitive damages are designed to punish a wrongdoer for the behavior which caused the accident and resulting injuries and to deter others from engaging in the same behavior. California bases punitive damages on malice (intentional or despicable conduct), oppression (subjecting another to cruel and unjust hardship), and fraud (intentional misrepresentation).
Punitive damages are also called exemplary damages in California, and state law requires a court to take the following three factors into consideration when determining whether or not to award them:
- Reprehensibility of the defendant’s conduct
- The amount of compensatory damages awarded or actual harm suffered by the plaintiff
- The defendant’s financial condition
California Personal Injury Damages Caps
A damages cap is a legally mandated maximum amount that a court can award to a plaintiff in a case. While many states have enacted serious limits on the types and amount of financial compensation personal injury victims can receive, California has not. Compensatory damages in a personal injury case are not subject to a damages cap, with medical malpractice cases being a notable exception. Medical malpractice cases have a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages only as established by the California Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) passed in 1975. California does not cap the amount of punitive damages a judge or jury can award in a personal injury case.
In addition, in California, convicted felons cannot recover damages for injuries resulting from their own or someone else’s acts while committing a felony or crime.
In California, an experienced personal injury attorney can prove the defendant’s negligence or wrongdoing in a court of law, which will enable you to recover full economic and non-economic damages. Curtis Legal Group has been handling all types of personal injury and catastrophic injury cases for over 40 years and has achieved over $100 million in settlements and verdicts for its personal injury victim clients. We can help clients with car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, distracted driving accidents, auto-pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents, slip and fall injuries, dog bite injuries, wrongful death, and more.
Our trial lawyers routinely handle all types of injury and death cases in Modesto, Sacramento, Stockton, and Fresno, California. We have a proven track record of getting the results our clients need to move forward with their recoveries and their lives. If you or someone you know has been injured or wrongfully killed because of another’s fault, contact us today for more information on how we can help.