When an accident happens, it can be devastating to the victim and their family. Both the financial damages and other damages suffered can be so high, altering the lives of those affected. Fortunately, the state of California allows victims and their families to seek compensation for the damages suffered. In California, a victim of an accident can find for both compensatory and punitive damages from the at-fault party. Pursuing the damages is, however, not a straightforward case because of the various legal aspects, making it necessary to engage a lawyer.
At Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, we understand the challenges victims and their families go through following an accident. Get in touch with us to carry your burden of pursuing your rightful compensation as you focus on recovery.
Types of Damages Available Following a Car Accident in California
California defines damages as the money a victim of an accident or their family is awarded. Whether you are involved in a court battle or are dealing with the insurance provider, the compensation you are seeking is known as damages.
In California, a victim of a car accident can seek both compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are more common because they are evident and easy to prove, while punitive damages require exceptional circumstances to show them. This means, depending on the details of the incident, you can pursue both compensatory and punitive damages in California.
Compensatory damages are further categorized into two broad groups: economic and noneconomic losses. The noneconomic losses are often controversial. This is because they cannot be easily quantified and can also be very substantial. Regardless, the law allows a victim to get compensated for them by using various formulae to determine the compensation amount.
In this article, we will discuss these types of damages in detail and what you need to do to receive your rightful costs.
These are damages that are easy to prove and are supported by documents. These damages will include:
Repairs to the Car or its Replacement
When an accident happens, one of the most obvious damage is to the property, in this case, the victim’s car. The victim of an accident can seek damages for the cost of repairing their damaged vehicle or replacing it if it is beyond repair. When asking for damages to your car, you must show before and after pictures of your car. Your claim must also be accompanied by a report from a reputable auto shop detailing the damages and the cost of repairs. If the car needs to be replaced altogether, a more detailed report is required, including one from your insurance adjuster.
A victim of an accident is likely to suffer injuries to their body. Depending on how severe the accident was, the damages vary from one victim to another. Some injuries can be minor, requiring short periods of treatment, while others can be significant, resulting in extended treatment periods. For this reason, damages for all medical costs post the accident are compensated. It is important to note that the medical expenses are only for injuries suffered during the accident and not before or as a result of another subsequent accident.
When seeking for medical damages, it includes any cost incurred towards treating your injuries. This will range from the ambulance cost to all the medical procedures carried out on you. One of the first things after a crash is to go to a hospital. A victim of an accident is encouraged to visit a medical facility immediately, even when they think they are not injured. Injuries can be both physical and internal, with the internal ones taking time to manifest.
In the hospital, a thorough medical check is carried out to establish the obvious and the not so apparent injuries. Following an accident, a doctor will carry out various tests, including X-rays, to eliminate any possibility of hidden injuries. Whatever injuries are found, they are then treated.
Some injuries may require prolonged medical care or specialized treatment. Others can be traumatic or catastrophic that the victim’s life is altered forever.
Whatever the type of injuries suffered, the law allows for compensation for medical expenses in treating them. These damages cater to the past, current, and future medical costs associated with the injuries.
In claiming for the damages, your claim must be accompanied by a medical report from the doctor detailing the extent of the injuries, medical procedures carried out, and if more is needed. Additionally, the cost of medications, doctor’s fees are also included. If the injuries require the victim to get physical rehabilitation, the cost of that should be included, and any nursing support costs.
During the time a victim is recovering from the injuries, they may be forced to miss work. As a result, they will suffer a loss of income over that period. The revenue lost over this period is compensated for, but the claim must also be supported by evidence. You must prove that you are employed by having a letter from your employer accompanying the claim. In this letter, details of how much you earn and the number of days you missed work must be included. This is essential in calculating how much in damages to receive.
Lost Employment or Business Opportunity
Sometimes the recovery period can be so long that an employer decides to let you go and replace you. If you are a business person, you may have had business opportunities, but due to your injuries, you are not able to execute them. All this will cause damages to your income, requiring you to seek compensation for the lost business and job opportunities.
Lost Capacity to Earn
When injuries are catastrophic, they may result in one losing their ability to make a living. For instance, if one was a nurse and the accident causes them to lose their eyesight, this may mean they are unable to work as a nurse anymore. When a victim of an accident loses their capacity to earn, the law allows them to be compensated for the income they would have received if the accident had not happened.
When an accident victim dies, the family can seek compensation for the cost of burying their loved one. Just like in other damages, this must also be accompanied by evidence of the death of the victim and the cost of funeral and burial expenses.
Damage to Real Property
A motorist can crash into your house, destroying it. The cost of repairing the home or any other property that was damaged following the accident is compensated. In seeking these damages, you must accompany your claim with photos of the destruction caused and documents supporting the cost of repairs. Additionally, a police report, as well as a witness statement, can help pursue your claim.
As earlier stated, noneconomic damages are faced with controversies. One of the reasons is because they are not easily quantifiable. Some of the losses under this category include:
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering refer to the pain an accident victim goes through, and the suffering due to the injuries suffered. One cannot fix a figure into how much it costs to experience pain. However, in trying to find a fair way to compensate, two methods of calculating your damages are used. These are the multiplier and per diem methods.
Most attorneys, insurance adjusters, and juries prefer the multiplier method in calculating damages for pain and suffering. This method takes the amount you receive in economic costs and multiplies it by a figure between 1 and 5. The number to use is ordinarily dependent on the severity of injuries sustained.
The per diem method, on the other hand, allocates a dollar rate per day to calculate the damages. This is not a popular method, but it is legally allowed as well.
Emotional distress, just like in pain and suffering, is not easy to quantify. The injuries a victim suffers can cause them to undergo psychological trauma. A victim of an accident can also from the emotional distress of their loved one died in the accident, and they survived. The psychological trauma may require the victim to undergo therapy to overcome it. The cost of treatment and the distress is compensated even when one cannot quantify when the victim recovers mentally from the trauma.
A car crash can result in a victim losing their limb or suffering a disability like hearing loss or loss of their sight, among others. It is not possible to decide how much a lost arm or leg will cost, but damage to the disability is also compensated.
Some injuries can result in a person suffering inconveniences. For instance, if they used to do things unassisted, and due to the accident, they require assistance, this can be inconvenient for them. Depending on the severity of the injuries suffered, the jury or insurance adjuster will decide what amount compensates it.
Car crashes often result in fatalities. If a victim of an accident dies, the family can sue the at-fault party to compensate for their death. It is very challenging to put a figure on the value of life. However, in paying for wrongful death, the attorney, insurance adjuster or jury may look at the victim’s age, their lifestyle including health, their contribution to their family and community, as well as life expectancy.
By considering all these and other factors, a figure is arrived at. This is what is seen fit to compensate for the death of a victim.
Lost Consortium, Companionship and Affection
Lost consortium, companionship, and affection is mostly compensated for the spouse of the victim. Some accidents can result in the victim losing their sexual ability or being unable to offer companionship and affection to their spouse. This cannot be quantified, but the insurance adjusters or jury will come up with a figure that is suitable for the damage.
Many states in America put a cap on the noneconomic damages a victim of an accident can receive. However, California does not limit damages. Instead, the state has a law prohibiting individuals without auto insurance coverage from receiving noneconomic costs. These damages may include those of emotional distress or pain and suffering. This is irrespective of the party at-fault for the accident.
Fortunately, a person without an auto cover is entitled to the economic damages from the party at fault. Getting a personal injury attorney to pursue damages is always to the advantage of the victim.
Not every car crash will result in punitive damages. Many variables must come to play in establishing whether an accident will result in the awarding of punitive damages or not. Although punitive damages are available, simple negligence or reckless and drunk driving may not always result in punitive damages.
However, when there is evidence that the party at-fault showed willful disrespect for the life and safety of others or a pattern of significant misconduct, the victims may get punitive damages.
Punitive damages are different from compensatory damages. In seeking compensatory damages, the victim is usually looking to recover losses suffered due to the accident. On the other hand, punitive damages are generally to punish the defendant for causing the accident and their behavior.
When to Award Punitive Damages
To award accident victim punitive damages, the circumstances of the accident must be above the standard causes. For instance:
If two drivers are racing on the road competing on speed or swerving, and during this time one of them loses control of their vehicle and causes an accident. This is a severe act of misconduct that will result in the punishment of the driver.
A driver that is currently serving DUI probation drinks and surpasses the legal limit at least two times. While on the road, he causes an accident by hitting a pedestrian standing on the cab.
The above scenarios, among many others, show that the motorist behaved in gross misconduct resulting in the accident that caused damages. For this reason, a victim of such an accident can sue for punitive damages and get awarded.
Determining Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are determined on a case by case basis. Some states limit the amount a person can receive in punitive damages, but California doesn’t. In punitive damages, however, the law states that the damages should be proportionate to the compensatory damages awarded. Following this, cases that result in significant or life-altering disabilities qualify to receive significant punitive damages.
Additionally, the state requires that in deciding the punitive damages to award a victim, their financial situation to be taken into consideration. The purpose of awarding punitive damages is to punish bad behavior and to prevent it from happening again. For this reason, most wealthy defendants are expected to pay higher amounts in costs.
Whether the amount paid is high or low, it will serve the same purpose, which of deterrence, but will always be based on the financial capability of the defendant.
It is also important to note that insurance companies do not pay for punitive damages. When an accident victim has a valid reason to pursue punitive damages, they must establish whether the defendant can pay.
Punitive damage cases are complicated due to the facts that must be presented or the legal issues around them. This makes it necessary to have an attorney to help you prepare and pursue the case to recover damages.
Determining Fault Following a Car Accident
California is a fault state when it comes to car accidents. This means the person or party responsible for the accident carries the burden of the damages. For this reason, there is a need to establish the party responsible for the accident and seek damages from them. Every car owner or driver is expected to have an auto insurance cover to compensate victims of an accident should they be responsible.
It is essential to know that not having the minimum insurance cover, as described by the law, is a legally punishable offense. Additionally, if you are involved in an accident, you will not claim noneconomic damages.
In determining the party at fault, the police and accident reconstruction experts will investigate the accident scene and interview the victims as well as witnesses, if any.
Sometimes, the parties responsible for an accident can be more than one. In such a case, California uses comparative negligence law. Here, the degree of fault is established for every driver or party involved in the accident. When this is established, damages are awarded according to the percentage of fault. For instance, a driver may have been texting while driving, and another driver runs a light. As a result, the two drivers collided, resulting in damages.
The jury or insurance adjuster will determine the percentage of fault for each driver and damages awarded according to the same.
Statute of Limitations
This law dictates the time allocated for a victim to sue for damages suffered. In California, an accident victim has two years from when the accident occurred to sue for damages. If the victim fails to ask the court for help in pursuing losses within this time, they automatically lose their right to pursue through the court. However, the victim can still pursue their claim directly with the insurance provider for the at-fault driver.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Damages in a car crash are many, and if a victim does not pursue them, they may lose their chance of compensation. You do not need to suffer for damages you were not responsible for. The law allows you to seek damages for your losses even when they cannot wholly compensate you. Engaging a lawyer is vital in pursuing your damages and ensuring you receive your rightful compensation. At Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, we understand the inconvenience an accident can cause and the losses as well. Get in touch with us today at 424-231-2013, and let us help you with your claim.