The major question one asks after an accident is the type of compensation you can recover from the negligent party. Answering this question can help you calculate the minimum settlement and gather the relevant documents and evidence to support your claim.
Compensatory damages are those you recover to restore any economic or non-economic losses that you incur due to an accident. In this article, the Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney will guide you through the type of compensation available in truck accidents.
California civil laws allow victims of truck accidents to sue the negligent party for any losses resulting from the reckless actions of the defendant. California allows two classes of compensatory damages - economic and non-economic.
Compensatory damages are available in every truck accident lawsuit. However, the court might award punitive damages in cases of gross negligence to warn other parties from engaging in similar behavior.
The value of compensatory damages varies based on the circumstances of every case. These circumstances include:
- The seriousness of the injury
- The time required to recover from the injuries
- The potential effect on the future of the victim or the family of the deceased
- The income level
- The life expectancy
- The skill of your attorney
- The value of property damaged during the accident
You can recover these damages through a claim or file a lawsuit at your local civil court. You could also settle outside the court or let the court make the settlement on your behalf. Most cases settle outside court once the parties agree on an appropriate amount to cover the damages of the plaintiff.
Regardless of where you settle, the determination of how much a case is worth follows the same principle.
Determining the value of your injury claim can help you make sound decisions along the way. The first decision you have to make is whether to accept the settlement the insurance adjuster offers.
Once you sign the insurance settlement, you also sign away your rights to sue. However, if you know the value of your case, you can negotiate for a suitable settlement that will make you whole.
You have to decide whether your case is worth going to trial for. A trial can be lengthy and emotionally and financially draining. Therefore, you have to understand whether it is valuable enough to make the sacrifice.
Here is a breakdown of the types of compensation and the methods of calculating their value:
Special damages or economic damages are damages whose dollar value is known. These damages include bills and wages lost during the recovery period. The common economic damages you can recover in a truck accident settlement include:
1. Medical Expenses
Medical expenses after a truck accident are almost inevitable. The negligent party must restore the money you spend on examination, treatment, and medicines.
Sometimes, injuries after a car accident will affect you in the long term. You will, therefore, have to spend on treatment and medicines in the future. Your attorney can, therefore, help you in recovering future medical costs.
The court will calculate the value of your medical damages settlement by adding up the receipts from your doctor.
Future medical damages can be a bit complicated to calculate. Most attorneys prefer suing for these damages after you have reached the maximum medical recovery. This means that your condition will not improve significantly after that time. Most injuries take about a year to reach the maximum medical recovery.
You will need to present evidence to support your claim. This evidence includes:
- Copies of your medical bills
- A copy of the diagnosis, test results and imaging results
- Notes from your doctor linking the injury to the accident
- Your medical record of up to five years before the accident
- Testimony from witnesses
- A report from your insurance company
- The police accident report
- Photographs of the crime scene and any visible injuries
You can also recover medical costs even if you had a pre-existing injury. However, the court will require medical notes and evidence that the accident worsened the pre-existing condition.
2. Lost Wages
Lost wages in personal injury lawsuits compensate you for the earnings you lose due to the accident. Lost wages reimburse you for:
- Your regular pay or salary
- Income from self-employment
- Overtime pay
Calculating lost wages requires you to present evidence of your past income before the injury. If you missed work for a short period, you would calculate your regular workday and the amount you earn.
Some evidence you can present include:
- Your pay stubs
- Tax returns billing statements (for lost self-employed income)
- Testimony from a forensic or economic expert
- Days you missed work
- Your employment contract
- Your employer’s policy on bonuses, commissions and overtime pay
- Proof that you meet the conditions for earning overtime, bonuses, or a promotion
- A letter from your employer
Lost wages reimburse you for the wages you lost in the future due to the accident. However, you can also recover any income you are likely to lose in the future due to the injuries.
3. Lost Earning Capacity
Lost earning capacity compensates you for the income you will lose in the future due to the injury. Temporary or permanent injury can affect your ability to work. Serious injuries are the most common reason you can lose your earning capacity. These injuries include traumatic brain injuries, loss of limbs, spinal cord injuries, and paralysis.
The compensation you receive will include:
- The income you would have earned if you were not injured (such as salary, wages, commissions, bonuses, and self-employment income)
- The potential income considering your injuries
Calculating your future earning capacity is more complicated than calculating lost wages. Your attorney might need the testimony of an economic expert or a forensic accountant. He or she will also need the testimony of your doctor in determining how your injuries affect your ability to work.
Some other factors that affect the settlement include:
- The time within which you can return to your regular job
- How long the injury will last
- You age
- Your life expectancy before the accident
- You past earnings
- The terms of your employment contract
- The opportunities for career advancements you had before the accident
- Your career goals and interests
- Your performance reviews
- Testimony from witnesses such as your employer, a doctor, a vocational rehabilitation expert, your friends, family, and co-workers
You can also recover damages for lost earning capacity even if you are in school. If you do not have a job, the court will determine the skills you have or could have had after school. It will then determine the possible salary based on what other graduates are earning. Afterward, it will determine the effect of your injuries on your career.
For example, if you are studying to become a lawyer, but you suffer paralysis due to a truck accident, you will be unable to practice. This means that you have lost your earning potential.
4. Property Damage
Some property will inevitably be damaged during a truck accident. The size of the truck increases the magnitude of the damage in case of an accident.
If your property was damaged in a truck accident, you can file a property damage lawsuit or claim compensation through a personal injury claim.
You can file a claim for the costs of repairing or restoring the damaged property. The value of the property depends on the market value of the car and any property damaged.
General damages compensate you for subjective losses for which you cannot place a monetary value. They include pain and suffering or benefits that the person brought, that you cannot enjoy due to the injury.
General damages include:
- Loss of parental care and guidance
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of love, care, protection, and assistance provided
Calculating general damages is a highly subjective process. It depends on the proof you provide to the jury. Proof could include testimony from your counselor or therapist or the testimony of a doctor on how the injury could affect you emotionally.
A pain journal is one way of proving the changes you have experienced since the accident. The pain journal should include details of how you feel daily. Rate your pain and include as many details as possible.
The factors that will influence the final settlement include:
- The extent of the injuries: you are likely to receive a substantial settlement if you suffer severe injuries that leave you with scars, permanent deformation, or loss of important body functions. Visible injuries are also more likely to convince the jury that you are suffering.
- The effect of the injuries in the long term: injuries that take time to heal, or have a permanent impact on you attract a higher settlement
- Your life expectancy: if you were young at the time of the injury, with a higher life expectancy, you are likely to get a higher settlement.
- The proof you have: if you have proof such as imaging of your injuries, you are likely to have a higher settlement. Although pain and suffering damages are subjective, having substantial proof will often influence the jury to settle on a higher figure.
- How believable you are: as mentioned earlier, pain and suffering damages are highly subjective. Therefore, the jury might be drawn to your likeability, hence award you a higher settlement. If your case is relatable or the jury can sympathize with you, then you are likely to have a higher settlement.
- Your credibility and trustworthiness during the proceedings: lying about your injuries will probably persuade the jury that you do not deserve the compensation. Therefore, you must be genuine from the beginning.
Sometimes attorneys could record a video of what your day looks like with the injury. Video evidence is particularly important for physically visible injuries. Such evidence is more convincing and likely to increase the value of your settlement.
While general damages employ a lot of subjectivity, California follows two formulas to attempt to create a means for calculating the value of these damages.
The first formula is the multiplier formula, where you assign a number from one to five depending on the severity of the situation. Injuries that have a longer-lasting effect on you have a higher multiplier.
You will take the multiplier and multiply the number by the value of special damages. For example, if your special damages are worth $30,000 and the multiplier number is two, your general damages will be worth $60,000.
The second formula is the per diem formula, which assigns a monetary value for each day’s suffering. For example, the court could determine that you suffer pain worth $100 every day. So, if you suffer that pain for 100 days, then your settlement will be $10000.
You can also recover compensatory damages in case your loved one died due to the accident or resulting injuries. You can recover:
- Lost wages
- Lost consortium
- Pain and suffering
- Lost parental care
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Medical expenses incurred before death
You can file for wrongful death damages if you are the spouse, child, or a dependent of the deceased.
Punitive damages are available to select cases. They are not compensatory damages. Instead, they serve a twofold purpose of punishing the defendant and warning other people of engaging in similar conduct.
For example, if a truck driver was driving drunk and speeding, leading to an accident, the court might choose to award punitive damages to deter other commercial drivers from such reckless behavior.
Winning a Personal Injury Case
The settlement you recover from a personal injury lawsuit cannot fix the damage created by a truck accident. However, it can make the transition easier by reimbursing you for the pain and losses you suffered due to the negligence of another person.
Winning the lawsuit, therefore, becomes a life-changing matter. The steps you take when pursuing your claim will depend on the circumstances of your case, including:
- The extent of your injuries
- Your willingness to settle
- The value of property damaged
- The willingness of the at-fault party to settle for a fair amount
The first winning strategy for any truck accident case is to hire an experienced attorney. A claim has important deadlines and regulations. You must adhere to these regulations and meet the deadlines to ensure that you can have a chance to fight for compensation. You can call your attorney or have a family member contact on your behalf.
Another important step is to gather every piece of evidence that will prove your case. This includes:
- Evidence showing the defendant’s fault in the accident
- Photographs or videos of the scene of the accident
- Items on the accident scene
- Witness information and testimony
- Your doctor’s notes on your treatment and health after the accident
The next step is to get professional medical treatment immediately. Delaying medical treatment downplays the seriousness of your injuries. It also increases the risk that the defendant can shift the blame on you, saying that your injuries are from another activity, not the accident.
You must also follow the doctor’s instructions to avoid worsening your conditions. The defendant could claim that your refusal to follow the doctor’s instructions is contributing to your slow recovery.
Describe your injuries in detail. Brief descriptions of your injuries to your doctor will prevent an accurate diagnosis and might reduce your settlement. You must also disclose existing conditions and health issues. Truthfulness builds your credibility and believability in court.
Keep receipts of any expenses related to the injury. These receipts include those for transport costs, medication, and treatment. Keep these receipts organized. If you are working, keep records of your pay stubs to show the difference in income or wages you have lost due to the injuries.
Keep your attorney informed about any changes in your recovery. Your attorney can keep records of these changes and, sometimes, link you up with professional healthcare providers.
Patience is also key in personal injury settlements. The insurance company or the party at-fault will offer a low settlement. Most people, especially if without an attorney, will jump for the first settlement, to regret later. However, if you are patient, you can negotiate to get a settlement that matches the injuries and losses you suffer.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Recovering from an injury can be a difficult process, especially with the changes and adjustments you need to make due to the injury. Whether these changes are financial, physical, or psychological, they affect your life in various ways.
For example, you may be unable to work, care for your family, or engage in the activities you enjoyed. Injuries from a truck accident affect more than your body. They can lead to the lifetime need for constant care, problems with finding employment or handling regular tasks.
At the Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney, we work hard to ensure that you are whole again. We help you in pursuing your claim against the negligent party. Our goal is to ensure that the at-fault party compensates you for the injuries his or her recklessness causes you.
You can reach out to us at 424-231-2013 for a consultation.