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How To Calculate Compensatory Damages In California Personal Injury Claims

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In California, persons injured in accidents may obtain financial compensation for their expenses from the legally liable party. This compensation is often referred to as "damages." It is usually covered out of an insurance policy rather than from the other driver's purse.

So, what does the liable party (or their insurance) have to pay for? Here's how Personal Injury damages are categorized in California and how they might apply to your own case:

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While many different types of damages can be recovered in a California personal injury case, they are generally divided into three categories:

  • Economic (or special) damages

  • Non-economic (or general) damages

  • Punitive damages.

Families of those who have been killed may be able to bring a wrongful death claim as well as a survival action.

Let's discuss these three categories and how they fit into your California Accident Claim:

1. Economic Damages

"Economic damages" refers to the monetary losses and hardships that accident victims face. These are easier to prove because you'd only need to find receipts, records, and documentation of expenses (i.e., hospital bills, auto repair invoices, etc.).

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If you don't know where to get these records, you can consult with a prescreened California Personal Injury Attorney to help you compile evidence.

That said, these expenses can include things like:

Medical Expenses

Serious injuries might result in high medical expenses. Not only do you have to think about the immediate expenses, but you also need to worry about future bills and treatments you need in your recovery.

Current and future medical bills, physical treatment, cognitive therapy, ambulance and emergency medicine fees, medical devices and accessories, and in-home medical care are all recoverable damages in the event of an injury.

Lost Wages

Your lost wages and any resulting financial hardship (i.e., delayed rent or mortgage payments) are also possible economic damages.

If the accident or injury has kept you from working, even for a short period of time, you and your California Personal Injury Lawyer can calculate the damages based on your salary and present that as a loss resulting from the accident. Time spent in the hospital, at medical visits, or while temporarily incapacitated can all be counted.

Reduced Earning Potential

If your injury impacts your capacity to earn money, you may be entitled to compensation based on your previous earnings.

Your age, occupation, experience, skill, and even life expectancy may all influence the amount of future payments you receive.

Property Loss

Property loss is common economic damage in a lot of accidents. It could be a wrecked car, a damaged device, a damaged house or apartment, and so on.

Some receipts of these properties might be long gone, but you and your California Personal Injury Attorney can work on finding the original prices, getting professionals to assess the losses, and acquiring other proof to show the extent of the damages.

2. Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are compensated for the intangible effects of vehicle accidents on your life. Because the losses in this category are intangible, the amount awarded is primarily determined by your California Personal Injury Lawyer's ability to substantiate the valuation.

While some states limit the amount of non-economic damages that can be awarded, California does not currently do so, according to Cal. Code of Civil Procedure 3333.4.

The following are examples of non-economic damages:

Pain And Suffering

California law enables you to put a monetary value on the pain and suffering you experienced as a result of an injury.

The nature and severity of the damage, the amount and length of time the victim was in agony, and the chance the victim will continue to suffer pain or suffering in the future are all factors to consider.


In a California Personal Injury Case, compensation may be available for the mental distress that comes with significant scars or disfigurement.

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Even if the disfigurement still allows a victim to be mobile and capable of working, it still deals a lot of damage to a person's confidence and overall well-being.

Reduced Quality Of Life

Victims of accidents often have to live with financial, physical, and emotional problems after an accident. These often contribute to a person being unable to enjoy and live life as they once before.

3. Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are reserved for cases involving intentional harm or extreme recklessness on the part of the responsible party.

Remember, punitive damages are usually used as a form of punishment for individuals or corporations, as well as a deterrent to prevent similar behavior in the future.

Find A California Personal Injury Attorney Near Me is a California Bar Association Certified Lawyer Referral Service that can refer you to a prescreened attorney that's fit to handle your unique case. You may contact us via our 24/7 live chat (or fulfill our case submission form) for a free initial consultation.