Compensation for Auto Accident Injuries
You are entitled to compensation for any injury you sustain in a California car accident. The responsible party must compensate you for all damages resulting from the crash.
Should you choose to pursue a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver, you may be entitled to a wide variety of compensations.
California car accidents are personal injury cases represented by personal injury attorneys. Your final settlement might be negotiated out of court, or it might go to civil court to be decided by a judge or jury.
Damages You Might Be Awarded
There are two types of damages:
- Compensatory damages cover losses that result from accident-related injuries.
- Punitive damages punish the responsible party.
What Are Compensatory Damages?
Compensatory damages are meant to cover the costs of your injury. There are no caps on compensatory damages for personal injury lawsuits in California with the exception of medical malpractice cases.
There are two types of compensatory damages that you may be entitled to:
- Special compensatory damages
- General compensatory damages
Special Compensatory Damages
Special compensations cover the monetary losses you incur as a result of your injury. Here are some examples of those types of damages:
Injuries sustained in a vehicle collision usually require medical treatment. Such treatments are not cheap, and even a few tests can quickly mount to a hefty sum.
Under the law, you are entitled to reimbursement for all medical expenses that stem from your injury. You are also entitled to compensation for future medical care that might be required after your case is settled.
Medical treatments that entitle you to compensation include these services:
- Hospital inpatient and outpatient services
- Emergency room visits
- Xrays, MRIs, CT scans and other diagnostic tests
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation services
- Massage therapy
- Chiropractic services
- Prescription medications
- Medical equipment including walkers, canes, scooters and wheelchairs
- Physicians’ services and consultations with specialists
- Home health care services
If your health insurance provider pays for your medical expenses, it will expect full repayment when you receive your final settlement. Most insurers will attach a medical lien to your award before your case is settled.
Another special compensation is reimbursement for lost income that results from an injury. If you sustain a back injury that prevents you from walking, you would be entitled to compensation for every day of work that you lose because of that injury.
Suppose the back injury develops into a permanent disability that severely limits your ability to work in the future. You are entitled to compensation for that loss as well.
If a negligent driver causes a collision that disables your vehicle, you are entitled to compensation that covers the vehicle’s repair or replacement.
You might also recover the costs of vehicle towing, a rental car, or even meals and a hotel stay if the accident occurs during a road trip.
Likewise, if your new, state-of-the-art laptop is ejected from your vehicle and smashed beyond repair, you may be able to recover the full retail value of that item.
Loss of Irreplaceable Items
Should your mint 1995 Cadillac with under 75,000 miles be totaled by a monster truck, the Kelly Blue Book value won’t reflect the true value of your Caddy.
The Blue Book value is the compensation you’re entitled to for property damage. However, because your Caddy is essentially irreplaceable, you may be entitled to additional compensation that’s consistent with the Cadillac’s true value.
General Compensatory Damages
Unlike special damages, general damages are not about lost income and medical expenses. Rather, they compensate you for intangible losses related to quality of life.
General damages are important, but they can be challenging to prove in court. That’s why you should keep detailed and accurate records of all information that can substantiate a general compensatory damage claim.
Noneconomic compensation covers injuries that impair your ability to function as you did before the accident occurred. Here are some common examples:
Physical Pain and Suffering
Bodily pain may be covered by general compensation if you can prove that it exists. Pain is difficult to prove because it is subjective and based solely on self-report.
To obtain the most accurate measure of how pain is impacting your life, judges, juries and insurance companies will evaluate your case according to certain criteria:
- Time required to recover from the injury
- Type of injury
- Permanence of the injury
- Medications prescribed to treat the injury
Report all instances of physical pain to your doctor, and ask that the information be noted in your records. The records can then be used in court to substantiate your claim.
Maintain a log of all of the medications your doctor has prescribed for injury-related pain. Record your frequency of use along with any medication changes or dosage adjustments.
Keep a journal about how these medications affect you. Journaling is particularly important if you are experiencing any unpleasant side effects.
A physical deformity that you sustained in an auto accident may entitle you to compensation. This is especially likely if you can show that the embarrassment and trauma resulting from the disfigurement has negatively impacted your quality of life.
If a vehicle collision leaves you with a physical impairment that limits what you can now do, you may be entitled to compensation for that condition.
For example, you might love to play racquetball. However, the accident left you with partial paralysis in the fingers of your right hand. It is now difficult for you to properly grip the racquet.
Emotional Pain and Suffering
You may be entitled to compensation for emotional distress or mental anguish brought on by the accident and subsequent injury. Emotional pain is even more difficult to prove than physical pain.
It is advisable to maintain a log of emotional distress to substantiate your claims. Be sure to include sessions with counselors, acupuncturists, holistic healers and therapists.
Document all psychiatric consultations and any prescriptions you receive for psychiatric drugs. The more documentation you provide, the more compensation you can potentially receive.
Loss of Consortium
Your spouse may be entitled to damages for loss of consortium. This kind of compensation may apply if you have lost your ability to provide your spouse with the same quality of interaction that you both enjoyed prior to the injury.
As with the other types of general compensation, loss of consortium is difficult to measure. For that reason, it is granted only in cases of serious injury or wrongful death.
What Are Punitive Damages?
These damages are meant to punish defendants for engaging in harmful, risky or dangerous activities that can cause accidents and injuries. The objective is to reduce those activities in the future.
Punitive damages are only awarded when a defendant has been intentionally malicious. Additionally, many states have caps in place that limit the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded.
Wrongful Death Cases
Although compensatory damages are also awarded in cases of wrongful death, these damages are typically unique and based on factors that are case-specific.
Failure to Mitigate Damages
Most states require you to get treated for any injuries sustained during an accident. If you disregard self-care, your total compensation in a personal injury case may be substantially reduced.
California is a comparative negligence state. Your final settlement amount will be reduced by how much your own negligence contributed to your injuries. With comparative negligence, each party can collect damages proportionate to their degree of fault.
How Much Compensation Will I Receive?
The more evidence you can amass to substantiate your claim in a California car accident, the higher your total compensation award is likely to be.
It is essential to consult with a California attorney about your personal injury case as soon as possible after the accident occurs. Most California attorneys offer 24/7 case consultations free of charge.
The California attorney you speak with can assess the strength of your case and advise you about what to do next. Your actions now will impact the total damages you can recover later.
It is advisable to consult with a personal injury attorney before you speak to the insurance companies. By taking advantage of your confusion and disorientation after an accident, insurance companies on both sides can mislead you into making statements that are not in your best interests.
Personal injury attorneys operate on a no-win, no-fee basis. You will pay nothing unless you win your case. If you win, your lawyer will receive a portion of your personal injury settlement to cover the costs of representing you. Please contact us directly to schedule a free case evaluation or to learn more.