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Determining Damages in a Personal Injury Claim

If you have suffered a personal injury and are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit, you are likely wondering what damages you may be entitled. Damages are a form of compensation awarded by the court, and they are meant to compensate you not only for costs and expenses you have incurred as the result of your injury, but also for future costs stemming from your injury which may occur at a later date. The court also awards damages that place a monetary value on intangible things, such as the pain your injury caused or the suffering you endured on account of it.

California Law On Damages

Under Section 3281 through 3283 of the California Civil Code, every person who suffers harm from either the careless or reckless act of another or the omission of an act that could have prevented an injury is entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit for damages. The harm suffered could have been an injury sustained by you, as well as injuries sustained to your property, and they are meant to cover the harm you suffered as the result of your accident or injury, as well as any future consequences resulting from your accident.

Types of Damages

There are three main types of damages that may be awarded by the California Civil Courts in personal injury lawsuits. These are special damages, general damages, and punitive damages.

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Special Damages: This is money awarded that is meant to compensate you for the actual financial losses you suffered. Special damages include:

  • Medical expenses you have incurred to date;
  • The estimated dollar amount of future medical expenses you are likely to incur, such as additional surgeries, medications, and physical therapy;
  • Year to date loss of earnings, based on the actual amount of work you were required to miss due to your injuries;
  • Estimated loss of future earnings, based on the likelihood of any future limitations or disabilities which could impact your earning capacity in the future; and
  • Property damages you have incurred, and the cost of repairing or replacing your property;

General Damages: These damages are for intangible losses which do not have any actual dollar amount. An estimated value is used on a case by case basis to determine the amount you are entitled to receive for these kinds of damages. General damages include;

  • The pain, suffering, and inconvenience you were forced to endure on account of the accident and your injuries;
  • Any emotional distress you suffered, such as fear, terror, anxiety, and insecurity; and
  • Loss of consortium, which refers to the impacts your injuries have on your marriage, such as loss of companionship in partaking in hobbies, loss of affection, impacts on sexual relations, and the loss of help and assistance you may have provided prior to being injured.

Punitive Damages: This is money the court awards over and above your special and general damages. It is an amount of money that is meant to punish the at-fault party, while sending a strong message discouraging others from committing the same type of behavior.

The type and total amount of damages you are entitled to receive will depend on the severity of your injuries, as well as the circumstances under which your injuries occurred. When seeking damages in a personal injury lawsuit, it is important to bear in mind all the incidental costs, as well as any long term ramifications that could result from your injury.

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