As a California personal injury attorney, one of the most frequent questions I get asked is “How Much is My Accident Claim Worth?” This is never a question that can be answered at the outset of the case because it depends upon a lot of things including what the final diagnosis and/or prognosis is for the injured party and what the final costs of medical expenses (including reasonable and necessary future care) is and will be. This is not known until the client has been examined and treated for their injuries (which usually takes some weeks or months). However, what I can describe is the general guidelines for recovery of compensation in an accident claim which are as follows:
Economic Damages: What Medical or Other Bills Have I Incurred or Will I Incur As A Result of the Accident?
Economic damages (or so called “out of pocket” expenses) include the following:
- Medical Expenses: Reasonable costs of both present and future medical treatment. These costs usually involve a range of treatments from initial ambulance, trauma and emergency room expenses to later follow up care, which could include physical therapy or surgery costs.
- Lost Income: Lost earnings both present and in the future are damages for which one may be compensated. This can include wages lost due to time out of work for the initial trauma and time missed to attend doctor’s appointments, have surgeries and/or recover from surgery.
- Loss of the Ability to Earn Money: If the injury is severe enough that it causes a person a loss of the capacity to earn money, this can be calculated and awarded.
- Loss of Ability to Provide Household Services: If the injury results in an inability to perform normal household chores like cooking and cleaning, the reasonable value of these services can be granted as damages.
- Damage, Loss or Destruction of Real or Personal Property: This includes the cost of repairing or replacing a motor vehicle; personal items such as cell phones, computers, etc; or even “real” property such as land or homes that have been destroyed or damaged as a result of another person’s negligence.
- Lost Profits: Loss of profits from the operation of a business may be compensated if they can be reasonably calculated.
Non-Economic Damages: The Money For Pain, Suffering and Emotional Distress Related to Negligence
The law says that, if a party is found to have caused injury to another party due to negligent conduct, the jury or judge must award damages for the following:
- Pain Due to Physical Injuries
- Mental Distress
- Loss of the Enjoyment of Life Activities
- Physical Disfigurement
- Physical Impairment
- Inconvenience Related to Injuries
- Grief Related to Injury or Death
- Anxiety, Humiliation and/or Emotional Distress
These are much harder concepts to which one may attach a monetary figure. A quality personal injury attorney needs to find out as much information as possible about exactly what the client has been through (physically and emotionally) as a result of the accident to determine what is a reasonable amount to seek. In general, the more severe the injuries and the more they have impacted a client’s ability to conduct normal day to day affairs both at work and at home with their family, the higher these damages will be.
Note: That damages in wrongful death claims differ from what is stated above to some degree. For more information on wrongful death claims in California, click the link here: California Wrongful Death Attorneys.