An accident can occur at any moment. It can happen when commuting to work, traveling to visit your parents, or walking home from your friend’s house. If you are involved in an accident, you deserve compensation, especially if it’s another person’s fault. You can either receive compensatory, nominal, or punitive damages for injuries and losses you suffer in an accident in California. The benefits or compensation you receive as an accident victim depends on your ability to prove that the defendant was liable for the accident.
You can claim economic or non-economic benefits from the defendant as an accident victim. Economic benefits include medical costs, lost income, household service, and property damage benefits. Non- economic benefits include wrongful death, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other similar benefits. Read on to understand more about the types of benefits you can claim as a car accident victim.
Types of Benefits for Accident victims in California
The cause of the accident doesn’t matter. You deserve compensation for the injuries you sustain. It’s possible to seek damages in an “out-of-court agreement.” Here, you negotiate an agreement with the defendant or the responsible party for a settlement outside the court. However, it’s prudent to use the services of an experienced personal injury lawyer. The attorney will negotiate the best compensation you should receive with the defendant’s insurance company on your behalf. Under California law, you can be awarded various benefits as an accident victim. These benefits include:
- Compensatory benefits
- Punitive benefits
- Nominal benefits
Compensatory Damages or Benefits You Are Entitled to As an Accident Victim in California
After an accident, the court can instruct the defendant to pay you compensatory damages, which are always in monetary form. Compensatory damages can either be economic or non-economic. You can place a dollar value on economic damages or benefits. Examples of economic damages or benefits in California include:
- Medical bills you incur as a result of the accident
- The wages you lost and the income you lost as a result of the accident
- Property damage you suffered as a result of the accident.
- Any expenses you incur for replacing or repairing the damaged property.
- The cost of wrongful death might include burial costs, medical bills of the deceased, loss of the deceased income, and loss of the value of the service the deceased would have provided.
- The cash you need to pay for household chores you can no longer perform due to the accident.
- Other out of pocket expenses you incur as a result of the accident
Medical costs benefits
In most cases, you require medical treatment after an accident. You might need to visit the Emergency Room, undergo blood tests, physical therapy, diagnostic tests, among other related medical procedures. All of which can be expensive. According to California law, you are entitled to medical expenses benefits from the defendant to cater for your medical bills.
Before you can receive any treatment, the doctors must diagnose you to determine your injuries’ nature and extent. Diagnosing your injuries is a pretty straightforward process. Treating your injuries, on the other hand, is a different case altogether. For example, if you suffer a broken leg, it might take you a long time before you walk on that leg unaided by crutches or a walking stick. In some cases, though, the examination costs might add up pretty fast. The costs add up when you have to undergo expensive diagnostic procedures like an MRI scan.
You should seek medical treatment from a mainstream physician. Various insurance companies pay out lesser compensation amounts if you seek treatment from non-mainstream medical practitioners. The non-mainstream medicine practices include physical therapy, acupuncture, and alternative medicine, among others. However, if your doctor orders the physical treatment, the defendant’s insurance company cannot lower your medical expenses benefits.
Another benefit you could receive from a defendant is the lost income benefit. Lost income includes any work that you did not do because of the injury. It also includes any income you would have made but didn’t due to a doctor’s appointment or while recovering from the injuries. You should also receive compensation for the vacation days you were entitled to but could take because of the accident.
If the injury has left you permanently disabled, you need a financial expert to give their professional assessment of the value of your future lost income and your lost earning capacity.
You should receive the lost income benefits if you work on a full-time basis, have a part-time job, or are on occasional employment. It doesn’t matter if you receive an hourly wage, a weekly wage, or a monthly salary. You are entitled to the lost wages or income benefit.
To receive the lost income compensation benefit, you must show the time you missed work due to the injuries caused by accident. You must also prove you missed work because you were recovering from the injuries. You should clearly show how much money you could have made were it not for the accident.
Acquiring this information when you are employed is easy. Ask your HR department or your employer to provide you with a document with the company’s letterhead or official stamp indicating:
- Your name
- The position you hold in the company
- The pay you receive per day or per month
- The time you missed work due to the accident
Proving your lost income when you are self-employed can be a bit difficult. The best way to prove your income is by submitting your income tax return. The tax return shows what you usually earn in a year. It is essential to employ an experienced personal injury lawyer’s services to guide you in providing proof of lost income, especially if you are self-employed.
When you suffer an injury due to an accident, it might become difficult to engage in some household chores. It can become challenging for you to vacuum your house, do the laundry, or even lawn your lawn. As such, you might need to hire someone to do these activities. Therefore, you are entitled to household activity benefits to cover the costs of hiring someone to do the household activities you can’t engage in any longer due to the accident.
To receive household wages, though, you have to prove that you carried out these activities before the accident. If you already have a housekeeper who carries out these activities, you cannot receive household activities benefits.
Personal Property Damage Benefits
When you are involved in an accident in California, you are entitled to personal property benefits. The personal property benefits are for the repair and the replacement of your property. If it was an auto accident, the defendant should compensate you for damaging your car. Additionally, if you had added other accessories like a music system, you have a right to be compensated for the modifications you made to your car.
If your car is not totaled, an appraiser will evaluate the value of the damage done to the vehicle. They will write their estimate, which the defendant should compensate you for the damages. In case the car is totaled or completely damaged, you will be compensated an amount equal to the value of the car at the time of the accident. Such factors as the age, model, and the miles the car has covered will determine how much the defendant will compensate you.
Non-Economic Damages You Can Claim in California
It is not easy to place an economic value on non-economic damages. But they have as much a catastrophic effect on your life as economic damages. Non-economic damages are quite challenging to quantify. That is why you need to employ the services of a well-experienced personal injury attorney to help you negotiate the right benefits you should receive for non -economic damages. Some of the non-economic damages you can suffer as a result of the accident include:
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent and temporary disability
- Emotional distress
- Loss of companionship
- Wrongful death
- Emotional distress
Below are some of the non-economic benefits you should receive as an accident victim in more detail.
Pain and suffering
“Pain and suffering” is a legal term that means you should receive compensation for the pain and suffering you endure as an accident victim. Pain and suffering can result from the physical pain you suffer due to the injuries you sustain during the accident. The physical discomfort you experience as you undergo treatment and other psychological distress you undergo due to the accident. Some of these psychological effects include sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, humiliation, among other similar effects.
According to California law, the longer the recovery from pain and suffering will take, the more benefits you should receive from the defendant. But how do you establish the length it will take to recover from pain and suffering? The best way to go about it is by having your doctor indicate your expected recovery period in your medical file. Your doctor will indicate how long they expect you to recover from the pain and suffering fully.
The medic will only have a record of your progress when you visit them regularly. If you suffered immobility, for instance, in the accident, you should inform your doctor of your condition’s progress. These medical records are critical in your claim for the pain and suffering benefits case. They show you continued to suffer after the accident. These records also show that your injury required continued medical attention.
If you are involved in a car accident, for example, and the vehicle damage is $10,000, and the medical expenses are $25,000, you will receive significant pain and damages benefits. But if the property damage and medical bills are not astronomical, the pain and suffering benefits will also not be that much.
Closely related to pain and suffering is emotional distress. When you become a victim of an accident, your mental health is affected. To receive emotional distress benefits, a mental health expert must verify that you suffer from anxiety, PTSD, amnesia, and other related emotional distress due to the accident.
The benefits you receive for emotional distress depend on the accident’s specifics and the extent of the injuries you sustained.
It’s crucial to record any psychological effects you have had since the accident to increase the likelihood of receiving emotional distress benefits. You can also share your experience of these effects with your doctor.
One of the factors the court considers in its award of emotional distress benefits is the severity of the effects. Although you might have some pre-existing psychological issues, you can still receive psychological distress benefits under California law. But it is easier to receive the benefits if you can prove you suffered the effects because of the accident.
Loss of Companionship or Loss of Consortium
The loss of companionship benefit is paid to the family of the deceased or injured victim. Your family members are entitled to the loss of companionship or consortium if you suffer severe injuries in an accident. The loss of consortium means you can no longer provide the comfort, companionship, friendship, sexual relation, or society you provided your family before the accident.
In California, your family members are more likely to be awarded loss of consortium benefits if your injury is long-lasting, severe, permanent, or results in your death. Since the loss of consortium is a non -economic injury, it is difficult to place a dollar value on the compensation your loved ones should receive. Like pain and suffering, it is prudent to use an expert’s services to ascertain the severity of your injuries before the court or jury.
In California, a claim of loss of consortium can be filed by:
- Your spouse or partner
- Your parents or children
Before making a loss of consortium case, it is essential to realize that every single aspect of your marriage will become a matter of public knowledge. The jury will consider the relationship between you and your spouse before the accident. Any incidences of domestic violence, criminal charges, or separation will likely reduce the loss of consortium benefits the court awards your partner.
Another benefit your family can claim is wrongful death. As the name suggests, members of the deceased person’s family file for wrongful death. A defendant’s misconduct or recklessness is the leading cause of wrongful death. Your family members can claim certain benefits under wrongful death. These benefits include:
- The pre-death pain and suffering of the deceased person
- The funeral and burial costs
- The loss of income the deceased person would have provided for the family.
- The value of services the lost person would have provided if they were still alive.
Caps on Benefits You Can Receive After a Personal Accident
According to the law, some benefits have caps. The benefits caps mean that the defendant cannot compensate you beyond a certain limit. But some compensatory benefits such as therapy costs and medical bills do not have caps. These benefits lack a cap because you could require lifelong medical treatment as a result of the accident.
The court awards you compensatory benefits to help you cope with the effects of the accident. On the other hand, the court charges the defendant punitive damage to punish them for their intentional misconduct. Apart from punishing the defendant, the punitive damages serve to deter or prevent them from acting similarly in the future, and lastly, to serve as a deterrent to other people who might want to engage in similar conduct. The court might decide to award you the punitive benefits in addition to the compensatory benefits.
The court can also award you punitive benefits if the defendant acted with gross misconduct. Gross misconduct means that the defendant acted in a way that disregarded your safety or rights. They knew their actions could lead to an accident. A drunk driver is fully aware that their conduct is likely to cause an accident. Similarly, a driver who runs a red light or is overspeeding is liable for gross misconduct because they know their actions can cause an accident.
You can also receive nominal benefits. Although you might not suffer any injuries, the court can award you nominal benefits as an acknowledgment that a wrong occurred. Nominal benefits are significantly less than compensatory or punitive benefits.
Call A San Diego Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm Near Me
An accident can occur anywhere and at any time. In most cases, when an accident occurs, someone is responsible. The responsible party should compensate you for the injuries you sustain during the accident. In California, you can receive compensatory, punitive, or nominal benefits. The purpose of compensatory benefits is to compensate you for the injuries.
The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant. If you are a victim of an accident in San Diego, California, it is prudent to seek a personal injury law firm’s services to help you negotiate and receive your rightful benefits. At San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we provide the best legal representation to help you obtain your rightful benefits. Do not hesitate to contact us at 619-478-4059.