Every car accident victim deserves compensation from the at-fault party. However, to compensate a plaintiff, the attorney must establish whether a specific driver is negligent. It can be challenging to handle every process needed to be rightfully compensated. That is why you need the intervention of an attorney to ensure that everything goes as expected. San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm provides excellent legal and advisory services to any car accident victim seeking compensation from the at-fault party.
Type of Recoverable Damages
Once you are involved in an accident, there are chances of incurring some injuries. The sort of injuries that you sustain determine the expenses that you will spend in treating and rehabilitating them. The legal term used to define these costs is damages. There are two types of damages in a car accident lawsuit and any other lawsuit. These types are compensatory and punitive damage.
These damages are also considered as actual damages. This is the money awarded to a plaintiff due to the incurred losses when treating or rehabilitating injuries. They are awarded in a civil court case once the plaintiff manages to win the case. To grant these damages, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant attributed the losses incurred. In this case, the defendant should be the person responsible for the accident.
There are two types of compensatory damages. This includes economic costs considered as actual damages and non-economic damages, which are regarded as general damages.
The actual or economic damages have a monetary amount that the plaintiff can recover from the defendant. In short, these are necessary for replacing the actual loss that the plaintiff incurred from the injuries. These kind of damages are as follows:
Medical and Hospital Bills
These are usually the most substantial part of actual damages in a car accident claim. They include costs incurred in the treatment and care of the car accident victim. Medical expenses might consist of the following:
- Hospital stays expenses
- Ambulance costs
- Rehabilitation costs
- Prosthetic devices
- Cognitive therapy in brain injuries
- Need-in-home services
Please note, the expenses that one incur in these damages differ according to the scale of injuries. For instance, when you suffer limb loss, you need prosthetic devices to replace the lost limb. Also, one might require rehabilitating to adopt the usage of the respective devices.
You cannot merely claim that you incurred medical expenses and expect compensation right away. You must provide relevant medical evidence that will help you get your claim. The type of medical evidence that you need to prove is as follows:
- Patient chart, which includes notes made by the medical professional or doctors responsible for your treatment
- Written reports by the emergency response team that attended to you immediately after the accident
- Surgical notes
- Laboratory results such as blood tests
- CT scans, X-ray, and MRIs report
- Letter from both physical and occupational therapist
Medical and Prescription Drugs
Once you receive treatment for your injuries, you will need to get medical and prescription drugs. The type of medications prescribed to you differs according to the type of injuries. For you to prove your expenses in medical and prescription drugs, you need to provide relevant receipts from the pharmacists. Also, you should give the doctor’s prescriptions for the medications that you had to take.
Nursing Home Care
Some injuries, such as spinal cord injuries, might require all-round nursing care due to the effects that follow. Such injuries lead to paralysis, incontinence, and memory loss, meaning that one must get close attention for the rest of his or her life.
Proving your need for nursing home care is pretty easy, based on the effects of your injuries. Your doctor must provide a clear outline of your expenses so the attorney can ask for a reasonable settlement during the case.
Injuries can end up affecting your ability to handle some of your day-to-day chores. If you get lucky, you can have someone else cater to your domestic services. However, most people are unfortunate and end up spending out-of-pocket, which needs compensation from the at-fault party.
To prove your domestic service losses, you should provide a reasonable value of the services that you would have managed to offer if you had not incurred the injuries. Whether you decide to use an expert witness or rely on testimonies from people who know the value of these services, you should make sure that you get a reasonable value of the services based on your household. In most cases, the value of your domestic services is proven by standard community services such as house cleaning, lawn care, and other domestic services.
The essential aspect is to prove your inability to perform the particular chores and provide a reasonable value of the expenses before your incapacity to perform these tasks. Therefore, you should keep a detailed record of:
- The household chores that you use to deliver before the injuries
- Services that you cannot provide due to the injuries
- The time and expenses you will incur when you engage someone else in catering for the services on your behalf.
If your attorney has this information, you will be in a better position of getting fair compensation for all your losses.
Please note, you are not eligible for compensation for your domestic services if all the expenses incurred in such tasks are part of your household budget.
Lost income or wages refers to the amount of money that you could have earned from your employment since the accident. A car accident victim can recover lost wages if he or she has been receiving medical treatment and recovering from the injuries sustained from the car accident.
Please note, lost earning capacity and lost compensation might be considered separately from the lost income. Lost earning capacity consists of any disability that might diminish your ability to work. Lost compensation refers to other financial benefits that come from your employment, such as bonuses and additional increments.
For you to determine your lost income, you must provide the following evidence:
5.1 Doctors Note
Before you took off some time from your work, you must have incurred some physical injuries. Therefore, your doctor must recommend the time that you need off your job due to the injuries.
5.2 Wage Documents or Pay Stubs
The easiest way to prove your lost wages is by presenting your paystubs. If the pay stubs are not available, you can use the W-2 form or tax returns to show your lost wages. Anyone who is self-employed should submit tax returns and other documents such as invoices, correspondences, and any material that shows the amount you could have earned during your recovery.
5.3 Employer’s Letter
Besides the paystubs, you should submit a letter from your employer that confirms crucial details about your lost wages. The message should consist of the days when you were absent from work, your pay levels, and the number of jobs you could have worked throughout your treatment period.
Once you have provided proof for your lost wages, you can now calculate the amount needed for your compensation. The amount that you need to be compensated differs according to the criteria used in your payment. You can either get paid hourly or annually.
For a person receiving an hourly wage, his or her attorney will take the amount needed to be paid and multiply it with the number of missed hours due to the accident.
If you have annual wages, you will have to take your yearly salary and divide it by the number of weekday work hours in a year, which is 2080. The figure that you get will then be multiplied by the number of hours that you have missed your work due to the injuries.
You can recover any overtime payment, lost promotion, lost wage increase, lost commissions, and bonuses.
Non-economic damages involve the type of expenses that one suffers and does not include any monetary expenditure. This means that there is no straightforward principle that the plaintiff or attorney can use to determine the amount needed for your compensation. The different types of non-economic or general damages are as follows.
Future Medical Expenses
Your future medical expenses are quite close to the costs that you spend on your treatment. However, it consists of other expenses, such as purchasing medical assistive equipment, pain management, and rehabilitation services.
It can be complicated to determine the value of future medical expenses. Your attorney will likely wait until you get discharged from your treatment and reach your maximum point of medical improvement. Your attorney will also have to work with medical experts and your primary health care provider to determine the value of your future medical expenses. Your doctor will be able to help you consider factors such as the possibility of surgeries and pain management.
However, the physical therapist will help determine the sort of rehabilitation treatment you will need to recover from your injuries. With all the information collected from all these factors and experts, your attorney can manage to come up with a reasonable settlement amount that will help in sustaining your future medical expenses.
Some of the factors that might affect the value of your future medical expenses include:
- The possibility of getting an alternative therapeutic option that is quite affordable
- The effectiveness of the current therapeutic regimes and whether you need additional treatment
- Expected inflation rates
- The possibility of your condition worsening after the settlement
Lost Earning Capacity
There is a significant difference between lost wages and lost earning capacity. In lost earning capacity, the attorney will try to determine the overall impact that the injury has caused on the victim’s ability to make a living following the accident. Therefore, this is the potential loss that one will incur in the future. The victim has not currently suffered from them but works as a projection for possible future losses.
It is quite hard to determine the lost earning capacity of any person. It involves predicting how much one will be making, and there are many factors to consider. However, with the help of an expert witness, you will be able to calculate this kind of expense. The expert witness must analyze a couple of factors to determine your lost earning capacity. These factors include:
- Your profession
- Location of your work
- Your education
- Work history
- Possible transferability of your skills to a different profession
- Possibility of a promotion
- Your life expectancy
- Current wage rates and market value
Pain and Suffering
This describes the physical pain and emotional distress that result from a personal injury accident. Emotional distress includes mental anguish and includes insomnia, anxiety, depression, irritability, and many more. These damages offer a limited window to assess how much one should get compensated since there is no typical way to prove them. They are subjective since different victims will show different experiences even after undergoing the same experience. Therefore, it is hard to come up with a standard guideline to determine how much one should be compensated.
However, there are a couple of factors that could determine the compensation for pain and suffering in practice. These factors are as follows:
- The severity of your injuries
- Recovery time needed
- Potential to continue with the pain and suffering
- Location and nature of the scarring or disfigurement
- The amount that you should claim in special damages
- Your socio-economic or political influence
Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages
In California, two methods are used in calculating pain and suffering damages. These methods include the multiplier and the per diem method.
The Multiplier Method
This is the conventional method used in calculating your pain and suffering wages. In this case, your total economic damages are multiplied by a value agreed by the court. For instance, if your total economic costs summed up to $6000 and the court offers a multiplier of three, then your total recoverable damages for your pain and suffering is $18,000.
Please note, insurance companies are reluctant to agree to an automatic multiplier and have decided to come up with a reasonable way to agree to this fact. In recent cases, the multiplier is determined based on the severity of the injuries sustained by the plaintiff. If the plaintiff has suffered aggravated injuries, the multiplier is likely to be high compared to mild injuries. Also, the insurance company might consider the type of medical treatment needed for the injuries that you have sustained. Therefore, over-treating your minor injuries does not automatically guarantee higher compensation. It can backfire and leave unpaid medical bills if you are not careful enough.
The Per Diem Method
The per diem method is a way that determines the daily expenses that you incur due to the injuries you have suffered. Your compensation amount is assigned per day or week that you will continue suffering from the injuries.
For instance, If it took three months to ease your pain and resume your regular activity, the total recoverable amount includes the daily value of the per diem and ninety days. Therefore, if the daily cost is $200, the total recoverable amount is $18,000.
The decision on a specific per diem daily value solely depends on your reasoning. In that case, you must provide a reasonable and genuine reason for the value being placed at a specific amount if you expect the jury or judge to consider it.
Finding the Final Value
The best and most efficient way to determine the final value for your compensation is to use both methods and decide on a ballpark value. From that point, you can choose to adjust your expectations according to factors such as:
- The severity of the injuries
- The involvement of other people in the accident
- The permanence of your injuries.
For instance, if the value of your damages amounted to $18,000 through the multiplier method and $30,000 through the per diem method, the average amount will be $24,000. From that point, you can adjust the figure according to the above-stated factors.
Loss of Enjoyment of Life
Loss of enjoyment of life can be defined as the inability of a plaintiff to perform specific activities that provide life enjoyment due to injuries. Some examples that prove this aspect include the loss of:
- Ability to perform certain recreational activities and hobbies
- Family bonding
- Ability to travel
- Social encounter with your friends
- Participation in voluntary activities
- A career
When the judge is calculating your compensation for this kind of damage, he or she might consider the following.
- Your age
- Your appearance
- The severity of your injuries
- your geographical location
- Nature of the activities that you cannot perform
- Your work history and education background
Loss of enjoyment of life is entirely personal. Therefore, the court usually relies on the plaintiff’s and the spouse’s testimonies to prove that one has lost the capacity to enjoy life. The plaintiff should simply tell the court the activities that he or she used to enjoy before the accident and how the accident has prevented him or her from continuing to enjoy the same events.
In California, it is possible to get awarded for the loss of enjoyment of life. However, it is usually included in pain and suffering rather than being awarded separately.
Loss of Consortium
This kind of compensation claim is different from other accident claims since someone close to the accident victim brings it to court. It can involve the spouse, parent of children. Loss of consortium refers to the deprivation of the benefits of marriage, parenting, and showing affection due to the effects of car accident injuries. If a victim cannot fulfill these responsibilities, he or she is eligible for compensation for loss of consortium.
It is hard to determine the amount to compensate for this kind of damage. However, the court will likely consider the following factors.
- If your marriage was stable and loving
- If your spouse was living
- The level of the care and companionship that you provided to your spouse
- The life expectancy of your spouse
In California, the minimum amount for loss of consortium is $15,000 for every person and $30,000 for every event. Therefore, the at-fault party’s insurance company can agree to a higher amount based on the factors provided above.
Punitive damages are particular types of compensation in a personal injury case. As the name suggests, they are not meant to compensate the victim but intended to punish the defendant. In a car accident, plaintiffs get punitive damages if the defendant was driving under the influence of alcohol or any other drug. The intoxication should be voluntary to constitute sufficient malice that can warrant this kind of compensation. Other factors that might lead to this kind of payment are:
- Engaging in a chicken game where drivers compete to see who will swerve first but end up causing an accident
- Participation in a road rage which ends up into multiple injuries and victims
In California, there is no cap in punitive damages. The only provision available is that the abe awarded should be proportional to the compensatory damages. Therefore, if you had severe or permanent injuries, you are likely to get substantial punitive damage.
While the court is deciding on the punitive damage, it should consider the defendant’s financial capacity. Therefore, a wealthy defendant is likely to pay higher punitive costs than someone living from paycheck to paycheck.
Discover the Best San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm Near Me
As you have read, there are many complexities involved in determining your compensation for damages, especially with the non-economic damages. In that case, you should find a personal injury lawyer who can help you handle the complexities of a lawsuit. A good attorney should be part of a law firm with a reputation for offering excellent and professional services. The San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm has the best lawyers for your injury case. For those who have been injured in San Diego, CA, reach out to us at 619-478-4059 and speak to our representatives about your case.