California Civil Code § 3281 states in pertinent part, “every person who suffers detriment from Personal Injury, the unlawful act or omission of another, may recover from the person in fault a compensation in money, which is called damages.” California law limits recovery to actual harm caused to the victim. Those damages are divided into two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.
A. Economic Damages
Economic damages includes “objectively verifiable monetary losses” which includes past and future medical expenses, past and future lost earnings, lost earning capacity, and loss of use of real property. California Civil Code § 1431(b)(1). The amount recoverable for medical care and services must be reasonably and attributable to the injuries suffered from the incident. However, when determining future medical costs, the calculation can get difficult, since the medical treatment has not yet occurred. Typically, an attorney will consult with an expert in the field to evaluate your injuries to determine any future medical care and assign a reasonable value to the care.
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The same applies for future lost earnings and lost earning capacity. Attorneys will consult with expert economist to determine the amount of lost wages and the reduced capacity to earn a salary. Loss of use of real property is determined by the cost to rent the similar item of personal property. For example, a rental company may charge $30.00 a day to rent a compact size vehicle. The courts will often rely on such information to determine the loss of use of personal property.
B. Non-economic Damages
Contrary to economic damages, non-economic damages includes “subjective non-monetary losses” which includes pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship, injury to reputation, and humiliation. California Civil Code § 1431(b)(2). Emotional injuries includes mental injuries such as fear, insomnia, grief, worry, inconvenience and the loss of enjoyment of life.
Calculating non-economic damages can be very difficult. One way to evaluate the value of your non-economic damages is by multiplying the economic damages. For example, if the economic damages are approximately $10,000.00, the non-economic damages can be a multiplied by five and the average amount of non-economic damages can be $50,000.00. Getting an exact amount is difficult and requires rationale supporting the estimated amount. Lawyers will often consult with experts in the field to determine a reasonable amount and will argue with insurance companies and attorneys to justify their clients’ position.
C. Contributory Negligence
It has been a long policy of the California courts that if the party to a claim was negligent at the time of the incident, the party may be apportioned a percentage of responsibility for the harm. If the party making the claim for injuries is found to have been at fault, then the jury will decide the percentage of responsibility to that party and the defendant, and reduce the total damages by the percentage of responsibility. For example, if the jury finds that the Plaintiff is 20% responsible for an incident, but finds the Defendant 80% liable and awards Plaintiff $2,000,000.00, then the gross verdict will be reduced to $1,600,000.00.
It’s not as simple as it sounds.
Damages are limited but the type of damages is very case specific. Some Personal Injury actions, such as wrongful death actions, allow for the recovery of burial costs. Other personal injury actions allow for costs of repair or replacement for any damage to property, loss of employment, and loss of business or employment opportunities. Given the severity of an incident, a party may even recover for the lost earning capacity and loss of ability to provide household services. Others allow for the recovery of emotional distress, even when the party making the claim was not directly harmed by the incident.
It is important to understand the extent of your damages and what can be recovered based on the specific facts surrounding the claim. It is just as important to consult an attorney in your state immediately following an incident to better understand and protect your legal rights. Do not wait, never hesitate, and reach out to a professional who is ready to serve your needs.
Location: Los Angeles, CA 91403
Consultation: Free - 60 minutes
Tel: (310) 363-0551
Email: jonathan [ at ] ellisbakh.com
Jonathan Bakhsheshian , Esq.
is an associate attorney at Ellis & Bakh, LLP where he specializes in wrongful death and catastrophic injury litigation.
He obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles and earned his Juris Doctorate from Pepperdine University School of Law. At Pepperdine, Jonathan was the Lead Articles Editor of the Pepperdine Dispute Resolution Law Journal and a lead member of the negotiations and mediations Team. He competed in several nationwide and international negotiation and mediation competitions. Jonathan continued his studies at the number one, nationally-ranked Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution and obtained his Masters in Dispute Resolution.
In addition to his classroom training, Jonathan externed for the United States District Court, Central District of California; United States Attorney’s Office, Department of Justice; Honorable Judge Robert Kwan, Bankruptcy Judge of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California; Los Angeles Superior Court; and for the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.
Jonathan is dedicated to the principal and philosophy that every injured victim is entitled to the best representation, regardless of their personal financial status or complexity of their case. Jonathan prides himself on being a tough, creative, and fair legal advocate for all of his clients.
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