Whenever someone files a lawsuit against a party, they may seek to recover damages. When it comes to a personal injury claim, damages can cover a broad range of financial and non-financial elements that a court may award to the plaintiff if they win the case.
Personal injury claims have many moving parts, and each case presents a unique set of elements.
If you’ve ever asked yourself, “What are the most frequently awarded legal damages in a personal injury claim?” keep reading to learn more.
Compensatory and Non-Compensatory Damages
Damages in a personal injury lawsuit can be divided into two general categories:
- Compensatory damages
- Non-compensatory damages
Compensatory damages are awarded as a financial sum for losses related to the injury.
Non-compensatory damages are awarded whenever malice or gross negligence is involved. These damages seek to punish the defendant for their actions.
In most personal injury claims, economic damages are the key focus. Economic damages include any expenses and financial losses that you incurred as a result of your injury.
For economic damages, what are the most frequently awarded legal damages?
- Medical expenses
- Past and future lost wages
- Rehabilitation and therapy
- Property damage
- Cost of care
- Lost earning capacity
- Out-of-pocket expenses due to the injury
Even a minor personal injury can lead to significant expenses from hospital bills, car repairs, and lost wages from missing work. Whenever someone’s negligence results in your injury, the courts can hold these individuals accountable to ensure that they pay for any bills you accumulate.
Whenever you seek economic damages, you must maintain a record of every expense. This means keeping track of receipts, bills, quotes, and any paperwork associated with your injury. Your injury attorney will need to prove the extent of your losses, and evidence of such will be critical should you proceed to trial.
Non-economic damages are another type of financial compensation that helps plaintiffs recover losses that don’t have a price tag. In other words, non-economic damages look to recover losses that aren’t as concrete as a hospital bill.
For non-economic damages, what are the most frequently awarded legal damages?
- Pain and suffering
- Reputation damage
- Permanent scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of enjoyment
- Worsening of medical conditions
Depending on the state, there may be limits to how much you can recover for non-economic damages. In California, most personal injuries have no limit, though medical malpractice cases cap awards of non-economic damages at $250,000.
Just because you may not have physical bills or receipts to prove an exact amount of losses, non-economic damages are still significant, and courts take them seriously.
Your attorney will work to review the evidence in your case and determine a fair and just value for any damages you suffer. If you go to trial, a jury will determine the amount to award based on the evidence presented.
Although most personal injury claims are focused on recovering damages for past or future losses, some cases may also seek to punish the opposing party through punitive damages.
Punitive damages, also called “exemplary damages,” are designed to hold the negligent party responsible — beyond just signing a check. Generally, punitive damages are sought whenever any willful, malicious, or fraudulent actions result in a personal injury.
In most situations, punitive damages seek to:
- Make an example of the defendant
- Discourage others from behaving the same way
- Dissuade the defendant from repeating the behavior
- Encourage the defendant to make changes to their behavior
In California, a jury can award punitive damages in a personal injury case whenever there is “clear and convincing evidence” of malice or fraud. You and your attorney will work together to determine the best course of action should you want to seek punitive damages.
When it comes to punitive damages, judges have the discretion to modify them based on the compensatory damages previously awarded. Though California has no limit on punitive damages, federal provisions protect defendants against grossly excessive or arbitrary punishments.
There’s no standard equation or calculation for determining punitive damages. The total amount is up to the judge’s discretion. Courts will look at the facts, the defendant’s financial status, and other relevant elements to determine a number.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit to Recover Damages
Personal injury cases cover a wide range of situations. Some types of personal injuries that can be eligible for a claim include:
- Traffic collisions
- Product defects
- Slip and fall accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Wrongful death
- Dog bites
- Workplace injuries
If you have suffered an injury due to negligence on behalf of another party, they can be held legally responsible. Because injury cases can be complex, a personal injury attorney can help determine how to move forward in presenting your case and recovering your losses.
Since 1992, our personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. have been fighting for the people of San Diego. Now, when those injured in automobile accidents – including car, truck, and motorcycle accidents – need financial help, or for the families that need to know that the loss of a loved one could have been prevented, there is a personal injury law firm in San Diego that is on their side. If you or a family member has been injured, call the lawyers at Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. There’s never been a better time than right now to speak to a personal injury attorney—FREE of charge. Call us at 858-551-2090 or request a free consultation online today!
SENIOR PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY & FIRM FOUNDER
Michael Pines is a former insurance company attorney who graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1987. While he was an insurance attorney, he learned from behind the scenes how insurance companies work and how they decide how much to pay injured people. Now that he works against insurance companies, Michael’s inside knowledge has resulted in significant benefits to his clients injured in car accidents. Learn more about Michael Pines