After a serious collision, you might have questions for a Riverside car accident attorney, especially about damages. Damages are the monetary compensation you receive from a personal injury lawsuit or settlement. To understand your case’s value, you must understand the extent of your physical, financial, and emotional losses. Below, we discuss how damages are calculated in California.
How Much Is My Case Worth?
If another driver’s negligence substantially caused your injuries, you are eligible for compensation. Depending on the facts surrounding your claim, you might receive both economic and non-economic damages, including compensation for your:
- Medical bills: including bills for physical therapy, medications, medical devices (such as crutches, wheelchairs, and ramps), mental health care, and other necessary treatment.
- Lost income: including your lost wages as well as loss of wage earning capacity (your ability to earn income in the future).
- Property loss and damage: reimbursement of the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle or other property that was damaged in the accident.
- Pain and suffering: compensation for the pain you experienced during and after the accident (including emotional distress).
- Loss of enjoyment: compensation if the accident prevents you from engaging in your valued hobbies and recreational activities.
- Loss of consortium: damages if your relationship with your spouse is impacted by the accident (such as loss of sexual function or emotional companionship).
Under certain circumstances, you might also recover punitive damages (punishing the defendant for egregious behavior). A Riverside car accident attorney can review your claim and help you understand the value of your damages.
Under California law, you must have evidence documenting your losses– your testimony alone will not result in an award. Therefore, it’s important that you organize your receipts, medical records, and other evidence establishing your losses. For claims relating to noneconomic damages (such as pain and suffering and loss of consortium), you might need testimony from both expert witnesses (such as a psychologist) or your spouse.
Additionally, weaknesses in your case can impact its value. The insurance company will look for problems, such as conflicting medical evidence, pre-existing medical conditions, or inconsistencies in your statements. They will use these issues to deny your claim and avoid financial responsibility. However, when properly addressed, many of these “problems” can be minimized. A Riverside car accident attorney will help you identify and minimize the impact of your claim’s weaknesses and emphasize its strengths.
Does California Cap Damages in Car Accident Claims?
Unlike some states, California does not cap damages in car accident cases. However, if you are an uninsured driver, you cannot receive compensation for your non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment, and loss of consortium) pursuant to Civil Code §3333.4. An uninsured driver is still entitled to economic damages for their lost income, property loss, and medical expenses.
Additionally, the state does apply principles of comparative negligence in car accident cases. If you are partially at-fault for the collision, the court will reduce your damages by your percentage of fault. For example, suppose you had $50,000 in damages after an accident. However, you were 25% at fault. You could only receive $37,500 in a damage award ($50,0000 x 0.75 = $37,500). Since these percentages are fact-specific, it’s important to consult with a Riverside car accident attorney. Without a lawyer, the court may improperly assign fault, resulting in a lower award.
Do I Have to Mitigate My Damages?
Under California law, an injured motorist must try to minimize his or her damages. This means that, after an injury, you should:
- Attend your doctor’s appointments and follow-up as needed,
- Comply with your doctor’s treatment recommendations (including taking your medications, participating in physical or occupational therapy, and undergoing surgeries that are reasonably expected to improve your condition), and
- Attempt to return to work within your restrictions.
For example, your damage award might be reduced if you refuse to look for work, skip job interviews, or unreasonably pursue alternative medical therapies (such as unproven homeopathic treatment).
However, you only have a duty to reasonably mitigate your losses. For example, California law does not require you to undergo risky, experimental surgeries. If you have shown that you have, in good faith, followed your doctor’s orders and searched for work, you should fulfill your duty to mitigate. And, since every case is different, consult with a Riverside car accident attorney for personalized advice about your duty to mitigate.
Consult with a Riverside Car Accident Attorney
Most people cannot assess a lawsuit’s strength and value without the help of a Riverside car accident attorney. At Russell & Lazarus, APC, we represent injured motorists, passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians. We will help you recover emotionally and financially from the trauma of an accident. Contact our office for an evaluation of your claim.