Under California civil law, you have the right to pursue financial compensation for damages against another driver, business, or agency responsible for causing your car accident. But what do damages entail, exactly? The short answer is everything you lose or suffer because of the crash, including physical injuries, psychological and emotional fallout from those injuries, and any financial losses. We’re going to delve more deeply into these so that you know what compensation you can reasonably expect your attorney to pursue on your behalf, including losses and damages that might not be immediately obvious.
Physical damages resulting from a car crash
Physical damages refers to all of your injuries, as well as those of any passengers who might have been in the car at the time. These often involve one or more of the following:
- Broken bones
- Head and brain injuries
- Spine and spinal cord injuries
- Skin wounds (e.g., bruises, abrasions, and cuts)
- Soft tissue injury (e.g., torn, or sprained ligaments and tendons)
- Internal injuries (e.g., bruised, or perforated organs)
- Dental injuries (e.g., tooth loss, temporal mandibular joint disorder)
- Sensory impairment (e.g., damage or loss of vision or hearing)
Civil law assigns a monetary value to the type of injury suffered based on the degree of damage done. The monetary payout is meant to help you afford treatment for the injury so that you can recover as fully as possible. The following examples illustrate the legal reasoning:
- If you are in an accident and the airbag deployment causes some temporary bruising, a moderate dollar amount would be assigned for that injury.
- If the airbag breaks your nose, a higher amount would be assigned because that will take somewhat longer to heal from and possibly require additional medical treatment.
- If the airbag deployment broke your ribs causing one to puncture your lung, the dollar amount assigned would be significantly higher, as such an injury definitely requires medical intervention (e.g., surgery) and a longer period of recovery.
- If the airbag deployed and broke your neck causing untreatable paralysis, you’ve suffered permanent injury that will affect you for the rest of your life, and thus a very significant monetary amount would be assigned.
Obviously, medical professionals have to provide evidence of your injury that explains the degree to which it will affect your life, the treatment plan, whether you are likely to recover completely, and how long that will take. Note that the law takes into consideration whether you had a physical pre-existing condition, such as a back injury. While your attorney can argue that the pre-existing condition was exacerbated by the automobile accident, the court might be inclined to lower the normal amount they would have assigned if this injury was wholly caused by the crash.
Pain and suffering
Pain and suffering are considered intangible losses but are no less relevant monetary claims. The amounts assigned are more discretionary, and often hinge on the solidity of the case your attorney assembled on your behalf. Common pain and suffering damages include the following:
- Physical pain
- Mental and emotional suffering (e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder)
- Loss of ability to engage in activities you previously enjoyed (e.g., hiking)
- Loss of companionship as a parent and/or spouse
Again, any pre-existing conditions you might have will be considered. For example, if you have a history of severe depression, the court might be inclined to lower your compensation for a claim of depression stemming from the accident, although an argument could certainly be made that the crash increased the severity of your depression.
You will need to provide substantive evidence of any pain and suffering claims. For example, if you claim to be experiencing severe pain due to a back injury, you will have to show medical evidence that such an injury could reasonably cause the level of pain you’re claiming. And you definitely cannot engage in any activity indicating your pain isn’t actually that severe (e.g., riding a bike).
In the simplest terms, economic damages include the damage or loss of your possessions due to a crash. The most obvious of these will be your car. Is it dented and scratched, but still drivable? Or was it crushed beyond the ability to fix? Typically, the insurance company for the driver who hit you will use hard numbers to calculate what you are owed for this and related material losses. In the case of your vehicle, they will assess the car’s current cash value based on make, model, age, and other factors.
Taking into consideration the estimates from a garage for repairs and whether that amount is more or less than the value of the car, the responsible party’s insurance company will make a payout offer. This may or may not be fair and fully compensate you for the expenses stemming from all the repairs or having to replace your vehicle.
Besides your vehicle, any items that were in your car and subsequently damaged or lost in the accident need to be itemized and included in your claims. Examples include:
- Luggage that was in your trunk
- A child’s car seat
- Laptop from work
- Items of value in glove compartment (e.g., expensive fountain pen)
You should also include any items on your person that might have been damaged or destroyed, such as a diamond engagement ring that had to be cut off your broken finger.
Economic damages may also arise from the purchase and installation of accommodations required to help you during recovery or permanently. These might include the following:
- Grab bars in the shower
- A wheelchair or cane
- Transfer seat to move from wheelchair to toilet
- A ramp into your home
- Modifications to an existing vehicle or acquisition of a vehicle made for people with physical limitations
Additionally, the courts will take into consideration economic losses resulting from your inability to work either temporarily or permanently. These include any retraining for a different job if yours requires abilities you no longer have. Your lawyer will keep record of lost wages, what you would have earned over a lifetime if the accident hadn’t interfered, and more for the court to evaluate. Even if you weren’t employed at the time, if you are left unable to care for your children, shop for groceries, or otherwise accomplish activities vital to you and your family’s daily lives, these claims can be evaluated and monetary compensation attached for childcare, a home health aide, and similar services.
Los Angeles car accident attorney
Your Los Angeles automobile accident lawyer, Scott Corwin, understands how to create a strong and complete case for compensation that covers all your damages. Call Scott as soon after your car crash as possible at 800-946-9440.