Recovering Damages in a Personal Injury Case

When it comes to a personal injury, the damage can be much more than physical. For many victims, the aftermath of a severe accident means months off work, intense physical therapy, a series of surgeries, or simply a reduced quality of life. Fortunately, the law takes this into account and provides injury plaintiffs the opportunity to seek compensation for the entire spectrum of injuries they suffered as a result of the defendant’s negligence – including both the seen and unseen. At The Sargent Firm Injury Lawyers, you will work with a San Diego personal injury lawyer to establish the full value (short- and long-term) of all of your damages.

Compensatory Damages

As the name implies, compensatory damages compensate you for your losses and expenses. This type of recovery is based on the plaintiff’s evidence of economic loss. Also known as “actual damages,” this category can include any of the following types of financial compensation:

  • Medical bills, co-pays, prescription drug costs, nursing care, rehabilitation costs, and any other medical-related fee.
  • Lost wages and the value of any missed benefits or promotions directly caused by the employee’s accident-related absence.
  • Lost future earnings based on the plaintiff’s projected lifetime earnings.
  • Property damage.
  • Costs associated with vocational rehabilitation.
  • Any other “verifiable monetary loss.”

For some of these categories – particularly lost future earnings and projected medical costs – it may be necessary to enlist the services of a financial expert to help calculate the precise measure of the financial impact caused by the accident. For other matters, a simple invoice or document detailing the expense will suffice.

General Damages

Unlike compensatory damages, general damages are not as easily quantifiable. For plaintiffs having suffered a catastrophic loss, significant injuries, or a drastic reduction in the quality of life, it may be possible to successfully seek compensation for the emotional and mental impact of a severe accident. In California, general damages include any of the following categories:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Inconvenience
  • Mental suffering
  • Emotional stress
  • Loss of society and companionship
  • Loss of consortium
  • Injury to reputation
  • Humiliation

This category of damages includes injuries that are “subjective, non-monetary losses,” and require a case that thoroughly details the lifelong impact of a severe accident and resulting injuries. In particularly severe cases, general damages awards can be considerable – often reaching into the six- and seven-figure range.

Punitive Damages in Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury lawsuits intend to make the plaintiff financially “whole” again. As opposed to criminal law, civil laws are not generally designed to punish a defendant – unless the defendant’s conduct was so egregious, punitive financial measures are warranted.

In California, punitive damages may be attached to compensatory and general damages as a way to essentially punish a defendant for committing such heinous misconduct against the plaintiff. Accordingly, a plaintiff must show that the defendant’s actions were intentional, malicious, or excessively reckless. In other words, punitive damages are not recoverable for simple accidents or even gross negligence.

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