When someone has been injured due to the intentional actions or negligence of another, they may recover financial compensation from the person who caused those injuries. The goal of making the responsible person pay the injured person is to make the injured person "whole," in other words, to put them in the same state they were in before the injury happened. Clearly, the idea of making an injured person "whole" by paying money for those injuries is not perfect.  However, it is the only way society can try to assist the injured person recoup that which was lost by way of his or her injuries.

In California personal injury cases, financial damages are divided into categories, general damages and special damages. 

General Damages in a California Personal Injury Case

Personal Injury Victim in a WheelchairGeneral damages are paid to the injured person, or the plaintiff if a lawsuit is filed, as compensation for pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, grief, anxiety, and other emotional damage they suffered due to the injuries.  No specific formula is used to calculate general damages; the value of each case is different. 

Several factors are used to determine an appropriate amount to compensate an injured person for their pain and suffering:

  • The type and severity of the injury
  • The amount of pain the injured person experienced or will experience in the future
  • The length of the plaintiff's recovery
  • How much the injury impacts the injured person's everyday activities of life

Each of these elements is subjective. Someone who suffers paraplegia following a motor vehicle accident would likely receive more in general damages than a person whose recovery from an accident only takes one year. Both injured parties are still entitled to compensation for their pain and suffering, but the amount would differ due to the impact of the respective injuries. 

Special Damages in a California Personal Injury Case

Special damages can be assessed with a specific dollar value. In other words, they can be calculated using receipts or mathematical formulas.  Examples include:

  • The medical bills an injured person receives for treating their injuries. 
  • The amount of money it will take to provide medical and care services to thie injured person in the past and future. 
  • The amount of money lost in past earnings
  • The value of their loss of earning capacity for future earnings.

To prove these damages, for lost wages including salary, bonuses, commissions, or any other earnings or benefits, records of a person's past earning record is evaluated. 

To prove loss of earning capacity, expert testimony is used to determine the capactiy of the injured person to work in the future, and then determine the nature of the earnings that will be lost due to the inability to work, or the lesser value of work the injured person can perform in the future.

Furture losses also can include the lost value of retirement income. 

As for past medical expenses, proof of those expenses are provided to the other side from medical bills or other invoices.  For future medical expenses, a medical expert can determine the amount of time it will take the plaintiff to recover and the anticipated future costs for those medical services.

Factors That Can Affect Recovery

All medical expenses (already incurred and future) must meet the following criteria to be eligible for recovery by an injured person:

  • The expense must be reasonable. 
  • The expense must reflect "necessary medical care."
  • The expense must be for medical care received or are reasonably sure to be needed.  

Generally, a medical expert will need to show that the medical treatment provided to the plaintiff met all of the criteria listed above. In the case of future medical expenses, a medical expert can speak to the need for medical care, and a financial expert can calculate the cost of future care. 

How Working With a Skilled Attorney Can Maximize the Value of a Case

If you have been hurt because of someone else, you want to focus on your recovery. A skilled attorney has the knowledge and expertise to assist you in getting fair and appropriate compensation. Don't try to settle your case on your own; you may short-change yourself by trying to "get it over with." Your personal injury attorney should be focused on representing you and your best interests. 

Schedule a Consultation

There are so many details to consider when dealing with an injury claim due to someone else's actions. Having the right attorney who can put your interests first is critical to your best outcome.  Complete our online contact form or call our California personal injury lawyers today at 1-888-MY-IELAW of 909-481-0100 to make an appointment for a free initial consultation and to learn more about your rights and possible recovery.
David Ricks
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Rancho Cucamonga Personal Injury Lawyer Serving the Inland Empire Community