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Calculating Damages in a California Personal Injury Claim

Typically, most personal injury claims are pursued in a civil court. They involve financial compensation for somebody who was injured in an accident due to the negligent actions of another person. This type of financial settlement for a personal injury is known as damages.

Compensatory Damages

There are two parties involved in a damages claim. The plaintiff is the person injured while the defendant is the person or persons who allegedly caused the accident. Most personal injury settlements are for compensatory damages. As the name implies, these compensate the accident victim for the financial burden of the injuries.

The sorts of losses covered by compensatory damages include both property loss such as damage to an auto in an accident and the financial burden incurred by the plaintiff as a result of the injury. This could include hospital costs, loss of earnings while recovering, home care if required, missed opportunities, emotional suffering, trauma and pain from long-term injuries. Compensatory damages also include losses into the future such as prolonged medical treatment and care in the years ahead even if you never fully recover.

A Personal Injury Lawyer is Important

Personal injury law is complex. If you are injured in an accident, such as a car crash on a highway, a slip and fall in a shopping mall or you were hit by a falling object from a construction site, you should contact a personal injury lawyer. The layer will assess your eligibility to file a personal injury claim against the person, company or organization who caused your accident. Almost all accidents that are not the victim’s fault may be eligible for compensatory damages. An experienced personal injury lawyer has the knowledge and experience to negotiate the best possible damages settlement.

Punitive Damages

These do not always become part of a personal injury claim. When a civil court looks at the case and finds that the defendant caused the accident through negligence, punitive damages can be incorporated into the final settlement. This financial penalty directed at the defendant is aimed at deterring whoever was too blame from any further malicious behavior in the future that is considered morally reprehensible. Punitive damages normally becomes part of a settlement if a jury hearing a case against a defendant finds that the person brought about the injuries to the plaintiff intentionally, maliciously or due to reckless behavior.

How are Punitive Damages Calculated?

These are more difficult to evaluate compared to compensatory damages. The latter can be calculated based on documentary evidence such as medical reports and lost wages calculations.

However, with punitive damages there are a number of factors that are considered including:

  • how much money the defendant has;
  • the nature of the wrongdoing committed by the defendant;
  • the effect on the plaintiff of the defendant’s action;
  • the relationship between the defendant and the plaintiff;
  • the defendant’s motivation to cause injury;
  • awareness of the amount of harm caused;
  • the length of the misconduct of the defendant;
  • whether there was any attempt by the defendant to hide the misconduct;
  • the expense to the plaintiff to recover any losses;
  • whether the defendant gained financially in any way;
  • whether the punitive damages settlement should be more than the cash amount gained.

There are other important factors, such as whether the defendant has acted in this way before and if he or she has ever tried to make amends for the damage that has been caused.

The reason for awarding punitive damages is to help the plaintiff return to the state he or she was in before the accident happened. This of course in the case of injuries that cause quadriplegia it’s impossible for the victim to restore his or her life to normal but the courts will go as far as they can in ensuring the victim’s life reaches as close to normality as is possible. Typically in California there is a cap on non economic damages. The cap is pegged at an amount a single digit multiple of the compensatory or economic damages. The multiple is determined by the court depending on an analysis of the factors listed above, but is never more than 9.

Personal injury law can at times be quite confusing. If you have been injured in any type of accident and it was not your fault, you shouldn’t wait any longer. Contact Robert Hamparyan at the Law Offices of Robert Hamparyan in San Diego, who will ensure you get the compensation you deserve.


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