What are damages in personal injury cases?
In California, victims of wrongful acts may be able to recover two distinct types of damages: compensatory damages and non-economic damages. Compensatory damages, which are also referred to as economic or special damages, are intended to cover out-of-pocket losses. In contrast, non-economic or general damages will provide compensation for injuries that do not have a set value, such as pain and suffering.
California law permits recovery of a wide range of compensatory damages, such as medical bills for past, present and future treatment. Other compensatory damages that may be awarded include property damage, lost wages, and lost earning capacity. Generally, if a loss can be accurately measured, it may be included as compensatory damages.
California law also allows recovery for non-economic damages without limit. These types of losses typically include an intangible loss, such as pain and suffering, or loss of enjoyment of life. Other non-economic damages that may be recovered include compensation for scarring or disfigurement, or negligent infliction of emotional distress.
In some cases, punitive damages may be available in personal injury cases. Punitive damages are intended to punish wrongdoers and deter other potential wrongdoers from engaging in similar conduct. Because punitive damages are generally only awarded in situations where the conduct was intentional or grossly negligent, they are rarely awarded.
As a general rule, damages in a personal injury case are intended to make a person whole. This is often not possible, particularly if the victim suffered a permanent or debilitating injury or died as a result of the accident.
All personal injury cases are different. The type and amount of damages that can be recovered will depend on the facts of each case. Working with a skilled California personal injury attorney can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case.