Car accidents are one of the most common causes of personal injury claims in California, with tens of thousands of drivers filing insurance claims and taking legal action for accidents every year. If you expect to file an insurance claim or lawsuit for a recent car accident, you should have some idea of what to expect in terms of potential compensation.
There is no hard and fast rule for calculating the value of a car accident claim. Any claimant can potentially secure compensation for his or her economic damages as well as noneconomic damages like pain and suffering, but the values of these kinds of damages fluctuate on a case-by-case basis.
The most apparent economic damages in any car accident claim typically include vehicle repair/replacement costs and medical expenses from the claimant’s injuries. The claimant must produce evidence of all claimed economic damages, and the court generally ensures that successful plaintiffs receive compensation in full for all economic damages. Generally, if a claimant sustained $10,000 in medical expenses and $5,000 in vehicle repair costs, his or her economic damage recovery would be $15,000.
A car accident may also cause a victim to miss work for an extended time, and he or she can claim lost wages as damages in his or her claim. For example, if a car accident victim lost three weeks worth of wages due to his or her car accident injuries, the victim could reasonably expect to claim those three lost weeks worth of work as economic damages.
In the event a car accident injury prevents a victim from working again in the future, he or she may qualify for lost earning potential compensation. A financial expert could testify as to the plaintiff’s lost future earnings so the court can better understand the full scope of the economic impact of the accident on the plaintiff.
Economic damages like medical expenses, vehicle repair costs, and lost income are relatively simple to calculate. Whatever the plaintiff lost due to the defendant’s actions; the defendant owes that exact amount in economic damages. Noneconomic damages like pain and suffering are more nebulous and difficult to calculate. The justice system allows plaintiffs to recover compensation for their physical pain, mental anguish, and emotional suffering and the amounts recovered usually eclipse those plaintiffs’ economic damages.
Different courts use different systems to calculate pain and suffering compensation. In most cases, a jury will simply multiply a plaintiff’s economic damages by a certain amount to reflect the degree of severity of his or her injuries to arrive at a reasonable figure for pain and suffering compensation. For example, if a plaintiff suffered painful injuries that required extensive treatment and a long recovery time, the jury may multiply the cost of his or her medical expenses by two or three to arrive at an appropriate amount of pain and suffering compensation.
Another option for calculating pain and suffering compensation is to use a per diem system, which awards a set amount to a plaintiff per day until he or she reaches maximum possible recovery. For example, a jury may decide that a plaintiff deserves $200 in compensation for each day he or she spends in recovery. After 100 days, the plaintiff’s doctor determines the plaintiff is at maximum medical recovery, resulting in $20,000 total pain and suffering compensation for the plaintiff.
Ultimately, the value of any car accident claim may be much higher than a claimant initially expects. One of the best things to do in this situation is to speak with a personal injury attorney and get a professional opinion about the value of your car accident claim. Depending on the defendant’s behavior, it is possible to secure punitive damages and other types of compensation that could lead to a much more substantial recovery than expected.