Types of Damages Available in Personal Injury Cases

Many people do not know their personal injury claim is worth more money. As a result, insurance adjusters try to settle claims for the lowest amount possible. Therefore, understanding the types of damages available in personal injury cases can help you ensure that all losses are included in a settlement. 

Compensatory Damages for Claims Involving Personal Injuries

The most common category of damages for personal injury claims is compensatory damages. The value and amount of damages depend on the facts of the case. Damages fall into two categories: non-economic and economic damages

Also known as special damages, economic damages reimburse an injury victim for the financial losses they incur because of an injury or accident. 

Non-economic damages or general damages compensate the injured party for the “pain and suffering” they experienced.

Compensatory damages in a personal injury case include:

Medical Bills 

You can receive reimbursement for necessary and reasonable expenses related to diagnosing and treating injuries. 

Medical expenses include:

  • Ambulance services
  • Emergency room and hospital costs
  • Doctor’s bills
  • Diagnostic tests
  • Over-the-counter and prescription medications
  • Home health care costs
  • Mobility devices
  • Physical therapy 
  • Medical supplies and equipment
  • Long-term nursing case 

You could receive compensation for ongoing medical care if you sustain a permanent impairment or disability. For example, you might require ongoing medical care for a spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury that results in paralysis. 

Loss of Income

You can demand reimbursement for lost wages if you cannot work because of your injury. 

A loss of income claim includes losses from:

  • Wages and salaries
  • Commissions and bonuses
  • Overtime compensation
  • Self-employment and freelance work
  • Benefits, including retirement contributions, paid time off, etc. 
  • Tips and gratuities 

If you sustain a permanent injury, the party who caused your injury could be liable for future lost wages. A diminished earning capacity claim might occur when an impairment prevents you from earning as much as you could have earned had you not been permanently impaired.

Out-of-Pocket Expenses 

Out-of-pocket expenses are a catch-all category of economic damages. 

The expenses in this category include: 

  • Travel costs to and from medical appointments
  • Help with household chores, such as laundry, cooking, cleaning, and mowing the grass
  • Assistance with personal care, including feeding, bathing, and dressing
  • Help with taking care of your children

Out-of-pocket expenses must be necessary and reasonable. Be ready to document each expense because insurance companies often challenge claims for these damages. 

Physical Pain and Discomfort

Injuries often cause extreme physical pain. You could experience extensive pain from your accident injuries, even with pain medications. Many people also experience pain when they go through physical therapy. 

The amount of pain depends on the type and extent of the injury. Usually, as the severity of an injury increases, it is presumed the pain level also increases. 

Emotional Distress and Mental Anguish

Other non-economic damages include mental anguish and emotional distress. After an accident or injury, a person may develop one or more mental conditions. 

Examples include:

  • Severe depression
  • Chronic anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Fear and panic attacks
  • Eating and/or sleep disorders

The trauma from the accident and the emotional distress caused by dealing with injuries and a claim can be overwhelming. In some cases, emotional distress and mental anguish can be as devastating as physical injuries. 

Property Damages 

Property damages include any harm to real or personal property. Vehicle damage after a car accident is an example of property damage. 

Most property damage claims settle before the personal injury claim. Read all documents carefully before signing property damage settlements to ensure you are not waiving any rights or settling any claims related to your injuries or other damages. 

Loss of Consortium

A loss of consortium claim belongs to the injured party’s spouse. The claim seeks compensation for damages the non-injured spouse incurred because of their loved one’s injury. Examples of loss of consortium claims include loss of companionship, affection, intimate relations, comfort, guidance, and support. 

Non-Compensatory Damages for Claims Involving Personal Injuries

Punitive damages are non-compensatory damages because they do not reimburse or compensate the accident victim for any losses. Instead, a jury awards punitive damages in a personal injury case to “punish” the party who caused the injury for specific types of behavior. 

California Civil Code §3294 explains when punitive or exemplary damages may be awarded. The injured party must prove that the defendant acted with malice, fraud, or oppression. 

The level of proof is higher for punitive damages. Even though the damages are non-compensatory, the injured party receives the payment. Therefore, the plaintiff has the burden of proving that the defendant’s conduct met the definition of conduct in the state to justify punitive damages. 

How Do I Prove Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

The burden of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence in personal injury cases. Therefore, you must have sufficient proof to convince an insurance company or jury that there is a greater chance that the at-fault party caused your injury than not. 

Examples of evidence used in personal injury cases include:

  • Medical records and statements
  • Police reports and accident reports
  • Photographs and videos of the accident scene and your injuries throughout your recovery
  • Statements from the parties involved and eyewitnesses
  • Opinions and testimony from expert witnesses
  • Physical evidence gathered at the accident scene
  • Employment records 

There could be other evidence based on the facts of your case. If you hire a Vista personal injury attorney, your lawyer will investigate the cause of your injury to identify the liable parties and gather evidence. Because lawyers understand personal injury laws and have the resources to conduct the investigation, they are often in a better position to handle the claim than the injured party.

The Impact of Comparative Fault and Failure to Mitigate Damages in a Personal Injury Case 

The insurance company might try to undervalue your injury claim by alleging contributory fault. California’s pure comparative fault laws do not bar you from receiving compensation for damages if you contribute to the cause of your injury. However, the compensation is reduced by your percentage of fault.

Likewise, an insurance company might try to lower the settlement amount by alleging you failed to mitigate damages. For example, the company might argue that because you did not seek prompt medical treatment, you incurred damages that you would not have incurred had you gone to the doctor immediately after the accident.

While these are valid defenses in some cases, insurance adjusters often argue these issues as a tactic to lower the value of the claim. Without legal counsel, an injured party might not realize they are entitled to more money than the adjuster offers to settle their case. 

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Vista Personal Injury Lawyer To Discuss the Damages You May Be Able to Seek

We want to help you receive maximum compensation for all damages caused by a personal injury or accident. Contact Petrov Law Firm to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced Vista personal injury attorneys. Call us at (760) 813-3313.