California Injury Law: Pain and suffering compensation in an accident

There are two broad categories of damages available in a personal injury claims in California: Economic and Non-Economic. Compensation for pain and suffering fall into the non-economic category and are often the most controversial part of any auto accident case, partly because they are not easily defined or quantified, and partly because they can make up a very substantial part of any injured party’s overall recovery and in many cases can have a much greater value than the economic damages such as medical treatment expenses, wage loss, etc. The following is a break-down of the types of harm covered under economic and non-economic damages:

In auto accident cases, economic or general damages may include:

  • Medical expenses – past and future
  • Lost wages – past and future
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Loss of ability to provide household services
  • Damage to real property (i.e., a car hits a house)
  • Loss of use of real property
  • Damage to personal property (your car, for example)
  • Loss or destruction of personal property
  • Damage to personal property having a special value (i.e., family photos)
  • Loss of use of personal property
  • Lost profits

The non-economic or special damages may include:

  • Continuing physical pain and discomfort while performing typical daily activities such as prolonged standing, sitting, and driving.
  • Mental suffering, including fear of driving or using any kind of transportation on the road, inability to focus, insomnia, loss of appetite and eating disorders.
  • Emotional distress – stress, anxiety, depression associated with the injury incident.
  • Loss of consortium (loss of spousal companionship and services and even inability to have healthy sexual relationship also known as alienation of affection)

California operates under a tort liability system that governs how pain and suffering claims are to be litigated. In short, the tort liability system allows the jury to decide, exclusively, the amount of damages to be paid to someone for a car accident injury.

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