The most common cause of personal injuries in the United States is car accidents. Every year, many people suffer injuries in crashes. Like the rest of the U.S., auto accidents are common in the state of California. If you suffer injuries in an auto accident, you are likely to incur hefty expenses in seeking medical treatment. If you suffer injuries in an auto accident due to the negligence of another party, you are entitled to compensation.  Orange County Personal Injury Attorney can help assess your situation and determine if you are entitled to compensation. 

Establishing Fault in an Auto Accident

When establishing fault in an auto accident in California, the focus is on the negligent party. For instance, if a driver acts negligently and causes injuries to other road users, the negligent driver is liable. A driver may be guilty of negligence if he/she engages in careless driving and fail to pay attention to other road users, including other drivers and pedestrians.  Some of the most common forms of negligence include speeding, texting while driving, running a red light, and distracted driving. A driver may also be guilty of negligence if he/she operates a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Other reckless habits failing to yield the right of way qualify as negligent behavior under California law. 

If you suffer injuries in an auto accident, you will have to prove several factors to get compensation. First, you have to prove that the defendant owed you a duty of care. This is a simple fact to show because a driver owes a duty of care to all other road users. You also have to prove that the driver failed to exercise his/her duty of care. It must be evident that the negligence of the driver was a substantial factor in causing your injuries.

A driver can exhibit a duty of care by using reasonable care when driving. A driver has to look out for obstacles, other vehicles, and other drivers when operating a vehicle.  A driver also shows a duty of care by controlling the movement of his/her car, including the speed levels. 

Comparative Negligence

At times, you may be partly to blame for the accident. The state of California operates under comparative negligence law. Even if you have, to some extent, contributed to the accident, you may still seek compensation. However, you will receive the compensation less your degree of fault.  For instance, if you suffer injuries in an auto accident and you are 30% at fault, you will receive the compensation less your level of fault. Therefore, you will receive 70% compensation. 

It is difficult to establish fault in California cases because different parties tend to blame each other. It may be hard for you to prove that the other driver was at fault. Therefore, it may be difficult to establish what happened.  The insurance company may not be interested in finding out what happened.  It is important to seek the help of a personal injury attorney. The attorney may seek the services of an accident reconstruction expert to help prove what happened at the scene of the accident. 

Compensatory Damages in Car Accident Cases

After suffering injuries in a car accident in California, you are entitled to compensatory damages. Compensatory damages will help to make you whole by reimbursing you for what you have lost after the accident. The compensation helps you to recover monetary costs incurred or money lost due to the injuries suffered in an accident. With the help of your injury attorney, you can put a dollar figure on your damages. Some damages are easy to quantify, and this helps make the reimbursement process easy. However, it may be hard to allocate a monetary value to some damages like pain and suffering. Some of the most common forms of compensatory damages in a car accident include:

  1. Medical Costs

After suffering some injuries in a car accident, you will need to seek medical treatment. You are entitled to a reimbursement of the medical costs associated with the accident. It is advisable to seek medical treatment immediately after being involved in an accident. This will help make it easy to prove that you incurred the said medical costs. Medical costs incurred will vary depending on the extent of your injuries. If you suffer catastrophic injuries, you may have to seek extended medical care. Even after the initial treatment, you may need to undergo many months of physiotherapy and other forms of treatment.

When assessing medical costs, it is imperative to consider both the past costs and the costs you may incur in the future before you fully recover from the accident.  For any form of treatment you undergo after the accident, ensure that you keep your medical records intact.  You should also request for receipts to prove the costs incurred. Immediately after the car accident, it is advisable to take photos of your injuries, in case you suffer visible physical injuries. This will help to strengthen your injury case and make it easy to recover the damages suffered. 

  1. Lost Wages

The injuries you suffer in a car accident may have a significant impact on your income and salary. You may no longer be able to go to work after the accident. If you are not employed, you may not be able to engage in income-generating activities you used to engage in before the accident. Lost wages comprise of all the income lost from the time you suffered the injuries to the time you can resume work.

In computing your lost wages, the court considers your regular rate of pay. You may get the total amount of lost wages by taking your hourly rate of pay and multiplying it with the number of work hours missed due to the injuries. For example, if your hourly rate is $20, you work a total of 8 hours in a day, and you missed ten work days due to the injuries,  you are entitled to  $1,600 ($20 x 8 x10) lost wages compensation. However, it is essential to note that the court will consider other factors when calculating lost wages. For instance, the court may consider commissions, overtime pay, and bonuses you may have lost due to the injuries. 

  1. Lost Earning Capacity

Lost earning capacity refers to the loss of your ability to make money in the future.  It refers to the amount of money you may have been able to earn if you had not suffered injuries in the car accident. Upon suffering damages, you may have to discontinue work, primarily if the injuries result in permanent disability. At times, you may recover and go back to work or other income-generating activities. However, due to the injuries, you may not be as effective as before, and you may not earn much money like before.  In calculating lost earning capacity, the court may determine the money you used to make before the accident. The court will then consider the amount you can earn after the accident and get the variance between the two amounts. The difference is the lost earning capacity. The court may consider some additional factors when calculating lost earning capacity. For instance, the court will consider your age and your years to retirement. 

  1. Property or Vehicle Damage

There are several forms of car accidents. The most common forms include head-on collisions, rear-end collisions and side-impact collisions. Different types of car accidents may result in various kinds of damage to your vehicle. The party at fault should cater to your vehicle repair costs. You may have a mechanic assess the extent of the damage and the costs of repairing the damages.  If your vehicle is written off due to extensive damages, you may be entitled to compensation for a new car.

You may also receive compensation for property loss if you lose some property of the property suffers damages in a car accident. For instance, you may have some electronics in your car, clothing, jewelry, and other items. If these suffer damages in an accident, you will be entitled to compensation.  You may have to prove the costs of the property by providing receipts or other evidence of the amount spent in acquiring the properties. You are entitled to compensation for the fair market value of the property lost in the accident.

Non-Economic Damages

You are entitled to compensation for non-economic damages suffered during a car accident. It may be hard to put a dollar amount on non-economic damages since you cannot express the damages in monetary form. However, your attorney can help you to compute and prove in court the amount of compensation you deserve. Some common types of non-economic damages include:

  1. Pain and Suffering

You may experience severe pain and discomfort after suffering injuries in a car accident. You are entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering.  Many people are aware of compensation for pain and suffering, but most people do not understand what it entails.  What is pain and suffering from a legal perspective, and how do you calculate pain and suffering for compensation? Pain and suffering fall under two categories: physical and mental.

Physical pain and suffering refer to the pain that you experience on your body as a result of injuries suffered in an accident. It will not just include the physical pain and suffering you have endured to date. It will also include the pain and suffering you are likely to continue experiencing in the future due to your injuries. You are entitled to compensation for suffering this pain due to the negligence of the defendant, which led to your injuries.

You may also experience mental pain and suffering, mainly due to your physical pain. Usually, mental pain and suffering is a byproduct of your physical injuries. You may experience feelings of mental anguish and self-pity. Mental pain and suffering refer to all the negative thoughts and feelings a victim experiences in connection with the injuries suffered in the accident.

How do you calculate pain and suffering for personal injury compensation?

Juries do not have special charts to look at when determining pain and suffering. In most cases, juries use their judgment to determine the extent of pain and suffering. A member of the jury will use his or her experience and good judgment to determine the compensation amount that would be fair for your pain and suffering.

At times, the jury may adopt the multiplier approach when determining pain and suffering. Your pain and suffering will be worth some multiple of your total medical bills and lost earnings. In most cases, the multiplier factor lies between 1.5 and 4. If the court adopts the multiplier approach, your compensation for pain and suffering may be between 1.5 and 4 times your special damages. However, it is essential to note that the multiplier approach only provides a rough estimate of your compensation and may not apply to all personal injury cases. In most cases, the multiplier approach is effective in determining compensation in cases involving minor damages.

  1. Emotional Distress

Upon suffering injuries in a car accident, you are likely to experience emotional distress. In most cases, emotional distress is linked to more severe cases of injuries. The compensation for emotional distress aims at compensating the victim for the psychological impact of the injury. Some of the psychological impacts of an accident include fear, anxiety, restlessness, and loss of sleep.  At times, the compensation for emotional distress may be incorporated into your compensation for pain and suffering. 

  1. Loss of Enjoyment in Life

After suffering injuries in a car accident, you may no longer be able to do the things you used to do before the accident. You may not have the ability to enjoy your day-to-day pursuits of happiness. For instance, you may not be able to take part in your hobbies or to play your favorite sports.  You may not be able to exercise or take part in other recreational activities. Before the accident, you may have been a people person always enjoying being in gatherings and participating in events. After suffering injuries, you may shy away from the crowd and isolate yourself. This compensation aims at comforting you for the lost enjoyment of life. 

  1. Loss of Consortium

The compensation for loss of consortium is based on the effect that your injuries will have in connection with your relationship with your spouse. It refers to compensation for loss of consortium or the loss of ability to maintain an intimate relationship with your spouse.  At times, loss of consortium compensation may also apply to the effects the injuries will have on the relationship with your children. Usually, your spouse and not, you will get the reward for the lost consortium. 

Punitive Damages in Car Accident Compensation

If the judge deems the conduct of the defendant to be outrageously negligent or egregious, you may get an award of punitive damages. You will get punitive damages in addition to the compensatory damages awarded to you by the court. The rationale of justifying punitive damages is distinct from the rationale of awarding compensatory damages. Compensatory damages aim at making the victim whole again after suffering the injuries.

Although punitive damages serve as a reward to the victim, the motive of punitive compensation is different. Punitive damages aim to punish the defendant for his bad conduct. The compensation punishes the defendant for acting in an outrageously negligent manner and inflicting injuries on the victim in the process.  Punitive damages act as a deterrent to prevent the defendant from repeating a similar offense in the future. In most states in the U.S, there is a cap on punitive damages awarded. 

Limits on Damages

Unlike some states in the U.S, California does not have a cap on damages in car accident cases. However, several factors may limit or eliminate your compensation in a car accident case. One of the common and the strictest limit is the statute of limitations. Statute of limitations refers to the time limit for filing a case in California while seeking compensation.

To get compensation to bodily injuries suffered during a car accident, you will have to file a claim within two years from the date of incurring the injuries. If you are seeking compensation for property damage, including vehicle damage in California, you will have to file a claim within three years from the date of the accident.  The period provided in the Statute of Limitations is notably shorter if you are filing a claim against a government party. In that case, you will only have six months from the date of the accident to seek compensation. If you fail to file a claim within the set statutes of limitation, you will miss out on the compensation. 

Special limits apply if a driver does not have insurance or proof of financial responsibility. After the passage of the California Voters Proposition 213 in 1996, a driver cannot recover non-economic damages if he/she does not have an insurance cover. This condition applies irrespective of who is at fault in a car accident. Non-economic damages include emotional distress and pain and suffering.  A driver may still be able to access compensation for economic damages like vehicle damage, lost wages, and medical expenses as long as the driver can establish fault. 

At times, injuries suffered during a car accident may become more severe due to medical malpractice, a health practitioner while you are in the hospital. In this case, you would be in a position to seek medical malpractice compensation.  If this is the case, you will have a cap of $250,000 on your non-economic damages. 

Compensation for Damages if the Other Driver Does not have Insurance

You may get into a car accident and suffer injuries due to the negligence of the other driver. Will you receive compensation for damages if the other driver does not have an insurance cover? You may expect that you will not get any compensation if the other driver does not have an insurance cover. However, you may still get compensation even if the driver at fault has no bodily injury or liability insurance. 

California insurance laws require all insurance companies to offer uninsured and underinsured insurance coverage to their drivers. However, you should note that uninsured and underinsured insurance coverage in California is optional. If you get into an accident with an uninsured driver, but you have an uninsured or underinsured cover, you will still get compensation. Your insurance company should compensate you for the damages you suffer up to the limit of the insurance coverage.

At times, the driver at fault may have insurance coverage. However, the damages you suffer may exceed the insurance limits of the driver at fault. In this case, your uninsured and underinsured insurance should cover the variance or the remaining compensation. 

Even when you do not have uninsured or underinsured coverage, you may still be able to recover compensation directly from the driver at fault.  When required to meet damages with their own money, many drivers claim that they do not have the financial capability. However, your injury attorney can help to investigate the driver and determine if the driver has a financial ability.

The family members of the uninsured drivers may be liable at times for allowing an uninsured driver to get behind the wheel.  The vehicle owner may also be liable in some instances for allowing an incompetent driver to operate their vehicle.  For the vehicle owner to be responsible, there must be proof for negligent entrustment of a motor vehicle.

Wrongful Death Compensation

If your family member dies in a car accident due to the negligence of another person, you may be able to seek wrongful death compensation. In the case of wrongful death, several family members may seek compensation. The family members may include the spouse of the deceased, registered domestic partner, children, or grandchildren of the deceased.  Compensation for wrongful death may comprise of burial expenses and funeral expenses. The family of the deceased may get paid for the money the deceased would have earned. The family may also get compensation for the lost companionship of the deceased. 

Contact an Orange County Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

If you or your loved one has suffered injuries in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation. A personal injury attorney may help to evaluate your case. Contact the Orange County Personal Injury Attorney at 714-876-1959 for an evaluation of your case today.