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Calculating Value In A Personal Injury Case

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Jeff Sevey

There are over 34 million registered vehicles in the State of California. That’s more vehicles than there are people! In fact, for every eight people who live in California, there are ten vehicles – cars, trucks, buses, you name it. This means that at any given time there is a lot of traffic on the streets, roads, and highways in this State. That amount of traffic, combined with the 152 minutes that the average Californian spends behind the wheel every day, means that your chances of being involved in a car accident at some time in your life are high.

When an auto accident does occur, it can turn your life upside down. The force of the impact that occurred during the accident can cause serious physical injuries. The pain and suffering caused by these injuries can last months or, in some cases, even years. For some, it may last a lifetime.

Physical injuries can require extensive medical treatment. They also usually require some form of rehabilitative therapy. A serious injury may mean that the victim is unable to work. The bills for treatment and rehabilitation begin to pile up quickly. The victim may also experience a loss of mobility that prevents them from engaging in simple day-to-day activities. All of these factors add up, causing stress and worry that, at times, can be as debilitating as the injury itself. And for many people, the pain of an injury is simply the most obvious symptom of the damage that they have endured.

If you’ve been in a car accident and find yourself in this situation, all you want is some relief. You want relief from the physical pain and from the financial worries. You want relief from the stress of not knowing how you’re going to take care of your loved ones and what’s going to happen in the future.

One of the ways to eliminate some of this stress and worry is by getting a better idea of the amount of compensation you may receive for the damages you incurred as a result of the accident.

Limitations on Damages

In general, an individual who has been injured in a car crash is entitled to compensation for damages to their personal property and damages for physical injuries caused by the accident. We’re going to take a closer look at both types of damages, but before we do there’s something that you need to keep in mind when estimating the potential value of your case.

The damages available to you under the law are designed to restore you to where you were before the accident and compensate you for your actual losses. A settlement or judgment is not a lottery or a windfall. There are no punitive damages available in a case involving simple negligence. Likewise, there can be no recovery for damages that are purely speculative.

Only damages that can be proven to have been, more likely than not, caused by the accident will be allowed. In short, it’s important for your peace of mind to keep a realistic perspective when attempting to estimate the value of your car accident case.

Allowable Damages

In California, an individual who has been injured in a car crash can only recover for the actual harm caused by the accident. When it comes to personal injuries, these damages take two forms – economic damages (sometimes called special damages) and non-economic damages (sometimes called general damages).

Economic Damages

In order to begin calculating the value of your auto accident case, you need to start with those items that are easily and objectively quantifiable. Economic damages fit this bill because, as the name implies, they are the out-of-pocket expenses that you incurred as a direct result of the accident.

Start by looking at your medical bills. Did your injuries require an emergency room visit or a hospital stay? How about surgical costs? Did your condition require the use of special medical equipment? Medications that were prescribed for your injury should be included, as should any costs associated with rehabilitation or rehabilitative care.

Next, look at your job. Did you lose time at work because of your injuries? Will you continue to lose time in the future? Are you able to go back to work in the same job capacity that you had before the accident? If not, has your employer offered you a different position to accommodate your condition? Does this position pay less than the position you held prior to your accident? Will you require vocational training in order to resume working? Are you completely disabled and unable to work as a result of your injuries?

You need to look carefully at how your injuries have affected your current and future employment situation. Every dollar in salary that you have lost, or will lose, as a direct result of the injuries that you incurred in the car crash are potentially recoverable as damages.

Non-Economic Damages

Adding up your economic damages gives you a specific starting amount. The next step is a little more difficult. You’re going to have to assign a dollar amount to your non-economic damages. Unlike economic damages, non-economic damages are much more subjective because they involve less tangible things like pain, suffering and emotional distress.

Pain and suffering caused by injuries that were the result of a car accident are difficult to quantify. You know the discomfort you were in. You understand how that pain has changed your life in many ways. Yet, pain, unlike expenses, is completely subjective. We all deal with pain differently. We all experience it differently. Some people will say that a good rule of thumb for quantifying non-economic damages is to multiply the amount of the economic damages by three. However, that solution is simplistic. The only person who can legitimately and accurately estimate these damages after your car accident is an attorney trained in California car accident laws.

Each car accident case involving injuries is different. Non-economic damages can often make up the lion’s share of any settlement amount or judgment award. Don’t leave valuable money on the table by attempting to estimate what your case is worth. A layperson needs the guidance of an attorney who is experienced in California’s car accident laws in order to get an adequate idea of the true value of their case.

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