A personal injury claim is handled in civil court. It involves financial compensation paid to the injured party, usually in the case of an accident caused by the negligence or recklessness of another party or parties. An accident victim’s financial compensation, whether through a settlement or following a trial, is commonly referred to as “damages.”
At least two parties are always involved in personal injury damages claims. These parties include the plaintiff (the injured party) and the defendant. The defendant can be one individual, multiple individuals, and even an entity, like a hospital or government organization, accused of allegedly causing the incident or accident that led to the injury.
Most awards in a personal injury claim represent compensatory damages which, as implied, are awarded to “compensate” the victim for financial burdens caused by injuries due to the accident.
Compensatory damages typically cover property loss, including damage to a car during a motor vehicle crash and financial burdens brought on by medical costs or loss of income due to injuries sustained in the accident. Hospital bills, a loss of income from being out of work, home health care, lost opportunities, pain, trauma, and emotional suffering can all be covered through a damages claim. Damages may also include future losses due to long-term medical care.
Calculating Punitive Damages in California
Punitive damages are not always part of personal injury claims and have a high burden of proof. However, in certain cases where a defendant was particularly reckless or grossly negligent in their actions causing the accident and injury, the judge or jury may incorporate punitive damages into the final damages calculation.
Punitive damages in California are financial penalties that punish the liable party or parties as a way to discourage similar behaviors moving forward, either by them or by others. Punitive damages only become part of a damages calculation if a personal injury attorney Orange County can prove to a judge or jury that the liable party cause the injuries either maliciously, intentionally, or as the result of extreme recklessness.
How Do Courts Calculate Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages in California personal injury lawsuits are harder to evaluate than compensatory damages. While compensatory damages are calculated using traceable documentary evidence, punitive damages require that several other factors be considered.
These factors include:
- the financial resources of the defendant;
- the exact nature of the defendant’s wrongdoing;
- the effect that the injury had on the victim;
- the relationship between plaintiff and defendant;
- the defendant’s motivation;
- an awareness, on the part of the defendant, of the harm caused;
- length of time associated with the defendant’s misconduct;
- any attempts to hide such misconduct;
- the victim’s expenses to recover losses;
- any financial gain on the part of the defendant;
- whether or not punitive damages should be valued higher than any cash amount that was gained.
Other factors may include whether or not the defendant acted this way previously or if there was an attempt to make amends for damages they caused.
Punitive damages also seek to help victims return to the state they were in prior to the accident. Sometimes that is impossible, like in the case of an accident victim who was paralyzed due to the accident. However, punitive damages attempt to do all they can to bring the victims as much normalcy as possible.
According to California law, there are no caps on non-economic damages except in medical malpractice cases, where the cap for non-economic damages stands at $250,000. For every other type of personal injury case, there are no caps on non-economic damages.
Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney is Important
California’s personal injury laws are complex. Individuals injured in an accident, including a car crash, slip & fall, or on the job, should immediately contact an experienced Irvine personal injury attorney. A personal injury lawyer can assess your eligibility for filing a claim and help you calculate the damages owed to you. In nearly every case where another party is at fault, an injured accident victim is entitled to compensatory damages and, in extreme cases, may be eligible for punitive damages. Experienced personal injury lawyers have the experience and knowledge necessary to help you achieve the best outcome in your case.
The experienced personal injury attorneys from the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates specialize in all types of personal injury accidents, including slips and falls, car accidents, and medical malpractice. Our professional legal team understands California laws regarding punitive and compensatory damages and can fight for your rights and help you get the financial compensation you deserve. Our attorneys not only get results, they exceed expectations.
For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of the attorneys, please call 888-848-5084.
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