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What Damages Can I Recover After a Car Accident in California?

After a car accident, it often takes time for the financial damage to become clear. When the dust settles, you may have to face expenses for everything from replacing your car to perhaps even an ambulance ride and hospital stay. Your insurer might help with the vehicle, but your coverage could also fall short. If the other party in the accident exhibited clear negligence that led to the incident, you might be able to file a suit to recover damages from them directly. In California, there are two types of damages to know about regarding car accidents — “economic” and “non-economic” damages. Our San Diego car accident lawyers will explain more.

What are Examples of Car Accident Damages?

Car accident damages can take many forms and can range from minor scratches to severe injuries and even fatalities. Here are some examples of car accident damages:

  1. Property damage: This includes damage to your vehicle, other vehicles involved in the accident, and any other property that may have been damaged in the accident.
  2. Personal injury: Car accidents can result in a wide range of injuries, from minor cuts and bruises to more severe injuries like broken bones, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries.
  3. Emotional trauma: Car accidents can also have a significant emotional impact, causing anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  4. Lost wages: If you are unable to work due to injuries sustained in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages.
  5. Medical expenses: This includes expenses related to medical treatment, such as hospitalization, surgery, medications, and physical therapy.
  6. Pain and suffering: This is a type of compensation for physical and emotional pain and suffering caused by the accident.
  7. Wrongful death: If someone is killed in a car accident, their surviving family members may be entitled to compensation for their loss, including funeral expenses and loss of support and companionship.

It’s important to note that the types of damages that you may be entitled to will depend on the specific circumstances of your accident and the laws in your state.

How are Car Accident Damages Calculated?

Calculating car accident damages can be complex and may involve many factors. Generally, damages are calculated based on the losses and expenses incurred by the injured party. Here are some of the factors that may be considered when calculating car accident damages:

  1. Pain and suffering: This is a type of compensation for the physical and emotional pain and suffering caused by the accident.
  2. Future medical expenses: If the injured party requires ongoing medical treatment or rehabilitation, the cost of those expenses may also be factored into the damages calculation.
  3. Future lost earnings: If the injured party is unable to return to work or must take a lower-paying job due to the injuries sustained in the accident, the potential loss of future earnings may be considered.
  4. Other damages: Other factors that may be considered include the cost of a rental car, home healthcare expenses, and the cost of household help if the injured party is unable to perform household chores or childcare duties.

It’s important to note that the specific factors used to calculate damages will depend on the laws in the state where the accident occurred and the specific circumstances of the case. Additionally, insurance companies may use different methods to calculate damages, and it’s always a good idea to consult with a personal injury attorney to ensure that you receive fair compensation for your damages.

How Do You Collect Damages for a Car Accident?

Collecting damages for a car accident can be a complex and lengthy process, but there are steps you can take to increase your chances of receiving fair compensation. Here are the general steps to collect damages for a car accident:

  1. Seek medical attention: Your health and well-being are the most important things after a car accident. Even if you feel okay, it’s important to get checked out by a medical professional. This can also provide evidence of your injuries for your insurance claim.
  2. File an insurance claim: You should report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Provide them with as much information as possible, including the other driver’s information, the police report, and any medical documentation.
  3. Obtain evidence: Collect as much evidence as possible to support your claim. This may include witness statements, photographs of the scene and damage to the vehicles, and medical records.
  4. Consider hiring an attorney: If you were injured in the accident, you may want to consider hiring a personal injury attorney. They can help you navigate the legal process, negotiate with insurance companies, and represent you in court if necessary.
  5. Negotiate a settlement: After filing a claim, your insurance company will typically offer you a settlement. This settlement may cover your medical expenses, property damage, and other damages. If the settlement offer is not fair, you and your attorney can negotiate for a higher amount.
  6. File a lawsuit: If you are unable to reach a fair settlement with the insurance company, you may need to file a lawsuit. This can be a lengthy and costly process, but it may be necessary to receive fair compensation for your damages.

It’s important to keep in mind that the specific steps to collect damages may vary depending on the laws in your state and the circumstances of the accident. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you navigate the process and ensure that you receive fair compensation for your damages.

What Are Economic Damages?

“Economic damages” are often the primary type of damages sought by the injured party in a car accident. These are the more tangible expenses incurred because of the incident. For example, the loss of your property, including the car and valuables inside, would be considered economic damage. Likewise, expenses related to your medical treatment and any assistive devices necessary because of the accident are also economic damages that you can seek to recover. In general, if it is easy to assign a clear monetary value to something, it probably falls into the class of economic damages.

What Are Non-Economic Damages?

The less tangible and more unclearly defined impacts of the accident are “non-economic damages.” Pain and suffering is one of the most common types of non-economic damages sought in car accident cases. “Loss of consortium,” a special legal phrase referring to the loss of a close relationship with a loved one, is also a non-economic damage. Putting an appropriate and attainable value on these damages is difficult but possible with legal assistance.

Is There a Limit on Damages?

California does not impose any statutory limit on the number of damages an injured party can recover in a car accident suit. However, California does use a fault law that allows blame to be distributed between the responsible parties. As a result, you can have a court-ordered award reduced by a percentage linked to how “at fault” the jury deems you in the accident. The risk of a reduction is always present, but a well-presented case with solid evidence can help you avoid this frustrating legal landmine.

Beware of the Statute of Limitations

While there is no limit on how much you could potentially recover in an accident suit, there is a time limit on when you can file. If you want to make claims related to injuries, you must file suit within two years of the accident (for most personal injury cases). However, if your crash involved a government entity or a public employee such as a municipal police officer, the time limit drops to just six months (note: statute of limitations may vary, so please seek legal counsel immediately). You should speak to a car accident attorney promptly following an accident to protect your rights.

What to Do if You’ve Been in an Accident

Because of California’s fault law structure, it is crucial to have experienced legal representation when you seek damages based on allegations that the other driver was at fault. Aside from documenting the accident and any injuries, you should also consider contacting a proven team of attorneys to evaluate and ultimately handle your case as it proceeds.
At HHJ Trial Attorneys, we can guide you through this process with a clear view of potential outcomes. With a wealth of experience in calculating damages and working within the courtroom, we have the ideal skillset for those seeking damages after a car accident. Learn more when you schedule a free consultation today.

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