On average, American drivers will be involved in four car accidents during their driving years. These accidents include one vehicle hitting another or a vehicle hitting a stationary object. They also include accidents where a vehicle hits a pedestrian or bike.
Under California law, the person who causes the accident is at fault and must pay the accident victim’s damages. The at-fault driver’s insurance pays up to the policy limits. After that, the driver is personally liable for any remaining damages.
Actual injuries sustained from getting hit by a car vary widely. What doesn’t change are the types of damages a victim will be compensated for. To understand allowable compensation after getting hit by a car, victims should always consult with an experienced car accident attorney. In 35 years of advocating for victims, I have reviewed thousands of car accident cases. I understand the economic and non-economic damages victims are entitled to, and how to prove damages to an insurance company or jury.
The following Questions and Answers will help you understand what you will be compensated for if you are hurt in an auto accident. Car accident victims should review this summary to prepare for their initial consultation with a car accident attorney.
What are economic damages?
Damages include all the ways a victim is harmed in a car accident such as a wrecked car, a broken leg, anxiety, or two weeks with no income. Economic damages are monetary losses for which an objective dollar amount can be calculated. Examples of economic damages after getting hit by a car include the costs of the following:
- Repairing or replacing a vehicle
- Repairing or replacing personal property damaged in the auto collision such as phones, computers, clothing, jewelry, backpacks or luggage, sports equipment, etc.
- Replacement transportation while the wrecked car is being repaired or replaced
- Medical treatment
- Prescriptions and special equipment ordered by a doctor
- Physical and occupational therapy
- In-home nursing assistance
- Respite care for caregivers for the accident victim
- Chronic pain management treatment
- Psychological counseling
- Lost income (past and future)
- Lost benefits such as vacation and health leave or retirement contributions
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Household services that become necessary because your injury prevents you from doing them yourself
What are non-economic damages?
Non-economic damages are subjective losses that do not have an objective monetary value. Examples of non-economic damages after getting hit by a car include the following:
- Emotional Distress
- Diminished quality of life
- Diminished ability to participate in activities the victim enjoys (such as sports, hobbies, going out with friends, or playing with children)
- Loss of society and companionship
- Loss of consortium
What are punitive damages?
Punitive damages are payments the at-fault driver must make that are not related to a victim’s loss. Punitive payments are awarded to punish the wrongdoer and deter others from the same behavior. A jury might find that punitive damages are appropriate when a driver was driving while drunk or speeding recklessly.
Businesses may face punitive damages when it appears that they did not try to avoid a foreseeable injury or when they were not as careful as they are required to be. For example, a trucking company that does not appropriately monitor its drivers’ logs may be subject to punitive damages. This is particularly true if one of its truck drivers falls asleep after driving for more hours than legally allowed. If the accident victim identifies a pattern where the company encouraged drivers to work long hours or a pattern of lax compliance with regulations, punitive damages may be appropriate.
Can I sue the driver who hit me even if I didn’t have any physical injuries?
California law allows car accident victims to receive damages for pain and suffering or emotional distress. Victims can pursue these claims even if they suffered no physical injuries.
A victim has a better chance of receiving compensation when she has a physical injury. However, victims have a right to pursue damages for all injuries they experience, including emotional harm.
What if I can’t go back to work after getting hit by a car?
In calculating economic damages, experienced car accident attorneys work with economic experts and actuaries. Attorneys also consult with doctors about the victim’s health and recovery progress. Together, these professionals determine a victim’s maximum medical improvement and the impact of that on the victim’s future.
Maximum medical improvement (MMI) is the point at which a person has recovered as much as they ever will. After getting hit by a car, a victim’s MMI can be anywhere on a range from full recovery to full paralysis and disability.
Once an accident victim has reached MMI, he and his legal team can understand the full impact of the accident. At that point, the victim knows whether he can continue in his existing career at full or part-time. If he cannot, he needs to explore alternative employment or disability payments.
Damages compensate a victim for lost wages and benefits due to the accident. Damages also include compensation for future loss of income and loss of career opportunities. Victims should not sign accident settlements without full comprehension of the accident’s long-term impact on their careers and earning potential.
Does my spouse have any claims if he or she wasn’t in the auto accident?
In California, in specific circumstance, a spouse can sue to recover damages for loss of consortium. The spouses must be legally married, and the spouse must be named as a party to a lawsuit.
California jury instruction 3920 describes the noneconomic harm of loss of consortium. That jury instruction includes “the loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support,” among the losses for which a spouse may be compensated.
Loss of consortium claims can include
- the loss of marital intimacy or sexual relations
- inability to have children because of the accident
- changes in the allocation of household and child-rearing responsibilities
- one spouse assuming caregiving responsibilities for the injured spouse
- change in the quality of the relationship because of the injured spouse’s physical and emotional injuries and response to the accident
How Can A Long Beach Car Accident Attorney Help?
Your Injuries Are Personal To Me
Victims have plenty to worry about after getting hit by a car. Calculating their losses after an accident should not be among their worries.
If you were hit by a car or hurt in an auto accident, I can help you obtain maximum compensation for your injuries. I have helped thousands of car accident victims recover damages. My clients and I work closely together to determine each client’s individual damages. I also bring in a network of experts to create a comprehensive picture of your past and future damages. I will fight to get you the maximum amount you are entitled to receive.
Because your injuries are personal to me, I handle all aspects of your case. Call the Law Office of Michael D. Waks today at 888-394-1174. You can schedule a no-cost, no-obligation car accident attorney consultation through my convenient online contact form.
You will be under no obligation, and you will never pay any money unless you recover compensation for your losses.
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