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How Are Compensatory Damages Calculated In California Car Accident Cases?

If you or somebody you care about has been injured or sustained property damage in a car accident in California, then you should be able to receive compensation for injuries and other losses. However, securing this compensation is not always straightforward.

Insurance carriers and at-fault parties often put up a fight when it comes to paying out the proper amount to those who are harmed in the incident. Here, we want to discuss how the various types of compensatory damages are calculated in a San Bernardino car accident case.

neck pain from a car accident

Distinguishing between “special” and “general” damages in a California car accident case

When discussing how compensatory damages are calculated in a California car accident case, we must first distinguish between the two main types of compensation a person could receive.

Calculating special damages

Special damages are also referred to as economic damages in a personal injury case. These damages are designed to cover monetary losses that are relatively easy to calculate. The following are examples of special damages in a California car accident case:

  • All car accident-related medical bills
  • Lost income if a victim is unable to work
  • Lost earning capacity the victim
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation costs
  • Medical devices and prescription medications
  • Any household out-of-pocket expenses
  • Property damage expenses

The personal injury victim or their attorney will be able to calculate these damages by gathering all medical bills and receipts and adding them up to reach a total. However, it is crucial that special damages not be totaled out until the victim has reached maximum medical improvement.

Until a car accident injury victim has finished receiving medical care, there is no way to accurately determine the total special damages involved.

Calculating general damages

General damages are also referred to as non-economic damages in the aftermath of a car accident. These are not going to be as easy to calculate as special damages, as they do not come with bills or receipts that can be added up.

General damages refer to the non-monetary losses that a car accident injury victim sustains that do not have an exact dollar amount. Some common types of general damages in the aftermath of a California car accident include the following:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Physical disfigurement or impairment
  • Mental and emotional anguish
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of companionship

Proving these damages is more challenging than proving special damages, but this can be done by having the injury victim keeping journal to document their daily pain and suffering, by speaking to family members and friends about how the victim has been affected, and by working with trained psychological experts.

Calculating general damages is typically done by using a multiplier method. A Orange County car accident attorney for the victim will calculate the total special damages and multiply that total by a set number (typically 1.5 to 5) to give them the total for general damages.

For example, suppose Charlie sustained a head injury in an accident caused by another driver and sustained $100,000 in special damages. Charlie’s attorney could then use a multiplier of three to estimate total general damages. $100,000 multiplied by three will mean that they will ask for $300,000 in general damages.

In total, Charlie and his attorney will seek $400,000 in compensation from the at-fault party.