How to Get Maximum Money Damages from a Car Accident Injury

As an car accident lawyer in California, many people ask me, “how much money do you get from a car accident” They asked the same question in different ways, “How much money is my car accident case worth?” The answer really depends on the severity of the car accident and injuries.

Money A Plaintiff May Recover When Injured

A California personal injury lawyer will help recover money for many categories of damages which may include:

  • Medical bills
  • Past medical bills
  • Future medical bills
  • Long-term care
  • Past lost wages
  • Future lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Physical pain
  • Mental suffering
  • Emotion distress
  • Loss of Consortium
  • Wrongful death of an child
  • Wrongful death of a child
  • Aggravation of preexisting condition or disability
  • Loss of ability to provide household services
  • Scarring
  • Disfigurement
  • Punitive damages

Medical Expenses

In California, what medical expenses are considered damages in a personal injury case?
A person injured by another’s tortious conduct is entitled to recover the reasonable value of medical care and services reasonably required and attributable to the tort.[i]
An injured plaintiff is entitled to recover the reasonable value of medical services that are reasonably certain to be necessary in the future.[ii]

Past and Future Lost Earnings

We know of no rule of law that requires that a plaintiff establish the amount of his actual earnings at the time of the injury in order to obtain recovery for loss of wages although, obviously, the amount of such earnings would be helpful to the jury in particular situations.[iii]

To entitle a plaintiff to recover present damages for apprehended future consequences, there must be evidence to show such a degree of probability of their occurring as amounts to a reasonable certainty that they will result from the original injury.[iv]

Lost Earning Capacity

Loss of earning power is an element of general damages which can be inferred from the nature of the injury, without proof of actual earnings or income either before or after the injury, and damages in this respect are awarded for the loss of ability thereafter to earn money.[v]

The test for lost earning capacity is not what the plaintiff would have earned in the future but what she could have earned. Such damages are awarded for the purpose of compensating the plaintiff for injury suffered, i.e., restoring . . . her as nearly as possible to her former position, or giving her some pecuniary equivalent. Impairment of the capacity or power to work is an injury separate from the actual loss of earnings.[vi]

Physical Pain, Mental Suffering, and Emotional Distress

“In general, courts have not attempted to draw distinctions between the elements of ‘pain’ on the one hand, and ‘suffering’ on the other; rather, the unitary concept of ‘pain and suffering’ has served as a convenient label under which a plaintiff may recover not only for physical pain but for fright, nervousness, grief, anxiety, worry, mortification shock, humiliation, indignity, embarrassment, apprehension, terror or ordeal. Admittedly these terms refer to subjective states, representing a detriment which can be translated into monetary loss only with great difficulty. But the detriment, nevertheless, is a genuine one that requires compensation, and the issue generally must be resolved by the ‘impartial conscience and judgment of jurors who may be expected to act reasonably, intelligently and in harmony with the evidence.[vii]

Household Services

Generally, household services damages represent the detriment suffered when injury prevents a person from contributing some or all of his or her customary services to the family unit. The justification for awarding this type of damage as part of the loss of future earnings award is that the plaintiff should be compensated for the value of the services he would have performed during the lost years which,  because of the injury, will now have to be performed by someone else.[viii]

Loss of Consortium

In California each spouse has a cause of action for loss of consortium, as define herein, caused by a negligent or intentional injury to the other spouse by a third party.[ix]The concept of consortium includes not only loss of support or services; it also embraces such elements as love, companionship, comfort, affection, society, sexual relations, the moral support each spouse gives the other through the triumph and despair of life, and the deprivation of a spouse’s physical assistance in operating and maintaining the family home.”[x]
Loss of future consortium is recoverable, including loss of consortium because of reduced life expectancy.[xi]

Wrongful Death

Wrongful Death of an Adult

Under Code of Civil Procedure section 377.61, damages for wrongful death are measured by the financial benefit the heirs were receiving at the time of death, those reasonably to be expected in the future, and the monetary equivalent of loss of comfort, society, and protection. The plaintiff may claim the following damages:

Value of financial support to the family
Loss of gifts or benefit
Funeral and burial expenses
Value of household services
Loss of love
Loss of companionship
Loss of comfort
Loss of care
Loss of assistance
Loss of protection
Loss of affection,
Loss of society
Loss of moral support
Loss of sexual relations
Loss of training and guidance

Where, as here, decedent was a husband and father, a significant element of damages is the loss of financial benefit he was contributing to his family by way of support at the time of his death and that support reasonably expected in the future. The total future lost support must be reduced by appropriate formula to a present lump sum which, when invested to yield the highest rate of return consistent with reasonable security, will pay the equivalent of lost future benefit at the times, in the amounts and for the period such future benefit would have been received.

These benefits include the personal services, advice, and training the heirs would have received from the deceased, and the value of her society and companionship. ‘The services of children, elderly parents, or nonworking spouses often do not result in measurable net income to the family unit, yet unquestionably the death of such a person represents a substantial “injury” to the family for which just compensation should be paid.

Factors such as the closeness of a family unit, the depth of their love and affection, and the character of the decedent as kind, attentive, and loving are proper considerations for a jury assessing noneconomic damages.

Wrongful Death of a Child
Where the deceased was a minor child, recovery is based on the present value of reasonably probable future services and contributions, deducting the probable cost of rearing the child. The damages may include:
– Value of financial support to parent(s)
– Loss of gifts or benefit to the parent(s)
– Funeral and burial expenses
– Value of household services
– Loss of love
– Loss of companionship
– Loss of comfort
– Loss of Care
– Loss of assistance
– Loss of protection
– Loss of Protection
– Loss of society
– Loss of moral support.

The award of any compensation does not include the following:
– Grief, sorrow, or mental anguish
– Minor’s pain and suffering

Are punitive damages allowed in personal injury cases in California?

Under California Civil Code section 3294, a plaintiff may be award punitive damages in personal injury cases. The plaintiff must be by “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant’s conduct was malicious, oppressive, or fraudulent. The purpose of award punitive damages is to: a) punish the defendant, and 2) serve as a deterrent to the defendant and society from similar conduct.

“Malice” means conduct which is intended by the defendant to cause injury to the plaintiff or despicable conduct which is carried on by the defendant with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.

“Oppression” means despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person’s rights.

“Fraud” means an intentional misrepresentation, deceit, or concealment of a material fact known to the defendant with the intention on the part of the defendant of thereby depriving a person of property or legal rights or otherwise causing injury.

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Legal Reference

[1] Hanif v. Housing Authority of Yolo County (1988) 200 Cal.App.3d 635, 640
[2] J.P. v. Carlsbad Unified School Dist. (2014) 232 Cal.App.4th 323
[3] Rodriguez v. McDonnell Douglas Corp. (1978) 87 Cal.App.3d 626, 656
[4] Bellman v. San Francisco High School Dist. (1938) 11 Cal.2d 576, 588
[5] Connolly v. Pre-Mixed Concrete Co. (1957) 49 Cal.2d 483, 489
[6] Hilliard v. A. H. Robins Co. (1983) 148 Cal.App.3d 374, 412
[7] Capelouto v. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals (1972) 7 Cal.3d 889, 892–893
[8] Overly v. Ingalls Shipbuilding, Inc. (1999) 74 Cal.App.4th 164, 171, fn. 5
[9] Rodriguez v. Bethlehem Steel Corp. (1974) 12 Cal.3d 382, 408
[10] Ledger v. Tippitt (1985) 164 Cal.App.3d 625, 633
[11] See Boeken v. Philip Morris USA, Inc. (2010) 48 Cal.4th 788
[12] Canavin v. Pacifi Southwest Airlines (1983) 148 Cal.App.3d 512, 520–521
[13] Allen v. Toledo (1980) 109 Cal.App.3d 415, 423
[14] Soto, supra, 239 Cal.App.4th at p. 201.
[15] 6 Witkin, Summary of Cal. Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, § 1695.)
[16]See CACI 3922

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