When you are a victim of some kind of accident or incident and it's caused by another person's negligent or intentional act, you may accrue damages. Damages is a legal term to represent the sum of money you deserve for any property damage, bodily injury, and any costs related to these things. It's the way the legal system tries to make you “whole again” even though in many cases you will never be the same. That said, damages can help relieve financial stress and help people get their lives back on track.
What Are the Types of Damages?
Damages can be categorized as two types:
- Compensatory, which are economic and non-economic damages meant to reimburse you for all expenses and costs associated with the injury.
- Punitive, which are damages meant to punish the wrongdoer for their reckless or malicious actions or inaction.
Compensatory damages are the most common and are typically available in most personal injury and wrongful death claims. The amount and extent of compensatory damages, especially with regard to non-economic damages, depends on the extent and nature of the injury and the impact that injury has on the victim's quality of life or the lives of the victim's family. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are rare and often limited when available.
Economic Damages in California
Economic damages, also referred to as special damages, are those that are relatively easy to translate into dollars. They include bills and receipts that the victim accumulates after the accident.
Economic damages consist of (but are not limited to):
- Property repairs
- Property replacement
- Medical bills
- Household expenses
- Transportation costs
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity, especially after a severe accident that impairs the victim's ability to function normally
You should keep all receipts, invoices, pay stubs, and other proof of expenses. In some cases, like proving reduced earning capacity, expert testimony may be needed.
Non-Economic Damages in California
Non-economic damages, sometimes called general damages, are damages not easily stated in a dollar amount. Collectively, they are referred to as pain and suffering because these damages consider the physical pain, emotional distress, and mental trauma that severe injuries create.
Non-economic damages can include:
- Physical pain
- Emotional suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of reputation
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Proving these types of losses include testimony from the victim, lay witnesses like friends and family, and expert witnesses like mental health practitioner(s).
Punitive Damages in California
Punitive damages do not compensate the victim but are awarded when the court wants to punish the defendant. Courts rarely award punitive damages, except in cases where the defendant was so egregious that this type of punishment is necessary to deter future similar behavior.
Punitive damages can be high relative to economic and non-economic damages but are often limited by state law.
What Types of Cases Can You Seek Damages?
In pretty much every situation where you are injured or a loved one is killed, and it is caused by another person or entity's action or omission, you may be able to seek damages. The wrongdoer, however, must have owed a duty to you or your loved one.
Common examples of when you may be able to seek damages include:
- Auto accidents, where another motorist caused the accident
- Slip or trip and fall accidents, where the property or business owner owed a duty to maintain safe premises
- Accidents resulting from inadequate security, where the property or business owner failed to maintain adequate security when they should have
- Other premises liability cases where a property owner, business owner, homeowner, occupier, or renter owed a duty to invitees, licensees, or, in some cases, trespassers but breached that duty of care
- Dog bites or dog attacks where dog owners or dog sitters failed to maintain or protect others from their dogs
- Medical malpractice cases where medical professionals or medical facilities failed to uphold their specific duties of care to their patients
- Nursing homes and caregivers who breach their duties of care to their patient
These are, of course, only some of the most common types of situations or relationships where, if an injury results from a breach of duty, the injured party may be able to claim damages. If you have been injured, it is always in your best interests to speak to a personal injury lawyer about the extent of your damages.
When Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney to Seek Damages in California?
You need a personal injury attorney as soon as possible if you want to seek any amount of damages for an injury or wrongful death.
If you have been injured or a loved one has died and you believe it is the fault of another person or entity, then timing is critical. Each jurisdiction has its own statutes of limitations for these types of cases. The typical range to file a claim or lawsuit is between one to three years, but there are exceptions, especially when the matter involves children or a public entity.
The only way to know for sure if you have a case, the value of that case, and how long you have to negotiate and/or file a lawsuit is through the help of a personal injury or wrongful death attorney in California.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney in California Today
To get the representation you need so that you obtain full and fair compensation for all damages in your specific circumstances, reach out to The Geller Firm today to schedule a free consultation. We can be contacted through our online form or call us directly at 415-840-0570. Our personal injury attorney is here to listen to your case and identify the best legal options for you. Get the help you deserve, and call our office now.