If you are injured by another person’s negligence – in a traffic accident, for example – the law in California entitles you to complete compensation for your accident-related medical expenses, lost income, pain, and suffering.
You can place a dollar figure on medical bills and lost wages, but if you’re injured, how do the courts determine the value of pain and suffering?
Obviously, one person’s pain and suffering will be quite different from another person’s, and some of us are able to endure more pain than others.
Placing a quantifiable value on something so subjective and intangible is not easy, but the courts try to award damages based on the particulars of each case.
Until a personal injury lawyer reviews the facts and details of a case, there is simply no way to estimate the “value” of someone’s pain and suffering.
In Southern California, before a San Bernardino personal injury attorney files a personal injury lawsuit on a client’s behalf, that attorney must calculate the value of the claim and put a precise dollar amount on it.
How is that done? The first step is to look at previous personal injury cases where other victims have suffered similar injuries. This establishes a starting point.
IS THERE A FORMULA FOR CALCULATING PAIN AND SUFFERING DAMAGES?
Personal injury attorneys then apply a formula for determining “non-economic” damages – that is, pain and suffering damages – based on the dollar figure of the “economic” damages – the medical bills and lost wages.
Non-economic damages are typically valued at one-and-a-half to four times the amount of the economic damages in the case.
Thus, if you are injured by a negligent driver in southern California, for example, and your medical bills and lost wages amount to $100,000, a San Bernardino personal injury attorney will probably ask for $150,000 to $400,000 for pain and suffering, bringing the full value of the lawsuit to somewhere between $250,000 and $500,000.
When that dollar amount range has been determined – provided that it generally lines up with awards made to victims in previous cases with similar injuries – a personal injury lawyer will then consider the precise details of the case in order to arrive at an exact dollar amount.
The precise details that may be considered include:
– the injury victim’s age and general health
– any unique or painful treatments or painful side effects of treatment
– any medical condition that has deteriorated due to the injury
– the enduring effect of the injury on the victim’s quality and enjoyment of life
WHAT ELSE MUST BE CONSIDERED IN A PAIN AND SUFFERING AWARD?
By reviewing similar previous cases, establishing the range of an injury claim’s “market value,” and then considering each case’s unique details and circumstances, personal injury lawyers set the generally accepted values for pain and suffering awards.
Judges and juries may arrive at different conclusions, but when you take a personal injury lawsuit into a courtroom, it is imperative to start with a dollar figure that is both just and justifiable.
Pain and suffering awards are personalized, and the amount of an award is never based solely on the nature of the injury.
The victim must be considered, because a situation or experience that might be tolerable for one person may be painful for another.
Awards for pain and suffering are based not only on the nature of the injury but also on the age and condition of the injury victim and the amount of personal pain and suffering that victim has endured.
Evidence to support a pain and suffering claim in a personal injury case can take a variety of forms.
Obviously, the more evidence a victim’s attorney offers, the more likely it is that the lawsuit will prevail.
An injury victim should be able to provide medical reports and records that support the injury claim, along with supportive testimony or a statement from the injury victim’s healthcare provider.
DOES CALIFORNIA RESTRICT OR “CAP” PAIN AND SUFFERING AWARDS?
California law does not allow three categories of injury victims to claim pain and suffering damages in cases arising from traffic accidents.
Even if you have been injured in California traffic because the other driver was negligent, you may not recover damages for pain and suffering if you:
– are convicted of DUI as a result of the collision
– were driving while uninsured or underinsured
– owned a vehicle that was involved in the collision and that vehicle was uninsured or underinsured, unless the other driver was convicted of DUI as a result of the collision
With extremely limited exceptions, under the state’s statute of limitations, personal injury lawsuits in California must be filed within two years of the date of the injury.
If your injury, pain, and suffering were caused by a negligent driver or by any other negligent party, don’t wait two years to begin seeking justice.
WHY IS IT IMPERATIVE TO ACT QUICKLY?
When you’ve been injured by negligence, get medical attention immediately. That must be your first priority.
Then, as soon as possible, and before you make any statement to an insurance company or accept a quick settlement, put your case in the hands of a personal injury attorney who will fight for compensation – and for justice – on your behalf.
It’s important to give your case to an attorney while the evidence and the memories of the witnesses are still fresh, because if you wait two years, evidence will deteriorate, memories fade, and witnesses can disappear. Your personal injury attorney will review the facts and the evidence in the case.
Then, by negotiating with the defendant’s attorney or attorneys, your own attorney will attempt to reach an acceptable out-of-court-settlement.
In California, most personal injury matters are resolved outside of a courtroom.
However, if you’re not offered enough compensation for your pain and suffering, a skilled personal injury attorney will take your case to court and hold accountable the negligent party or parties who injured you.
WILL YOU RISK ANYTHING BY TAKING LEGAL ACTION?
Most injury attorneys work on a contingent fee basis and offer a free initial consultation, so standing up for your rights won’t cost you a cent.
If you’ve been injured by negligence in California, you are entitled to full compensation for your medical care, lost income, and all related economic damages.
You are also entitled to full compensation for your pain and suffering. It’s your right.
If you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence, do not hesitate to stand up for your rights. A qualified San Bernardino personal injury lawyer can help, and the law in California is on your side.