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What Damages Can You Recover in a California Personal Injury Lawsuit?

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What Damages Can You Recover in a California Personal Injury Lawsuit?

California has detailed laws, jury instructions and case decisions that define the damages you can recover in a California personal injury lawsuit.  The rules favor the injured person and it is critical for your personal injury lawyer to go over each item of damage to make certain that hit every injury checkbox when you submit your claim.  Our office has an actual physical checklist that tracks the items of damage.  Beyond that, the best personal injury lawyers know what types of proof (evidence) is needed to establish these damages in court (or in a personal injury settlement demand submitted before a lawsuit is even filed.)   Here are just some of the rules for personal injury damages.

The Basics 

When a jury finds that the defendant is at fault in causing your injuries what can you claim as damages in your personal injury action? A court will tell the jury to award you money that “will reasonably compensate you for the harm” you suffered. This compensation is called “damages”. Here are some of the rules for what is and is not covered when you seek damages in a personal injury action. (When you see quotations around some words or phrases it means we are quoting from California standard jury instructions or case law.)

1. You recover for harm even when that “particular harm could not have been anticipated.”

2. You do not have to prove the exact amount of damages that “will provide reasonable compensation for the harm.” However the jury cannot “speculate or guess in awarding damages”.

The courts have held that “an injured person [should] not be deprived of substantial compensation merely because he cannot prove with complete certainty the extent of harm he has suffered.” (Clemente v. State of California (1985) 40 Cal.3d 202, 219)

Items of Personal Injury Recovery

Some of the items you can recover are:

Medical Expenses—Past and Future
Past and Future Lost Earnings
Lost Earning Capacity
Loss of Ability to Provide Household Services
Damage to Property
Loss of Use of Property
Physical Pain, Mental Suffering, and Emotional Distress
Loss of Ability to Provide Household Services

Lost Earning Capacity - An Often Overlooked Item of Personal Injury Damage

Lost earning capacity is often overlooked when personal injury claims are made. The law is favorable to the injured person.

“Loss of earning power ... 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.” (Connolly v. Pre-Mixed Concrete Co. (1957) 49
Cal.2d 483, 489)

Loss of Ability to Provide Household Services - An Often Overlooked Item of Personal Injury Damage

Loss of Ability to Provide Household Services is often overlooked as well. The law is good on this point and favors the injured party (or their surviving family members). “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.” (Overly v. Ingalls Shipbuilding, Inc. (1999) 74 Cal.App.4th 164, 171, fn. 5)

An experienced personal injury law firm can make a significant difference in the amount your recover for your injuries.  Daniel Horowitz and his personal injury legal team will seek the maximum recovery for you in your personal injury case. We work with top experts and have an in house MBA to work on damages. We operate on a no fee until (and unless) you recover basis.  Call us if we can be of assistance.