If you are hurt in an accident, you face tremendous uncertainty. How will you cover your medical bills? What about your earnings? Will you need to file a personal injury lawsuit?
Whether your attorney reaches a settlement or the case goes to court, general damages are one type of compensation you may be owed. California Civil Code 3281 states that every individual who suffers because of an act of another person may be eligible for damages in a lawsuit. Learn more about general damages below, and contact an Oakland personal injury attorney if you have questions.
General damages in a California lawsuit are also referred to as non-economic damages. General damages usually cover:
General damages may be available to you in many personal injury cases. Partnering with a skilled Bay Area personal injury attorney is essential because general damages can sometimes be larger than economic damages. Therefore, having an attorney who can maximize your general damages compensation pays.
Your attorney will have access to recent settlements and verdicts in California, which can be a way to indicate what your injuries might be worth.
General damages are different than economic damages. Economic damages, also called special damages, include:
Past economic damages can usually be easily calculated, but future economic damages can be more complicated to compute, because it may depend on what medical treatment you need in the future or whether or when you are able to return to work and at what job. It’s important that you work with the right attorney and expert(s) to accurately project all your future economic damages if you are significantly injured.
General damages are just as objective and real as special damages but only you fully experienced them (i.e., you know your own pain best). Therefore, it is important that you work with the right attorney who can understand your pain and effectively communicate what you are going through to the defense team on your case or to a jury in court.
For instance, say you are rear-ended at a traffic light and have $25,000 in medical bills and lost wages. These are economic damages that your attorney will attempt to prove with medical bills, receipts, and other documented evidence.
However, your pain and suffering may be more significant than the bills and could include pain and discomfort, inability to enjoy daily activities, and depression over being injured. These damages could be worth far more than $25,000. It all depends on how much pain and discomfort you endure. Also critical is how long it takes to recover.
General damages require the judgment of people to determine. Also required is good listening, communication and advocacy from your lawyer. The Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions states that the jury should rely on their judgment to determine a ‘reasonable amount’ of general damages based on evidence and common sense. Your lawyer should help inform the jury what constitutes the ‘reasonable amount’ for your situation and injury.
Calculating compensation for all damages is challenging and complicated in a personal injury lawsuit. Even with medical bills and lost earnings documented, getting the insurance company to pay can be difficult. And with general damages, your attorney must present a strong case.
It also is essential to have an attorney who is experienced with both settlements and going to court. You never know when an insurance company will dig in its heels and refuse to compensate fairly for your pain and suffering.
General damages may apply to most personal injury claims, depending on the nature of your injuries, including:
Fortunately, there are few cases where general damages are capped in California, with the exception of medical malpractice cases. However, in other personal injury claims, there is no cap on your award.
The lack of a general damages cap for most claims means your attorney can pursue the most damages possible. That is why it is so critical in California to hire an attorney who knows how to determine the full value of your pain and suffering.
Many personal injury lawsuits settle before the case goes to court. The Oakland law firm Bracamontes & Vlasak, P.C., has the skill and experience to get you the most for your personal injury case. Also, if your case goes to trial, our attorneys know how to win the compensation you are entitled to.
Contact our personal injury lawyers at Bracamontes & Vlasak, P.C. to find out how we can help. Our lawyers Michael Bracamontes and Ryan Vlasak are proud to serve Oakland, the Bay Area, and Northern California and work hard to safeguard your rights. Please call (415) 835-6777 to set up a free consultation.