If you are injured because another person was negligent, the law entitles you to be compensated for your medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages, but to obtain that compensation, you will need to be represented by an Orange County personal injury attorney.
Personal injuries can happen anywhere. Most personal injury claims are generated by traffic accidents, but if you slip on a wet floor at the supermarket, you’re injured by a defective tool or appliance, or the neighbor’s dog bites and injures you, you may have a personal injury claim.
If someone who is negligent injures you, good legal help is available. Personal injury law aims to make a victim of negligence – called the “plaintiff” in a personal injury case – “whole” again. A plaintiff seeks to return to the condition he or she was in before the accident and injury.
What Can a Personal Injury Claim Accomplish?
Obviously, you can’t be “whole” again if you have sustained a catastrophic and/or disabling injury, but a personal injury claim that prevails will compensate you for your costs and reimburse you for current medical expenses, projected future medical costs, lost wages, and related losses.
Is there a “cap” or limit to the damages that a plaintiff can receive? Is there a time limit for taking legal action? And if you’ve been injured and you can’t work, how can you afford a lawyer to help with your claim? Keep reading, because those questions are about to be answered.
What “Damages” Are Available to an Injured Victim of Negligence?
If you and your attorney can prove that you were injured because someone else was negligent, you may be able to receive three different types of “damages,” the legal term for the compensation that victims of negligence receive. If you’ll keep reading, you will learn about:
- economic damages
- non-economic damages
- punitive damages
What are called “compensatory” damages include both economic and non-economic damages. Here is a closer look at the types of damages you can be awarded in a California personal injury case.
What Do Economic Damages Include?
Under California law, an injured victim of negligence can expect these “economic” damages when his or her personal injury claim prevails:
- Medical expenses: The compensation awarded to a personal injury victim almost always reimburse the victim’s medical expenses along with the projected expenses for medical care and treatment that will be needed in the future.
- Lost income: Victims of negligence are also entitled to reimbursement for lost earnings related to their injuries and lost future earning capacity.
- Property damage: If anything of value is damaged or destroyed in an accident caused by negligence – a vehicle, for example, or items inside the vehicle – the victim is entitled to reimbursement for the replacement or repair of those items.
What Do Non-Economic Damages Include?
An injured victim of negligence can also expect these “non-economic” damages when his or her personal injury claim prevails:
- Physical and emotional pain, suffering, and distress: Negligence victims may be compensated for the emotional and physical pain, suffering, and distress experienced as a result of the accident and injuries.
- “Loss of enjoyment”: When a victim can no longer enjoy exercise, hobbies, and similar pursuits, the victim may be compensated for “loss of the enjoyment of life.” If an injury prevents intimacy between spouses, compensation may be sought for loss of consortium.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Compensatory damages are not meant as punishment. Rather, as mentioned above, compensatory damages are, as the term indicates, compensation to make the victim once again “whole.” Compensatory damages are about providing for the victim rather than punishing the negligent.
But if the negligent party – called the “defendant” in a personal injury case – acted with extreme or egregious negligence, a court may determine that punishment is appropriate.
Punitive damages, called “exemplary” damages under California law, are intended as punishment, and are meant to deter similar negligence in the future.
How Can the Victims of Negligence Receive Punitive Damages?
Victims of negligence have the burden of proving, with “clear and convincing evidence,” that punitive damages are just and appropriate. The law in California requires the court to take these factors into account when evaluating a victim’s claim for punitive damages:
- the reprehensibility of the defendant’s negligent action
- the actual harm that the victim has suffered
- the victim’s financial circumstances
Unlike many states, California does not place a cap on the amount of punitive damages that the injured victims of negligence may seek. The only legal limit is the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits arbitrary or grossly excessive punishment.
Is There a Time Limit for Personal Injury Claims?
All states limit the amount of time you have to file a personal injury claim. These legal deadlines are set forth in laws called statutes of limitations. In California, the injured victims of negligence have two years from the date of an injury to file a personal injury claim.
However, injury victims must not wait for two years and then hastily try to file a personal injury claim at the last minute. Do not wait two years after you’ve been injured to speak with a southern California personal injury lawyer. Do not even wait two weeks.
As soon as you’ve been treated by a healthcare professional for your personal injury or injuries, schedule a consultation with an Orange County personal injury attorney. It’s important to get a claim started while the evidence is still fresh and the memories of the witnesses are recent.
What Does Justice Cost?
Do not worry about the cost. Injury lawyers know that most of their clients are unable to work and face mounting monthly bills and medical costs, so you will pay a personal injury lawyer no attorney’s fee unless and until you have been compensated with a settlement or a jury verdict.
Your first consultation with a California injury attorney is free, and there is no obligation. Your attorney will review the details of your claim, and you will get sound, personalized advice regarding how the law applies to your own case.
The most serious injuries – severe traumatic brain injuries and catastrophic spinal cord injuries, for example – may require several million dollars for the medical care, treatment, and therapy that a patient will need over a lifetime.
If this happens to you or to someone you love, you must be represented by an attorney who knows how to win the maximum available compensation, and you should know that the law in California will be on your side.