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Types of damages in california personal injury cases

Learn what damages may be available in your personal injury lawsuit

If you’ve been injured in an accident and are considering filing a personal injury case, you may have questions about the types of damages that might be awarded. There are 2 main types of damages that can be awarded in a personal injury case—compensatory and punitive.

California compensatory damages refer to awards paid to a victim as compensation for damages, injury and other monetary losses in a personal injury case. It should be noted that compensatory damages are not the same as punitive damages, which are designed as a form of punishment and deterrent to prevent others from engaging in similar behavior.

Compensatory damages in California personal injury cases

When it comes to compensatory damages, California victims in personal injury cases may be able to recover damages that have already been incurred as well future damages. The goal of compensatory damages is to make the victim whole again. This means that the damages awarded are intended to restore the victim to the financial position they were in prior to their accident.

There are 2 forms of compensatory damages—economic and non-economic.

Economic damages

Economic damages include lost earnings, medical bills and any out-of-pocket expenses you incurred as a result of your injury. In order to recover compensation for medical bills, you must be able to demonstrate that the claimed medical expenses are reasonable.

Additionally, you must be able to prove that those medical bills are specifically related to the required treatment for the injury caused by the defendant. This can usually be accomplished through medical bills, physician documentation and witness testimony.

In some cases, it may be necessary to file for compensation for future medical expenses as well. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you calculate the costs of any future potential medical expenses in your case.

You may also be able to recover damages related to your loss of past and future earnings. Evidence needed to recover such damages may include W-2 forms and pay stubs. Witness testimony from expert witnesses, accountants and coworkers may also be necessary to prove your anticipated earning potential prior to your accident.

Non-economic damages

When attempting to recover non-economic damages, California residents should keep in mind that these damages are not based on financial expenses or concrete losses. Instead, non-economic damages might include:

    • Physical pain and suffering


    • Emotional distress


    • Permanent disabilities, impairments or disfigurements


    • Damage to familial relationships


    • Loss of enjoyment of life



  • Diminished quality of life

Types of personal injury cases that typically result in non-economic damages

Not all personal injury cases involve non-economic damages. Such damages typically depend on the severity of your injury. Even so, there are some types of accidents that commonly result in serious injuries and can often lead to recovery of non-economic damages. These accidents may include:







  • Defective products

Punitive damages in California personal injury cases

In addition to compensatory damages, plaintiffs in California personal injury cases may also be able to recover punitive damages in some instances. When it comes to punitive damages, California courts typically award such damages only when the defendant's actions involved instances of malice, oppression or fraud. Punitive damages are intended to deter others from committing similar behavior.

How are punitive damages calculated in California personal injury cases?

In California, there isn’t a fixed formula for determining punitive damage amounts for personal injury cases. In such cases, juries will typically consider the level of reprehensibility of the defendant’s conduct as well as the defendant's financial situation. Generally, punitive damages should not exceed 4 times the amount of compensatory damages.

Damage caps in California personal injury cases

There are no compensatory damage caps on personal injury lawsuits in California other than in cases involving medical malpractice. The damage cap for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages in a medical malpractice case is $250,000. California law doesn’t have a cap on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in a personal injury lawsuit.

Seeking legal help with your California personal injury case

Navigating a personal injury case in California can be complex. Not only must you prove that your injuries were sustained during the accident but also that the damages you incurred resulted from those injuries. There are time limits on how long you have to file a personal injury case in California, so it’s always best to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident to ensure you don’t miss your chance to receive compensation.

If you’ve been injured in an accident in California or Texas, the experienced personal injury attorneys at MVP Accident Attorneys are here to help. Our firm has recovered millions of dollars for our clients across California and Texas, and we'd love to devise an individualized plan for you too.

Contact us today for your free, no-obligation consultation. There’s never a fee unless we win your case.

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