Pain and Suffering Damages in California
There are many misconceptions about how “pain and suffering” claims are handled in the judicial process. Johnson Attorneys Group has extensive experience in settling and litigating cases in California that involve pain and suffering. We will evaluate your case for free, and never charge legal fees unless we settle or win your case.
How Are Damages Calculated?
People who suffer from an unfortunate incident often file a personal injury lawsuit or claim against a responsible party or their insurance company. The formula used in settlement offers is generally based upon three factors:
- medical damages (including costs of treatment and physician bills)
- lost wages (income a person would have earned if not injured or incapacitated)
- general damages (pain, suffering, emotional damage, a reduction in the quality of life, disabilities)
While the costs associated with medical bills and lost wages are somewhat straightforward, determining the value of pain and suffering is more complicated. If someone enters into negotiations by selecting a random dollar figure without competent legal counsel, they will soon discover that the defendant’s insurance company has the upper hand.
Establishing Value and Determining Fault
Insurance adjusters consider the severity and longevity of injuries when they evaluate medical damages and lost wages. Will the injuries require treatment and keep a person from working temporarily, for an extended period of time, or permanently? They apply a multiplier based upon severity and longevity when making their calculations.
Every licensed insurance company develops its own way to calculate damages, including those for pain and suffering. Some use the multiplier method mentioned above, while others also incorporate per-day calculations that attempt to project a daily payment value during recovery. If it is believed that your injury requires three months of recovery, the insurer may set a specific per-day value for a 90-day period.
After estimating lost wages and damages, insurers then make their determination of fault. They will reduce their estimates and limit their exposure whenever possible by trying to assign some proportional level of responsibility on you or other parties. Since assigning blame is very subjective, it is best to have an attorney familiar with the process on your side.
How Does California Law Handle “Pain and Suffering”?
Within California, pain and suffering damages are considered examples of “non-economic damages.” Other examples that fall into this broader category along with pain and suffering in California are damages related to emotional distress, injury or humiliation to reputation, and loss of companionship, among a few others.
The state’s Code of Civil Procedures gives plaintiffs a window of opportunity to make their claims and seek damages or restitution. There is a two-year statute of limitations in most cases, with one or three years on cases that involve medical malpractice. A claim based upon medical malpractice must be initiated no later than one year after experiencing the effects of the injury or three years after it occurred, whichever comes first.
The Code also establishes maximum limits for damages based upon the type of case, and does not allow for pain and suffering in claims that involve workers’ compensation. Thus, a person cannot claim pain or suffering for a work-related injury that falls under workers’ compensation. Damages may be awarded in other circumstances, including those who endure pain and suffering as the result of slips, falls, vehicular accidents, medical and professional malpractice, defective or malfunctioning consumer goods, and wrongful death.
California differs from some other states by applying the “pure comparative fault” rule so that a person may still receive a share of the damages even if they were found to be more at fault than others for an event.
Judges, Juries, and Feelings
If a case goes to trial, there is no single formula that juries will apply to set a value for pain and suffering. Although judges frequently provide guidance for medical damages or lost wages, jurors sometimes allow their emotions to play a role when considering pain and suffering. When deliberating, they may think about what they would expect to receive if the event had happened to them. Sometimes that may work in your favor, sometimes not.
A plaintiff cannot make their claim for pain and suffering damages based upon feelings alone. Gather and provide documentation that substantiates the claim. For example, if you suffer from stress after an event, get records from a counselor or mental health professional.
Consult with a California Personal Injury Attorney Who Cares at Johnson Attorneys Group
Remember that insurance companies have many professionals working for them. You need an experienced personal injury attorney familiar with the process. Thankfully, we have 12 locations conveniently spread out over California to help serve you. We do not charge any fees until we win your case and will also get you in touch with a medical doctor even if you don’t have medical insurance. Hablamos Español.