In Personal Injury Cases, How is the Value of Physical and Emotional Injuries Determined?

September 22, 2015 | Category: Articles, Car Accidents, Motorcycle Accidents, Truck Accidents

Without question, anyone whose negligence causes an accident victim to sustain any type of physical injury may be held liable for the economic expenses related to that injury. For instance, if a victim suffers an injury such as a broken leg, he or she may be caused to incur many expenses — including medical treatment, lost income and even the cost of household assistance during a period of incapacitation. The responsible party may be liable for these expenses.

However, how does one quantify the value of injuries that extend beyond such incurred expenses? Is it possible to place an economic value on pain, psychological and other non-economic losses that are very real to accident victims? How does one place a value on the “human losses” that a person suffers when an injury has been sustained?

Even though California law places certain limitations on compensable injuries, it does make allowance for non-economic losses. With the help of a knowledgeable Los Angeles accident attorney, accident victims can pursue more damages than they may expect.

California Law Allows Damages for Non-Economic Harm

Imagine the non-economic losses that can occur to an individual who has been involved in a major auto accident. Physical pain and psychological distress are considered to be non-economic losses. The following are some examples of the types of such losses that may be difficult to quantify:

• Chronic physical pain and discomfort.
• Stress placed on relationships with family and friends due to altered moods and decreased ability to provide assistance, advice and moral support. Embarrassment and guilt due to putting family members in the position of becoming long-term or even permanent caregivers.
• Worry and nervousness that a similar accident or injury may occur again.
• Anxiety relating to the rate of recovery and ability to work and earn a living.
• Humiliation and indignity of being seen differently by others due to injuries and resulting disabilities.

Losses like these fall under the classification of pain and suffering. While placing a dollar value on these types of injuries may seem subjective, California law recognizes them as real, as long as victims can prove the actual harm. With certain exceptions, such as Civil Code section 3333.4 (which places exclusions on victims who are driving without insurance) most victims can pursue monetary compensation for non-economic damages under the law.

There is No Set Formula for Determining the Value of Non-Economic Damages

The law does not provide a mathematical formula for determining the value of physical pain and emotional distress. In fact, the Judicial Council of California Advisory Committee on Civil Jury Instructions provides that jurors are to be instructed that “No fixed standard exists for deciding the amount of these non-economic damages. You must use your judgment to decide a reasonable amount based on the evidence and your common sense.”

To that end, a careful evaluation on a case by case basis is necessary, and evidence must be obtained, to prove and truly convey the severity of physical pain and suffering to a particular victim, given his or her specific injuries and their particular impact on the person’s life.

It would be improper, and involve a total lack of understanding of the profound effects that injuries can have on accident victims, to attempt to place a monetary value on the “human losses” they have suffered, simply by applying a multiplier to the amount of economic damages (e.g. medical expenses and lost earnings) they have incurred.

In other words, it would be unfair to say that when a victim has incurred $50,000 in medical expenses and lost wages, his or her pain and suffering should be calculated by multiplying that amount by two, three or any other specific number, without regard to how the victim’s injuries have uniquely affected his or her life and well-being.

Accident Attorneys can Help Injury Victims Pursue all Losses

Whether injury claims are decided by insurance companies or juries, fair evaluations of all the damages sustained by an individual requires a detailed and meticulous presentation of evidence which truly illustrates the severity of impact upon a victim’s life. For this reason it is extremely important for seriously-injured accident victims to seek support from skilled personal injury lawyers as soon as possible.

There is no cost involved in obtaining a free case evaluation from The Rudman Law Firm, APC. To learn more about your best legal options, call us toll free at (844) 478-3626 / (844) 4RUDMAN, or at our Los Angeles office (213) 375-3777, or at our Studio City office (818) 769-6969, or use our convenient online contact form.

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