Legal Guide

How Is Personal Injury Compensation Calculated in California?

Before you start on a personal injury lawsuit, it is important to consider what you might be able to claim in the suit. This will help you determine if it is worth it to bring a personal injury suit at all. In order to calculate your claims, you need to evaluate your position, consider your claims, and then consult with your lawyer.

Evaluate your position

There are certain important steps you should take to make sure you have the information you need to calculate what compensation you can expect. These steps are based on what the average insurance company and court typically consider when evaluating a claim.


The first and most important step is to establish who is liable and to what extent. You must be able to prove that the person or party you are suing is liable for your injuries, either because of a breach of duty or an action.

This can get tricky when there are multiple parties involves. For example, if a commercial truck is involved in an accident, the driver, the truck manufacturer, the truck owner, and the company sending the load may all be responsible in some way.

Punitive damages

There are some cases where a party’s negligence is so profound that punitive damages are in order. This may also be the case if someone has caused deliberate harm to you. It can be hard to estimate punitive damages, and a jury will make the final decision here.

Your lawyer can give you a general idea of whether it is worth seeking punitive damages and what you can expect to get if you do.

Comparative negligence

If law enforcement has determined that you are partly at fault in an accident, California’s comparative negligence laws may reduce your clams. If, for example, you were hit by a driver running a red light but were texting at the time, you may be considered 10 percent at fault while the other driver is 90 percent liable.

In that case, whatever claims you make will be reduced by 10 percent if you win. If the jury awards you $20,000 in compensation, you will only be entitled to $18,000. It is important to find out how comparative negligence might apply in your case when determining your claim.

Consider your claims

The next step in establishing your claim is making a list of all expenses you have incurred as a result of your accident. These may include lost wages, future lost income, medical expenses of all kinds, and future medical and physical therapy expenses.

You may also consider non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, mental distress, or inconvenience. Your personal injury lawyer can help you understand exactly what claims you should make, and a personal injury calculator may make it easier to understand your position.

Economic claims

These are expenses that you can verify with receipts or expert predictions for the future. They include wages you have lost because you were hurt, medical expenses, the cost of equipment for your recovery, job retraining costs, or the cost of replacing personal property.

Non-economic claims

Non-economic claims are trickier. In the past, the courts have found that non-economic claims are impossible to express in purely monetary terms. Things like pain and suffering, loss of companionship, emotional anguish, or damage to reputation can never be fully compensated for with just money.

Consult with your lawyer

The law is complicated and every case is unique. It can be very tricky to work through all the issues at play. This is just one reason it is essential that you get the help and advice of a legal professional as soon as possible.

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