Non-economic Damages in California Injury Cases

Non-economic damages in California personal injury cases can be awarded to make up for the personal, intangible consequences of an accident. An experienced California personal injury lawyer will ensure your noneconomic award is valued properly.

Getting into an accident can wreak havoc on your life. The consequences can be costly, but not all come with a price tag. Fortunately, our Sacramento personal injury attorneys can help you file an insurance claim or lawsuit to seek compensatory damages.

Compensatory damages are divided into two categories: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are awarded in California personal injury cases to compensate victims for the costs incurred as a result of injury. This can include medical bills and related expenses and lost income. 

In contrast, non-economic damages make up for the intangible, subjective consequences of an accident and resulting injury. Awards for non-economic losses can be particularly important in the days, weeks, and months that follow an accident. 

Cutter Law P.C. is well-versed in all aspects of non-economic damages in California personal injury cases. We are dedicated to getting our clients the most favorable recovery of non-economic damages possible.

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    Types of Non-economic Damages in California

    In accordance with California Civil Code 1431.2, non-economic damages for personal injury cases are often awarded for:

    • Physical pain and suffering
    • Mental suffering
    • Inconvenience
    • Humiliation
    • Emotional distress
    • Loss of companionship
    • Loss of consortium
    • Loss of society
    • Damage to reputation

    Any related legitimate, nonfinancial consequence of an accident can potentially be compensated with non-economic damages. These can include loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, physical impairment, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

    The Intent Behind Awarding
    Non-economic Damages in California

    After an injury, the non-economic losses can surpass the economic losses in some cases. Pain and suffering related to an accident can have a sizable impact on a victim’s life. For example, trauma from the incident can interfere with a person’s ability to get out of bed in the morning, go to work, or advance in their career.

    Physical pain and disfigurement can prevent a victim from enjoying activities they used to love, such as skiing, boating, or simply running around with their kids or grandkids. 

    Emotional distress can disrupt relationships, lead to depression and anxiety, and fundamentally change how a victim lives their lives. It can even cause a shortened lifespan.

    These are all legitimate consequences of a traumatic accident, and they have one thing in common: you cannot put a price on them. That is where non-economic damages come into play. 

    The purpose of non-economic damages is to ensure these personal and real consequences are acknowledged. Money might not heal psychological trauma, mend emotional wounds, or remove invisible scars, but it can provide a sense of justice and allow victims to find ways to cope with new limitations.

    How are non-economic damages calculated?

    There is no fixed standard or approach to calculating non-economic damages. Instead, it is often left up to a judge or jury. The Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions states that “the discretion of the judge or jury determines the amount of recovery, the only standard being such an amount as a reasonable person would estimate as fair compensation.”

    If your case does not go to court, the multiplier method may be used to calculate non-economic damages. 

    In the multiplier method, economic damages are calculated first. Then a multiplier—typically a number between one and five—is chosen based on the extent and severity of a victim’s suffering. The more extreme the victim’s emotional distress and suffering, the higher the multiplier. This number and the economic damages are multiplied, and the result is the value of the claim’s non-economic award.

    Let’s say your economic damages are valued at $100,000. A multiplier of 4 is chosen because you are severely disfigured, and your injuries will fundamentally change the way you live your life. Your non-economic damages would be valued at $400,000. In total, your compensatory damages would be $500,000.

    The daily rate method may also be used. This process determines a fair “daily rate” for living with the injuries suffered. The rate is then multiplied by the number of days spent recovering from the injury.

    Ultimately, the amount awarded is determined on a case-by-case basis.

    Factors That Influence Non-economic Damages

    To determine the amount awarded in non-economic damages, the following factors may be considered:

    • The amount of the economic losses incurred
    • The severity of the injury
    • The long-term effects of the injury
    • The credibility of the plaintiff
    • The intent or recklessness of the defendant’s actions
    • The strength of the evidence and testimonies

    How long do I have to file a personal injury claim?

    In California, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is two years from the date you were injured. Once this deadline passes, you are no longer eligible to file a claim.

    The statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim is one year from the date you knew or should have known about the injury. If there are extenuating circumstances that prevented you from knowing about the injury sooner, you have three years to file a claim.

    For further assistance with the statute of limitations for all types of personal injury cases, contact our California personal injury lawyers.

    Do non-economic damages in California personal injury cases have limits?

    Not usually. California appreciates the importance of non-economic awards. As long as a jury’s calculation is reasonable, it will likely stand. 

    There is one notable exception: medical malpractice cases. Until recently, noneconomic awards were capped at $250,000 in cases involving medical negligence. In 2022, Governor Newsom signed AB 35, which is legislation to increase the cap on medical negligence matters.

    The new limit on noneconomic awards in medical malpractice cases is $350,000—and it will increase by $40,000 every year until it reaches $750,000. Noneconomic awards in medical malpractice cases resulting in a wrongful death are now capped at $500,000. Those will also increase annually—by $50,000 until the limit is $1,000,000.

    Our California Personal Injury Lawyers Are Ready to Seek Full Compensation for Your Non-economic Losses

    Identifying and calculating non-economic damages can be complicated. These compensatory awards also tend to be a source of disagreement between parties in a personal injury lawsuit. Often, experts are required to offer testimony and insight into a victim’s pain, suffering, and other personal losses. 

    This might seem overwhelming, especially when faced with emotional, psychological, and physical struggles. Fortunately, you don’t have to figure it out on your own. Call the California personal injury lawyers at Cutter Law P.C. for help. We have the experience, resources, and dedication to not only win your case but also get every cent you deserve.

    You have limited time to file a personal injury lawsuit for non-economic damages, so act quickly. We offer a free, no-obligation case evaluation. Contact our law firm, with locations conveniently in Sacramento, Oakland, and Santa Rosa, to schedule your consultation today.

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