Damages in Personal Injury Cases
By Michael Verna on November 06, 2019
Working with a skilled personal injury attorney means getting answers to legal questions and receiving expert counsel. Personal injury lawyers Richard T. Bowles and Michael P. Verna have helped clients in Walnut Creek, San Francisco, CA and the entire Bay Area. Our personal injury lawyers seek damages to cover material losses and to hold negligent people and parties accountable for their actions.
Our law firm receives a number of questions about legal damages and the role they play in personal injury cases. There are two kinds of legal damages that are sought in personal injury lawsuits:
- Compensatory damages for material losses
- Punitive damages to punish the negligent person or party
It’s not uncommon for people to seek both compensatory and punitive damages in a personal injury case. Let’s explore both in greater detail below.
What Compensatory Damages Cover
Compensatory damages are intended to cover material losses associated with an incident or accident. This includes medical bills and expenses, physical therapy and rehabilitation, damage to property, lost wages, and emotional pain and suffering.
Calculating Compensatory Damages
Calculating compensatory damages is relatively straightforward. Receipts, invoices, and bills can be all added up in order to determine how much a person spent to address changes to their life related to an incident.
An Example of Compensatory Damages
Say that a person was involved in an auto accident with a commercial semi-truck. Compensatory damaged would cover the damage to the car, medical bills related to the crash, physical rehabilitation bills, counseling and mental health services to address the psychological toll of the accident, and any wages lost because of the crash.
What Punitive Damages Cover
Punitive damages are not linked to any sort of losses sustained during an accident or incident. The focus of punitive damages is punishing the negligent party to ensure that future behavior does not occur again. These damages also help discourage similar behavior by others, reminding people that there are serious consequences for their actions.
Calculating Punitive Damages
There is no set amount sought in punitive damages. Similar cases may be considered in order to determine an ideal amount to seek in punitive damages. Generally, the more egregious and/or reckless the incident, the more is sought in punitive damages.
An Example of Punitive Damages
Say that during the semi-truck accident noted above, the driver of the tractor-trailer was drunk. What’s more, say that he had a history of intoxicated driving yet was hired anyway.
Punitive damages would be sought against the trucking company for their negligent hiring practices and poor screening process. Had the company not been so negligent in hiring and screening, the large truck crash may not have happened.
How Do Damages Compare to Pre-Trial Settlements?
Damages may be comparable to a pre-trail settlement, but it depends on the case. Sometimes the settlement is lower than potential trial damages, but the settlement is given without the need for a court battle.
This is why working with an attorney is so important. While building your case, we can help determine if it’s a better idea to take the current settlement, negotiate for a better settlement, or bring your case all the way to trial.
Contact Our Bay Area Law Firm
If you live in the greater San Francisco area and have been injured as a result of another person’s negligence, be sure to contact our team of personal injury attorneys. You can reach Bowles & Verna LLP in Walnut Creek by calling (925) 935-3300.