California Pain & Suffering Damages: Calculating Emotional Distress
November 7th, 2022|
California recognizes that pain and suffering from a traumatic event can cause emotional distress. This distress is harder to quantify than broken limbs or lost wages, but it is nevertheless an essential part of any injury settlement.
The way pain and suffering damages are calculated is not straightforward. California does not give recommendations to the courts; this determination often relies on the skill of your lawyer and their experience dealing with emotional distress cases.
Explore ways that emotional distress damages are calculated and why working with a Sacramento car accident lawyer from Berg Injury Lawyers can help you get maximum compensation for your pain and suffering after an accident.
What are Pain and Suffering Damages?
Pain and suffering damages put a dollar figure on the non-economic effects of a traumatic event. They include the pain, anguish, discomfort, emotional trauma, and inconvenience caused by a traumatic event like a car accident.
Non-economic damages intend to provide monetary compensation for intangible losses resulting from the incident, such as loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, and emotional distress.
How Do They Work Under California Law?
No-fault states do not allow you to file a claim for non-economic damages against the at-fault party unless you have a serious injury. However, California is not a no-fault state and you can file for pain and suffering damages against the at-fault driver. This approach means that you and your car accident attorneys can file a claim for a reasonable amount to compensate you for emotional distress, even if you do not have a physical injury.
In personal injury cases, like motorcycle, truck, or auto accidents, California does not place a cap on pain and suffering damages. Jury instructions inform jurors to award the amount they believe fairly compensates the accident victim for their emotional distress, anguish, fear, anxiety, and any additional non-economic damage.
The only exception to this rule is for non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. Currently, the state’s cap is $250,000; however, this amount will increase to $750,000 in 2023.
The Types of Emotional Distress
California defines emotional distress as feelings of anxiety, suffering, anguish, fright, humiliation, and shame. Whenever a reasonable person has difficulty coping with a situation, it constitutes serious emotional distress.
Emotional distress caused by a traumatic event can take several forms. For instance, people who experience post-accident distress may experience anxiety and fear while driving. These emotions can cause them to have physical symptoms like flashbacks, tiredness, and nightmares. Some people may find themselves unable to work due to their distress.
How to Calculate Emotional Distress
California law does not have a formula for calculating the economic impact of emotional distress for a legal settlement. Instead, the courts want to understand how the event has impacted your life to determine the appropriate damages.
To prove pain and suffering, your lawyer may ask you to document the severity of your emotional distress. This generally means keeping records like the following:
- Personal Journal
A daily journal of your grief, depression, and stress struggles can show the emotional impact of the accident. For instance, you may detail how insomnia makes you unable to fall asleep easily due to you constantly reliving the incident.
- Visits with the Therapist and Psychiatrist
Medical appointments with your therapist and psychiatrist record your mental health diagnosis and treatment. If your psychiatrist prescribes medications for your anxiety, that strengthens your claim that the emotional distress from the accident seriously affected you.
- Testimonies from Friends and Family
People who know you well can testify how your behavior has changed since the crash. Your friends and family could report that you have become withdrawn and fearful of driving.
They can explain your inability to pursue hobbies you enjoy, such as gardening and playing with your children. Detailed testimonies can help jurors understand how stressful the accident was for you.
An experienced personal injury attorney from Berg Injury Lawyers can help you understand how to approach documenting your intangible pain and suffering to help ensure you get a fair settlement. Your attorney will use this evidence to prove non-economic damages in addition to the physical injuries you suffer to help you get compensation and rebuild your life.
Contact Berg Injury Lawyers for Pain and Suffering Cases in California
Emotional distress can adversely affect your quality of life and impact your career and ability to earn a living. At Berg Injury Lawyers, we can help you prove your intangible losses and get the justice you deserve for your emotional pain.
Contact us today to discuss your case and understand your rights.