Northern California Personal Injury Compensation
Personal injury victims are entitled to pursue compensation from individuals whose deliberate or negligent actions cause physical harm. Since insurance rarely covers intentional acts, most personal injury claims are based on negligence. However, certain kinds of personal injury claims do not necessarily require proof of negligence.
The most common personal injury claims involve traffic accidents, but any act that causes a physical injury might entitle the victim to compensation. Medical malpractice, unsafe property conditions, and the sale of dangerous products are among the countless examples of personal injury compensation claims.
If you have been injured by another person, a personal injury lawyer at KKG Law can help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Our personal injury team represents injury victims in Oakland, San Jose, Fairfield, and all other Bay Area communities.
What Is a Personal Injury?
A personal injury is simply an injury to a person’s body or mind. Compensation is often available for losses that are strictly financial, including property damage, but those claims are not classified as personal injury claims. Discrimination and civil rights claims involve injuries to dignity and rights, but they fall within a different area of the law.
Personal injury claims cover emotional damage when it accompanies a physical injury. Under limited circumstances, courts allow victims to bring a claim for an injury that is strictly emotional, even in the absence of physical harm. However, most personal injury claims are based on a physical injury or illness that was caused by the negligent act of another person or business.
What Kinds of Acts Can Lead to a Personal Injury?
All persons have a duty to exercise care to avoid causing a foreseeable injury to someone else. Individuals and businesses that act carelessly are said to be negligent.
Typical personal injury claims are based on acts of negligence that cause injuries, including:
- Traffic accidents that harm drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians
- Boating accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Injuries caused by a property owner’s failure to keep property in a safe condition or to warn property users of hazardous conditions
- Construction accidents that injure bystanders
Some personal injury cases do not necessarily require proof of negligence, including claims for injuries caused by:
- Defective products
- Dog bites
- Nursing home abuse
Work-related injuries, however, are not covered by personal injury law. Workers’ compensation provides benefits to injured employees, whether or not the employer was negligent. Employees who are injured on the job must usually (but not always) bring a workers’ compensation claim instead of a personal injury claim.
What Compensation Should I Receive for a Personal Injury?
The purpose of personal injury compensation is to make the victim whole. In other words, compensation is meant to restore the victim to the position the victim occupied before the injury occurred. Obviously, no amount of compensation can change the fact of an injury, but compensation can help injury victims improve the quality of their lives, notwithstanding the fact of the injury.
Personal injury compensation covers financial and nonfinancial losses. Financial losses are obviously easier to calculate. They include:
- Reimbursement for medical expenses incurred (including reimbursement of health insurance companies for bills they paid on behalf of the injury victim)
- Covering the cost of future treatment, surgeries, or therapy that the injury victim is likely to need
- Reimbursement of lost wages
- Losses from a reduction in future earning capacity
- The financial cost of coping with a disability (including home health aides, vocational rehabilitation, wheelchairs and other medical appliances, the cost of a vehicle that operates with hand controls, etc.)
Nonfinancial losses include pain, suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. While compensation does not restore accident victims to a pain-free life, it can offset suffering by improving the quality of an accident victim’s life in other ways. In most settlements of personal injury claims, compensation for nonfinancial losses is the largest component of the settlement.
What If I Was Partially at Fault?
In some cases, the injury victim shares some blame for the accident that caused an injury. For instance, the driver who enters an intersection first has the right of way, and when a collision occurs, the driver who failed to yield will bear most of the fault for the accident. But if the driver who entered the intersection first might share responsibility for the accident by speeding or failing to anticipate the other driver’s negligence.
Compensation in California is based on a comparison of fault. For example, if one driver is 80% at fault and the injury victim is 20% at fault, the injury victim’s compensation is reduced by 20%. Using that example, if full compensation for an injury would be $50,000, the injury victim will receive $40,000 to account for the victim’s contributory negligence.
What Is the Formula for Calculating Personal Injury Compensation?
While you might read about “personal injury settlement calculators” on the internet, the truth is that no formula can be used to determine compensation. When compensation is decided by a jury, the jury awards actual financial losses and whatever compensation it believes justice requires for nonfinancial losses.
Personal injury lawyers place a settlement value on claims by estimating the amount of compensation a jury would award if the case goes to trial. That estimate is based on experience and on awareness of what juries in the same county have awarded to similar accident victims with similar injuries under similar circumstances.
With the probable jury verdict as a starting point, personal injury lawyers then:
- Reduce the probable verdict to account for contributory negligence, as discussed above
- Multiply that result by the probability of winning the trial to account for the risk of losing
- Subtract the expense of a trial from that result, to account for cost savings achieved by a settlement
The result is the settlement value. Insurance adjusters perform the same calculation. They offer less than the settlement value and personal injury lawyers offer to settle for more than the settlement value. After a period of negotiation, the case usually settles for an amount that is near (and often a bit above) the settlement value calculated by the personal injury lawyer.
When insurance adjusters refuse to take a reasonable view of the evidence, a personal injury lawyer will probably recommend taking the case to trial. If that happens, a jury decides what compensation to award. Since juries can be unpredictable, however, it is usually better to settle if the final offer is reasonably close to the settlement value calculated by the injury victim’s lawyer.
How Do I Get Help with Personal Injury Compensation?
Compensation depends upon a number of factors. An experienced personal injury lawyer at KKG Law can evaluate those factors and help injury victims arrive at a fair settlement. When insurance companies refuse to be reasonable, KKG Law isn’t afraid to take them to court.
To learn how KKG Law can help you receive fair compensation for your injuries, call us at 707-898-8125 or use our online contact form to send us a message. KKG Law represents personal injury victims in Oakland, San Jose, Fairfield, and all other Bay Area communities.