If you have been injured in a bicycle crash, you can institute a personal injury lawsuit to obtain compensation. You can also file a wrongful death claim to recover damages if your loved one died in a bicycle accident.
Typically, there are two types of compensation available in Los Angeles bicycle accident personal injury lawsuits: economic damages and Non-Economic damages. Both economic damages and Non-Economic damages are jointly referred to as compensatory damages. It is so because they offer restitution to the victim. On rare occasions, the court may award the plaintiff punitive damages. Unlike economic and Non-Economic damages whose principal purpose is to compensate the victim, the primary goal of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for his/her reprehensible conduct.
It can be challenging to know the exact amount of damages you should plead for in your personal injury lawsuit. It is thus crucial to consult a personal injury attorney. You can contact The LA Personal Injury Law Firm team to get an estimate of the total value of compensation recoverable if you are involved in a bicycle accident.
1. Economic Damages
Economic damages cover all the financial losses you have incurred because of an accident. Bicycle accidents may cause monetary losses, both directly and indirectly. The court will compensate you for all these losses by awarding economic damages.
Economic damages are also referred to as special damages or monetary damages. Generally, economic damages cover any tangible loss that can be quantified monetarily. In a bicycle accident personal injury lawsuit, economic damages will include the following:
Future and Past Medical Bills
The court considers both future and past medical bills as financial losses. It is not only your doctor’s bills but also other forms of medical expenses count as economic damages. You will receive compensation for:
- Prescription costs
- Emergency and urgent care costs
- Travel costs to health care centers
- Follow-up visits to the doctor
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Mobility aids, such as crutches, wheelchairs, and braces
- Physical therapy aids
- Diagnostic tests
- Blood tests
The court will consider each medical expense you have incurred when awarding economic damages. For you to increase the chances of winning your personal injury claim, you should keep all your medical records and bills safely. You can avail them to your attorney during the first consultation for him/her to assess the value of your claim. Note that you will receive compensation for even over-the-counter expenses, provided you have shown sufficient proof to the court.
Mental Health Treatment Costs
The court will also consider the value of your mental health treatment costs when awarding damages. You may sustain a psychological health injury in a bicycle accident. Some of these psychological health injuries include anxiety, PTSD, or depression. Your attorney can hire an expert to demonstrate to the court the total present, past, and future financial costs of such injuries. The judge may award you damages based on his/her advice.
Past Lost Wages
The term ‘lost wages’ refers to the amount of money you lost because of your absence from work or failing to conduct your business because of an accident. If you sustain severe physical injuries in a bicycle accident, you may spend too much time focusing on your recovery and neglecting your regular duties. You may even be admitted to a hospital for a considerably long period. During this time, you will be unable to work and earn or run your business. The court will compensate you for the amount of money you would have made or earned during this time. For instance, if you didn’t work for one month, you will receive damages for lost wages equivalent to the money you would have made for one month. This sum includes bonuses and tips.
Future Lost Earnings
Sometimes, a physical injury may keep you off from work for a couple of months, or even for several years. The court usually considers future lost earnings when assessing the sum of economic damages.
Your attorney can hire an expert to come up with an accurate figure to predict your future lost wages. The court will also take into account whether you were to be promoted or transition into a new job.
A bicycle accident may occur between one bicycle and another bicycle, a bicycle and a pedestrian, or a bicycle and a motor vehicle. In all these scenarios, the victims usually sustain both severe bodily injuries and property damage.
The court can compensate you for your damaged property. You may decide to value your property losses via repair costs. If the extent of damage is too severe to be repairable, you can seek economic damages that can help you find a suitable replacement.
You may be unable to carry out several house chores because of the injuries you sustained in a bicycle accident. For instance, you may find it challenging to maintain your outdoor areas clean, drive your kids to school, or provide regular care to your loved ones. In such a scenario, you may be forced to seek help. You will receive compensation for any financial expenses you incurred while seeking outside help, especially if you used to perform your household chores by yourself.
You may spend some money to renovate your home for it to be accommodating to the injuries or disability that resulted from the bicycle accident. For example, you may place a ramp at your home’s entrance so that you can enter your house using a wheelchair. The party who caused the accident should be responsible for the ramp construction costs, and not you.
Why Economic Damages Can be Both Past and Future
Some economic damages may be past, while others may be in the future. Your doctor can give you the receipts of your medical expenses and bills immediately after the occurrence of the accident. Also, you may be able to have an estimate of the total cost of your medical bills, property repair or replacement, and lost wages. You may receive the estimate before you even institute a personal injury claim.
Other types of economic damages can only be assessed in the future. For instance, you may have to change your career after you have been involved in an accident. You may also be suffering from a long term medical condition, and you will have to make frequent visits to your doctor for the rest of your life. You will not be able to know precisely the total value of these losses at the time you institute your personal injury lawsuit.
You may require an expert to help you quantify the total value of your future damages. Future damages usually have a much higher value than past damages. It is why you need to include them in your claim.
Do California Courts Impose a Limit to the Amount of Economic Damages that you can Recover in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
No, California courts do not limit the value of economic damages an individual can recover in a personal injury lawsuit. If you retain a highly skilled personal injury attorney, you may be able to receive compensation for the total value of your special damages.
2. Non-Economic Damages
As the plaintiff in a bicycle accident personal injury lawsuit, you may receive full compensation for economic damages. However, most of the damages for your medical expenses and mental health treatment costs will go directly to your health insurance company or medical care provider. You may get a small portion of the economic damages for the medical expenses you incurred. These include over-the-counter painkillers, as well as lost wages, property damage, home renovation, and household services. In most instances, lost earnings constitute the highest percentage of economic damages that the victim receives directly.
On the other hand, Non-Economic damages go directly to the victim. The primary purpose of Non-Economic damages is to compensate the plaintiff for losing the ‘joy of life.’ Non-Economic damages are also referred to as general damages.
When an individual sustains severe injuries in a bicycle accident, his/her most significant loss will be the ‘loss of joy of life.’ He/she will lose the satisfaction, utility, and pleasure, which human beings derive from life. Non-Economic damages attempt to quantify such losses monetarily. Here is what Non-Economic damages in a bicycle accident personal injury lawsuit can cover:
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering is the most common form of noneconomic damages in Los Angeles. The term ‘pain and suffering’ is used to denote how an individual felt or what he/she experienced due to the physical injuries of the accident. A bicycle accident victim will receive compensation for the pain and suffering he/she went through when the accident occurred, and both during and after treatment.
A bicycle accident victim may suffer from anxiety, insomnia, emotional distress, frustration, and depression, depending on how traumatizing the accident was. The jury will have to quantify the degree and level of mental anguish monetarily and compensate the plaintiff in the form of Non-Economic damages.
Loss of Consortium
Physical injuries sustained from the accident not only cause you pain and suffering and mental anguish, but they can also affect your loved ones. The term 'loss of consortium' is used to refer to any strained family relationships brought about by the crash. It is usually the victim's spouse who claims compensation for loss of consortium.
Disability or Disfigurement
The effects of a physical injury may not end after you have completed treatment. They can last for a couple of years or even a lifetime. Disability or disfigurement can permanently alter your appearance and the way you live and cause you to face numerous emotional and physical difficulties. Los Angeles courts usually award Non-Economic damages to personal injury victims who suffered disfigurement or disability to help them out as they cope with their new lives.
Loss of Enjoyment of Life
A human being should be free from any debilitating emotional or physical problems that hinder him/her from enjoying life. He/she should also be free of situations that compromise his/her sense of integrity, self-worth, and dignity. An individual will be entitled to Non-Economic damages if he/she wakes up every day feeling pain. Further, they will be paid Non-Economic damages if they are unable to carry out various tasks that we usually take for granted. These tasks include dressing up or eating or failing to accomplish specific goals because of an accident.
Are there Caps on Non-Economic Damages in California?
In most instances, there are no caps on Non-Economic damages in California. However, California imposes a $250,000 cap on personal injury lawsuits involving medical malpractice.
Moreover, some individuals are not permitted to recover Non-Economic damages. For instance, according to California Civil Code 3333.4, DUI convicts and uninsured motor vehicle owners cannot recover Non-Economic damages. Also, as per Civil Code 3333.3, individuals who sustained physical injuries in a crash while committing or attempting to commit a felony cannot recover any damages, whether economic or Non-Economic.
How the Jury Calculates Non-Economic Damages
It can be quite challenging for the jury to denote a monetary value to Non-Economic damages. Jury members have no specific criteria for calculating Non-Economic damages, and most of them usually come up with a figure based on their whims.
What you need to prove for the jury to award you a reasonable amount of Non-Economic damages is how much you and your family members suffered because of the crash. You should also demonstrate how the accident will impact your future life. Then, the jury members will use their judgment to monetarily estimate the total cost of Non-Economic damages which you deserve, per their common sense.
You can keep a journal after the accident occurred, in which you will record all the events you went through. This journal will be a crucial piece of evidence when proving Non-Economic damages.
Generally, the best method of proving Non-Economic damages is to establish the existence of economic damages. Although Non-Economic damages compensate victims for subjective losses, they are best demonstrated using specific pieces of objective evidence, including the following:
- Medical records
- Expert witnesses who can talk about the degree and extent of your pain and suffering and who can calculate the total value of your lost earnings
- Tangible evidence that shows the amount of work time lost
- Photos of physical injuries and property damage
- Testimony of co-workers, family members, and friends
- Comprehensive therapists’ and doctors’ notes
- Before and after photographs and videos to demonstrate how the accident affected the plaintiff’s life
- Social media texts and posts
Non-Economic Damages Without the Presence of a Physical Injury
You don't need to sustain a physical injury so that you can plead for Non-Economic damages. For instance, maybe the accident was downright gross, and you were just lucky not to have been injured. However, you have developed depression and have constant nightmares because of it.
However, the court is more likely to grant you Non-Economic damages if you have sustained a bodily injury and:
- The injury has resulted in disability or disfigurement
- Medical expenses are high
- It was difficult to recover, or you took a substantial amount of time to recover
- You can verify the presence of the physical injuries with the help of lab tests, x-rays, or any other medical criteria
Do You Require Mental Health Counseling to Receive Compensation for Non-Economic Damages?
No, you don’t require mental health counseling to receive compensation for Non-Economic damages. However, it is still an excellent idea to get counseling if you did not sustain a severe bodily injury in the accident. This is because it is quite crucial for a mental health expert to testify if you are pleading Non-Economic damages for specific conditions such as PTSD, insomnia, anxiety, or depression.
Do Insurance Companies have a Formula for Calculating Non-Economic Damages?
No, insurance companies do not have a formula for calculating Non-Economic damages. In fact, different insurers have varying terms and conditions that they usually implement in their policies, what one insurance company offers as Non-Economic damages can vary considerably to what another company offers.
However, formulas may be useful in estimating possible settlement offers for Non-Economic damages. One of the most common formulas that most insurers in Los Angeles utilize is to multiply the total value of the plaintiff’s special damages with a number between 1 – 5. It is the severity of the injuries and the greatness of the suffering that will determine the value of the multiplier.
3. Punitive Damages
Besides economic and Non-Economic damages, the court can award punitive damages in a bicycle accident personal injury lawsuit, but on rare occasions. The primary law that permits Los Angeles courts to award punitive damages in personal injury lawsuits is California Civil Code 3294. Punitive damages are also known as exemplary damages.
When a Plaintiff can Obtain Punitive Damages in Bicycle Accident Personal Injury Lawsuits
Punitive damages are not based on how much the plaintiff lost, but on how reprehensible the defendant’s conduct was and whether he/she can pay. They are meant for punishing defendants who have acted with fraud, malice, or oppression, and they are often awarded in cases involving extreme recklessness or intentional harm.
According to the Civil Code 3294, the victim must present clear and convincing evidence to show that the defendant acted with fraud, malice, or oppression. The evidence is the basis for which the victim is awarded punitive damages. When proving malice, the plaintiff must show that the defendant had an ill intention to hurt him/her. The plaintiff must further prove that the defendant's conduct was utterly despicable, and it manifested a conscious and willful disregard of the safety and human rights of others. For a plaintiff to prove oppression, he/she must demonstrate to the court the defendant’s despicable conduct. The conduct must have subjected him/her to unjust or cruel hardship, which compromised his/her human rights. For a victim to convince the court that the defendant was fraudulent, he/she should show proof of the defendant's intentional deceit, concealment, or misrepresentation of any material fact that caused the accident.
It is the plaintiff who has the burden of proof in personal injury lawsuits. The standard of proof the court sets when pleading for punitive damages is clear and convincing evidence. This is an extremely higher standard compared to a preponderance of the evidence, which is usually required when proving both economic and Non-Economic damages. The court will not award you punitive damages if you fail to adhere to this high standard when substantiating your claim.
The Process for Obtaining Punitive Damages
A plaintiff who desires to be awarded punitive damages should specifically ask the court for it. However, it isn’t a requirement for the plaintiff to specify the amount of money he/she seeks.
The court may determine punitive damages at the same time when deciding whether or not the defendant is liable. In some instances, the defendant may request a separate hearing for the determination of punitive damages.
If the issue for punitive damages is tried separately, it isn’t permissible for the plaintiff to present any evidence about the financial condition of the defendant. The evidence is only allowed after he/she wins the lawsuit, or the jury is convinced that the defendant acted with fraud, malice, or oppression. It is only then when the jury members will hear evidence about the defendant’s finances, and evaluate how many punitive damages they can award.
How the Jury Calculates the Value of Punitive Damages
There is no fixed formula for calculating the value of punitive damages to be awarded in a personal injury lawsuit. However, the jury considers three specific factors when determining the value of punitive damages. These factors include:
- The level of reprehensibility of the defendant’s conduct
- If there is a reasonable relationship between the plaintiff’s injuries and the value of punitive damages
- If considering the financial condition of the defendant, punitive damages will serve to punish him/her and generally discourage wrongful conduct
Find a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Get in touch with us to know the worth of your claim, and what kind of damages you deserve. You can call The LA Personal Injury Law Firm at 310-935-0089. We will answer all your questions and advise you on the best steps to take.