Calculating Damages for Spinal Cord Injuries in California: An In-Depth Look

Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are among the most severe and life-changing injuries one can endure, often resulting in lasting physical, emotional, and financial impacts. In California, victims of spinal cord injuries have the right to seek compensation for their losses. However, calculating damages in such cases is a complex process, involving consideration of both current and future needs and needs attention from a specialized spinal injury lawyer. This article provides an in-depth look at how damages are calculated in spinal cord injury cases in California, covering medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and the cost of future care.

Medical Expenses

Medical expenses constitute a significant portion of the damages in spinal cord injury cases. This includes costs incurred immediately after the injury and ongoing medical expenses. Immediate costs can involve emergency care, surgery, hospitalization, and initial rehabilitation. Ongoing expenses may include:

Continued medical treatment: Regular visits to medical professionals, medications, and medical supplies.

Rehabilitation: Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other forms of rehabilitation.

Assistive devices and modifications: Wheelchairs, home modifications like ramps and widened doorways, and vehicle modifications.

Calculating these costs requires a detailed assessment of the victim’s current and future medical needs, often necessitating expert testimony from medical professionals.

Lost Wages and Loss of Earning Capacity.

Victims of spinal cord injuries often face a significant period of work absence, with many unable to return to their previous employment. Lost wages cover the income the victim has already lost due to the injury.

 Loss of earning capacity, a more complex calculation, accounts for the future income the victim is likely to lose as a result of their injury. 

This calculation considers the victim’s age, career trajectory, skills, and the severity of the injury. Economic experts are frequently involved in projecting these future losses.

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering damages compensate the victim for the physical pain and emotional distress suffered due to the injury. Unlike economic damages like medical expenses and lost wages, pain and suffering are considered non-economic damages and are more subjective in nature. In California, there is no fixed standard for calculating pain and suffering, but factors such as the severity of the injury, the impact on quality of life, and the duration of the victim’s discomfort are considered. The testimony of the victim, family members, and medical professionals can help establish the extent of these damages.

Cost of Future Care

The cost of future care is critical in spinal cord injury cases, given the long-term nature of the injuries involved. This encompasses ongoing medical treatment, rehabilitation, personal care assistance, and any other services the victim may require to live as independently as possible. Life care planners and medical experts often provide detailed forecasts of these costs, taking into account the victim’s life expectancy and the likelihood of medical advancements.

Punitive Damages

In cases where the defendant’s conduct was particularly egregious, punitive damages may also be awarded. These are intended to punish the defendant for their actions and deter similar conduct in the future. While not directly related to the victim’s losses, punitive damages can significantly increase the total compensation awarded in spinal cord injury cases.

Calculating damages in spinal cord injury cases in California is a multifaceted process that requires careful consideration of a wide range of factors. Given the complexities involved, spinal cord injury victims are strongly advised to seek representation from an experienced spinal injury attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can ensure that all potential areas of compensation are explored and that the damages are accurately calculated to cover the full extent of the victim’s losses, both now and in the future. With the right legal support, spinal cord injury victims can secure the financial resources necessary for their recovery and long-term care.

* The articles provided on the Stalwart Law website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be used as professional legal advice or as a substitute for legal consultation with a qualified attorney.  

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