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Is there a Cap On How Much Compensation Can Be Recovered in a Personal Injury Claim in California?

Were you hurt in an accident in Stockton, San Joaquin County, or elsewhere in Central California? You may be wondering how much compensation you can recover through a personal injury claim. The short answer is that you can generally seek financial relief for the full value of your economic and non-economic damages. With the exception of non-fatal medical malpractice claims, there are no damage caps in California. Within this article, our Stockton personal injury lawyers provide a more comprehensive overview of the key points to know about state law. 

California Does Not Cap Economic Damages for Personal Injury Claims

Economic damages form the foundation of a personal injury claim. In California, there are no caps on economic damages. Injured victims can recover for the full extent of their financial losses resulting from an accident. Economic damages include quantifiable losses such as property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, and the cost of ongoing or future medical care. The law recognizes the importance of fully compensating individuals for these tangible losses to ensure they are not financially burdened due to another party’s negligence. Make sure your economic damages are well-documented. One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is forgetting to document out-of-pocket costs that you took on as a consequence of an accident. These damages must be accounted for in any personal injury settlement or verdict. 

California Does Not Cap Non-Economic Damages for Personal Injury Claims (One Exception)

An accident can also leave an injured victim with considerable non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are intangible. Examples include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and long-term disability. Although they are difficult to quantify, that does not make them any less real or any less worthy of compensation. Some states cap non-economic damages. However, California does not impose a general cap for most personal injury claims. Courts have considerable discretion in awarding compensation for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. 

The Exception: There is one major exception in California. In cases of medical malpractice that do not cause a death, California law limits non-economic damages. The cap was established under the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) of 1975. In May of 2022, the Office of Governor of Gavin Newsom announced a reform to the state’s medical malpractice law. The cap for non-economic damages in a non-fatal medical malpractice claim was increased to $350,000. It will rise by an additional $40,000 per year until it reaches $750,000. 

California Does Not Cap Punitive Damages for Personal Injury Claims

Punitive damages are awarded in cases where the defendant’s actions are found to be especially harmful, serving as punishment and a deterrent against future misconduct. Unlike compensatory damages that are intended to make the plaintiff whole, punitive damages are aimed at penalizing the defendant for egregious behavior. Many states put statutory caps on punitive damages. However, California does not impose a cap on punitive damages for personal injury claims. To be clear, they are not awarded in every case. Indeed, they are limited to only cases with extreme negligence. Still, if they are granted, the law does not impose a statutory limit. In theory, a jury could award punitive damages that are far greater than the actual economic/non-economic damages sustained by the victims and their family. 

No Caps on Wrongful Death Damages in California

There are no statutory caps in the amount of compensation that can be awarded in a civil wrongful death claim in California. Grieving families can seek compensation for the full extent of economic losses, such as funeral and burial expenses, and non-economic losses, such as loss of love, companionship, and consortium. To be clear, there is also no cap from non-economic damages in a medical malpractice claim if the medical malpractice is the basis of a wrongful death lawsuit. 

Recovering Financial Compensation in a Personal Injury Claim Can Be Challenging

Through a California personal injury claim, victims can seek compensation for the full extent of their non-economic damages—even if those damages reach into the seven figures or eight figures. To obtain compensation, damages must be properly documented. When you pursue a personal injury claim, it is imperative that you work with a Stockton, CA attorney who can build a strong case that proves not just the defendant’s liability, but also the value of your damages. Depending on the specific circumstances of your personal injury claim, you may be entitled to recover financial compensation for any or all of the following types of damages: 

  • Property damage, such as vehicle repairs; 
  • Emergency care, including ambulance services; 
  • Hospitals bills and other medical bills; 
  • Medication and/or medical devices; 
  • Rehabilitative support, including physical therapy; 
  • Pain and suffering & emotional anguish; 
  • Loss of wages and loss of earning power; 
  • Long-term disability or impairment; 
  • Wrongful death of an immediate family member; and
  • Punitive damages. 

The Bottom Line: With the narrow exception of non-economic damages in non-fatal medical malpractice claims, statutory caps on personal injury compensation are not any issue in California. You generally have the right to pursue compensation for the full value of your damages, including non-economic losses. Still, it would be a mistake to assume that getting compensation is easy. It can be extremely hard. Defendants and insurance companies want to resolve their liability for less. You need a lawyer who can prove the value of your case and take action to maximize your recovery.

Get Help From a Personal Injury Lawyer in Stockton, California

At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton personal injury attorneys are committed to providing top-tier legal representation to injured victims. Were you or your loved one was involved in an accident, we are here to help you fight for the maximum financial compensation. Contact our legal team today to set up your no cost, no obligation case review. With a legal office in Stockton, we fight for the rights of injured victims in San Joaquin County and throughout Central California.