DEAR Attorney Tan,
I was driving home and was at a complete stop when another driver rear ended my car. I was not feeling well after the accident, as my back seemed very tight and stiff. I took some days off from work. After a week, I contacted the other driver’s insurance to report the claim. The insurance adjuster for the other driver said they would fix my car, and offered me $500.00 for my injuries. Is that enough? I do not know where to go from here. –K.K.
The first step is to make sure that any injuries that you have suffered in the accident are examined and treated. You can recover treatment costs since they are considered “economic damages” that you suffered due to the accident. You can also recover for time away from work as “economic damages,” even if you used paid time off or sick leave.
The term “economic damages” means “objectively verifiable monetary losses including medical expenses, loss of earnings, burial costs, loss of use of property, costs of repair or replacement, costs of obtaining substitute domestic services, loss of employment and loss of business or employment opportunities.” Civil Code Section 1431.2(b)(1). A person’s claim for economic damages apart from medical expenses are often overlooked and not pursued by persons who settle their accident cases on their own, or with the assistance of inexperienced counsel.
Loss of earnings are often a significant part of an injured person’s claim for economic damages. Damages are recoverable for both past and future lost earnings. To recover for past lost earnings, a person must prove the amount of income or earnings that he/she has lost to date. To recover damages for future earnings, a person must prove the amount of income or earnings that he/she will be reasonably certain to lose in the future as a result of the injury. CACI No. 3903C.
How are past lost earnings proven? Medical records, which show the doctor authorizing a release from work or giving instructions to restrict work activities, can support the time taken off from work due to the injury. For those self-employed, medical providers typically do not provide a release from work; however, medical records should record work restrictions placed by the medical provider.
After showing that the time off was justified, the next step is to value the lost earnings. A letter from a person’s employer that outlines the amount of time that one has lost as a result of his/her injury, the loss of benefits, and the rate of pay during the time of loss is evidence of the value of one’s loss of earnings claim. Other supporting documents include pay stubs, time cards, and tax returns. The monetary value of sick leave and vacation time that are used due to the injury are also recoverable. For those self-employed, earnings history as reflected by tax returns and profit and loss statements can help prove the value of lost earnings. Similar supporting documentation must be presented for future lost earnings.
Apart from economic damages, you can recover “general damages,” which are damages for the pain, suffering, and inconvenience due to the accident.
If you were suffered injury in an auto accident or someone’s premises, please contact our office to discuss your case. To maximize monetary recovery, it is important to have the assistance of an experienced attorney in presenting your personal injury claim.
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Darrick V. Tan, Esq. is admitted to practice law in California and Nevada. Mr. Tan is a graduate of UCLA and Southwestern University School of Law. He is a member of the Consumers Attorney Association of Los Angeles (CAALA) and American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). He is a former member of the Board of Governors of the Philippine American Bar Association (PABA). LAW OFFICES OF DARRICK V. TAN, 3580 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 900, Los Angeles, CA 90010. Tel: 323-639-0277. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.