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California Tort Law
Damages
Damages In General

Damages In General

Damages are an necessary and essential element of negligence.
Generally without damages a plaintiff will not have a cause of action
for negligence. See Negligence elements.

When someone’s wrongful conduct causes a death, an injury to the person, a loss of a job, occupation, profession, loss of economic opportunity, and/or damage to property, and/or other harm, the person(s) suffering the injury and/or damage has a legal right to collect money damages. In addition to damages injunctive relief may be available as in the case of nuisance in addition to the damages caused by the nuisance. (Injunctive relief requirements discussed elsewhere.)

In California the law divides damages into three categories. Economic damages (often called special damages), non-economic damages (often called general damages) and in some cases where the person's(s) or entity causing the injury or loss is malicious, intentional, gross negligence, or willful, punitive damages .

ECONOMIC DAMAGES (Special Damages)
Special damages are out-of-pocket losses including the following; medical expenses; therapy; wage loss/loss of income/loss of earning capacity; property damage; repair of car;  funeral expenses; towing; consequential travel expenses; rental car; home nursing care; physician or medical provider prescribed therapeutic devices; drug and medicine expenses household help; and other expenses caused by the defendant's (or his representative, agent or employee) wrongful conduct. These damages are the easiest to calculate because you can substantiate by obtaining bills, receipts, records and estimates. Economic damages includes those damages incurred and anticipated future loss and expenses.
See Mitigation of damages requirement

NON-ECONOMIC DAMAGES (General Damages)
Non-Economic damages include pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, loss of use, humiliation, mental anguish, loss of love, loss of affection, support, loss of consortium and companionship and mental distress, emotional distress.
General damages include damages for physical and mental pain and suffering. These damages are more difficult to calculate and, permanent disability, and generally in most cases, exceed the value of the economic damages. They are called non-economic damages because they do not represent out-of-pocket losses. Although they are called non-economic damages, money damages is paid to compensate people who have suffered these injuries.
Damages In General Noneconomic Damages Grassilli v. Barr

NON-ECONOMIC DAMAGES-FACTORS IN CALCULATING
There is no fixed standard or method of calculating these damages, they vary by individual and in some cases are often referred to as subjective damages because they differ according to each individuals personal/subjective experience. The most significant factors involved in calculating the amount of an award in a personal injury action are the nature and severity of injuries as documented in the medical records and medical reports.
See Mitigation of damages requirement

NON-ECONOMIC DAMAGES-EVIDENCE AND PROOF
Generally, the more evidence and proof of injury in the medical records, reports, nurses notes, and documentation, such as x-rays, cat scans, ultra sound imaging, biopsy, and treatment notes, that corresponds with the injury and symptoms expressed by the plaintiff the greater the recovery. Likewise, in severe cases involving death, severe disfigurement, permanent disability, amputation or loss of use of a limb, or severe disability, non economic (general) damages can be extensive, and at times in the multiple millions of dollars.
See Mitigation of damages requirement

PUNITIVE DAMAGES - (EXEMPLARY)
Punitive Damages are damages that are recoverable/awarded where the wrongdoer (the defendant)  has acted in a way that is considered vile, contemptible and/or despicable to members of normal society. Generally the plaintive may recover Exemplary damags where the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice. Cal. Civ. Code § 3294-3296. The conduct that gives rise to a claim for punitive damages is conduct that is fraudulent, oppressive, intentional, or malicious. Fraud is deceitful conduct designed to mislead someone. A person is oppressive and/or malicious under the law when they act unlawfully to deprive someone of their legal rights or when they act in a conscious disregard of the rights and safety of another. Punitive (exemplary) damages are in addition to the economic (special) and non-economic (genreral) damages which are designed to make an injured party whole, to the extent money can accomplish that objective. 

Punitive damages are a penalty to discourage bad behavior and conduct. They must have some rational relation to the underlying economic and non-economic damages.
See:
Myers v. Philip Morris Companies, Inc. Aug. 5, 2002,
28 Cal.4th 828

Henley v. Philip Morris Inc. (2003) Sept 25 CA1/1
A086991

Henley v. Philip Morris, Inc. (2004) 114 Cal.App.4th 1429 [-- Cal.Rptr.3d --]  
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Campbell (2003) 538 U.S. 408, 123 S.Ct. 1513, 155 L.Ed.2d 585
 

To recover these damages the plaintiff must meet a higher standard of proof, specifically clear and convincing evidence which is a higher standard than preponderance of the evidence.

California Civil Code Section 3294 defines the types of conduct that give rise to a claim for punitive damages as follows:

 (1) "Malice" means conduct which is intended by the defendant to
cause injury to the plaintiff or despicable conduct which is carried
on by the defendant with a willful and conscious disregard of the
rights or safety of others.
   (2) "Oppression" means despicable conduct that subjects a person to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of that person's
rights.
   (3) "Fraud" means an intentional misrepresentation, deceit, or
concealment of a material fact known to the defendant with the
intention on the part of the defendant of thereby depriving a person
of property or legal rights or otherwise causing injury. See California Civil Code Section 3294-3296


 

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