Car Accidents

This article is by Sherwin Arzani, a premier Los Angeles car accident lawyer. When you’re injured in a car accident and someone else is to blame, you have the right to demand compensation. You can either submit a personal injury claim with the driver’s insurance company or file a civil lawsuit for damages. Both are vehicles designed to help you recover money for your accident-related injuries and losses.

How much can you expect to recover when you file or submit a personal injury claim? In truth, the answer will really depend on the specific details of your case. There is no hard-and-fast rule or formula for determining the value of your case.

Damages Available in an Orange County Personal Injury Claim

When you file a personal injury claim you’ll probably be asking to compensated for special and general damages.

Special Damages

Special damages, which are also known as economic damages, are paid to compensate for financial costs and losses related to your accident and injury. You can recover special damages for verifiable costs you have today, as well as for costs and expenses you’re likely to incur in the future. These can include compensation for:

  • Medical bills
  • Hospitalization
  • Property damage
  • Lost wages
  • Reduced earning capacity, and more.

Special damages are fairly easy to calculate in terms of dollars and cents. In California, you are prohibited from recovering more than you need for special damages. In other words, if your medical bills cost $100,000, you can only recover $100,000 in special damages. Simply put, you can only get as much as you need.

General Damages

Many injuries can be very difficult to value. Injuries aren’t just financial. You may also experience debilitating physical, emotional, and social harms because of an accident, as well. General damages are paid to compensate you for these hard-to-value injuries. Examples include:

  • Chronic pain
  • Suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Mental health issues
  • Embarrassment
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of enjoyment of life, and more.

There are typically no caps on general damages in California. However, since these types of injuries are so very personal, they are very difficult to value. This tends to be why settlements can vary so much from one car accident case to the next.

Figuring Out a Settlement Value For Your Case

Contrary to popular belief, there is no legal formula for determining the value of a personal injury case. However, insurance companies have been known to use formulas when assessing personal injury claims. The formula is pretty basic. The company will take your special damages and use a multiplier to determine a settlement figure.


What’s a multiplier? It’s a number, generally between 1.5 and 5, that is used to project a value of your general damages. Let’s say that your special damages equaled $50,000. The company would assess the seriousness of your injury and apply a multiplier.

If your injury was relatively minor, they’d use a lower multiplier. If they chose a multiplier of 2, they would calculate your general damages to be $100,000. You’d then receive a settlement offer for $150,000 ($50,000 special + $100,000 general).

The multiplier is used to assess general damages that are hard to value. Factors that may influence the multiplier include:

  • Paralysis
  • Amputation
  • Severe disfigurement
  • Job loss
  • Loss of sexual function
  • Permanent disability, and
  • Chronic pain.

So, the more serious your injury, the higher the multiplier. The higher the multiplier, the higher your settlement offer.

Formulas Can Set You Up for Failure

It’s important to remember that insurance companies don’t want to pay you everything you deserve after an accident. They will do anything they can to minimize your payout. This includes underestimating the seriousness of your injury. While it’s true that formulas may be helpful in getting a ballpark estimate for what an appropriate settlement offer may be, there is no replacement for a thorough investigation.

The only way to truly identify the value of your case is by carefully reviewing your injuries and working with experts who know how those injuries are probably going to affect your life.

When an insurance company extends a settlement offer it’s best to have it reviewed by an experienced personal injury attorney. A settlement offer calculated with a simple formula will probably not be enough to cover the full extent of your injuries. Your attorney will know whether or not you’ve received a fair offer.

You reserve the right to reject the settlement and extend a counteroffer of your own. This counteroffer should be supported by evidence that demonstrates the true value of your case.

Have you been injured in an Orange County accident? Are you having trouble getting the money you need from an insurance company? Contact the Law Offices of John Rapillo for help. Our Orange County personal injury lawyers are here to help you fight for the money you deserve.