Legal questions? Ask a lawyer

Listen to this article

My name is David Azizi, and I’m a personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles. The law in personal injury cases is simple. Attend to your duty as a driver, landlord, physician, manufacturer or mechanic in a prudent and careful way and you’re good. Do the opposite and someone hurt by your actions or inactions has the right to take you to task for it. That’s where I usually come in — helping people get the damages they deserve when someone’s negligence hurts them or their family.

Legal Questions

Over the 20 years I’ve practiced, I been asked a lot of questions from clients, some routine and others quite unique, but all from people who are in a situation that is uncomfortable for them and frightening. For many, their lives have been turned upside down. They’re in the hospital or at home, unable to make it into work and fearful of losing their jobs. Many are told they need costly medical procedures, and they have no idea how to pay the bill. They just want to feel things will be right again. So, I thought presenting a forum where readers of the L.A. Post Examiner could ask questions about legal issues emanating from personal injury would be helpful.

Ask the Lawyer

Since I won’t have the particulars of your situation, the answers are based on general perspectives and are not to be misconstrued to be legal advice. They are meant to give you a heads-up, an idea of what personal injury law can do for you and other general information. If you have any questions about legal issues in general or an area of personal injury law, send them to me right here at Ask the Lawyer. I’ll be glad to answer, and other readers may benefit along the way.

What Are Damages

Let’s look at damages in a personal injury. When you are injured in an accident that is not your fault, or partly your fault, you can recover damages. These are monetary and reflect the cost of your injuries.

Economic Damages

There are two basic types of damages your lawyer will fight for — economic and noneconomic. The first is the easiest to calculate: It is the cost of medical treatment, the wages you lost because you could not go to work and the wages you will lose in the future, if applicable. There are other things, such as nursing care if needed at home, medications prescribed for the injuries and the cost of travel to doctor and other medical appointments.

In the event the accident injury requires rehabilitation, whether short or long-term, that is covered too. To determine the worth of the economic damages, simply add them up. Documentation is important so all medical bills and pharmacy costs and the like should be retained and presented to your lawyer.

Noneconomic Damages

There is another category of damages  called noneconomic damages —  that is more subjective and not calculated in the same way. This category includes pain and suffering, loss of marital enjoyment, scarring/disfigurement and the emotional and psychological damage an accident causes. This is different for everyone, and your attorney will help in calculating the final amount.

Punitive Damages

In rare cases, punitive damages are assessed. These are damages that focus on the nature of the incident. When the negligent act is so overwhelming that it is well beyond the standard for care normally imposed on an individual or entity such as a manufacturer, the injured person is awarded punitive damages. The amount is up to the jury and varies. It is used to punish the negligent person or entity and to help ensure it won’t happen again.

Shared Responsibility

What if the injured person is partly responsible for the accident? This is fairly common in vehicular accidents. For example, in rear-end accidents, the car to the rear is usually considered liable for the accident. But, in some cases, the lead vehicle does not have working brake lights and the driver does not have the ability to signal cars behind them that they are slowing down. Because of this, the lead driver may be partly responsible for the crash.

Comparative Negligence

Because of a law in California called comparative negligence, the lead driver will still be able to collect for his or her injuries. The amount they collect will be reduced by their percentage of fault, decided by the jury. So, if the lead driver is assigned 40 percent fault for the accident, he or she will still be able to collect the remaining 60 percent from the other driver.

Use the Calculator

This is a snapshot of what damages are in a personal injury case. If you have been in an accident and have additional questions, you can send them here to Ask the Lawyer. Feel free to use my car accident injury calculator, so you can see how damages are calculated in an injury case.

If you have a question about personal injury law, please send your questions to