I was recently contacted by a friend asking for help. Her sister was crossing the street in Woodland Hills, in a crosswalk and was hit by a car which was coming from Encino. She suffered a significant injury, yet, she did not want to talk to a lawyer and did not want to seek compensation for her injuries. She felt bad for the person that hit her.
I explained to my friend that her sister has been brainwashed by the insurance companies, and she has no reason to feel sorry for them. The person that hit her had insurance. California law requires that you have insurance if you drive. The person that hit her was negligent. Generally, when there is a car accident, where a car hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk, the driver is at fault. Therefore, the pedestrian is entitled to be compensated for her injuries. She is entitled to receive medical attention for her injuries. If it was my family member that was hurt, I would want them to get medical care. The driver (or her insurance company), is legally obligated to pay for that care.
The pedestrian is also entitled to be compensated for her pain and suffering. That phrase has almost become a bad word in our system of justice. It should not be. She was injured. It is painful. It is inconvenient. It forces huge negative changes on a person’s life. For example, I want to play with my son tomorrow morning. If I am injured in a collision such that either I cannot lift him in the air, or tickle him, or if I have to endure pain when I do it, that is not fair. If you came to me and said, “I will pay you $100 not to play with your son tomorrow, I would not take the money.” How much is fair compensation. At what point would I say, “Okay, I will take the money and not play for one day; or maybe two days, or maybe six months.”
It seems only fair that a person should be compensated when they are harmed because someone else is negligent.
The other part of this equation is that in California, you will not be compensated for the cost of hiring an attorney to help you. Unfortunately, insurance companies are less than willing to provide the fair compensation that they are supposed to provide. That means that people that are injured require legal assistance. If they only receive the cost of their medical care, they are not truly compensated. Pain and suffering compensation, or non-economic damages as it is called, defrays the cost of the legal assistance.