Without a doubt, car accidents are expensive, not only in terms of the actual costs but with opportunity costs, lost time, and the sheer stress of it all. While the law seeks to make the person who has suffered whole because of the accident, it does not offer a particularly easy formula for making the determination. Indeed, the sheer variety of recoverable costs associated with a car accident can be absolutely mind boggling. We will discuss here the two types of compensatory damages that are most common in a personal injury case: general and special damages. Special Damages Let\u2019s start with the most obvious costs that are readily quantifiable in California such as damage to the vehicles and medical bills, also known as special damages. For vehicle damages, typically your insurance company will send you to their preferred mechanic or body shop and reimburse you for the costs of the repairs or pay them directly to the body shop. If the car is considered totaled \u2013 when the insurance adjuster determines that the repair costs are more than the value of the car before the accident \u2013 they will pay you the value of the car just prior to the accident. If you go to another mechanic or body shop be sure to keep your receipts in case you need to submit them to your insurer. Special damages also include lost earnings which are monies that the victim loses out on because of the accident. These include wages, bonuses, commissions, and any other monies the victim would have earned had the accident not occurred. Lost earnings can be proven by submitting pay stubs and W-2 forms as well as testimony from the victim\u2019s employer. In some cases, actuarial or economic experts are called to testify as to the victim\u2019s lost future earnings including Social Security benefits and retirement benefits that would be lost due to lack of contribution. Medical expenses are also included in the special damages calculation, but they are not quantifiable as vehicle damages or even lost earnings. This is due in part to the nature of the health care system in the United States where most medical services costs are negotiated between the health care provider and your insurance company. Medical expenses that are covered include fees for ambulance transportation, doctor\u2019s visits, surgeries, hospital stays, x-rays and imaging, physical therapy, rehabilitation, prescriptions, and medical equipment. Be aware, however, that you cannot seek reimbursement for the total amount billed by your providers. You can only recover what your insurance company negotiated and paid to the providers on your behalf. This figure, however, will feature prominently later on so it is important to pay attention to it. General Damages The other category of compensatory damages in California is general damages which generally covers what is commonly known as \u201cpain and suffering.\u201d This umbrella term covers a variety of claims including emotional distress, loss of life enjoyment, permanent disfigurement, mental anguish, or permanent disability. The difficulty in calculating these damages, however, is that they are very hard to quantify. There are numerous factors that go into the determination including the type of injuries and their severity, the amount of time it will take to recover, the amount of pain involved, and the level of disruption to life. The Multiplier So, California law has come up with an imprecise but mostly effective method of calculating these types of damages: a multiplier. This is where the figure of the reimbursed medical special damages comes into play. To get started, the insurance companies and attorneys typically start with the amount of the medical special damages and multiply them by a factor of at least 1.5 which is reserved for the more minor cases. As the injuries become more serious, disfiguring, or time consuming, the multiplier will increase anywhere up to a factor of five on the assumption that the more serious the injuries, the longer the recovery time, suffering, and the more invasive the treatment. For an injury that incurred $60,000 in medical expenses, it is likely that a lower multiplier would be used, such as 1.5, leading to a recovery of $90,000. However, if the medical expenses are $1,000,000, chances are the multiplier will be near or at the multiplier of five leading a recovery of $5,000,000. At this point, it is critical to mention the other factor that could affect the pain and suffering recovery: the jury. Although rarer these days, there are still jury trials for personal injury claims and the jury is free to set what it feels is the appropriate amount for pain and suffering and ignore what either side argues is "fair." While the jury can disagree with the defendant and award the plaintiff much more than they asked for, they can just as easily ignore the plaintiff\u2019s requests and award little to nothing. The jury can be swayed by factors seemingly unrelated to the actual case such as the persuasiveness of an expert or the sympathetic nature of the other party. Given their unpredictability, many attorneys elect to have a judge decide the final amounts rather than a jury. The judge will look at what similar injuries have been awarded in damages as a benchmark for what to award in the present case. This all probably seems very overwhelming, and you may be wondering where to start. The best answer is to start with an experienced and competent Los Angeles personal injury attorney whose sole concern is ensuring that you recover as much as you possibly can out of a terrible situation. This qualified, skilled personal injury attorney can advise you as to how to initially proceed, whether it is to accept the settlement from your insurance company, or file suit against the other driver. They can advise you as to what your case may be worth considering general and special damages including pain and suffering. And, the proficient Los Angeles personal injury attorney will ensure that you have as much information as possible to make an informed decision about your case.