Non-Economic Damages In Personal Injury Cases

What Are Non-Economic Damages?

Non-Economic Damages In Personal Injury Cases

When a person is injured in an accident, they have a right to compensation for the harm or damages they incur. Some damages, such as the cost to repair a bumper or the price to be seen by a doctor at an emergency room are easy to calculate because you get a bill for those items. These types of damages are called economic damages.

Non-economic damages refers to harms or losses that don’t have a bill or dollar amount connected to them. Non-economic damages are also known as general damages and include the following:

Table of Contents

Pain And Suffering Damages

Pain and suffering damages compensate an injured person for the physical pain the injured person experienced due to an accident.

Pain and suffering damages can be calculated based on the severity and duration of the pain, the impact on the injured person’s daily life, and the medical treatment and therapy required to manage the pain and improve the quality of life.

Emotional Distress

Emotional distress damages are the psychological harm an injured person suffers from an accident. Emotional pain can include fear, shock, humiliation, and loss of self-esteem. Emotional distress damages can be challenging to quantify because they are subjective and vary from person to person. However, they can be proven by providing medical records, testimony from mental health professionals, and other evidence demonstrating the emotional anguish’s extent and impact.

Loss Of Consortium

Loss of consortium damages is money that a person can get if their husband, wife, or family member is hurt in an accident. This includes money for the love, companionship, and support the person lost because of the accident. The husband, wife, or family member may also be able to get money for their emotional anguish and financial losses due to the accident.

Scarring And Disfigurement

Scarring refers to a permanent mark or blemish on the skin, while disfigurement refers to a more severe alteration of a person’s appearance due to the injury. Burns, lacerations, fractures, and other injuries can cause scarring and disfigurement. Being permanently disfigured can significantly impact an injured person’s self-esteem, confidence, and quality of life and may require ongoing medical treatment and cosmetic procedures.

Loss Of Enjoyment Of Life

Loss of enjoyment of life damages is when someone can’t do things they used to enjoy because of an accident. This can include sports, travel, socializing, and other activities that make them happy. To figure out how much money they should get, an insurance company will look at how long the person was affected, how bad it was, and what they did to try to keep enjoying life.

Physical Impairment

Physical impairment is the loss or reduction of bodily function, movement, or sensation due to an accident. This can include but is not limited to, paralysis, amputation, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, burn injury, or orthopedic injury.

Physical impairment can significantly impact the injured person’s ability to perform daily activities, work, and enjoy life. It can also lead to chronic pain and permanent impairment.

Compensation for permanent impairments is typically higher than for temporary impairments.

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How Are Economic Damages And Non-Economic Damages Different?

Economic damages are financial losses that can be calculated and quantified based on objective evidence, such as bills, receipts, and pay stubs. Economic damages include the following:

Medical Bills

The resulting injuries can be costly when an accident occurs, requiring immediate and ongoing medical treatment. Accident victims can be compensated for medical expenses such as ambulance fees, emergency room visits, hospital stays, surgeries, diagnostic tests, medications, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and other medical treatments.

Jurors in injury cases will consider all the medical bills charged by the various health care providers. They will examine the type and extent of the medical treatment and the reasonableness and necessity of the charges.

The jury will also consider whether the treatment received was consistent with the severity of the injuries sustained by an accident victim and any pre-existing conditions that may have affected the treatment required.

Lost Income

Lost wages are the earnings that an injured person cannot earn due to accident-related injuries. These can include the wages that the injured person would have made at the time of the accident and future wages.

When calculating lost wages, the jury considers the injured person’s work history, job duties, expected career path, and the extent and duration of the injuries that affect their ability to work. This compensation may also include bonuses, promotions, and other employment-related benefits that the injured person would have been entitled to receive.

Property Damage

In a personal injury case, property damage refers to the cost of repairing or replacing any damaged property that resulted from an accident. Property damage may include damage to a vehicle, such as a car or truck, or any contents within the vehicle.

Other types of property damage may include damage to personal items, such as a cell phone or laptop, or damage to a home or other property.

Property damage compensation aims to make the injured person whole again and ensure that they are not out-of-pocket for any expenses related to the accident. An experienced personal injury attorney can help the injured person assess the full extent of their property damage and work to recover compensation to repair or replace the damaged property.

Towing And Rental Expenses

These expenses may arise when a damaged vehicle needs to be towed to a repair shop or inspected by a mechanic and when the injured person needs to rent a car while their vehicle is being repaired.

The costs of towing and inspecting a vehicle may vary depending on the distance, location, and type of vehicle. Additionally, rental expenses may vary depending on the length of time that the injured person needs to rent a car, the kind of vehicle they rent, and any insurance coverage that may be available.

FAQs About Non-Economic Damages

It’s worth noting that punitive damages are considered neither economic nor non-economic. Punitive damages are awarded by a court in some instances when it is determined that the defendant acted with gross negligence, maliciousness, or fraudulent intent. Punitive damages are meant to punish a wrongdoer and serve as a deterrent to similar acts in the future.

Non-economic damages are significant in civil litigation because they acknowledge the harm done to a person beyond the financial costs of an accident. They consider the injured person’s physical pain and suffering, emotional anguish, and the impact of the accident on their relationships and lifestyle.

General damages also serve as a deterrent against reckless and negligent behavior by holding the responsible parties accountable for their actions. Non-economic damages also provide a sense of justice and closure for an injured person and their family members, who may never fully recover from an accident’s effects.

Calculating non-economic damages can be difficult because they are based on someone’s opinion and can differ from one case to the next. Some of the factors that can affect the calculation of non-economic damages include:

Severity Of The Injury

The severity of an injury is one of the most critical factors in determining the amount of non-economic damages an injured person can receive. Compared to minor injuries, serious injuries usually involve more pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.

For example, a person who suffers a traumatic brain injury or a spinal cord injury may be entitled to more significant non-economic damages than someone who suffers a minor soft tissue injury.

Duration Of The Injury

The duration of the injury is another critical factor that affects the calculation of non-economic damages. If the injury is temporary and heals quickly, the injured person may be entitled to lower non-economic damages than if the injury is permanent and has long-term effects. For example, a person who suffers a broken bone that heals in a few weeks may receive less non-economic damages than someone who suffers chronic pain or a disability that lasts for years or even a lifetime.

Age And Life Expectancy

The age and expected life span of the person hurt in an accident can affect how much money they get for their pain and suffering. If the person is young and is expected to live long, they may get more money. This is because they will likely have to deal with the effects of their injuries for a more extended period of time. If the person is older, they may get less money, but that’s not always the case.

Comparative Negligence

Suppose the plaintiff is found to be partially or fully at fault for the accident that caused their injuries. In that case, the calculation of non-economic damages may be reduced or even eliminated.

Some states use a comparative negligence system that reduces damages proportionally to the plaintiff’s degree of fault. In contrast, other states use a contributory negligence system that bars recovery if the plaintiff is found to have contributed to the accident in any way.  Texas follows a modified comparative negligence system.  

State Laws And Statutes

State laws and statutes can also affect the calculation of non-economic damages, as some states impose caps or limit non-economic damages that can be recovered.

For example, the Texas Supreme Court established, in Boyles v. Kerr, that a person cannot sue for emotional distress unless they also have a physical injury.

It’s worth noting that punitive damages are considered neither economic nor non-economic. Punitive damages are awarded by a court in some instances when it is determined that the defendant acted with gross negligence, maliciousness, or fraudulent intent. Punitive damages are meant to punish a wrongdoer and serve as a deterrent to similar acts in the future.

Despite the challenges in proving non-economic damages, there are several strategies that an injury victim and their personal injury lawyer can use to increase their chances of success:

Document Your Non-Economic Damages

Even though non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering) may be hard to quantify, they can still be documented through medical records, photographs, videos, a pain and suffering journal, and other forms of evidence. This documentation can help show the extent of the injuries and how they have impacted the injured person’s life.

Expert Testimony

Healthcare professionals, mental health experts, and vocational rehabilitation specialists can provide expert testimony that supports the existence and severity of the non-economic damages and how they affect an injured person’s ability to function and enjoy life.

Show The Causal Connection

A causal connection is another way of saying “cause and effect.” To be successful in a personal injury case, the injured person must show that the defendant’s negligent or intentional act caused them to suffer some form of harm. Non-economic damages can only be recovered if evidence shows a clear connection between the defendant’s conduct and the injured person’s losses.

Be Consistent And Honest

An injured person and their personal injury attorney should be consistent and honest in their presentation of the non-economic damages and avoid exaggerating or embellishing the losses. This can help build credibility and trust with the decision-makers.

Four Challenges With Non-Economic Damages

Proving non-economic damages in personal injury claims can be challenging for various reasons. Here are some of the most common challenges that injured people face when seeking compensation for their non-economic losses:

Difficulty In Measuring Non-Economic Losses

Unlike economic damages, which can be calculated based on objective evidence such as bills and receipts, non-economic damages are more difficult to quantify. Pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life are subjective experiences that can vary significantly from person to person. As such, it can be challenging to put a dollar amount on the value of these intangible losses.

Subjectivity And The Emotional Nature

Non-economic damages are also subjective and emotional, making it harder to prove their existence and extent. Unlike physical injuries or property damage, which can be objectively observed and documented, non-economic damages rely on the injured person’s testimony and the testimony of family members, friends, and healthcare professionals. Moreover, non-economic injuries may be influenced by cultural and personal factors, such as gender, ethnicity, and prior experiences.

Skepticism From Insurance Adjusters, Judges, And Juries

It’s not unusual for an insurance company, jury, or judge to be skeptical of non-economic damages. They view them as less tangible or more speculative than economic damages.

Insurers may say that the injured person is making their injuries sound worse than they are or that they are not entitled to any compensation for their non-economic damages because of something the injured person did or because of a condition they had before the accident.

Juries and judges may also struggle to empathize with the injured person’s non-economic losses and may be influenced by stereotypes and biases.

Find Out How Much You Deserve For Your Personal Injury Claim

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to someone else’s negligence, it is crucial to understand the importance of non-economic damages in the compensation process.

At Allbee Law Firm, we are committed to helping injured people receive fair and just compensation for their non-economic damages. Our personal injury attorneys understand the challenges and complexities of proving non-economic damages and will fight for your rights and interests every step of the way.

Call (972) 848-4848 or complete the contact form below to schedule a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer. We will provide you with a thorough evaluation of your case and discuss how much compensation you deserve.



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