It is unfortunate, but few people are aware of the lasting effects of civil litigation. They mostly hear about the economic damages awarded to plaintiffs, which covers those damages with a monetary value such as medical bills, property damage, lost income, and other expenses caused by the injury.
However, one of the hard-to-pin-down areas of personal injury law is non-economic damages and how the courts determine the amounts for these types of situations. Non-economic damages are rarely awarded because they only apply when individuals suffer catastrophic losses (like the death of a loved one, the loss of mobility, or the loss of a limb).
What Non-Economic Damages Are
Non-economic are often grouped underneath the label for the combined damages of “pain and suffering.” For instance, if someone sustains a severe injury that results in loss of motor function, it could be argued that the plaintiff will suffer a lower quality of life—especially if they once enjoyed an active lifestyle.
Non-economic damages include compensation for:
- Physical pain
- Emotional trauma
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium (loss of a spouse)
When seeking non-economic damages, it is meant to compensate the physical pain, emotional damage or trauma, loss of enjoyment in life, and in some cases, loss of consortium.
Can Non-Economic Damages Serve as Punishment?
Sometimes, a plaintiff might be ordered by a court to provide compensation to a defendant because of the damage their negligence has caused them. In some instances, a court will assign additional non-economic damages as a punishment for their behavior. These are known as punitive damages.
Punitive damages are especially common when a negligent party isn't facing criminal charges for their actions. For example, if a corporation knowingly sold a dangerous product, it might have to pay punitive damages for this behavior. This is especially common when pharmaceutical companies sell defective drugs to consumers.
Non-economic damages can be used as punishment and as a way to set an example for any other party that might consider doing something similar.
However, a party can be ordered to pay punitive damages in addition to facing criminal charges. For example, if a person was drunk and caused a deadly car accident, might be ordered to pay punitive damages to the grieving family in addition to any criminal punishments they'll receive.
How Courts Decide Non-Economic Damages
Cases differ and the juries handling them will too, meaning there is no standard for non-economic damages and how they are compensated. There is no hard evidence of medical bills or expenses associated with non-economic damages, so the decision is often based on severity and emotions.
Some of the things that may be considered is age of the victim, severity of the injury sustained, family involvement, lifestyle, and whether or not there is a state cap on non-economic damages. The courts have a challenging decision to place a monetary value on these damages, but the right evidence can help make a difference.
When seeking non-economic damages, having an experienced personal injury attorney on your side is important. Legal representation can put together a plan to help the courts decide the right amount of compensation associated with the pain and suffering the plaintiff experiences. At Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC, we go the extra mile because we know there’s more than just money at stake for victims. Economic and non-economic damages are just a part of the process. Obtaining justice is the ultimate goal.
Call us today to speak with a skilled legal team ready to help you.