What are Non-Economic Damages?
There are typically two different types of damages available in personal injury cases: economic damages, and non-economic damages
Most people understand that economic damages may result from an injury. These include, but are not limited to, medical bills, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, and other out-of-pocket costs.
Generally, economic damages are easy to calculate since you have direct evidence of your expenses, such as bills or pay stubs.
Non-economic damages, however, have little to do with the plaintiff’s financial losses after their injuries. Instead, they cover less tangible losses of an injury, like emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium. We will explore these below.
How are Non-Economic Damages Different, and What Do They Cover?
Non-economic damages differ from other types of damages because they cover losses that are not easily calculated but should nonetheless be compensated. While an injury victim might have significant medical costs after a negligent defendant causes their injuries, they might also endure severe psychological and emotional losses as well.
For instance, an injured person might not be able to engage in certain activities after their accident, like playing with their children or performing routine household chores. They deserve to be compensated for these losses, and non-economic damages are the remedy.
Generally, non-economic damages cover a person’s pain and suffering or emotional distress after a defendant negligently injures them.
Pain and suffering damages can include:
- Pain and suffering after the injury. Economic damages make up for medical bills, but an injured victim may experience significant pain and suffering after their injury, during treatment, and while recovering.
- Humiliation or other types of emotional anguish. This can include any sort of emotional distress that might have occurred as a result of the accident. For example, if an injury victim suffers disfigurement or burns in an accident, they should be compensated for the embarrassment these injuries cause.
- Loss of enjoyment of life. An injury victim might not be able to enjoy life in the same ways they did before the accident. For example, bicycle accidents frequently prevent victims from enjoying bicycling again.
- Any sort of chronic pain, suffering, or damage as a result of the initial injury. It is common for injuries to result in lasting effects on someone’s physical capabilities and body. They might experience chronic pain that is untreatable. Non-economic damages compensate for this pain.
- Loss of consortium/companionship. The spouse and children of an injury victim may not be able to enjoy their family relationship with the injured person like they did prior to their injury. For example, a spouse may not be able to be sexually intimate with their injured partner. Or, the injured spouse may not be able to perform services for the household any longer. The spouse of the injured victim might be entitled to non-economic damages.
A jury decides how much the consequences resulting from the injury might be worth in non-economic damages.
How are Non-Economic Damages Calculated?
As noted, non-economic damages are generally decided by the judge or jury. However, the vast majority of claims are settled outside of court, without a judge or jury present. When that is the case, then non-economic damages are calculated in reference to the economic damages.
As noted earlier, economic damages are easier to determine. Therefore, it is common for the economic damages to be multiplied by a certain number in order to determine non-economic damages. This is known as the “multiplier method.” The more severe the non-economic injuries and consequences, the higher that number might be.
The “per-diem method” is another way to calculate pain and suffering damages. This method places a value on your pain and suffering per day and then multiplies that figure per the total number of days you suffered – typically the amount of time it takes you to recover from your injuries.
Unlike other types of damages, such as punitive damages, Georgia does not place any restrictions on non-economic awards. The Georgia Supreme Court deemed restrictions on non-economic damages unconstitutional.
What Factors are Considered to Determine Non-Economic Damages?
Some questions considered when determining non-economic damages can include, but are not limited to:
- How severe were the victim’s injuries, and how long was their recovery?
- Did the injuries alter the victim’s physical appearance?
- How much have the victim’s injuries affected their daily life or ability to perform household chores?
- How much have the victim’s injuries affected their lives compared to before the injury?
- Has the injury irreversibly altered the course of their lives or caused major changes to it?
There are numerous other factors that might go into determining non-economic damages. Accordingly, it is always best to consult with an attorney about your specific situation, the claim you are looking to bring, and the injuries you have sustained.