You probably know that personal injury lawyers help people recover compensation after they’ve been injured in an accident. If you’ve been hurt, you probably aren’t really thinking about the different categories of damages that could be available.
But it can help to get a general understanding of what type of financial award could be available to you after an accident.
If you’re injured in a truck accident or a bicycle accident and you hire a personal injury lawyer to file a lawsuit on your behalf, it will contain a demand for compensatory damages. This is a request for the party who caused the accident (the defendant in a civil case) to pay you for the harm they caused.
Compensatory damages typically consist of economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are generally tied directly to monetary losses, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage.
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, compensate you for what’s often referred to as pain and suffering. They can often be a significant portion of a financial award in a personal injury lawsuit.
Although piles of doctor bills may be what keeps you up at night after an accident, almost every accident has consequences far beyond the direct financial costs.
Non-economic damages cover less tangible losses – things that affect your quality of life.
Non-economic damages can compensate you for:
Your medical bills are paid, but what about the constant ache in your knee or the shooting pain down your leg? Many catastrophic accidents cause injuries that result in lifelong physical pain or discomfort. Non-economic damages offer compensation for how physical pain has changed your life.
This doesn’t refer to disability payments that you could be entitled to through Social Security or an insurance policy. Like with physical pain, you can receive financial compensation for the way that the disability has diminished your quality of life. You might not be able to participate in the same recreational activities that you enjoyed prior to your accident. Or, you may feel ashamed, embarrassed, or frustrated that you are unable to provide the same financial support for your family that you did before the accident.
Every accident is traumatic in some way. Many people suffer serious mental and emotional damage from accidents. You may be afraid to drive or fall into a deep depression and not want to leave the house. Non-economic damages help compensate you for psychological trauma, like anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
There can be other examples – each case is unique. The non-economic damages for your case will be specific to how the accident affected your life.
Unlike economic damages, you won’t have a bill or an invoice for non-economic damages. Trying to put a dollar figure on pain and suffering is somewhat subjective, but there are ways to calculate less tangible losses. It often requires the use of experts.
In general, there may be one of two methods used:
Which method is best for your case will depend on the circumstances. A skilled personal injury attorney will know how to fairly and justly calculate your damages to represent the pain and suffering you’ve experienced.
This method is a simple concept – just multiply your economic damages by a certain number to get the amount of your non-economic damages. If your economic damages are $100,000 and you agree on a multiplier of two, then your non-economic damages are $200,000, bringing your total compensatory damages to $300,000.
Using the per diem method is generally used if you are expected to make a full recovery in a certain defined amount of time. For example, maybe after a minor slip and fall accident, your doctor says with reasonable certainty that your broken wrist will heal and you’ll be back to your old self within six months. You might be awarded a certain amount per day for the next six months as compensation for your pain and suffering during that time.
The sticking point, of course, is determining and agreeing on the numbers – what multiplier or how many days is fair. An insurance company is going to want the lowest number possible. They’ll try to minimize your damages any chance they get.
In addition to the somewhat subjective nature of calculating non-economic damages, there are other factors that can affect your financial award.
The value of non-economic damages can depend on:
Many accidents cause life-altering injuries and prevent people from doing things that they used to enjoy. Accidents causing long-lasting injuries, or ones involving particularly horrific details tend to bring higher awards. The stronger your case, the more likely the insurance company may want to settle and avoid having a jury hear details that will weigh in your favor. Hiring a reputable personal injury attorney will help you present the strongest possible version of your case.