Economic vs. Non-Economic Damages in Personal Injury Cases

If you’ve been part of a personal injury case in the past, or even if you’ve watched many law-related television shows or movies, chances are you’ve heard the term “damages.” A broad term that extends well beyond personal injury and to numerous areas of the law, damages refer to any remedy or monetary award paid to someone as compensation, whether for a loss, injury or another area.

At the offices of Day Shell & Liljenquist, we can help you understand everything there is to know about damages for your case, whether it’s a personal injury situation like an auto accident or any area of family law, worker’s compensation or others. Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of damages that may result from such cases: Economic damages and non-economic damages. Let’s take a look at what we mean by each and how these damages are calculated.

damages personal injury cases

Economic Damages

In general, the simpler side of this equation is the economic damages side. Most common in personal injury and various medical negligence cases, economic damages can refer to all of the following areas:

  • Past, present and future medical expenses related to the incident
  • Past, present and future loss of earnings due to the incident and resulting injuries
  • Damage to physical property
  • Loss of capacity to earn money
  • Loss of ability to provide household services
  • Lost profits

While there might be a few unique kinds of damages outside these classifications, that mostly covers it. Economic damages are the simpler of the two in most cases: Either proof exists to back up these kinds of material damages, or it does not. In most cases, it’s relatively simple to prove this one way or the other using witnesses, experts and other evidence available.

Non-Economic Damages and “Invisible Injuries”

The tougher concept in most of these cases, however, is when we get into non-economic damages, also called “invisible injuries.” There are a number of different injuries that might fall under this category depending on the state you live in, but most states describe them as relating to areas like mental pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment, physical impairment, grief, anxiety, humiliation, distress, or even disfigurement in some cases.

Outside disfigurement, as you may notice, these areas are much tougher to define. It’s easy to put a monetary value on a totaled car, for instance – it’s not so easy to assess the equivalent number for someone who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following being hit by a drunk driver.

Basic Evidence and Common Sense

So how are these “invisible injuries” translated into monetary damages? The operating terms here are evidence and common sense, both of which are used together. Precedent is also leaned upon heavily by courts, but it was applied using the same kind of simple reasoning. There’s no set standard for non-economic damages, but attorneys will factor in areas like wages and opportunities lost due to these kinds of mental or emotional injuries.

For more on understanding damages within the realm of personal injury, or to learn about any of our other attorney services, speak to our attorneys at the offices of Day Shell & Liljenquist today.

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