Economic And Non-Economic Damages: What’s The Difference?
In the news or in the media, you often hear of reports of large personal injury jury verdicts. Many people wonder how these verdicts get so high. Exactly what kind of damages are available in a personal injury lawsuit, and how does a jury determine how much the damages should be?
As a general rule, all damages in a personal injury case are classified into two main categories: Economic and noneconomic.
What are Economic Damages?
Economic damages are things that are quantifiable—that is, they have a definite “price tag,” and can be easily counted.
The easiest example, that most personal injury victims have, are medical bills. You know the amount or cost of your medical bills. You can produce bills, or invoices to show a jury what they are. There’s no guessing–just look at the bills for the amount that you incurred or that you owe.
When it comes to future medical expenses, although there is no actual bill to produce, experts can put a price tag on what the future medical expenses would be.
An expert can say, for example, you will need $5,000 of treatment every year for the next 10 years, and a surgery in the future that costs $50,000. The jury, if it does find that the Defendant is liable, simply can take these numbers, and add them onto what the Defendant owes you.
Lost wages, both those incurred in the past, and those that you will incur in the future, also are economic damages.
Certainly, there can be debate—the Defendant doesn’t have to accept your numbers as being an accurate measure of damages. The Defendant can say you won’t have lost wages in the future, or that you don’t need the medical treatment in the future that you say that you need. However, so long as the jury believes you, these kinds of damages are economic.
What are Non-Economic Damages?
Non-economic damages are damages that can’t be readily counted. They don’t have a “price tag.”
The typical example is pain and suffering. How much is pain and suffering worth? Certainly, every level of pain and suffering is different—what is each level worth?
What about anxiety, or loss of the quality or enjoyment of life, caused by your injuries? What is the value of that?
As you can see, non-economic damages often leave a jury on their own to determine what the value is (although your personal injury attorney, in trial, will often give a jury an idea of the proper amount to award).
Because non-economic damages are not limited by the amount in a bill, or an invoice, or by math, the way economic damages are, jury awards for non-economic damages can often be large—some critics say, too high. However, many personal injury victims find their non-economic damages to be more severe, more debilitating, and more difficult to cope with, than their economic damages.
Call Rosen Injury Law for help. Contact our Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers today to schedule a consultation if you have suffered an injury in any kind of accident.