What Are Non-Economic Damages?

An accident or injury can happen to anyone. Without warning, you are hit by a motor vehicle, and the driver flees the accident scene.

Another example of an accident that you could not foresee would be a dog biting your child while she plays at the park, or you are injured while playing golf in Clearwater.

Almost any type of personal injury or accident can result in severe injuries and damages. Among the damages you may receive is a category called “non-economic” damages, which can be confusing and difficult to prove. Learning about your legal rights after an injury is the first step in protecting your best interest.

What Are Damages?

What Are Damages?

Before discussing non-economic damages caused by a personal injury, it is useful to discuss damages in general.

When another person causes an accident or injury, the victim often sustains physical injuries, emotional trauma, and financial losses. Damages are the monetary award issued to the victim and/or family members to compensate the victim for the harm and losses caused by the accident, injury, or wrongful death. 

Money cannot undo the wrongdoing committed against the person, but financial liability is the only way the courts have to compensate the victim for losses.

What Are Non-Economic Damages in a Florida Personal Injury Case?

There are two types of damages included in most personal injury claims. Economic damages refer to the financial losses, expenses, and costs caused by the accident, injury, and recovery. These cover monetary losses like lost wages, health care, and medical expenses.

Non-economic damages compensate victims for their “pain and suffering.” The category includes numerous damages associated with physical, mental, and emotional suffering.

Physical Pain and Suffering

Physical injuries can cause chronic, debilitating pain and suffering. Even injuries that insurance companies try to label as “minor injuries” can cause severe pain and limited range of motion. 

For example, whiplash is a common neck injury caused by rear-end car crashes. Insurance companies play down whiplash injuries. While many cases of whiplash heal in a few weeks or months, some accident victims require extensive medical treatment and experience long-term pain and limited range of motion.

It is often assumed that victims who sustain catastrophic injuries, such as amputations, traumatic brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries, experience higher levels of physical pain compared to individuals who sustain minor injuries. However, each car accident victim experiences pain in different ways.

Never allow an at-fault party, defense attorney, or insurance company to tell you it is “all in your head.” If necessary, seek a second opinion from doctors and specialists until one diagnoses the source of pain correctly. Chronic pain can be debilitating and interfere with your ability to work and care for yourself and your family. 

Emotional Distress and Mental Anguish

What Are Non-Economic Damages in a Florida Personal Injury Case?

An accident is a traumatic event that can cause long-term emotional and mental suffering. An accident victim may develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as they deal with the aftermath of the accident. They may experience flashbacks, night terrors, anxiety, sleeping problems, and other symptoms of PTSD.

Some accident victims struggle with depression and other emotional disorders because of the accident and their injuries. The stress of dealing with unpaid medical bills, loss of income, and other consequences of the accident can be overwhelming. Emotional and mental trauma can be as debilitating for some victims as a severe physical injury. 

Counseling and mental health therapy may be needed to help an accident victim deal with the emotional and mental trauma after a child injury, motorcycle crash, or other personal injuries.

Disabling Conditions and Permanent Impairments

A variety of accident injuries may cause disabling conditions and permanent impairments. Victims may become paralyzed after a spinal cord injury. Traumatic brain injuries can result in physical, cognitive, and emotional impairments. 

Catastrophic injuries can change a person’s life forever. They may never be able to work again or enjoy the same activities they did before the accident. They may also require ongoing medical treatment and personal care.

Scarring and Disfigurement

Disfigurement and scarring caused by an accident can be physically and emotionally devastating. Scarring and disfigurement may be caused by severe burns, explosions, physical injuries, penetrating wounds, abrasions, and other injuries. 

A person may need multiple reconstructive surgeries to repair the damage caused by accident injuries. They may undergo plastic surgery too. 

For some individuals, the scarring and disfigurement can cause intense emotional and mental suffering. They may be embarrassed about their scarring or disfigurement. They may struggle with going out into public to work or socialize. 

Loss of Quality of Life or Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Accident injuries can result in the loss of enjoyment of life and a decrease in the quality of life. An accident victim may not be able to participate in the same activities they did before their injuries. Their injuries may negatively impact their relationships with their spouses, family, and friends.

Calculating the Value of Non-Economic Damages

It is impossible to put a price on a person’s pain and suffering. However, that is what must happen to recover compensation for damages caused by an accident.

However, calculating damages for pain and suffering can be challenging. There is not an invoice or bill you can use for the value of the damages. Likewise, there is no standard formula used by courts or contained in the statutes to calculate the value of non-economic damages.

Using a Multiplier To Value Non-Economic Damages

Calculating the Value of Non-Economic Damages

One of the most common methods for valuing non-economic damages is the multiplier method. 

The parties agree to a number between 1.5 and five as the multiplier. The multiplier is based on the facts of the case, including the type and severity of the person’s injuries. Cases involving catastrophic injuries, permanent impairments, and significant disfigurement usually receive higher multipliers.

The total amount of financial losses (i.e., medical bills, lost income, etc.) is multiplied by the multiplier. The result is the value of pain and suffering damages. 

Using a Per Diem To Value Non-Economic Damages

Another method used to calculate damages for pain and suffering is the per diem method. A daily dollar amount is assigned based on the person’s perceived daily suffering. The figure is based on the same factors that would be used to assign a multiplier.

The per diem is multiplied by the number of days between the date of injury and the recovery date. The recovery date is generally the day the doctor releases the patient from care. The result is the monetary value assigned to the person’s pain and suffering.

Neither method of calculating pain and suffering is perfect. Insurance companies argue for the lowest values, while the victim’s personal injury lawyer argues for the highest value.

Comparative Fault and Non-Economic Damages

Florida’s legal theory of modified comparative fault can reduce the compensation a victim receives for pain and suffering damages — or eliminate your right to any compensation. If the victim is 50% or less at fault for the cause of the accident or injury, the amount of compensation received for the claim is reduced by the victim’s percentage of fault.

For example, if a jury finds you to be 30 percent at fault for the cause of a truck accident, the amount of money you can receive for your injury claim is reduced by 30 percent. If a jury finds that you were 51 percent (or more) at fault, you cannot receive anything.

Call Our Florida Personal Injury Lawyers for a Free Consultation 

Valuing non-economic damages can be a complicated process. A personal injury attorney in Clearwater works diligently to document damages and fight for maximum compensation for your injuries and suffering. Contact Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case at (727) 787-2500.