Recovering for Non-Economic Damages in a Personal Injury Case

Negligence can cause a lot of damage. Individuals who are the recipients of this can certainly attest to its consequences. If you have been injured due to another’s negligence you may be entitled to compensation. However, what many do not realize is that there are two different categories of compensation (“damages”): economic and non-economic.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are usually the ones that are easiest to calculate. These include losses such as things that are out-of-pocket or from your insurance: medical bills, lost income, and other things directly related to the injury. They may also include future economic losses, such as long-term treatment and/or the inability to work as you did prior to the accident. Non-economic damages on the other hand, are not always as straightforward.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages, often referred to together as “pain and suffering,” are those that are real, but that are not tangible losses, though they certainly affect you on a personal level. That is why they are not nearly as predictable as economic damages. The court must examine and compare an individual’s previous life with his or her present one. Non-economic damages include the following:


Drastic changes and loss to one’s physical appearance can be life altering. Loss due to scarring is compensable. It is considered to be a bigger loss for scarring that occurs on the face or in places on the body where clothing does not ordinarily cover it. Oftentimes juries will also award a bit more for scarring in locations that makes intimacy more difficult.

Loss of Consortium

When it comes to intimacy, if your injury makes it impossible to have sexual intercourse with your spouse, your loss is also compensable.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life

If due to your injury there is an activity you used to love to do but no longer can, or if you had a specific talent that you can no longer use, your enjoyment of life is decreased.

Loss of Quality of Life

The decreased ability to live your usual day-to-day life can be devastating. If one is no longer able to live your life as before due to pain, disability, or emotional trauma from the injury, one is entitled to compensation. This is a very valuable type of damages for those who have sustained life-altering, catastrophic injuries and who no longer have their autonomy or must become more dependent upon others on a daily basis.

Mental Suffering

With the recently raised awareness of mental health issues, we now understand more than ever how significantly our brains affect our wellbeing. This type of damage compensates an individual for the emotional toll that an injury takes on them. This includes things such as night terror, crippling anxiety or depression, and commonly, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Physical Pain

Suffering from physical pain, whether acute or long-lasting, deserves compensation. One of the issues however, is that only the individual experiencing it can know just how severe it is or how much it affects their life. It is difficult to quantify, and behaviors must often be taken into account in order to determine the extent of the pain. Circumstantial evidence such as decreased activity is often used to better measure.

A Life Nevermore

Non-economic damages are often extremely valuable in catastrophic situations, which have serious consequences on an individual and the remainder of his or her life. However, a court is free to override an award of damages if the judge believes that the jury has acted solely on emotions and not on genuine factual consideration. Some states, such as West Virginia, place caps on pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice cases, though those amounts are subject to increase with inflation.