Personal Injury

How Are Non-Economic Damages Calculated in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

When someone suffers an injury due to another’s negligence, the law allows the injured party to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. The compensation awarded typically includes both economic and non-economic damages. While economic damages are relatively straightforward to calculate, non-economic damages can be more complex. 


What Are Non-Economic Damages?

Non-economic damages refer to compensation for intangible losses that cannot be easily quantified. These damages address the emotional and psychological impact of an injury, as well as the decrease in quality of life. Common types of non-economic damages include:

  • Pain and Suffering: Physical discomfort and emotional distress caused by the injury.
  • Emotional Distress: Psychological impact, such as anxiety, depression, and trauma.
  • Loss of Consortium: Negative effects on the injured person’s relationships with their spouse or family members.
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Inability to enjoy hobbies, activities, and other aspects of life previously enjoyed.
  • Disfigurement and Disability: Permanent physical alterations or disabilities resulting from the injury.

Factors Influencing Non-Economic Damages

Calculating non-economic damages involves several factors that can vary from case to case. Some of the key considerations include:

  • Severity of the Injury: More severe injuries that result in long-term or permanent consequences typically lead to higher non-economic damages.
  • Duration of Recovery: Longer recovery periods can increase non-economic damages due to prolonged pain, suffering, and disruption of life.
  • Impact on Daily Life: How the injury affects the victim’s ability to perform daily activities, work, and enjoy life is a significant factor.
  • Age and Health of the Victim: Younger victims or those in good health may receive higher non-economic damages as the injury can have a more profound impact on their future quality of life.
  • Pre-existing Conditions: If the victim had pre-existing physical or mental conditions, this might affect the calculation of non-economic damages.

Methods of Calculating Non-Economic Damages

There are no fixed formulas for calculating non-economic damages, but experienced injury attorneys at Piasta Walker Hagenbush explain that two primary methods are commonly used:

  1. Multiplier Method: The multiplier method involves multiplying the economic damages (medical expenses, lost wages, etc.) by a number, usually between 1.5 and 5, to determine non-economic damages. The multiplier is chosen based on the severity and impact of the injury.

For example, if a person incurs $50,000 in economic damages and the chosen multiplier is 3, the non-economic damages would be $150,000. The total compensation would then be $200,000.

Factors influencing the multiplier include:

  • Severity of the injury
  • Long-term or permanent effects
  • Pain and suffering experienced
  • Impact on daily life and relationships
  1. Per Diem Method: The per diem method assigns a daily rate to the victim’s pain and suffering and multiplies it by the number of days the victim is expected to experience the effects of the injury.

For instance, if the daily rate is set at $200 and the victim is expected to suffer for 365 days, the non-economic damages would be $73,000.

The challenge with the per diem method is justifying the daily rate. It must be reasonable and reflect the severity of the pain and suffering endured by the victim.

Role of Jury and Judge

In many personal injury cases, the final determination of non-economic damages is left to the discretion of the jury or judge. They evaluate the evidence, consider testimonies from the victim, medical professionals, and expert witnesses, and then decide on an appropriate amount. The judge or jury’s perception of the victim’s credibility and the overall impact of the injury can significantly influence the award.

Caps on Non-Economic Damages

Some jurisdictions have implemented caps on non-economic damages to prevent excessively large awards. These caps vary by state and the type of case. For example, medical malpractice cases often have lower caps on non-economic damages compared to other personal injury cases.

Calculating non-economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit is a complex and nuanced process. It involves assessing the intangible and often subjective impact of an injury on the victim’s life. By understanding the methods and factors involved, victims and their legal representatives can better navigate the process to seek fair and just compensation. While no amount of money can truly compensate for the pain and suffering endured, non-economic damages play a crucial role in acknowledging and addressing the profound effects of personal injuries.

Leave a Reply