Non-economic damages refer to compensation for subjective, non-monetary losses such as:
- Emotional distress
- Loss of society and companionship
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
After a catastrophic injury, some of the greatest losses may be non-economic instead of economic damages. Assessing non-economic damages can be complicated as it involves considering factors such as:
- The scope and permanence of your injury
- The pain and anguish you experienced
- The length of recovery
- The general disruption to your life and career
Insurance companies and personal injury lawyers typically use a formula to determine the amount of non-economic damages you can claim – the sum of your medical bills multiplied by a factor ranging between 1.5 and 5. The more severe or long-lasting your injuries are, the higher the multiplying factor will be. Minor injuries will be at the lower end of the multiplier. The idea behind basing non-economic damages on medical expenses is that higher medical expenses typically point to more serious injuries and greater suffering. Non-economic damages typically compensate a plaintiff for the impact that an injury has had on their daily life.
For example, after certain brain and spinal injuries, people who previously enjoyed an active lifestyle of dancing, taking long walks and playing sports to relieve stress may be unable to do these activities or may be severely limited in doing these activities. This, in turn, can result in reduced social contact or an alteration of lifestyle that can make it harder for plaintiffs to enjoy their lives. Different juries may reach different conclusions about the appropriate amount of non-economic damages. Since there is no direct economic loss and no hard evidence of bills or receipts on which to base the award, it can be difficult for juries to assign a monetary value to the losses.