What Are Non-Economic Damages?

What Are Non-Economic Damages?

When it comes to personal injury cases in Georgia, one of the most important aspects to understand is the concept of damages. Damages are the monetary compensation awarded to the victim as a result of the injury caused by another party's negligence or wrongdoing.  

These damages can be categorized into two primary types: economic damages and non-economic damages. While both types of damages play a crucial role in personal injury cases, this article will primarily focus on non-economic damages.  

Economic vs. Non-Economic Damages: What’s the Difference?  

Economic damages are relatively straightforward; they encompass the tangible financial losses incurred by the victim as a result of the injury. These can include medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. On the other hand, non-economic damages represent the intangible, non-monetary losses suffered by the victim due to the injury.  

Common examples of non-economic damages include:  

  • emotional distress,  

  • pain and suffering, and  

  • loss of consortium,  

  • loss of enjoyment of life. 

Non-Economic Damages: A Closer Look  

As we mentioned, non-economic damages aim to compensate victims of negligence for losses that are intangible. Below, we discuss these losses in further detail.  

Emotional Distress 

Emotional distress refers to the mental anguish and psychological suffering experienced by the victim as a result of the injury. This can include symptoms such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To successfully claim emotional distress damages, the victim must demonstrate that the distress was a direct result of the defendant's actions and that it has had a significant impact on their daily life. 

Pain and Suffering 

Pain and suffering encompass the physical pain, discomfort, and ongoing limitations caused by the injury. This can include chronic pain, permanent disability, or disfigurement. To determine the value of pain and suffering damages, factors such as the severity of the injury, the duration of the pain, and the impact on the victim's life are considered. 

Loss of Consortium  

Loss of consortium is a legal term used in personal injury cases to describe the loss of companionship, affection, and support that a spouse or family member may experience as a result of the victim's injury. In a legal context, this type of non-economic damage compensates the affected party for the negative impact the injury has had on their relationship with the victim.  

Calculating and evaluating loss of consortium can be challenging, as it relies on subjective factors such as the nature of the relationship, the extent of the injury, and the duration of the impairment. For example, a spouse who can no longer engage in sexual activities, share household duties, or participate in social events due to the victim's injury may be entitled to compensation for loss of consortium.  

Similarly, a parent who is unable to care for, interact with, or nurture their child as a result of an accident could also be eligible for these damages. In essence, loss of consortium recognizes the emotional toll an injury can have on the relationships that form an essential part of a person's life and seeks to provide some level of compensation for that intangible loss. 

Loss of Enjoyment of Life 

Loss of enjoyment of life refers to the diminished ability to enjoy life's pleasures due to the injury. This can include hobbies, recreational activities, and social interactions that the victim can no longer participate in or enjoy as a result of the injury. As with other non-economic damages, quantifying the loss of enjoyment of life can be challenging, as it is inherently subjective and varies from person to person. 

Is There a Cap on Pain & Suffering in Georgia?  

In many states, there are caps or limits on the amount of non-economic damages that can be awarded in personal injury cases. These caps are often controversial, as they can limit the compensation available to victims who have suffered severe and life-altering injuries. 

In Georgia, there is not a cap on pain and suffering in personal injury cases, including medical malpractice claims. However, the state does place a cap on punitive damages. The punitive damages may not exceed a quarter a million dollars unless the cases involves an intentional tort or product liability. 

It is important to note that each case is unique, and the specific damages awarded will depend on the individual circumstances of the case. It is crucial to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure that you receive fair compensation for the full extent of your injuries, both economic and non-economic. 

How Do You Calculate Non-Economic Damages?  

One of the most challenging aspects of personal injury claims is determining the appropriate amount of compensation for non-economic damages. Unlike economic damages, which have a clear monetary value, non-economic damages represent the intangible losses suffered by the victim. Below, we will discuss the two most common methods for calculating non-economic damages.  

The Multiplier Method 

The multiplier method involves assigning a numerical value, known as the multiplier, to the severity of the injury and then multiplying this value by the total amount of economic damages. The formula for the multiplier method is as follows: 

      Non-Economic Damages = Multiplier × Economic Damages 

The multiplier typically ranges from 1.5 to 5, with more severe injuries warranting higher multipliers. For example, a minor injury might receive a multiplier of 1.5, while a catastrophic injury could receive a multiplier of 5. 

There are many pros and cons to the multiplier method. Some of the pros of this method include: 

  • It provides a relatively simple and straightforward calculation. 

  • It accounts for the severity of the injury in determining non-economic damages. 

The cons of the multiplier method include:  

  • The choice of the multiplier can be subjective and may vary between cases or jurisdictions. 

  • It may not accurately reflect the true extent of non-economic damages in some cases, especially when economic damages are low but non-economic damages are high. 

The Per Diem Method 

The per diem (Latin for "per day") method calculates non-economic damages based on a daily rate assigned to the victim's pain and suffering. This daily rate is then multiplied by the number of days the victim has experienced pain and suffering.  

The formula for the per diem method is as follows: 

         Non-Economic Damages = Daily Rate × Number of Days 

The daily rate is typically determined by considering the victim's daily wage or a fixed amount, such as $100 per day. There are pros and cons to using this method. The pros include:  

  • It provides a more objective approach to calculating non-economic damages. 

  • It can be more accurate in cases where the victim's pain and suffering are primarily time-based. 

The cons of the per diem method include:   

  • Determining an appropriate daily rate can be challenging and may still involve some subjectivity. 

  • It may not fully capture the extent of non-economic damages in cases with long-lasting or permanent injuries. 

Factors to Consider When Calculating Non-Economic Damages 

Several factors influence the calculation of non-economic damages, including: 

  • The severity of the injury 

  • The impact of the injury on the victim's daily life 

  • The duration of the pain and suffering 

  • The victim's age and overall health 

  • The presence of any pre-existing conditions or disabilities 

  • The potential for future complications or impairments 

Both the multiplier and per diem methods aim to provide a fair and justifiable settlement for non-economic damages. However, each case is unique, and the specific method used may depend on the circumstances and the preferences of the parties involved. 

Injured in a Negligence-Based Accident? Contact Our Firm! 

Calculating non-economic damages in personal injury claims is a complex process that requires careful consideration of various factors. At Balbo & Gregg, Attorneys at Law, PC, we are backed by over four decades of collective experience, and our firm handles a wide variety of personal injury matters, including:  

  • Premises liability  

  • Defective products  

  • Nursing home abuse  

  • Medical malpractice  

  • Pedestrian accidents  

  • Car accidents  

  • Truck accidents  

  • Motorcycle accidents  

Once you retain our services, our attorneys can not only help you calculate your economic and non-economic damages but can also help:  

  • Evaluate your claim 

  • Explain your legal rights and options 

  • Collect evidence  

  • Develop a personalized case strategy  

  • Handle the case negotiations or litigation  

To discuss your case with our attorneys, call today.