Non-economic damages are one possible class of damages available in a personal injury case. The other classes are economic damages and punitive damages. Non-economic damages compensate you for intangible psychological losses. In many cases, they make up the majority of the claim.
What Exactly Are Non-Economic Damages?
According to the definition provided by the Georgia Code, “non-economic damages” include compensation for:
- Disfigurement: For example, facial scarring from a car accident.
- Inconvenience. For instance, your disability makes it difficult to feed or dress yourself.
- Injury to reputation. This element applies primarily to defamation actions, not cases of actual physical injury.
- Mental anguish. “Mental anguish” is another term for “emotional distress.” It might refer to a phobia that arises from a dog bite, for example.
- Physical pain. Pain that your physical injuries generate.
- Physical impairment.
- Suffering. This could refer to suffering that does not classify as “pain,” such as respiratory distress.
- Loss of consortium. Your spouse can claim non-economic damages for “loss of society, companionship, love, affection, comfort, sexual relations, and aid” from you. This is your spouse’s claim, not yours.
- Loss of enjoyment of life. Loss of ability to exercise, pursue hobbies, listen to music, and engage in other enjoyable leisure activities.
- Loss of society and companionship. This element applies mainly to wrongful death claims filed by close family members of a deceased personal injury victim.
The Georgia Code also authorizes compensation for “[a]ll other non-pecuniary losses of any kind or nature.“ In other words, a court can award non-economic damages even for losses that fall outside of the above-listed categories.
Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)
You reach “maximum medical improvement” on the date that your doctor confirms that your medical condition has improved as much as it is ever going to. That means:
- You have made a full recovery; or
- You are suffering from a permanent disability.
It’s difficult to calculate the value of your claim until you reach MMI because you must speculate on the amount of future damages you will incur.
Calculating Non-Economic Damages
There are many ways to calculate the value of economic damages, but there is no established formula in the law. Following is a listing of some of the most common calculation methods.
The “Per Diem” Method
The per diem method requires you to assign a daily dollar value to your pain. You then count the number of days that elapsed between the date of your injury and the date you reach MMI. Finally, multiply the first figure by the second to arrive at a figure for non-economic damages.
The Multiplier Method
Under the multiplier method, you choose a ‘multiplier’ with a value somewhere between 1.5 and 5, depending on the intensity of your pain and (sometimes) other factors. Multiply your multiplier by the amount of your economic damages or, alternatively, by the amount of your medical expenses, to arrive at the amount of your non-economic damages claim.
Insurance companies have software programs that purport to calculate, based on numerous factors, just how much your non-economic damages claim is worth. As you might suspect, these programs tend to produce estimates that are very favorable to the insurance company.
Determining the value of compensation at the bargaining table can take unpredictable and even irrational turns. This is especially likely in the case of non-economic damages, as there are no specific guidelines telling you how much, for example, ‘loss of enjoyment of life’ is worth.
The value of your claim for pain and suffering might fall on whether the doctor can find physical evidence of your pain. This is common with cases involving whiplash, for instance.
A Columbus Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Maximize Your Non-Economic Damages Claim
Hiring a Columbus personal injury lawyer is a particularly smart idea if you anticipate claiming a high amount of non-economic damages. The reason is simple—due to the inherently ambiguous nature of non-economic damages, the same injury could earn you $100 or $100,000 in non-economic damages. A skilled personal injury lawyer knows how to take advantage of this ambiguity.
Contact an experienced Personal Injury Lawyer at Columbus, GA
We highly recommend reaching out to an experienced Columbus Personal Injury Attorney for guidance before taking any legal steps. Get in touch today with our personal injury law office, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (706) 940-4030 and schedule your free consultation. We’re here to help!