Non-Economic Damages–The Basics of Pain and Suffering

If you have recently been involved in a Yakima personal injury accident, you may have heard the term “non-economic damages,” but may not know exactly what the term refers to or how it is relevant to your lawsuit.

Most people refer to non-economic damages under the more generic term of “pain and suffering,” although non-economic damages actually include more than just pain and suffering. Because this portion of any compensation you may receive is so important, it is equally important that you understand the basics of non-economic damages.

The term “damages” within the purview of personal injury law means injuries. Damages are divided into two types — economic and non-economic. Economic damages are easy to explain and to calculate. Think of economic damages as out-of-pocket expenses. For example, a doctor bill is an economic damage. In addition, the cost of repairs that were made to your vehicle, or the amount of lost wages that are a direct result of the accident, are also examples of economic damages. Those damages can be added to arrive at a dollar figure for your losses.

The much more complicated process involves your non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are subjective in nature. The non-economic portion of your settlement or award in a personal injury lawsuit represents the emotional impact that the accident had on your life–hence the term “pain and suffering.” Although pain and suffering are included in the non-economic portion of a Washington State personal injury award, there are a number of other considerations that also fall under the non-economic portion of the award, including inconvenience, mental anguish, disability or disfigurement incurred by the injured party, emotional distress, loss of society and companionship, loss of consortium, loss of enjoyment of life, injury to reputation and humiliation, and destruction of the parent-child relationship.

One important factor that may be considered is the change in one’s lifestyle-activity level before versus after an injury. For example, one who had a sedentary lifestyle before and after an injury will probably have a less noneconomic damage value than a person who is physically active with many hobbies that they suddenly could not do after the injury. In other words, the effect on someone’s life and how they live before versus after is a main component of noneconomic damages in addition to pain and suffering. In Washington it is termed “loss of enjoyment of life.”

Calculating the non-economic damages in a personal injury case can be complicated. Just as each personal injury accident presents a unique set of facts and circumstances, each victim presents a unique set of personal qualities and life circumstances. Take, for example, disfigurement. Clearly, if any victim is disfigured, it can be devastating; however, imagine a victim who was a fashion model prior to the accident and who suffers an injury that will leave her face disfigured for life. Disfigurement in this case can also cause a significant decrease in the victim’s earning potential for many years. Let’s look at another example. Imagine that a young child is bitten by a dog. If that was the first experience the child had with a dog, he or she may be traumatized for life as a result while an adult may not suffer that same lifelong trauma.

Many factors go into trying to put a monetary figure on non-economic damages. The victim’s age, family circumstances, education, general health, work history and mental history become important factors when trying to place a figure on the non-economic damages suffered by the victim. It can be a very emotional process. Often, the victim feels that his or her injuries are worth considerably more than what a jury is likely to award.

Although this covers the basics of your Yakima personal injury accident non-economic damages award, the only way to know how much you may be entitled to in your specific case is to consult with a Yakima personal injury accident attorney.

If you have been injured in a Yakima car accident and would like to make an appointment for a free consultation, contact the team at Mariano Morales Law today by calling (509) 853-2222, or use our online contact form.