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What Are “Non-Economic” Damages?


When you have been injured and decide to try and bring a personal injury suit for your medical bills, it is important to understand that the law requires you to specify the nature of your damages. Certain damages are tangible, and can be itemized just by checking lists. Others are more subjective and difficult to assign a number without prolonged analysis of many different factors. Non-economic damages are the latter, and before you and your attorney decide to file an insurance claim or go to trial, it is a good idea to understand exactly how to ask for them.

Economic Damages Are Specific

Economic damages in a personal injury case are those harms that you can quantify relatively quickly, that are directly related to your accident. Anything with a bill attached, or with an expected number such as estimated earnings, will fall under this umbrella. Medical bills are by far the most common type of economic damages, and if a plaintiff succeeds in their insurance claim or lawsuit, they are almost always awarded enough to cover their medical bills, given that Florida public policy tries to place the burden on the wrongdoer, not on the victim.

Other examples of economic damages include transportation expenses to and from medical appointments, lost wages, property damage (your automobile counts as property; if it needs repair, it may be that the insurer or negligent defendant can be made to bear the cost), and potentially necessary modifications to your home, such as building wheelchair ramps in the event of a permanent disability. The law covers these, plus it pointedly adds “and any other economic loss that would not have occurred but for the injury.” This gives the court a bit more leeway to impose liability for economic damages that may not be listed in the statute.

Not Just A Shot In The Dark

Non-economic damages are the types of harm that stem from your accident – that is, they might not have occurred if the accident had not – but they are not mere numbers on a page. Non-economic damages are awarded in lieu of being able to fix something that cannot be fixed – for example, pain and suffering cannot be undone, so our court system awards monetary damages in some small effort to help alleviate it. Other examples include what is called loss of consortium – loss of marital relations and quality of life – and permanent scarring or disfigurement (plus all the trauma that may come with it). There is, as of this writing, no cap on non-economic damages in Florida, though there is a cap on punitive damages – punitive damages are intended to punish, rather than to alleviate any kind of suffering, and thus are in a category of their own.

Because non-economic damages are much more difficult to quantify, sometimes it will be alleged (often by an insurer) that a plaintiff may be ‘pulling numbers out of thin air’ or ‘guessing’ in terms of their perceived non-economic damages. In reality, non-economic damage amounts are often arrived at by experts, and even those numbers are estimates. The court has the ultimate discretionary power to set amounts, and will always do so on a case-by-case basis, so even if the court deems your estimates to be too high or low, it will arrive at an appropriate value on its own, rather than taking the recommendations of plaintiff or defendant out of hand.

Ask A Tampa Personal Injury Lawyer For Help Today

Going through an accident and recovery is an incredibly difficult and exhausting process, and most people will need help to make it to the other side. If you are having questions or problems about lawsuits and damages, contacting the Tampa personal injury lawyers at the Rinaldo Law Group for help can make a difference. Call our office today at 813-831-9999 for a free consultation.



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