When someone files a personal injury lawsuit, they’re seeking damages. There are usually three types of damages, although there can be variations in personal injury statutes depending on the state. There are economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
The goal of economic damages is to provide an injured party with compensation for financial harm stemming from an accident.
Non-economic damages are meant to cover a victim’s non-financial, personal losses. Non-economic damages differ from economic damages because there’s not a clear monetary value that can be assigned to them. Even though this is the case, under the law, there is a recognition that victims of injuries and accidents deserve compensation.
Punitive damages are awarded as a means of punishment and deterrence for behavior that’s reckless or intentional, or motivated by malice. Punitive damages aren’t to compensate for a loss, so they aren’t economic or non-economic.
Below, we go more into what to know about economic damages and how they’re proven.
Understanding Economic Damages
Economic damages are the real financial losses you deal with because of injuries. They include all monetary losses you deal with because of your accident.
Economic damages can include what’s detailed below.
Past and Future Medical Bills
Any medical bills you incur due to an accident and injuries can be qualified as economic losses. The medical expenses that are often part of a claim for personal injury include:
- Urgent care bills
- Emergency room bills
- Follow-up visits with doctors
- Diagnostic tests
- Blood tests
- Physical therapy and physical therapy aids
- Mobility aids such as wheelchairs or crutches
- Travel costs for medical appoints
- Costs of prescriptions
- Occupational therapy
Mental Health Care
If you have psychological injuries such as trauma or PTSD, you may require mental health care after an accident. These costs of care to work with a therapist or other associated expenses can be included as part of economic damages.
Any related costs to treat conditions also, including anxiety, depression, or similar conditions are part of your economic damages.
Lost wages are the lost income you have sustained due to your injuries. If you can’t work for several months because of injuries, then economic damages include whatever your actual income would have been during this time.
If you earn bonuses or tips, this can be included. Your past lost wages should be relatively easy to calculate into a dollar amount. It’s just whatever you didn’t earn between your injury and when you return to work that you would have otherwise.
Future Earning Capacity
If you’re hurt because of an injury, you might not be able to return to your job for months or years. You could be out of work indefinitely. Your future lost earning capacity looks at what you’d miss out on earning in the future as part of your economic damages.
If you miss out on the opportunity for a potential promotion or you have to transition to a new job completely because of your injuries, you can factor your reduced income into your damages.
If you aren’t sure how to calculate future earning capacity, an attorney can connect you with an occupational expert.
If you’re hurt in an accident, you could need help around the house with daily tasks you used to do before your injuries. You may need help with things like chores or providing transportation to your kids or dependents. If you have to hire outside help as a result of your injuries, economic damages can reflect these costs.
If your vehicle is damaged or any of your other property, this is calculated as economic damages. Your losses might be valued at the cost of repairing whatever the item is. If the item can’t be repaired, you could use fair market value or look at the cost to replace it.
These Damages Can Be In the Present and Future
With economic damages, some are immediate. For example, you might start to get bills for expenses immediately following your accident. In the weeks or months following an accident, you can start to look at everything your accident has cost you.
Then, along with immediate economic damages, there are ones that will happen in the future. You might not specifically know the value of these losses, so experts can help you calculate them.
Some people wonder if there are limits on economic damages that you can recover in personal injury cases, and the answer is no. There might be limits to pain and suffering, but when it comes to economic damages, you’re eligible to recover the full value of whatever your damages and economic losses are.
Proving Economic Damages
Economic damages, when compared to non-economic damages, tend to be a lot easier to prove in a personal injury case. There are a lot of ways that you can calculate and show your expenses for economic damages, whereas non-economic damages are subjective in many instances.
You can use evidence like what’s listed below to prove your economic damages:
- Receipts and payment records
- Bills for property damage
- Medical records that show your injuries and the care needed for treatment
- Estimates for car repairs
- Insurance records that show the medical treatments you were billed for
- Expert testimony
The testimony of people who understand the facts personally at issue in these personal injury cases can be important. As an example, a medical provider might provide testimony about the extent of someone’s injuries that they treated.
An expert may also be part of proving the lost earning capacity because of injuries. If you have an attorney, they can put you in contact with experts who are qualified to provide testimony.
If you’ve received compensation from your insurance company or a source other than the person responsible for the accident, then you might have to use part of your damages that are awarded to reimburse that source.
The amount the defendant would pay you isn’t reduced, though. The defendant still has to pay the amount representing the full value of the economic losses of the victim.