Non-economic damages, also known as “general” damages, are a type of monetary award granted in personal injury lawsuits. Unlike economic, or “specific” damages, which reimburse victims for their out-of-pocket losses resulting from the injury, non-economic damages compensate for non-monetary losses, which are not readily quantifiable.
Common examples of non-economic damages include:
- The injury itself
- Disability or disfigurement
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship or consortium
- Losses related to one’s reputation
- Loss of "enjoyment of life"
Non-economic damages tend to be highly subjective in nature and may vary widely from person to person. Because they can be so difficult for juries to calculate, they are often subject to strict guidelines.
Regulation of non-economic damages varies with jurisdiction. Some states only issue non-economic damages if the plaintiff can first prove economic damages. Often, non-economic damages are subject to a specific formula in proportion to the economic damages, and they are frequently subject to a statutory cap.
Under federal law, non-economic damages must be reasonable. Typically, they are limited to no more than ten times the amount of economic damages awarded. They cannot be issued for losses that are purely imaginary or invented by the plaintiff and have a greater chance of being issued if they can be traced to some sort of physical manifestation. For example, pain and suffering may manifest in physical symptoms such as ulcers or PTSD.
Non-economic damages can involve complex analysis during trial. If you are involved in a personal injury case where non-economic damages may be an issue, a personal injury attorney can inform you of your rights and legal options, especially when it comes to damages awards.