What Are Non-Economic Damages

What Are Non-Economic Damages

Have you suffered personal injury in an accident in Fort Worth, Texas?

If so, it’s critical to estimate the damages this has caused. This will allow your attorney to negotiate a fair settlement or litigate for a reasonable jury award.

Damages in Personal Injury Law

In Texas, there are three types of damages:

  • Economic, or special, damages. These compensate the plaintiff for the direct costs associated with the injury and include medical bills and lost income.
  • Non-economic, or general, damages. These make up for the injury victim’s psychological and emotional losses, such as pain and suffering.
  • Exemplary, or punitive damages. These are awarded to punish the defendant if they acted with fraud, malice, or gross negligence

Courts award non-economic damages to compensate the plaintiff for abstract losses that resulted from their injury. There are few documents to introduce into evidence. Therefore, it can be more difficult to estimate the victim’s non-economic damages. Often, lawyers use expert witnesses.

Common Types of Non-Economic Injuries

Past Lost Wages

Texas plaintiffs can recover many types of non-economic damages for: physical pain and suffering, mental pain, emotional anguish, loss of consortium, disfigurement, physical impairment, loss of companionship and society, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, injury to reputation, and others.

Physical Pain and Suffering

Noneconomic damages consider the pain and suffering you endured from an injury. Jurors understand that pain and suffering accompany an injury. Testimony from the plaintiff is probably the most persuasive evidence of pain and suffering.

To prove pain and suffering, lawyers present the following evidence:

  • Medical bills and prescriptions for pain relief
  • Photographic documentation of the injury
  • Testimony from family or friends, describing what they’ve witnessed.

Other information that can be helpful to the jury:

  • Pain Severity. Some injuries, like burns, can be excruciating.
  • Length of the pain. Was the pain over in a few days, or will it last a lifetime? For example, a fractured back from a vehicle accident could make it painful to sit down for the rest of the plaintiff’s life.
  • Disfigurement. A scar on the cheek or permanent damage to an ear can dramatically alter how a person looks and how they feel about themselves. Often such disfigurement changes how the plaintiff interacts with people and can impact them for the remainder of their life.
  • Quantity of medical expenses. The more medical costs incurred, the higher the likely jury award will be.

Answers to these questions can be used in conjunction with physical evidence like photos or pain medication prescriptions to tell the plaintiff’s compelling story about their pain and suffering.

Mental Pain and Emotional Anguish

This encompasses depression, anxiety, and other emotional suffering. It causes the plaintiff to suffer a “substantial disruption in daily routine or a high degree of mental pain and distress.”

Loss of Consortium

Loss of consortium includes the loss of companionship that happens between the injury victim and their family members.  Between spouses, it includes the loss of sexual relations, comfort, companionship, society, and emotional support. Between parents and their children, the claim encompasses loss of love, support, and guidance that the injured parent would have been able to provide absent their injury. 

Physical Impairment and Loss of Enjoyment

An injury can diminish the plaintiff’s quality of life. Loss of the ability to play sports, engage in hobbies, or participate in other recreational activities are examples of these damages. 

Limits on Non-Economic Damages.

Texas does not cap non-economic damages for most personal injury claims. However, there is a limit or “cap” on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases of $250,000, meaning your award for noneconomic damages cannot exceed this sum. Additionally, personal injury claims against the government are also capped at $250,000.

Qualifying for Non-Economic Damages

Suppose you’ve been injured by another due to their negligent behavior. In that case, you can usually pursue compensation, including non-economic damages. 

You must file a lawsuit against the person responsible for your injury and be able to prove the four elements of a personal injury claim:

  • The defendant owed you a duty of reasonable care; 
  • The defendant failed to exercise reasonable care;
  • The failure caused your injuries; and
  • You were harmed.

Armed with this information, let’s put it all together with an example.

Example of How it Works

Economic Damages

It’s a sunny Thanksgiving day. Matt, his wife Katie, and their son Juan are relaxing by the pool while the turkey is cooking. Barbara, their next-door neighbor, pops her head over the fence and asks Matt if he wants to check out her new deep fryer, which she’s using to cook her bird.

Matt agrees and heads to his neighbor’s house. Barbara starts to show him the deep fryer, which is filled with bubbling oil. Matt’s just about to head home when the deep fryer explodes, splattering Matt’s face, abdomen, and upper legs with blistering hot oil. Matt gets severe burns and recovers at the hospital for weeks. 

Matt may have a personal injury action against Barbara or the manufacturer of the deep fryer. If he proves that one of the parties was negligent, he can recover his economic damages, including his past and future medical bills and his past and future lost wages. He can also pursue non-economic damages against the defendant for his pain and suffering, disfigurement, and loss of consortium. Matt’s wife, Katie, also has a claim for loss of consortium.

We Can Help You Seek Non-Economic Damages

Our dedicated personal injury lawyers at Stephens Law Firm are available to help you pursue damages when you are injured in an accident. Contact our Fort Worth, Texas office online, or call (817) 420-7000. We know the ins-and-outs of the kinds of evidence needed to prove non-economic damages and are ready to help you today.