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Economic vs Non-Economic Damages: What’s the Difference?

On Behalf of Rush Injury Law

When you are injured due to another party’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. This compensation is meant to cover the financial toll the injury has taken as well as the physical and emotional suffering. The damages awarded in personal injury cases are typically divided into two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages. Understanding the difference between the two is important when determining the total value of your injury claim.

What Are Economic Damages?

Economic damages are meant to reimburse you for the quantifiable financial losses you have incurred due to someone else’s negligence. These are damages with a clear monetary value attached to them. Some examples of economic damages include:

Medical Expenses

One of the most common economic damages awarded in injury claims are medical expenses. This includes ambulance fees, hospital bills, costs for surgery, medication, therapy, rehabilitation, medical equipment, and any other healthcare costs linked to treating your injury. Make sure to keep detailed records so you can accurately claim medical expenses.

Lost Income

If your injury prevented you from working for a period of time, you can claim lost wages as economic damages. This is typically calculated by looking at your income before the injury and subtracting the income you were still able to earn during recovery. Lost sick or vacation days used as a result of the injury can also be claimed.

Loss of Future Earning Capacity

Some severe injuries have lasting impacts that limit your ability to work and earn an income. In these cases, you may claim compensation for your reduced future earning potential. Expert witnesses are often used to assess your specific situation and provide evidence for these projected losses.

Property Losses

If any property was damaged or lost due to the negligent actions of the other party, you can claim these costs. For example, if your vehicle was totaled in a crash, you can seek damages for the value of your car. Other property damage like a damaged wheelchair, broken eyeglasses, or lost income due to property destruction can also be claimed.

Misc. Expenses

Any other out-of-pocket expenses directly tied to the injury can potentially be recovered as economic damages. Things like home healthcare equipment, costs for modifying vehicles and homes to accommodate disabilities, legal fees, and rehabilitation expenses all fall into this category.

The key thing to remember is that economic damages must have a dollar value attached. If the financial impact can be quantified and proven, then it can be claimed as part of your compensation.

What Are Non-Economic Damages?

Non-economic damages involve the more intangible, harder-to-quantify losses that occur due to an injury. These types of damages do not come with a clear price tag, so calculating them often relies on presenting evidence of the severity and duration of suffering. Common non-economic damages include:

Pain and Suffering

Virtually every personal injury case will involve a claim for pain and suffering damages. This refers to physical discomfort and distress caused by the injury and subsequent treatment. The more severe and lasting the pain, the higher this element will be valued. Back and neck injuries often have significant pain and suffering damages given the impact on quality of life.

Emotional Distress

Being injured can take a major toll on mental health as well. Emotional distress damages compensate for conditions like anxiety, depression, PTSD, mental anguish, humiliation, fear, and other emotional trauma stemming from the incident. Like pain and suffering, the extent and duration are key. Permanent psychological damage warrants higher damages.


Injuries that leave a person permanently scarred or disfigured also warrant non-economic damages. Scarring from burns or lacerations, loss of limbs, and other deformities impact self-esteem and restrict physical abilities. The appearance and location of scarring as well as any related social limitations, impact the valuation.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Being injured limits the ability to participate in activities that bring pleasure and value to life. Damages can be sought for losing the ability to engage in hobbies, recreational pastimes, career aspirations, and quality time with loved ones. The extent to which life has been diminished due to new physical restrictions or pain levels affects the valuation.

Loss of Companionship

For severe injuries that leave a person hospitalized or incapacitated for long periods, damages can also be claimed for loss of companionship. This refers to missing out on family time with a spouse, children, or parents during recovery and rehabilitation.

Punitive Damages

In cases of gross negligence or intentional harm, punitive damages may be rewarded as a way to further punish the at-fault party’s behavior. Unlike other damages meant to compensate victims, these are focused on penalizing actions like drunk driving or assault to discourage similar misconduct in the future.

Non-economic damages require you to present solid evidence of the trauma, limitations, and losses experienced in order to justify a high monetary value. It is more ambiguous than economic damages, often relying on testimony from the injured party, medical experts, and personal connections like family. The intangible suffering caused by an injury is your main backing for claiming these damages.

Get Legal Help Maximizing Your Claim

Suffering an injury can take both a physical and financial toll. To have the best chance at maximum compensation, make sure to clearly document all medical expenses, lost income, property damage, and detail the pain and suffering experienced in a personal injury journal. Consult with a qualified personal injury lawyer to fully understand what types of damages you may be entitled to. An experienced attorney will handle negotiations with insurance companies and advocate for fair compensation if the case goes to trial. Do not leave money on the table – get professional legal help seeking the maximum economic and non-economic damages warranted by your unique situation.

If you’ve been involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault, contact us today. You can visit one of our offices at:

  • 10 Commercial Blvd, #206 Novato, CA 94949
  • 75 Broadway #202, San Francisco, CA 94111
  • 3558 Round Barn Blvd, Suite 200, Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Or call us today for a free consultation on (415) 897-4801.

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