But have you paused to think about what your accident has cost you beyond your wallet? About the damages you might have suffered psychologically, emotionally, and within your private life?
These types of damages are referred to as “non-economic damages,” and while they may be emotional in nature, they are just as legitimate (and just as worthy of compensation) as your straightforward financial losses.
In today’s article, we’re explaining what non-economic damages are, how they might have affected you and your family, and how an experienced New York personal injury lawyer can help you seek the compensation you deserve.
Economic vs. Non-Economic Damages in a Personal Injury Case
Under New York personal injury law, you are entitled to recover financial compensation for any injuries caused by someone else’s negligence. Generally speaking, your compensation can be divided into two categories of “damages”:
- Economic damages: These are any losses you suffer that are readily expressed in monetary terms. The classic example is compensation for medical bills. (Medical costs are already expressed in terms of dollars, so the court has a reasonable foundation for determining their worth.) Other common examples of economic damage include property damage, lost wages, and out-of-pocket expenses.
- Non-economic damages: This category includes compensation for any losses, hardships, or suffering you experience that aren’t necessarily financial in nature. One common example is emotional distress — it’s a real injury and deserves financial compensation, but there may not be an obvious basis for determining a proper dollar amount. In the next section, we’ll take a closer look at other types of non-economic damages in a personal injury case.
There is a third category of damages in New York personal injury law: punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded to the victim but intended solely to punish the defendant. They are typically available only in cases where the defendant’s behavior was particularly or unusually egregious.
Types of Non-Economic Damages in a Personal Injury Case
What are non-economic damages in a personal injury case? Here are a few of the most common claims in this category:
- The physical experience of pain
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Post-traumatic stress (PTSD)
- Loss of companionship or affection
- Loss of sexual intimacy / sexual function
- Bodily disfigurement
- The emotional impact of disability
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Embarrassment or humiliation
- Injured reputation
These are only examples. Every claim is different, and yours may involve non-economic damages that look different than those described above. An experienced New York personal injury lawyer can help you determine whether you have a case for pain and suffering or other non-economic damages.
Limits on Non-Economic Damages in New York
Because courts can sometimes struggle to evaluate non-economic damages in monetary terms, some states have taken steps to limit how much money a victim can recover for emotional injuries.
Similarly, some states will only allow victims to recover non-economic damages in certain types of cases and under narrow circumstances.
Fortunately for accident victims, New York has not been as quick to adopt these kinds of limitations.
There is no ceiling on the amount of money that an accident victim can claim or recover for non-economic damages in a personal injury case in New York.
And unlike some other states, New York does allow non-economic damages as part of a medical malpractice claim.
In fact, even moderate physical injuries sometimes give rise to long or intense periods of mental and emotional anguish, which may support a substantial claim for non-economic compensation.
However, even here in New York, a court will require that any settle or award of non-economic damages be reasonable and fair. Courts can strike down an award of non-economic damages if it is seen as excessive, punitive, or unreasonably disproportionate to the economic damages awarded in the same case. (In other words, you probably can’t expect to recover $20 million in pain and suffering for a simple scrape, paper cut, or bruise!)
It Takes Experience to Fairly Value Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages sometimes account for the largest portion of an accident victim’s financial recovery. But these types of damages can be difficult to calculate, and reasonable people can disagree about what constitutes fair compensation.
That’s why it’s so important that you work with an experienced attorney who is willing to passionately and determinedly advocate for the full and fair compensation you deserve.
While insurance companies tend to use one of several widely accepted formulas for calculating non-economic damages in a personal injury case, there is no single rule that governs how the ultimate dollar amount must be determined. (And even when using those standard formulas, there is still a great deal of room for discretion and adjustment.)
The right lawyer will work to build a compelling case that demonstrates the full extent of your damages, economic and non-economic alike.
Free & Confidential Consultation with Our New York Personal Injury Lawyers
O’Connor and Partners is a personal injury law firm based in Kingston, NY that provides legal services throughout the entire state, including in: Kingston, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Ellenville, the Hudson Valley, New York City, and beyond.
We fight hard to maximize compensation for injured New Yorkers and their families, including compensation for non-economic damages in a personal injury case.
We are proud to offer confidential, no-cost, no-obligation consultations to injured people and their families all throughout the state. And if you choose to hire us after your consultation, we will not charge you a fee unless we get you money first.