What Are Non-Compensatory Damages?

What Are Non-Compensatory Damages?

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Civil court cases and tort law in Colorado and elsewhere are based on the premise that any injury caused by one person or entity to another leaves the at-fault person liable for damages. The word “damages” in these cases refers to the consequences of the injury to the victim, whether it’s a defamation of character case or a personal injury.

In personal injury claims in Colorado, injury victims may hear their Westminster personal injury lawyer and others involved in the case refer to several different types of damages available in their case.

Most damages serve as compensation to the victim for losses suffered from their injury, but non-compensatory damages do not compensate the victim even if the victim gains financially. So, what are the different types of damages available in personal injury claims, including non-compensatory damages?

Economic Damages in Colorado Personal Injury Claims

Injuries quickly become expensive. Often, an injury victim finds medical bills piling up at the same time they are unable to return to work because they’re enduring painful medical procedures and lengthy recovery periods. These are the victim’s economic damages after an injury. Economic damages awarded in personal injury claims typically cover the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Future medical expenses related to the injury
  • Related expenses such as travel expenses to specialists and appointments
  • Lost wages
  • Future income loss
  • Diminished earning capacity if the injury caused disability

Economic damages are tangible and fairly easy to calculate for compensation by using evidence such as the victim’s medical bills, receipts for related expenses, and tax forms showing their usual income. An injury victim’s attorney may also meet with medical experts to determine the future economic effects of the injury on the victim’s life.

Non-Economic Damages in Personal Injury Claims in Colorado

While economic damages are tangible and easy to add up, non-economic damages are intangible because they are not backed up by receipts for expenditures but instead are based on the victim’s physical and emotional suffering. Attorneys and insurers rely on formulas to estimate a monetary value for non-economic damages. Common non-economic damages listed for compensation in personal injury claims include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • PTSD, anxiety, depression, emotional anguish
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium (the ability to enjoy a full physical and emotional relationship with another)
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of limb

Calculation of non-economic damages may be based on an estimated amount of suffering per day (per-diem method) or by multiplying a figure based on the victim’s medical bills (multiplier method). Although compensation for non-economic damages doesn’t erase pain or suffering, it’s the court’s only means of redress for victims.

What Are Non-Compensatory Damages and How Do They Fit Into Personal Injury Cases?

Economic damages compensate the victim for tangible financial losses and non-economic damages compensate victims for intangible suffering, but non-compensatory damages do not serve as compensation for any loss experienced by the victim, despite it being a monetary amount awarded to the victim in court or added to a settlement.

The most common type of non-compensatory damage awarded in personal injury cases is punitive damages. Punitive damages serve as a punishment to a wrongdoer and as a deterrent to future repeats of the behavior. Punitive damages are awarded in cases of egregious wrongdoing that results in serious harm to another.

Compensation for economic and non-economic damages typically comes from a defendant’s insurance coverage, for example, car insurance after a car accident injury, or property insurance after a dog bite, but punitive damages may come from the defendant’s personal accounts and holdings.