If a victim in a personal injury case can prove the defendant’s liability, there are two main types of compensation they can recover – economic and non-economic damages. Most people know about and understand economic damages in these cases. These include things like medical bills, lost income, loss of earning capacity, household services, out-of-pocket expenses, and more. These damages are typically calculable with the use of medical bills, receipts, and proof of lost income.
While non-economic damages also related to a victim’s injuries, they are harder to calculate and are subjectively evaluated by a jury and judge.
What is considered a non-economic damage?
There are various types of non-economic damages a person can receive compensation for. These damages are often referred to as “pain and suffering.”
- Physical pain – Victims of an injury may suffer acute pain that eventually subsides or suffer from chronic pain at last for longer periods of time.
- Mental suffering – Victims of personal injuries often suffer from emotional and psychological pain. This can include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and more.
- Disfigurement – Many personal injuries alter a person’s physical appearance due to scarring or amputations. Those with visible injuries, especially to the face, or more likely to be compensated than those whose injuries are easily covered.
- Loss of consortium – If a personal injury victim is no longer able to have sexual relations with their partner, their losses compensable.
- Loss of quality of life – When someone loses their ability to perform day-to-day actions due to their pain, disability, or emotional trauma, they can receive compensation.
- Loss of enjoyment of life – While similar to the previous example, loss of enjoyment of life is more specific. If a personal injury victim is no longer able to perform a particular talent or activity they have always enjoyed, then they have suffered from loss of enjoyment of life.
How are non-economic damages calculated?
There is no set formula for how pain and suffering damages are calculated in West Virginia. Each case is unique, and the amount awarded is largely up to the decision of a judge.
In many cases, a “multiplier” will be used to determine the amount of non-economic damages. This involved taking the total economic damages awarded and multiplying the number with a number ranging from 1.5 to 5, with five being reserved for severe cases. However, the multiplier is not a rule, and these damages can be determined in other ways.
Are there limits on how much non-economic damages a person can be awarded?
Each state is responsible for putting limits on how much compensation a person can recover in a personal injury case. Many states place no limits (or caps) on how much a person can recover. West Virginia does not place a cap on either economic or non-economic damages. The only exception to this is personal injury cases, which have a cap of $250,000 for non-economic damages ($500,000 for case that resulted in death or permanent injury).
Can you receive non-economic damages out-of-court?
When you file a personal injury lawsuit, your attorney will be very busy leading up to a potential jury trial. Part of this process is negotiating with the defendant, their insurer, and their legal team. As your attorney works to negotiate a fair settlement, non-economic damages will also be included. Most personal injury cases are settled out of court, and many of them do include non-economic damages.