What are noneconomic damages?

After an accident, you may be able to estimate financial damages due to medical expenses and lost wages. If you seek to hold a negligent party liable for these, naming a dollar amount may take some skilled calculations, but it may seem fairly straightforward. 

However, judges and juries often award noneconomic damages, too. The Judicial Council of California provides instructions to jury members for determining these. 

Examples of noneconomic damages

Your physical pain is one example of this type of damages. Pain does not affect your finances in a measurable way, and yet, it makes your life more difficult. The list also includes: 

  • Physical impairment  
  • Disfigurement 
  • Inconvenience 
  • Mental suffering 
  • Loss of enjoyment of life 
  • Grief, anxiety or other emotional distress 

The jury can add other types of suffering to the list if there is evidence that they are also damages that the negligent party caused. 

Factors affecting noneconomic damage calculations

The California courts acknowledge that you cannot put a monetary value on your well-being. How much is a leg, an arm or an eye worth? The jury must make this subjective decision based on the evidence you provide. 

If you lose a limb, the jury understands that the damages include a permanent disruption to your bodily integrity, disfigurement and disability. However, if the loss of the limb makes you unable to participate in a lifelong hobby, such as skiing or horseback riding, the jury may compensate you for the emotional distress that causes you, as well. If the injury makes you more likely to suffer injury in the future, or if it shortens your life expectancy, the jury may add more to the total. 

The court instructs jurors to be impartial and to set noneconomic awards based on reason, intelligence and common sense. 

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