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What Are Non-Economic Damages?

Have you been injured in an accident and suffered personal injury due to someone’s negligence? If so, Massachusetts law provides two types of damages – compensatory and punitive. It’s important to estimate your damages. This calculation will allow your Boston, Massachusetts personal injury attorney to negotiate a fair settlement or litigate for a reasonable jury award. 

Compensatory damages are designed to make the plaintiff whole – to put them back in their position before the injury occurred.

There are two categories of compensatory damages:

  • Economic damages, also called specific damages. These are out-of-pocket expenses due to the injury. Examples include medical expenses and lost income.
  • Non-economic or general damages. These damages are not tied to specific monetary costs. They compensate for your emotional and psychological losses, such as pain and suffering.

Punitive damages punish the defendant for their conduct. Jury’s award these damages very seldom in Massachusetts.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-Economic Damages

These damages are designed to compensate the plaintiff for suffering due to an injury. The damages cannot be quantified in the same manner as economic damages, where hard documentation of expenses exists. Rather, the jury relies on their common sense and awards an amount it believes fairly compensates the plaintiff for their suffering.

Common non-economic damages in Massachusetts include compensation for an injury victim’s pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of consortium, and loss of companionship.

Pain and Suffering

Most people associate an injury with pain and suffering. Juries are no exception. 

To drive home the point and illustrate pain and suffering to the jury, you might use the following helpful evidence:

  • Medical bills
  • Photographic documentation of the injury
  • Prescriptions for pain relief
  • Testimony from family or friends, describing what they’ve witnessed.

The most important testimony is likely to be that of the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s testimony allows the jury to hear first-hand about their suffering after an injury.

Other factors that are relevant to the award amount are:

  • Severity of the pain. Some injuries can be excruciating. A common example are burns.
  • Length of the pain. Was the injury painful for a short time, or did it last a long time? Maybe the pain will never go away. For example, a back injury from a car accident could make it painful for the plaintiff to walk for the rest of their life.
  • Disfigurement. Some injuries, like a scar on the face, or loss of an ear, can drastically change how a person looks and how they view themselves. It can also affect how they interact with other people. Such disfigurement can cause emotional damage that lasts a lifetime.
  • Amount of medical expenses. The higher the expenses, the more likely the jury will find a higher award amount.

These factors, along with physical evidence like photos or pain medication prescriptions, can paint a compelling picture of the plaintiff’s pain and suffering.

Loss of Consortium or Companionship

This refers to a loss of the benefits of family relationships. This damage includes loss of affection or sexual relations with a spouse and emotional attachments with children. Note that under Massachusetts law, the injured plaintiff’s spouse and children may bring their own cause of action for loss of consortium or companionship independent of the injury victim’s claim. Additionally, a minor child’s parents may bring a cause of action for loss of companionship when their child has been seriously injured.

Putting it All Together

lawyer working

Let’s assume that Mario has a wife, Karen, and two children named Billy and Kathy. One day, Mario is mowing the lawn when his neighbor, Bert, calls over to him, wanting to show Mario something. Mario goes next door, and Bert beckons him into his garage, where he is operating an illegal moonshine still. 

Bert starts showing him around when they hear a loud boom. The still has exploded. Mario gets serious, disfiguring burns on his face, and a piece of copper from the still pierces his midsection. This injury means he can no longer have sexual relations.

If Mario can prove Bert was negligent, Mario can pursue pain and suffering damages for his excruciating burns. He can also seek damages for his disfigurement, as the burns marred his face. Mario also has a claim for loss of consortium since he can no longer be intimate with his wife. Likewise, Karen also has a claim for loss of consortium, and the kids have claims for loss of companionship.

Non-economic damages, unlike most economic damages, are difficult to calculate. These damages rely on your lawyer being able to convey the injured plaintiff’s story and how they endured pain, suffering, and loss of relationships with their family members. So, contact our Boston law office today to help tell your story.