The end goal in a suit resulting from a car accident is to end up in the position you would have been in if the car accident had not happened. In order to figure out how much in compensation this will cost, your damages must be measured. There are two forms that this can take—economic and noneconomic damages. To illustrate, you can be paid back for repairs that you made to your car after the accident; medical bills can be compensated for as a result of injuries from the accident; or you can be given the money you would have earned at work if you were not injured. Maybe you had to pay for a rental car while your car was in the shop. These damages you suffer have a receipt, which makes them easy to replace.
These are called economic damages. The Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code (“CPRC”) defines economic damages as “compensatory damages intended to compensate a claimant for actual economic or pecuniary loss[.]” When you can point to a precise number to say, “This is how much I lost because of the accident,” it is considered economic damages. For Example, with lost wages, you can see exactly how much you would have earned by looking at your previous paychecks, or determining how many hours of work you missed. Medical bills and auto repairs give itemized receipts that point out exactly how much the accident cost you.
Whenever a cost was incurred that you would not have paid if not for the accident, and there is a specific receipt of exactly how much it cost you, those are called economic damages. These are the easier damages to account for.
There is another category of damages that results from car accidents: noneconomic damages. This name is misleading, because noneconomic damages are still paid in money. They are simply called noneconomic because there is no clear way to set the dollar amount of noneconomic damages. According to the CPRC, noneconomic damages are:
[D]amages awarded for the purpose of compensating a claimant for physical pain and suffering, mental or emotional pain or anguish, loss of consortium, disfigurement, physical impairment, loss of companionship and society, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, injury to reputation, and all other nonpecuniary losses of any kind other than exemplary damages.
If you are financially restored to the same position as you were before the accident through economic damage compensation only, you are not fully returned to how you were before. You suffered pain and sustained injuries, and perhaps you have new scars from being hurt during the wreck. In order to be fully restored, you have to be compensated for these noneconomic injuries. There is one obvious challenge in assessing noneconomic damages: what is the dollar value of pain and suffering?
Noneconomic damages are left to the jury to decide, and it is almost impossible to predict. The same set of facts with one jury could be awarded no noneconomic damages while another jury would yield a high amount.
When a lawyer takes on your case, he will ask you a variety of questions, some to ascertain various sources of economic damages, and others to be able to assess what noneconomic damages you may be experiencing. Knowing the difference between economic and noneconomic damages can better help you understand where your damages are coming from, what you are being compensated for, and how you will be paid after your incident.
Personal Injury Attorney Zach Herbert