Non Economic Damages

A woman forlornly looking out a window.

In personal injury cases, you sue the defendant (person in the wrong) for money damages that will compensate for your injuries. There are two kinds of damages: economic and non-economic damages. This article seeks to expound on non economic damages and the damage caps involved.

Table of Contents

What are Non- Economic Damages?

While economic damages cover expenses you incurred due to the injury like medical bills and money you used for repairs to damaged property, non-economic damages include pain and suffering and emotional distress among other kinds of non tangible effects of an accident.

What are Damage Caps?

These are laws limiting the non economic damages that you will be awarded for a particular case. Damage caps vary depending on the state you are in.
For instance, in California, there is a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages. In Maryland the cap is $350,000 whereas in Wisconsin, non economic damages have a cap of $750,000.

The scope of non economic damages also differs depending on the state, for instance in California, non economic damages will compensate for physical impairment, inconvenience, pain, suffering and disfigurement whereas in Wisconsin, the damages will also compensate for humiliation, worry, embarrassment, loss of companionship and love of affection. This is why the cap on non-economic damages in Wisconsin is higher than that in California because it covers more scenarios as non economic damages.

However, there is a $250,000 cap applied countrywide on non economic damages that involve claims of medical malpractice.

What is the Purpose for Damage Caps?

At first glance, damage caps are deemed to be unfair. For instance, you may ask yourself, if a jury grants you $10 million for non economic damages, why should the decision be overridden by the courts? The reason is that high awards can drag the economy of a country.

Damage caps manage the cost of transacting business- these costs are usually passed on to consumers- through reducing the compensation amount paid out by service providers. For instance, in a medical malpractice case, a mistake caused by a doctor negatively affects the patient and a jury in the case might be led to award millions to the plaintiff for non economic damages. The doctor’s insurance company will have to pay these damages. As a result of the millions used to pay for the doctor’s malpractice and to guard against future damage awards, the insurer will increase the cost that the doctor pays for medical malpractice insurance. This means, the cost for practicing medicine will rise and so will the cost for medical bills.

Damage caps also prevent unscrupulous individuals from attempting to bring a suit because they expect to win a large sum of money. This measure reserves the justice system to injured individuals seeking compensation.

Is the Jury Able To Go Against Damage Caps?

It is impossible for juries to go against non economic damage caps because they are not expected to be aware of damage caps when deliberating on a case. This will affect the amount of damages they are going to award the plaintiff. Instead, juries are instructed to offer an amount they deem fair. The damages awarded by a jury are later modified to suit a particular state’s cap.