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Emotional Trauma and Non-Economic Damages in Personal Injury Lawsuits

The McClellan Law Firm

The impact of a serious injury is not limited to physical pain and financial losses. It may have a profound influence on a victim's emotional state and may lead to lasting psychological trauma and an overall loss of enjoyment of life. The simple things that make life worth living – independence, the ability to make decisions, freedom from physical limitations – can all be taken away by a debilitating injury. This makes the recovery of non-economic damages for emotional trauma a crucial part of any personal injury case.

If you were injured in an auto accident, have suffered harm as a result of medical malpractice or were hurt by a defective product, you may be entitled to both economic and non-economic damages. In California, you can pursue non-economic damages in most injury lawsuits, though the amount may be subject to limitations, unlike economic damages. Non-economic damages for a medical malpractice lawsuit, for example, are limited to $250,000 under the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA). Though a plaintiff may seek any amount of compensation for medical care and other economic losses, he or she may seek a maximum of $250,000 for non-economic damages.

What are non-economic damages?

The entire purpose of financial compensation, or damages, awarded in a personal injury lawsuit is to help the victim rebuild his or her life to as similar a situation as it was prior to the accident/injury. Economic damages cover all financial losses, such as medical care, lost earnings, future medical treatment, property damage and loss of potential earnings. But what about other injuries that a victim has suffered, those that cannot necessarily be seen with the eye or measured in financial terms? This is where non-economic damages come into the picture.

Non-economic damages, called so because they are not easily quantified in dollars and cents, may be awarded to a plaintiff to compensate him or her for such things as:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Discomfort
  • Anxiety
  • Psychological trauma
  • Psychological damage related to scarring or disfigurement
  • Loss of companionship or consortium (in wrongful death actions)

Although determining and awarding non-economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit can be exceedingly complex, this is an important part of helping a victim truly recover, rebuild and move on. At The McClellan Law Firm, we recognize the importance of recovering maximum compensation in our client's cases, and this includes both economic and non-economic damages. We use our own experience and often involve experts in various fields to accurately determine the worth of a client's case. For non-economic damages, this may include psychologists, psychiatrists and other experts in mental health who can offer insight regarding the true emotional or psychological impact of a physical injury or disability.

It can be difficult to assign a dollar amount to a person's emotional suffering, but this is unfortunately one of our only means of addressing this aspect of an injury. We cannot go back in time and prevent the incident from occurring, but we can hold at-fault parties accountable through the payment of financial compensation. We can pursue economic damages, non-economic damages and even punitive damages to bring them to justice and help a victim start to move on with and rebuild his or her life.

Find out more about your claim and right to compensation by scheduling a free case review with a San Diego personal injury lawyer at our firm. From car accidents to defective medical devices, we can offer insight that applies to your unique situation.