Amount to be Recovered Limited, Despite Severity of Loss
When an injury victim receives compensation to reimburse them for their accident-related losses, this compensation is often in the form of economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages, also known as special damages, are intended to reimburse the victim for their tangible expenses, including past and future medical expenses, loss of past and future income, and the costs associated with repairing or replacing property. Economic damages typically involve quantifiable losses, proven through evidence like medical bills, wage forms, and property damage estimates.
Non-economic, or general damages represent the monetary value assigned to the harmful effects that the accident had upon the life of the injured person, such as:
- Loss of enjoyment of life – the pleasure that is derived from life, separate and apart from earnings.
- Loss of consortium – the ability to participate fully in the physical pleasures of a relationship or marriage.
- Pain and suffering – living life in some degree of daily pain, either chronic or acute.
- Mental anguish – anxiety and shame resulting from being able to function independently only to be reduced to depending upon others.
- Physical impairment or disfigurement – physiological conditions that can lead to embarrassment and avoidance of certain activities and situations.
After a catastrophic injury, such as a traumatic brain injury or spinal damage, some of the most severe losses are often non-economic. For those who sustained serious injury or disability due to an accident, their ability to return to the lifestyle they previously enjoyed may be severely limited or impossible. These limitations can lead to less social contact, increased stress, and a loss in the overall joy of living.
Calculating Non-Economic Damages
Although the value of economic damages is relatively easy to calculate simply by adding up the injured party’s medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and other costs directly arising from the accident, the same is not true when it comes to quantifying non-economic damages. Since there is no direct economic loss and no evidence of bills or receipts for out-of-pocket expenses related to the accident on which to base the award, it can be difficult to assign a monetary value to non-economic losses.
As a result, some states have assigned a cap on the amount of non-economic damages that can be awarded in personal injury cases. In Colorado, state law limits recoverable noneconomic damages at $468,010, which the court can increase to a maximum of $936,030, as long as clear and convincing evidence justifies the increase.
Some insurance companies and Colorado personal injury attorneys use a somewhat standardized formula to calculate non-economic damages: they simply multiply the amount of economic damages by four for moderately serious injuries, and might multiply it by as much as 10 for extensive, long-term, or permanent injuries. Basically, the more pain, the higher the multiplier.
Sometimes retaining an expert can greatly increase the value of a claim for non-economic damages, since these professionals can offer opinion testimony regarding the amount of money that these somewhat subjective, abstract damages are actually worth. Having an experienced personal injury attorney who is accustomed to calculating non-economic damages in accident cases can generally help maximize the award as well.
If you are looking for competent legal advice regarding your non-economic damages relating to your personal injury case, contact Colorado accident attorney Dan Rosen at (303) 454-8000 for a free consultation.