What is My Injury Claim Worth? Understanding “Quality of Life” or Non-Economic Damages

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A person  injured by another’s negligence has the right to recover both the economic losses (lost earningsJustice photo, medical bills etc.) and “non-economic damages” under Idaho law.  We have discussed these issues and some of the complexities involved in some earlier posts like this one about lost income and this one about medical bills.  Although there are some complexities, the idea of economic loss is pretty easy to understand. 

For many, maybe most, people the harder thing to get their brain around is this idea of non-economic damages.

In fact, I have always found the term non-economic damages a bit of lawyer-talk “gobbeldy-gook.”  This part of a claim value, which is also called the “general damages”,  in my view is better thought of as “quality of life” compensation or  the “make up for” damages

What Does This Quality of Life Compensation Represent

This compensation is about more than merely pain and suffering.  It is about a person’s life.  Juries (and lawyers and insurance companies truth be told) often find it difficult to place a dollar value on these quality of life damages.  Such items are part of a person’s internal, subjective experience and there is no way to “verify” these losses.   They do include compensation for personal physical discomfort (pain) as well as for emotional worry, fear, humiliation or concern (suffering).  But such quality of life damages can include much more. Things like the inability to engage in a physical activity (can you play with your kids or walk up the stairs) or damage to reputation, the experience of disgrace, a physical mutilation or deformity, sterility, loss of an organ, the loss of enjoyment of living, a loss of companionship by the death of a loved one, loss of affection and many, many other intangible things are all part of these quality of life damages.

This part of a personal  injury claim can be particularly important for a personal injury claimant who does not earn a living outside of the home like children, retired people, or a homemaker. 

Things The Jury or Insurance Company Looks at When Evaluating Quality of Life Damages

A wide range of variables must be considered when trying to determine an appropriate compensatory amount.  Experience has shown us that it is a very complicated question that has to be evaluated on a case by case basis because there are many factors that influence the end result.  Not all of the things that DO influence a value evaluation SHOULD influence the evaluation.  But among the factors that we have seen that influence a decision-maker’s view of the appropriate amount of compensation are:

  •        The Injured Person’s Age
  •        Effort’s made to Minimize (“Mitigate”) Any Losses
  •        Educational Background
  •        Work History
  •        Personality
  •        Geographic Location
  •        Whether Liability is Clear or Subject to Battle
  •        Comparative fault
  •        Severity of Injuries
  •        Expected Future Consequences of the Injury
  •        The Nature of the Bad Guy’s Act (i.e Drunk Driver or Momentarily inattentive)
  •        Socio-Economic Status or Wealth of the Parties
  •        Witness testimony
  •        The presence or absence of insurance
  •        Make-up of the jury
  •        Appearance of the Injured Person

Quality of Life Damages Provide Compensation Not Punishment

Injury accidents change people’s lives in many ways.   Quality of life damages try to make up for those changes.  For example, one spouse’s physical and emotional injuries may place an otherwise solid marriage under huge tensions and create conflicts where none were.    Parents whose child is killed because of the recklessness or negligence of another child funeralfind their live torn asunder and face lasting consequences on their own relationship because of the death.  While such losses in one sense are unquantifiable, the award is not about punishing the wrong doer.  Instead the award is about compensating the person suffering the loss.  Difficult to measure quality of life damages should not be confused with punishing or punitive damages.

There is No Formula

In no area of evaluating an injury claim is a professional understanding more important than in dealing with these quality of life issues.  Particularly for people who are severely injured, an individualized assessment by a top quality personal injury attorney who is committed to helping you is imperative.  The insurance company for the person who hurt you or a family member is not your good neighbor, on your side or holding you in good hands.  We are happy to provide a free initial consultation about your Idaho personal injury or accident claim.

Just call us at (208) 386-9119.

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