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Assessing Damages in Personal Injury Cases: Economic and Non-Economic Factors

July 14, 2023Articles

Personal injury claims help injury victims to recover their economic losses plus compensation for their pain and suffering after an accident or injury caused by someone else. Injuries happen in many ways, but when one party’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional wrongdoing causes serious injury to another, the injury victim deserves compensation—typically paid through the at-fault party’s liability insurance. Only when the insurance company denies a valid claim does the case progress to civil court litigation—a tort law case.

Navigating a personal injury case requires investigating the circumstances of the injury, identifying the party at fault, proving liability, and assessing the victim’s damages. “Damages” in personal injury cases are losses experienced by injury victims as a direct result of the injury. Assessing a victim’s damages is a critical factor in personal injury cases. An experienced personal injury attorney understands how to identify and assess every loss an injury victim experiences in order to maximize the amount of compensation for damages they recover.

Common Personal Injury Claims

When someone else fails to take reasonable measures to prevent injury and a serious injury occurs with significant damages, the victim can make a personal injury claim to recover their losses related to the injury. The most common personal injury claims involve the following:

  • Car accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Workplace injuries
  • Slip-and-fall
  • Defective product injuries
  • Medical malpractice injuries
  • Dog bites

If any of the above cause a victim to experience significant damages, they can recover their losses through a personal injury claim if someone else’s actions or careless negligence directly caused the injury.

Proving Liability in Order to Claim Damages

Before an injury victim can make a claim for damages against a party at fault for their injury, they must first prove the defendant’s liability through a preponderance of the evidence. Proving liability in personal injury claims requires demonstrating the following points:

  • That the party at fault for the injury owed a duty of care to take reasonable measures to prevent injuries, such as a driver’s duty to follow traffic laws or a motel owner’s duty to repair a broken step
  • That the at-fault party failed in this duty of care by acting negligently or through reckless behavior or purposeful wrongdoing
  • That the breach of duty directly caused injury to the plaintiff
  • That the injury victim suffered significant economic and non-economic damages due to the injury

Once the evidence gathered in a case clearly meets the burden of proof of liability, most insurance companies offer a settlement based on an attorney’s assessment of the victim’s damages. If an insurance company attempts to deny or significantly undervalue a claim, the victim and their attorney can choose to pursue damages in court through a personal injury lawsuit.

Two Types of Damages in Personal Injury Cases

When a person experiences a preventable injury due to someone else’s failure to take reasonable measures to prevent it, the party who caused the harm is responsible for the victim’s damages. Civil courts consider two types of damages, economic and non-economic. Economic damages may be easier to calculate, but non-economic damages are often more devastating to the victim than economic damages; therefore, they deserve compensation. Examples of common economic damages in personal injury cases include:

  • Medical expenses related to the injury
  • Any anticipated future medical expenses related to the injury
  • Lost wages
  • Future lost wages
  • Diminished earning capacity if an injury victim suffered a disability


Economic damages are tangible and easy to calculate. They are also easy damages to prove in insurance claims or in court through the victim’s medical bills, invoices, medical reports, and expert testimony detailing future expenses expected in the victim’s type of injury.

Non-economic damages are intangible and more difficult to calculate and prove than economic damages. Non-economic damages may include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Other intangible damages that might apply in the case such as trauma, mental anguish, PTSD, disfigurement, loss of limb, diminished life quality, loss of pleasure in life, or loss of consortium (the loss of a fulfilling personal relationship).

New Haven injury attorneys typically use court-approved methods for assessing non-economic damages. For example, one method relies on assessing the cost of the victim’s medical treatments to determine pain and suffering since costly medical care would indicate a great deal of pain related to the injury. Another method is to calculate an amount of compensation per diem or a monetary amount per each day a victim suffers pain related to the injury.

How Do Attorneys Calculate Damages?

When an attorney assesses damages in a personal injury case, they add up all of the economic and non-economic damages to arrive at sums for each category. Amounts vary based on the attorney’s assessment of the following factors:

  • The cause of the accident
  • The severity of injuries
  • The impact of the injury on employment
  • Whether or not the injury has caused permanent disability or impairment
  • If there was a fatality
  • If there were other accident-related expenses incurred by the victim
  • Whether the claim is settled out of court through the appropriate insurance company or requires a lawsuit in court

It takes a skilled and experienced attorney to recognize all available damages an injury victim can claim in order to maximize the amount of a victim’s recovery. Because most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, they only get paid if they secure the victim’s compensation, in which case they take a percentage. This is a compelling factor for an attorney to maximize the amount of damages they can claim for a client.

What are Punitive Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

Some states, including Connecticut, allow victims of personal injury cases to claim punitive damages. Unlike economic and non-economic damages which serve to compensate the victim for losses related to their injury, punitive damages serve as a punishment to the party at fault for the injury as well as a deterrent to discourage repeats of the behavior. Like most states, Connecticut only allows punitive damages in personal injury lawsuits if the defendant’s behavior went beyond simple negligence and caused an injury due to particularly egregious behavior such as intentional wrongdoing that put others at extreme risk.

Each state applies caps to punitive damage awards and standards may vary as to how each state assesses and applies punitive damages.

The Importance of An Accurate Assessment of Damages

A skilled attorney can diligently investigate all aspects of a client’s injury to identify and assess the monetary value of their damages. This protects the rights and best interests of injury victims.