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What are Economic Damages in a Personal Injury Case?

Anytime you are injured in an accident in New York as a result of another party’s negligence or intentional actions, you are entitled to receive damages. Damages, simply put, are the losses that you incur from that incident. However, if you are at fault for an accident or intentional act, you are not entitled to damages.

Non-Economic vs Economic Damages

There are two types of damages that stem from an injury causing event, non-economic and economic. Non-economic damages are more commonly known as pain and suffering. The term pain and suffering refers to the emotional and mental toll an accident has on your life and is largely subjective in nature. This means that the amount of money that a person is entitled to will depend largely on the jury’s personal opinion of what that amount of pain and suffering is worth when converted into dollars and cents.
Economic damages on the other hand, refer to the financial losses that you incur following an injury. There are many types of economic damages that a person suffers following an accident. Economic damages tend to be less subjective in nature and more objective, meaning you can usually assign a monetary amount to them fairly easily.

Types of Economic Damages

There are several types of economic damages that you are entitled to receive following an accident. First, you may have medical bills from an accident and in some cases those bills may be extremely high. You are entitled to receive full compensation from the at-fault party for your medical bills. However, often people have some form of health insurance or car insurance that will cover the majority of their medical bills. If you have an outside source responsible for your medical bills such as an insurance company, you cannot collect from the at-fault party for your medical bills unless you are required to reimburse that outside source. This prevents a personal injury victim from receiving a double recovery for medical bills. But you are still entitled to receive full reimbursement for any co-payments and other medical expenses such as a medical bed or an arm brace, if those items were not covered by insurance.
Another common economic damage is lost wages. Again, you are entitled to receive full reimbursement for your lost wages from the at-fault party. And similar to medical costs, often people have some form of insurance to cover their lost wages. If so, you are entitling to receive only that portion of their lost wages that weren’t reimbursed through your insurance. Also, if you are required to reimburse your insurance carrier, the responsible party will be required to fully reimburse you and you would have to repay whatever your insurance carrier already paid, thus preventing a double recovery.
Finally, we’ll group the remaining types of economic damages into the category of, “out of pocket expenses.” These are any expenses that can reasonably be connected to your accident. For example, you may have had to purchase over the counter medications or hired a person to clean your house. You may even have had to modify your home to put in a handicap accessible ramp. All of these types of economic expenses are fully recoverable. However, sometimes people try and go too far with this. For example, claiming you needed to remodel your backyard patio to make it more handicap accessible may be overdoing it. You want to be careful so as to not push it too far and lose your credibility.

Calculating Future Economic Losses

Sometimes economic losses are permanent in nature requiring ongoing compensation. But a law suit is finite in time and at some point, will need to be resolved. In cases where economic damages are ongoing attorneys will often hire specialists known as economists to figure out the future value of your continuing economic losses and calculate that into present day dollars and include that amount of money in your settlement.

Ramifications of Insurance

Sometimes a person’s economic losses can be astounding. In such cases the amount of compensation that the at-fault party can pay becomes an issue. For most defendants, it is impossible to pay for the damages that they cause because they do not have the money to do so. That’s why people carry insurance. But in New York the minimum amount of insurance you are required to carry on an automobile is $25,000. This won’t be sufficient in most cases. Therefore, the person or entity that causes your accident may play a crucial role in how much compensation you receive because a large judgment is worthless if the person only has a minimum insurance policy.

About the Author

Steven Palermo is the managing partner for Palermo Law, Long Island’s Personal Injury Law Firm. He has been helping people receive compensation for their injuries for over 21 years. He focuses on cases involving car accidents, truck accidents, construction accidents and slip and fall injuries.

His book The Ultimate Guide to Handling New York Car Accident Claims details the ins and outs of a car accident claim in a simple, easy-to-read manner.