Economic vs. Non-Economic Damages in a Car Accident Case


For anyone involved in a car accident, the amount of compensation that they can collect is essential information. While there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for calculating car damages, it’s helpful to know what car accident attorneys consider when estimating the amount of money that would be fair for a full recovery. In this article, we’ll give you an overview of economic and non-economic damages. 

How a Car Crash Affects Your Finances

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you probably already assume that you’re going to need money for your medical treatment and to repair your vehicle. In fact, most insurance companies would be pretty happy if you accepted payments for these things and signed a waiver, but to make a full recovery, there are many more factors. For instance, right at the beginning, you don’t really know how much your medical expenses will be. There’s hospitalization, medication, tests, followups, et cetera. Healing isn’t a linear, consistent process. It requires evaluation, treatment, revaluation, and more treatment. You also may miss time from work. You may have to use personal time that your company isn’t likely to give you back or go without pay. Finally, you may require physical therapy, occupational therapy, or any number of other types of services until you’re feeling fully recovered. All of the costs in this section are economic damages. 

Intangible Car Accident Costs 

Non-economic damages are more difficult to calculate. These very real damages don’t have an exact monetary value assigned to them. For instance, if you’ve been injured, you may experience physical pain. It might be so bad that you have to go on medication for a while. The price of the medicine is covered under the economic costs, but not your pain and suffering. You may also have experienced psychological trauma. If you aren’t able to make a full recovery, and you have to live with an injury, you should be compensated for that lifelong inconvenience. Non-economic damages are an attempt to provide you with monetary compensation for the inconvenience or and difficulty associated with a car accident. 

Punitive Damages in Missouri

The state of Missouri does allow punitive damages in certain situations, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will factor into your settlement or jury award. Punitive damages are meant to punish the negligent party for wanton or egregious behavior. In car accidents, punitive damages often stem from reckless or criminal behavior, such as driving on a revoked license, drunk driving, operating a vehicle far in excess of the speed limit, running from the police, etc. Punitive damages are awarded in addition to economic and non-economic damages and they are capped at $500,000 or five times the settlement amount.

How an Attorney Views Your Claim

When you call your insurance company to make a claim, they’re motivated to settle your case quickly. They’ll make you an offer for your medical bills and property damage and encourage you to take it. But as you’ve seen, there’s a lot involved in calculating damage recoveries. Chances are that their offer is inadequate. When a personal injury attorney reviews your case, they look at the big picture and determine what you’ll need to make a full recovery. That means an examination of your medical records, crash reports, vehicle damage, etc. If you settle early, you can’t get additional compensation if the money runs out, so talk to a car accident lawyer before your consider a claim. 


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