The Daily

The Relationship Between Economic and Non-Economic Damages

A Texas medical malpractice case involving a man’s needless paralysis provides a useful example of the relationship between economic and non-economic damages.

Attorneys argued the hospital violated numerous internal policies by needlessly delaying a critically needed MRI scan and emergency surgery.

The jury found that the hospital was negligent and that the negligence caused the paralysis. This required the jury to evaluate and assess damages for the victim. In cases of this type, there are always two kinds of damages: economic and non-economic.

Economic damages are the financial losses, costs, and expenses caused by an injury. Economic damages normally include lost work time, salary, earnings, and benefits. Business owners might suffer replacement costs for lost time or ability. For injuries that prevent work, these lifetime costs can be significant. Economic damages also include medical and other costs and expenses incurred as a result of the injury – in the past and likely to be incurred in the future. Again, for serious injuries, these costs projected over a lifetime can be very significant – even where the future totals are reduced to present value.

Non-economic damages are the important but necessarily subjective “pain and suffering” damages also taken on by the victim as a result of the injury. Jurors are instructed by the judge on calculating any award of non-economic damages.

Studies of jury verdicts find an indirect but relevant relationship between economic and non-economic damages. Not surprisingly, juries tend to award more non-economic damages where they have been provided sufficient evidence of significant economic damages.

In Texas, a recent ten million dollar plus verdict included the future cost of caring for the paralyzed victim. To be awarded these economic damages, the jury is usually instructed that the costs of the injury and its treatment (past and future) must be “reasonable and necessary”. In a case like this, those costs would necessarily involve medical as well as support care expenses, including modifications to the victim’s home and vehicles and the repairs and maintenance that come with those modifications.

Not surprisingly, the non-economic damage award was also very significant.

Here is the link to the story out of Texas.

Texas Jury Returns $10M+ Medical Malpractice Verdict For Paralyzed Patient, Beating Hospital’s $450K Settlement Offer