The Breakdown: Economic vs. Non-Economic Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim

Imagine navigating the emotional whirlwind of losing a loved one; then comes the complexities of a wrongful death claim. Compensations in these claims are categorized into economic and non-economic damages, but what do they really mean?

Before diving into legal nuances, it’s crucial to grasp the core concepts surrounding these two pillars of wrongful death compensation. Economic damages cover tangible losses, while non-economic damages delve into the intangible, more personal, and emotional aftermath of the loss.

In this article, we'll unpack these categories, explore how they're calculated, and why choosing an experienced wrongful death attorney can make all the difference. Discovering the ins and outs of wrongful death claims is an imperative step for those seeking justice and closure in the face of tragedy.

Table of Contents

Economic Damages and Non-Economic Damages: Overview

Understanding Economic Damages

Understanding Non-Economic Damages

Factors to Consider When Calculating Damages

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Overview: The Differences Between Economic Damages and Non-Economic Damages

When navigating the aftermath of a wrongful death, claimants typically encounter two broad categories of compensation - economic damages and non-economic damages. These are critical in quantifying the level of redress due to the bereaved.

Economic Damages

These encompass verifiable monetary losses.

Common Examples of Economic Damages Include: 

  • Medical expenses incurred prior to death.
  • Loss of the deceased's expected earnings.
  • Costs related to funeral and burial services.
  • Loss of benefits (e.g., pension, medical coverage, etc.).

Non-Economic Damages

These address the more abstract, yet profoundly impactful, consequences of a loss.

Common Examples of Non-Economic Damages Include:

  • Emotional distress and mental anguish of survivors.
  • Loss of companionship (consortium) and love.
  • Decreased quality of life for survivors.
  • Pain and suffering the deceased may have endured.

Both types of damages play a fundamental role in calculating fair compensation. While economic damages are quantifiable and often documented with bills and receipts, non-economic damages demand a more nuanced approach, with the exact amounts more challenging to specify. It's imperative for an experienced wrongful death attorney to effectively argue for appropriate non-economic damages in court or settlements. 



Understanding Economic Damages

When a family faces the heart-wrenching experience of a wrongful death, the reality of economic repercussions quickly becomes apparent.

The term "economic damages" refers to the calculable financial losses that arise due to the untimely passing of a loved one. These damages play a crucial role in wrongful death claims, as they provide a tangible measure of the financial impact on the surviving family members.

Understanding these damages isn't just about putting a dollar figure on life. It's about ensuring that the financial burdens caused by the loss don't add unmanageable stress to the emotional weight the family is already carrying.

Economic damages can cover a wide range of costs and losses, from immediate ones like medical bills and funeral expenses to ongoing ones like the loss of income the deceased would have provided over a lifetime.

In a wrongful death suit, it's essential not only to acknowledge these costs but also to quantify them accurately. This process allows for fair compensation that upholds the value of the life lost and supports the surviving family members.

Navigating through the complexity of these economic losses often requires the expertise of professionals. A skilled personal injury lawyer or wrongful death attorney will typically work with economists and financial experts to project and calculate future losses, such as potential earnings, benefits, and even the contribution of household services that the deceased would have provided.

Examples of Economic Damages

The scope of economic damages can be extensive and varies greatly from one wrongful death claim to another. Here are some of the most common examples:

Medical Bills: This includes charges for any medical care the deceased required as a result of the injury that led to their death. It encompasses everything from emergency services to ongoing medical treatment and hospital stays.

Funeral and Burial Expenses: The costs of laying a loved one to rest can be significant. These expenses are considered recoverable economic damages.

Lost Wages and Benefits: This covers the income the deceased would have earned had they lived, along with any associated benefits, such as health insurance or retirement contributions.

Loss of Inheritance: Survivors can be compensated for the loss of the financial legacy they would have received if not for the premature death.

Value of Services: If the deceased provided services that must now be replaced, such as child care, home maintenance, or other contributions, these are included as recoverable costs.

Loss of Prospective Net Accumulation: This is an estimate of what the deceased would have saved and left as an estate had they lived their expected lifespan.

Punitive Damages: Although not strictly economic in nature, punitive damages are sometimes included. These are meant to punish the wrongdoer for particularly egregious conduct and are not tied to a specific financial loss.

When compiling evidence for economic damages, it's common to present tables and lists that detail each type of damage, their individual costs, and the total claim amount.

An experienced personal injury attorney will help collect this end evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and possibly bring in financial experts to project long-term impacts.

It's important to remember that while these damages are typically more straightforward to calculate than non-economic damages, they still require careful documentation and legal expertise to secure fair compensation.

After all, while no sum of money can replace a lost loved family member, economic damages serve as a vital support to families navigating the challenging road ahead.



Understanding Non-Economic Damages

While navigating the aftermath of a wrongful death, the term "non-economic damages" often surfaces. But what does this mean?

In contrast to economic losses, which are quantifiable and manifest as out-of-pocket expenses, non-economic damages are far less tangible. They comprise the subjective, non-monetary consequences of wrongful death that inevitably impact survivors' lives.

These are losses that can't be neatly summarized by a receipt or a balance sheet, yet they represent a profound aspect of the human experience crippled by grief and loss.

This category acknowledges that some damages defy exact measurements, such as the agony of losing a loved one or the loss of companionship. The law attempts to quantify these intangible aspects to offer some semblance of justice to the bereaved, recognizing the multifaceted toll a wrongful passing extract - a toll encompassing the emotional, psychological, and overall quality of life depreciation that money cannot directly replace.

Securing fair compensation for these damages often requires the expertise of a seasoned personal injury attorney or wrongful death lawyer, someone who understands the depth of the loss and can articulate its value in legal terms.

Examples of Non-Economic Damages

When a wrongful death claim is underway, several non-economic damage types may come into the spotlight. Below are key examples:

  • Emotional Distress: The mental suffering that comes from the loss of a loved one, such as anxiety, depression, and trauma.
  • Pain and Suffering: If the deceased experienced significant pain before their passing, compensation for their suffering may be included as damages.
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life: The decreased quality of life for those left behind who can no longer share life's experiences with the deceased.
  • Loss of Guidance and Nurturing: Particularly relevant when a parent dies, this acknowledges the void left in their children's lives.
  • Mental Anguish: The psychological repercussions of grief, including severe distress, fright, and horror.
  • Reputation Damage: In some cases, if the deceased's death affected their reputation, which then impacted the family, this may be considered.

Obtaining just compensation for non-economic damages can be a complex process.

Insurance companies often challenge these claims, which is why having a wrongful death attorney or personal injury lawyer with a knack for navigating wrongful death lawsuits is essential.

They can argue effectively for fair compensation that represents the profound human loss, not just the financial devastation wrought by wrongful deaths.

Factors to Consider When Calculating Damages

When delving into the complexities of a wrongful death claim, it is crucial to understand the factors that influence the calculation of damages. Calculating damages in a wrongful death lawsuit involves a detailed analysis of both economic and non-economic losses. Below are key factors that come into play:

  • Medical Expenses: These encompass the medical bills incurred as a result of the deceased's final illness or injury. This includes any medical care, treatments, and hospitalization costs that piled up from the date of the liable incident to the date of passing.
  • Loss of Income: This refers to the potential future earnings that the decedent would have brought to their family had they lived. Calculations often consider the deceased's earning history, potential for advancement, and overall career longevity.
  • Funeral Costs: Fairly straightforward, these are the costs associated with burying or cremating the deceased. They can include everything from the funeral service to the burial plot and headstone.
  • Loss of Benefits: This looks at the loss of any benefits the deceased may have provided to their dependents, such as health insurance, pension plans, and social security benefits.
  • Punitive Damages: In cases where the defendant’s conduct was especially harmful or egregious, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar conduct in the future.

Role of State Laws and Limitations

The pursuit of justice through a wrongful death claim is profoundly influenced by the jurisdiction in which the lawsuit is filed. State laws have the final say in the types and amounts of damages that can be awarded to claimants. Here's how state laws affect wrongful death claims:

  • Caps on Damages: Many states have imposed statutory limits on the amount of compensatory damages, especially for non-economic losses. Some states specify limits for specific types of non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering or loss of consortium, while others impose a blanket cap. 
  • Statutes of Limitations: Each state has established deadlines (statutes of limitations) for when a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed. Failing to file within this time frame can result in the loss of the right to recover damages. 
  • Types of Recoverable Damages: State laws dictate which damages are recoverable in a wrongful death suit. While some states allow the recovery of punitive damages, others do not. Additionally, the relationship of the survivor to the deceased can influence the damages that are recoverable.
  • Comparative Negligence: In states with comparative negligence laws, the damages may be reduced if the deceased is found to be partly at fault for the incident that led to their death.

Role of Skilled Attorneys

Navigating the aftermath of a wrongful death is fraught with not only emotional turmoil but also legal complexities. A knowledgeable wrongful death attorney plays a critical role in ensuring that the survivors receive fair and just compensation. Skilled attorneys contribute in several ways:

  • Case Assessment: Personal injury lawyers have the experience to accurately assess the value of a claim, taking into consideration the myriad factors that affect both economic and non-economic damages.
  • Evidence Collection: An experienced attorney will gather comprehensive evidence to support the claim, including medical records, expert testimony, and witness statements.
  • Negotiations: Wrongful death attorneys are adept at negotiating with insurance companies, who often aim to minimize payouts. A seasoned lawyer will work to ensure that any settlement offer adequately compensates the family for their losses.
  • Legal Advocacy: In the event that a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiation, an experienced wrongful death attorney can litigate the case, advocating for the victim's family in court to secure fair compensation.
  • Understanding State Specifics: A personal injury lawyer will be up-to-date with the laws specific to the state where the claim is being filed and can navigate state limitations and legal requirements with proficiency.

A wrongful death lawsuit is a complex and emotional process. Calculating the full extent of damages, understanding state laws and limitations, and the role of an experienced attorney are vital components in seeking fair compensation for the profound losses suffered.



Contact the Experienced Attorneys at The Law Offices of Julian Lewis Sanders & Associates

If you're grappling with the aftermath of a wrongful death incident, finding the right legal support is crucial. At The Law Offices of Julian Lewis Sanders & Associates, you'll find experienced attorneys who are deeply committed to helping you navigate through these tough times.

Here's why you should consider reaching out:

  • Empathetic Counsel: You’ll receive compassionate guidance tailored to your unique situation.
  • Skilled Representation: Our attorneys have a sound track record in wrongful death claims.
  • Focus on Fair Compensation: We strive to ensure you receive both the economic and non-economic damages you deserve.

Services Offered:

  • Recovery of medical expenses incurred before the wrongful death
  • Seeking damages for emotional distress and mental anguish
  • Pursuing punitive damages where applicable
  • ... and more.

Don’t face insurance companies alone. Let us provide the dedicated and assertive representation you need to secure the compensation you deserve. Contact our team of professionals below!


Posted by Julian Lewis Sanders

At The Law Offices of Julian Lewis Sanders & Associates, we understand the gravity of personal injury situations - it's our priority. Committed to aiding you in your time of need, we specialize in listening to your story, discerning your individual needs, and swiftly executing strategic actions to secure the compensation you deserve. Based in Georgia, our legal team comprises experienced personal injury attorneys dedicated to delivering optimal service tailored to your unique circumstances.

July 2nd, 2024