South Carolina recognizes two primary classifications of compensation for personal injury–economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are easily counted expenses such as lost wages and medical bills. Non-economic damages compensate personal injury victims for intangible psychological harms such as pain and suffering. A third category of damages, punitive damages, is designed to punish the defendant rather than to compensate the victim.
The South Carolina Noneconomic Damages Awards Act of 2005 defines South Carolina’s approach to noneconomic damages. This statute lists noneconomic damages as “pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of society and companionship, loss of consortium, injury to reputation, humiliation, other nonpecuniary damages…”
Types of Non-Economic Damages
Following is a partial list of the different types of non-economic damages that South Carolina courts frequently award.
Pain and Suffering
‘Pain and suffering’ refers to the overall suffering you endure because of your injuries. Some forms of pain and suffering are best classified as pain—the every-breath agony of broken ribs, for example.
Other forms you might best classify as suffering-–respiratory distress, for example, or the confinement of spending time in traction.
Suffering an injury can render certain routine tasks, such as cleaning your house, extremely difficult. You might not even be able to perform these tasks without someone else’s help.
Imagine your doctor telling you that you will never walk again. Impairment might also mean something smaller, such as the inability to use your right thumb. Either way, this is impairment, and paying your medical bills will not reimburse you for the loss you suffer.
Disfigurement might occur, for example, if you suffer extensive facial scarring, or if your injuries cause you to suffer a noticeable hernia.
Mental Anguish/Emotional Distress
Mental anguish and emotional distress are closely related. They refer to mental and emotional suffering caused by a personal injury.
Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium is a claim that your spouse files, not you. Damages compensate your spouse for their own losses that arose from your injury. You might find it difficult, for example, to engage in intimacy or sexual relations with your spouse.
Injury to Reputation
Injury to reputation is a form of damages that normally arises in the content of a defamation claim (slander or libel). Although strictly speaking, defamation is a personal injury claim, most personal injury lawyers do not handle this type of claim.
‘Humiliation’ speaks for itself. Imagine, for example, the emotional consequences of having to hire someone else to bathe and dress you. You can also seek humiliation damages in a defamation claim.
“Other Nonpecuniary Damages”
South Carolina courts will award you damages for any noneconomic damages you suffer, even if they are not listed above. ‘Loss of enjoyment of life’ (referring to loss of ability to engage in hobbies and pastimes such as exercise) is a common element of non-economic damages, for example.
Wrongful Death Claims
Wrongful death claims offer three types of damages to survivors that qualify as non-economic damages: loss of the victim’s experience, knowledge, and judgment; loss of the victim’s care, companionship, and protection; and pain and suffering experienced by the surviving family members.
Calculating Non-Economic Damages
Calculating non-economic damages can be difficult because of their inherently subjective nature. Is your pain worth $100, for example, or is it worth $100,000? There is no universally accepted means of evaluating these damages, but two common ways are the multiplier method and the per diem method.
Since there is a degree of subjectivity involved in calculating non-economic damages, the quality of your legal representation could play a key role in determining your claim’s value.
Negotiating Non-Economic Damages
Most personal injury cases end at the settlement table, not in court. When you are negotiating nebulous elements of personal injury compensation, such as mental anguish, bargaining takes place under the shadow of how much money the parties believe a court will award if the case goes to trial.
Sometimes the parties cannot agree on how much a court might award. In such cases, the defendant might stubbornly refuse to bargain past a certain point. Such a stalemate is more likely to happen in the case of non-economic damages than in the case of the more easily calculated economic damages.
When it happens, sometimes the best approach is to file a lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit doesn’t render a trial inevitable, because you can always settle a personal injury claim before trial. Filing a lawsuit will, however, give you access to the pretrial discovery process, which can yield enough new evidence to tilt the playing field in favor of you or the defendant.
If you can use pretrial discovery to gather enough favorable evidence, you can compel a favorable settlement.
If You’re Claiming Non-Economic Damages, You Probably Need a Rock Hill Personal Injury Lawyer
Non-economic damages amount to more than half of the total value of a typical personal injury claim. Due to their inherently ambiguous nature, however, they are difficult to calculate and prove.
Opposing parties, especially insurance adjusters, can drastically undervalue your claim without you even realizing it. A skilled Rock Hill personal injury lawyer at Elrod Pope Accident & Injury Attorneys can significantly increase the amount of non-economic damages you receive. Contact us today online or you can call (803)-324-7574.