Understanding Damages: What Is the Difference Between Economic and Noneconomic Damages?

When injuries occur on the job, understanding the ins and outs of workers' compensation claims becomes paramount. In particular, you need to understand what workers' compensation covers and what it doesn't. This information can help you make important legal decisions about how to approach recovering compensation for workplace injuries.

Economic Damages: Quantifiable Losses

Economic damages refer to the tangible, quantifiable financial losses an individual sustains due to a workplace accident or injury. These typically encompass costs such as medical expenses, loss of wages, and the loss of earning capacity, which can be precisely calculated based on bills, pay stubs, and other financial documentation.

The economic losses associated with a workplace injury can be vast and may include:

  • Medical Expenses: From emergency treatments to long-term therapy, all your healthcare costs related to the injury fall under economic damages.
  • Lost Wages: You may be able to recover some of your lost income from when you were off work recovering from your injuries.
  • Disability Benefits: In cases of long-term injuries resulting in permanent or temporary disability, you may be eligible for additional benefits.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation: If you require training for a new job position or career due to your injury, those costs may be covered through workers' comp supplemental job displacement benefits.
  • Death Benefits: Should a tragedy occur, the deceased's family members might receive compensation for funeral expenses and their lost financial support.

Noneconomic Damages: The Personal Costs

While the cost of medical bills and lost wages can be calculated, putting a number on the pain and suffering or emotional distress one may experience after a workplace injury is more complex. In the context of personal injury and worker's compensation, these intangible costs are considered noneconomic damages.

Unfortunately, noneconomic damages are generally not compensable through workers' compensation benefits. Similarly, neither are punitive damages.

Common examples of noneconomic damages someone may suffer because of a workplace injury include the following:

  • Pain and Suffering: The physical discomfort and mental anguish encountered due to an injury are compensable.
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life: This covers the diminished ability to enjoy the daily activities and hobbies you once did.
  • Emotional Distress: Workplace injuries can lead to conditions like stress, anxiety, and depression, which are recognized as noneconomic damages.
  • Loss of Companionship: For cases involving fatalities, the emotional loss suffered by families is compensable.

The Path to Recovering Compensation

Unfortunately, workers' compensation benefits are not always expansive enough to cover the total cost of your injuries. That said, you may have other options for pursuing compensation for noneconomic damages and other losses not covered by workers' comp.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may have the option to file a third-party personal injury claim. A third-party claim arises when a party outside your employer contributes to your workplace injury, such as a vendor or a manufacturer of defective equipment.

Examples of potentially liable parties often associated with third-party claims include the following:

  • Equipment Manufacturers: The manufacturer could be held liable if an injury was caused by defective or malfunctioning equipment.
  • Property Owners: When an injury occurs due to unsafe conditions on property not owned by your employer, the property owner may be responsible.
  • Contractors and Subcontractors: If these entities fail to maintain a safe work environment, they can be liable for any resulting injuries.
  • Drivers: If your job involves being on the road and a negligent driver injures you, that driver may be liable for your injuries.
  • Vendors and Suppliers: If a vendor or supplier's actions or products cause harm at your workplace, they could be implicated.

In California, you can simultaneously pursue a workers' compensation claim and a third-party claim. Doing so may provide a more complete restitution for your losses. That said, before pursuing a third-party claim, you are strongly encouraged to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney, like ours, at the Law Offices of Wax & Wax.

To learn more about the distinction between economic and noneconomic damages or to discuss your case with a seasoned personal injury lawyer, reach out to our Glendale-based law firm online. We are standing by to help.