What is the difference between economic and noneconomic compensatory damages?
There are two types of compensatory damages: economic and noneconomic.
Economic compensatory damages
This type of compensatory damage repays monetary losses the plaintiff suffered directly caused by the tort. Economic damages, or “special damages,” include:
- Loss of earnings
- Property damage
- Medical expenses
- Funeral and burial expenses
These damages are considered as “objectively verifiable” by many courts since economic damages are reflected in quantifiable expenses incurred, like receipts, doctor’s bills (if the plaintiff is in physical pain), and other forms of documentation.
Noneconomic compensatory damages
These damages seek to cover intangible, nonmonetary losses that occurred as a result of the tortious conduct of another party. Noneconomic damages, or “general damages,” are subjective and are not quantifiable by receipts, bills, and other documentation. Noneconomic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Impairment of quality of life
Because noneconomic damages are subjective, they are sometimes capped by state statutes. These statutes aim to neutralize alleged jury bias against the defendant and emotional sympathy for the plaintiff. These caps vary from state to state, so it’s important for litigators to research a state’s statutory code – especially in professional negligence cases.