What Are Economic Damages?

In a personal injury lawsuit, damages are economic compensation you receive for the losses you have endured. Illinois offers two main types of damages to most personal injury claimants: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are the type of damages that are relatively easy to count and prove, such as medical bills and lost wages.

The “Reasonable and Necessary” Restriction

The “Reasonable and Necessary” Restriction

To qualify for a given amount of economic damages, your expenses must have been “reasonable and necessary.” Insurance companies will question your expenses, and they might refuse to cover extravagant or unnecessary expenses. You might have trouble getting compensation for unconventional medical treatments, such as acupuncture and chiropractic treatment. 

You might also have trouble getting compensation for unnecessary incidental expenses. For example, if you have to spend the night out of town for a doctor’s appointment, it’s okay to bill for the cost of a roadside hotel. A bill from the Hilton, however, might raise questions. 

Medical Expenses

Medical bills are particularly easy to document because your healthcare provider will bill you for them. The only real limitation beyond “reasonable and necessary” is that they must not represent losses that you could have avoided through the exercise of reasonable care. If you suffered a head injury in a motorcycle accident because you neglected to wear a helmet, for example, the insurance company might balk at paying for your medical expenses.

Immediate Medical Expenses

Immediate medical expenses include (but are not necessarily limited to) the following types of expenses:

  • Emergency room care;
  • Lab testing;
  • Medical imaging
  • Surgery expenses;
  • Doctor visits;
  • Prescription and non-prescription medication; and
  • Crutches, wheelchairs, and other medical equipment.

You can also claim reimbursement for travel and incidental expenses, such as parking and travel to out-of-town hospitals and clinics. If your health insurance covered part of these expenses, you cannot recover twice for the same expense.

Rehabilitation Expenses

Will you need long-term rehabilitation for your injuries? If so, you probably qualify for reimbursement. You may need to estimate your future expenses if you do not complete rehabilitation in time for settlement or trial.


As long as you suffered a physical injury, you can qualify for any resulting psychological counseling or treatment that you might need. If you suffer from PTSD from a dog attack, for example, you can collect compensation for any therapy you need to recover from the resulting emotional trauma.  

Lost Earnings

Did you have to take time off work for your injury? If so, you probably qualify for lost earnings compensation. The amount of such compensation can vary widely.

Lost Wages

Lost wages include compensation for missed work days as well as any sick leave or vacation time you used. The rationale for including leave time is that you no longer have this time available in case you need it in the future. Your employer can provide you with the documentation that you need. However, if you are self-employed, things could get trickier.

Diminished Earning Capacity

Will your injury affect your ability to work in the future? Will you have to work part-time or take a less challenging, lower-paying position because of your injuries? Will you be able to return to work at all, or did your injuries force you into premature retirement? 

If any of these considerations apply, you will need to estimate the extent to which your injuries diminished your future earning capacity. This can be difficult, but you need to get it right so that you don’t run out of money in the future. You might need an expert to help you calculate this amount. The younger you are and the more money you made before your injury, the more you can demand.

Incidental Expenses

Do you have children at home who require care even while you are laid up with an injury? If so, you may need to pay to send them to daycare, or you might need to hire a babysitter. You might also need to hire someone to keep the house and cook for you if your injuries prevent you from undertaking these tasks yourself. 

You may qualify for reimbursement for these expenses as long as they are reasonable and necessary. You may also qualify for reimbursement of other economic damages that you cannot easily categorize.

Funeral and Burial Expenses

If you die as a result of your injuries, the personal representative of your probate estate can file a wrongful death claim on behalf of your probate estate. Initially, your funeral and burial expenses will probably come out of your probate estate. A successful wrongful death claim will force the at-fault party to reimburse your estate for them.

Courts often assess part or all of the winning party’s legal fees against the losing party. Such an award will attract particular judicial scrutiny to determine whether the applicable expenses are “reasonable and necessary.”

An Experienced Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help

A skilled Chicago personal injury attorney at Attorneys of Chicago Personal Injury Lawyers can help you gather evidence to help you calculate and prove your economic damages. They can also negotiate your claim with the insurance company and, if necessary, fight for you in court. Most personal injury lawyers offer free initial case consultations. A free case review can give you enough information to decide whether you need to hire a lawyer to pursue your claim. Call us today at (312) 929 2884.