What Are Non-Economic Damages?

Illinois courts typically award personal injury claimants two types of damages. Economic damages, for one, are relatively easy to calculate and prove. These include things like lost wages and medical bills. Non-economic damages, by contrast, are more nebulous.

They include intangible losses such as pain and suffering as well as mental anguish. As a result, they are trickier to prove and calculate. In many cases, however, they amount to well over half the total value of a personal injury claim.

Types of Non-Economic Damages

Types of Non-Economic Damages

The following types of non-economic damages are common among personal injury claimants.

Pain and Suffering

The term “pain and suffering” refers to the physical pain and associated discomfort and anguish that accompanies a physical injury. It does not include, for example, purely psychological distress. Courts typically calculate pain and suffering damages in one of two ways:

  • The per diem basis: The judge will set a daily amount of compensation for pain and suffering and then multiply that amount by the number of days that you endured the pain and suffering. Example: [$500/day] x [182 days] = $91,000.
  • Alternatively, the court or the parties might use the multiplier method. The multiplier is typically a whole number between one and five. To calculate damages, the multiplier is multiplied by total medical expenses to arrive at an amount for pain and suffering damages. Example: [4] x [$29,000] = $116,00. 

Pain and suffering damages are added to other types of damage to arrive at the total recovery.  

Mental Anguish and Emotional Distress

Mental anguish damages compensate you for depression, generalized anxiety, humiliation, shock, and other forms of emotional anguish. Imagine, for example, that a dog attacked you and left you with permanent anxiety and a lifelong fear of dogs. Except in intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, you must suffer a physical injury to collect these damages. Your distress need not arise directly from your physical injuries to qualify for these damages. 


Imagine you suffer extensive facial scarring as a result of burns suffered during a traffic accident. The pain and suffering would be quite substantial, entitling you to a lot of money in associated damages.

Consider, however, how your scarring and facial disfigurement might affect your social life. If you are relatively young, for example, will it affect your marriage prospects? Will it affect your employment prospects? Will it result in social ostracism? All of these consequences can add up to be more devastating than pain and suffering damages can account for. That is why Cook County Courts allow some claimants to collect for disfigurement.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life

How do you spend your free time? Consider the following types of activities:

  • Do you like to play golf? 
  • Do you like to play billiards with friends? 
  • Play the guitar? 
  • Have brunch with your spouse? 
  • Play with the dog? 
  • Lift weights?

A serious injury can affect your ability to participate in or enjoy all of these types of things, leaving you with little to do but suffer. In particular, chronic pain can inhibit your ability to enjoy any activity. If this is the case, you might consider claiming damages for loss of enjoyment of life.

One way to prove loss of enjoyment of life is to prove the nature of your injuries and to have an expert testify on how they limit your activities. You might also need to prove what kinds of activities you used to participate in. You can’t recover from the loss of your ability to enjoy rock climbing, for example, if you never participated in rock climbing in the first place.

Loss of Consortium

Loss of consortium is unique in that if you suffer an injury, it is your spouse, not you, who files the claim and receives the money. Even if your spouse was not injured, they might lose something if you suffer a serious injury -– namely, your support, companionship, society, and sexual relations. Your spouse is entitled to reimbursement for these losses. Enforcing them in court, however, could result in some intrusive questions from the defense attorney.

Caps on Non-Economic Damages

Some states place caps on non-economic damages. Illinois once enforced caps on non-economic damages, but a court overturned them in 2010. Illinois’s only applicable cap on non-economic damages is a $250,000 cap in medical malpractice claims against the federal government. 

Comparative Fault

Under the Illinois comparative fault statute, you can lose a portion of your damages if you were partly at fault for the accident. You will lose 30% of all of your damages, including non-economic damages, for example, if the accident was 30% your fault. If you were at least 51% to blame, you will receive nothing.

You May Need a Persuasive Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer To Help You

Due to the ambiguous nature of non-economic damages, winning a large award requires strong persuasive skills. You could “win” $100 in non-economic damages, for example, or you could win $100,000. The difference could boil down to your lawyer’s skill at persuasion. If your claim is significant, consider hiring a personal injury lawyer.

Contact Attorneys of Chicago Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free initial consultation at (312) 929 2884.