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Noneconomic Damages

What are Non Economic Damages?

In certain personal injury lawsuits, damages for pain and suffering refer to the compensation parties may receive for the physical pain and mental anguish they suffer because of the injury. Plaintiffs may receive damages as compensatory damages in some jurisdictions. Particularly, they are non-economic damages as opposed to economic damages (or general damages rather than special damages). Among other noneconomic damages, there is loss of consortium and loss of enjoyment of life.


A judge or jury will not use one set standard when calculating pain and suffering awards. Plaintiffs often show evidence of physical pain and emotional trauma and a judge or jury then decides on a reasonable amount of money for these damages. It should be noted, however, that parties often employ the multiplier method to calculate pain and suffering losses. Plaintiffs and attorneys use this method to multiply economic damages by a number between 1 and 5. The multiplier increases in proportion to the severity of the injuries and suffering.


The money a person receives as a result of a pain and suffering award is not taxable in most states, nor is it taxable on a federal level. A physical injury or illness is required in order for this rule to apply. A plaintiff's award of damages for emotional distress could be taxable.


Pain And Suffering Damages Calculation 

Pain And Suffering Damages Calculation

The amount of pain and suffering awarded in personal injury cases where non-economic losses are compensated does not have a fixed value. A victim or injured person must usually prove that they suffered physical injuries or mental pain. It is then up to the judge or jury to decide what is a reasonable dollar amount for pain and suffering damages.


Injured persons/injury victims receive pain and suffering damages for their subjective losses, which are often supported by objective evidence. Examples include medical records/medical bills showing the extent of medical treatment a person received, x-rays, photos of property damage and physical injuries evidencing the severity of the injury, comprehensive doctors’ and therapists’ notes, before and after videos showing the plaintiff’s activity level, social media posts, texts, and emails, a testimony of friends, co-workers, and family members, evidence of lost work time, and expert testimony regarding medical suffering, bodily injury and/or brain injury, lost earning capacity, and anything else that could be relevant.

The damages for pain and suffering in many states are capped. In the case of a pain and suffering cap, a plaintiff cannot receive an award above that cap. 

Emotional Distress

Emotional Distress 

In addition to pain and suffering damages, emotional distress is included. An emotional distress is a mental impairment resulting from an accident or injury. An example of emotional distress is fear, anxiety, crying, lack of sleep, depression, and humiliation.

Whether or not a claimant suffers physical injury, they can still receive money for pain and suffering. The plaintiff is often well advised to receive mental health counseling in these cases, however.


Counselors' testimony is particularly relevant when there are significant subjective symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that cannot be substantiated with objective tests.

Multiplier Method

Multiplier Method

A multiplier method is one way to calculate pain and suffering claims used by parties (e.g., attorneys, plaintiffs, and insurers/insurers). Using this method, the total economic damages in the case are added up. Multiplying that amount by a certain number (generally 1 to 5 is used, with 3 being the most common).


Depending on how severe an injury is, a multiplier will be applied. In cases with mild injuries, people use a low multiplier (like 1 or 2) and in cases with severe injuries, a higher multiplier (like 4 or 5). In cases of lifelong medical care, severe types of pain, lost wages due to disability, broken bones, reduced quality of life, and severe injuries, a higher multiplier may be used.

Pain and suffering are often calculated using the multiplier method and the pier diem method. A specific dollar amount is calculated for each day in which a plaintiff experiences pain and suffering because of an accident by lawyers, plaintiffs, and an insurance company. An injured person's daily earnings before the accident are often used to calculate the daily rate.


The plaintiff may claim $4,200 (or 14 x $300) in pain and suffering damages if, for example, before the injury he earned $300 per day.

Taxation Rules

Taxation Rules 

State and federal tax laws generally do not impose taxes on the money a plaintiff receives from a personal injury case. Non-economic damages are not taxed by state or federal laws. It is generally accepted that this rule applies to cases where the plaintiff suffers physical injury or sickness.


The law says that a party's damages award may be taxable if he or she suffers emotional distress (without physical injury).

California Law

California Law 

In general, California's laws on pain and suffering damages are quite similar to those described above.

In a personal injury case, a plaintiff can ask for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. These damages can include, among others, pain and suffering, scarring, shock, emotional distress, grief, loss of a limb or organ (or the use of it), loss of quality of life due to a serious injury, inability to perform pleasurable activities (such as hobbies or sex), and loss of enjoyment of life.


Pain and suffering damages are not determined by a fixed standard in California. The multiplier method is frequently used by attorneys and plaintiffs to estimate damage amounts. Additionally, California law does not impose a cap on damages in most economic and noneconomic injury claims.


A cap of $250,000 applies to "non-economic" medical malpractice damages, for instance. The cap, however, does not apply in cases in which a healthcare provider has injured or abused a patient knowingly or recklessly.


Under California Civil Code 3333.4, noneconomic damages in cases based on negligence may also not be recovered by drivers convicted of DUI, uninsured vehicle owners cannot recover or be reimbursed for noneconomic damages except for those caused by drunk drivers, and uninsured drivers may not recover or be reimbursed for noneconomic damages under any circumstances.

Additionally, Civil Code 3333.3 prohibits people from recovering damages if they are injured while committing, or fleeing from, a California felony. In California, plaintiffs bringing wrongful death and survival actions can recover damages for the pain and suffering of the deceased as of 2022.

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