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What are the Differences Between Economic, Non-Economic, and Punitive Damages?


When you are pursuing a personal injury claim, the compensation you receive will depend on what damages you incurred. These damages fall into three categories in personal injury cases: economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Here, we discuss how your damages are calculated based on these categories.

Economic Damages

These damages are considered tangible losses or “bottom line costs” of your injuries. Typically, these losses are easier for the courts to calculate. Types of economic damages include:

  • Medical expenses. This includes bills for hospital stays, checkups, ongoing medical treatments, rehabilitation, prescription costs, and treatment plans recommended by your doctor.

  • Lost wages. You may be put out of work due to an injury. These losses would include past and future lost wages as well as lost earning capacity.

  • Property damage. This includes expenses typically related to your vehicle damages.

Non-Economic Damages

As the name implies, non-economic damages don’t necessarily relate to your out-of-pocket expenses. Instead, these damages are more subjective and include losses such as:

  • Pain and suffering

  • Emotional anguish or distress

  • Physical impairment

  • Loss of enjoyment of life

  • Disfigurement or permanent disabilities


In California, there is no cap on these damages. It will be the job of your attorney to present the evidence of your case and argue it in your favor in order to help you seek maximum compensation for non-economic damages.

Punitive Damages

Also known as “exemplary damages,” punitive damages are an extra form of compensation awarded to a plaintiff. Unlike economic and non-economic damages, these are not related to your losses. Instead, punitive damages are granted to a plaintiff in order to punish the defendant for acting with malice, oppression, intentional harm, fraud, or extreme negligence or recklessness.

We Can Help You Pursue Compensation

If you were injured in an accident, you shouldn’t have to settle for less than what you deserve. The husband and wife team at McGee, Lerer & Associates is dedicated to helping injury victims pursue the maximum compensation they are entitled to. Let us put our experience to work for you so that you can focus on getting better.


Contact our firm at (310) 231-9717 to schedule your free consultation!

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