Written by: Jesse Minc Portrait Jesse Minc
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In many very serious personal injury lawsuits, the issue of economic loss – whether it be in the form of medical expenses, lost wages, lost fringe benefits, or lost government benefits such as Social Security – is the most important component in determining the value of a particular case.  While these cases also involve substantial amounts of “non-economic” loss (i.e., pain and suffering) to the accident victim, the amount of money that will be ripped from their pocket due to their injuries and resultant disability can be staggeringly high.  One of the most important differences between economic loss and non-economic loss in context of a personal injury lawsuit is the ease with which these losses can be quantified.  Non-economic loss is intangible, and it is often very hard to value a person’s pain and suffering with a finite dollar amount.  Economic loss, however, can be quantified down to the very last penny.  For this reason, both in context of settlement negotiations, and while a jury is deliberating over the evidence presented at trial, economic loss is often much more powerful and persuasive than non-economic loss; and, in fact, presenting substantial economic losses can boost the amount of non-economic loss that will be awarded to a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit.

When there are substantial economic losses involved in a personal injury case (generally, this is the case when an accident victim is totally disabled from working after a serious injury), a good personal injury attorney will hire an economist to quantify all of the economic losses caused by a tragic accident.  This expert analysis is very important, especially when long-term future losses are involved.  Economists have special training that allows them to explain the full effects of all economic losses that an accident victim may have suffered, and can apply important statistics and mathematical formulas (e.g., growth rates, inflation) to items of damages such as future medical bills and future lost wages that show that the economic loss suffered by an accident victim is actually much larger than a simple layperson’s analysis would demonstrate.  For this reason, an economist is often a solid investment in a very serious personal injury case, especially when the case involves a permanent disability, and top personal injury attorneys will use this important tool to maximize the compensation to which their clients are entitled.

To understand how an economist can help in fully illustrating the economic loss suffered by a victim of a serious personal injury accident, consider the following example:  A union worker on a construction site falls into a hole, breaking his leg and injuring his neck and back so badly that he requires several surgeries and ultimately can never return to work.  Prior to the accident, this worker was earning $47.50 per hour, for a total of approximately $90,000.00 per year.  This worker also received a generous benefits package (health insurance, vacation pay, pension benefits) while he was working, and loses these benefits when he can no longer work for the union.  The worker also will require three future surgeries costing approximately $100,000.00 each, and ongoing medical care and treatment (injections, physical therapy, and serial radiographic monitoring) throughout the rest of his life, the total cost of which is approximately $50,000.00 per year.  Imagine that the worker is 48 years old, had a statistical work life expectancy of 10 more years (to age 58), and had a life expectancy of 30 more years (to age 78).

Without an economist, a personal injury lawyer could still obtain a substantial amount of money for his client for the client’s future lost wages and medical expenses by simply adding up the easily-quantifiable losses from the date of the accident (e.g., by multiplying $90,000.00 by 10, which would equal $900,000.00 in lost wages, and by adding up the costs of the future surgeries and medical treatment, which would equal $1.8 million) and simply asking a jury to award that amount of money.  However, in doing this, the lawyer would be leaving a lot on the table.  With respect to the issues of lost wages and medical bills, this simple arithmetical calculation does not take into account things like inflation, growth rates (i.e., the amount that costs tend to rise over time), statistical raises in pay, and other important mathematical considerations that effect the ultimate cost of things like medical treatment.   Also, calculating the value of things like lost health insurance and lost pension benefits is very difficult, and are almost impossible to do absent an economist’s opinion.  For this reason, hiring an economist is necessary in cases like this, and usually an economist’s opinion will increase the amount of economic losses that are presented to a jury.

To learn more about how economic expert testimony can increase the value of your personal injury lawsuit, contact us today at (718) 354-8000, or submit an online request form.  We would be happy to teach you more about how top Bronx personal injury lawyers use economists to maximize the compensation available to their clients in a personal injury case.

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