The Difference Between “Economic Damages” and “Non-Economic Damages” in Tennessee Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Cases

In Tennessee personal injury and wrongful death cases there are two new classification of damages that cause some confusion.  The phrases, "economic damages" and "non-economic damages," were added to the law by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2011 and are applicable to all Tennessee personal injury and wrongful death cases that arose on or after October 1, 2011.

"Economic damages" are damages that can be readily measured in money.  They include damages like medical bills and lost income.

‘Non-economic damages" are damages for pain, suffering, loss of the right to enjoy life, disfigurement, and other types of intangible losses that are not readily measurable in money.  In wrongful death cases, this classification of damages includes the loss of a parent, spouse or child.

Under the new statutes passed by the Tennessee General Assembly, jurors continue to have the power to award unlimited damages in whatever amount they find appropriate given the evidence in the case. However, the jury’s right to award non-economic damages have been limited.  Despite the jury’s finding on the proper amount of damages, damages for non-economic losses are limited to $750,000.  (There are a couple of circumstances where the non-economic damages are limited to $1,000,000.)  

From a practical standpoint, what this means is that the jury will announce its decision on the appropriate amount of damages and, if the amount is higher than the damage cap, the judge will reduce it.

Efforts are being made to challenge the constitutionality of this law but it is unlikely that the Tennessee Supreme Court will hear the case for several years.  

John Day and the other lawyers in his firm  represent people who have been injured or lost a loved one due to the negligence of another person or company. John has been listed in Best Lawyers for 20 years, and has the highest legal rating a lawyer can earn by the legal rating services Martindale and AVVO.

An author of three books on personal injury and wrongful death law  and over 50 articles for legal publications, John has given approximately 300 speeches to lawyers in over 15 states on personal injury, wrongful death, and related subjects. He represents people across Tennessee in personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice, products liability and other civil cases. To read what John’s  clients have said about him and his law firm, click here