Part of a lawyer’s job is to occasionally meet with a client’s doctor to learn more about the injury and how it may affect their future. This information is important in the evaluation process. If someone intentionally or negligently injures you, two types of damages are recoverable. The first is referred to as “economic damage”. This category of damage includes things like medical bills, lost wages and car repairs. It also includes things like loss of tuition, scholarships or business opportunities. The other, more misunderstood category is referred to as “non-economic damage”. Lay people commonly think this is just for pain and suffering. Although those are included, this category of damage includes a lot more. The loss of a loved one, the loss of your health, the disruption of your career or the loss of your ability to do the things important in your life all fit under this category. These losses can be temporary or permanent. They can be minor or life changing. The reason these damages exist in our legal system can be traced back hundreds of years. The idea of compensating someone you hurt or injure has its roots in the Bible and the Talmud. The idea is simple. In our society we put a high value on the sanctity and dignity of human life. If someone injures you, either intentionally or negligently, and only has to pay for your medical bills; that would in essence be telling you your health and your ability to enjoy life has no value. Our cultural values don’t allow this. So when I met with a surgeon the other day to learn more about the lasting effects of my client’s neck surgery, I was surprised when he demanded to know what it is she wanted out of this case. When I explained she had to undergo neck surgery as a result of someone not paying attention on the highway and went through quite a bit, he seemed indignant. He was upset that someone would try to get compensation just because they were injured. He made a point of telling me he had the same surgery after he hurt himself helicopter skiing and nobody compensated him. I sat in his office in disbelief. Did he think a self inflicted injury was the same as one caused by someone disobeying the traffic laws? Or maybe he felt injuries, no matter who caused them, shouldn’t be compensated. I guess he just believes someone’s health has no value. An interesting view given what he does for a living.
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