Jurors called to service in a personal injury trial often have a have a difficult time trying to determine the value of another human’s injury. When someone is careless and injures another in our country, they become responsible for the damage they caused. In legal terms, they become responsible for economic and non-economic damages. Jurors usually don’t have a problem with determining fair economic damages. Examples of economic damages are things like medical bills, wage loss and car repairs. But people have a lot of difficulty with non-economic damages, what some people call the fuzzy or unclear stuff like pain and suffering. Pain and suffering does fall into the category of non-economic damages. However, the category includes a lot of other items as well. From little things like inconvenience all the way up to some of the most important things in all of our lives, like loss of a loved one, loss of a limb, loss of health or the disruption of someone’s lifestyle. Some people ask why anyone should be entitled to money damages for these items. They argue that money can’t replace a loved one, can’t fix someone’s health or make it so the injury doesn’t cause disruption in their life. It is hard to argue that money is an equitable replacement for many of the harms and losses caused by an injury. Because of this, some people think that when someone injures another, they should only have to pay for economic losses. The other losses should just be written off under the “things happen” theory in life. So why does our system require that someone who injures another be responsible for both categories of damage? Our American justice system was inherited from the British. The principles of justice in the system come from our Judeo-Christian culture. That culture values individual human life. One of the foundations of our nation is the feeling that certain rights are given to every individual. Our Declaration of Independence includes the words “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. As such, our culture puts a high value on the sanctity and dignity of human life. If someone causes injury to another, either intentionally or carelessly, and they only have to be responsible for the medical bills and wage loss, that would be the same as telling the victim that their life, their health has no value.
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