Research Handbooks in Comparative Law series
Edited by Mauro Bussani and Anthony J. Sebok
Chapter 15: Tort damages for non-economic losses: Personal injury
Imagine you are physically injured because of the negligence of another. Perhaps you have been run down by a careless truck driver. Perhaps a doctor has committed malpractice while treating you. Perhaps you have been hurt by a defective product. Perhaps you are injured while on someone else’s property because the property owner failed to exercise due care to protect those invited onto the property. And so on. The formal law of most nations around the world, at least in principle, grants you a legal claim against the wrongdoer. In the U.S. and other “common law” nations, this would be termed a cause of action in “tort.” Elsewhere, it might simply be called a “civil action.” Assuming you file this sort of legal claim and a court eventually awards a judgment in your favor, to what damages should you be entitled? Although different words are used in different jurisdictions, damages in these sorts of physical injury cases may be grouped under two helpful headings: economic and non-economic damages – or, as some would put it, pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages. The idea in grouping these two types of damages is to distinguish monetary recovery for monetary losses (pecuniary losses) like lost income and out-of-pocket expenses from additional monetary recovery for non-pecuniary harms that are, nonetheless, recoverable injuries.
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