Navigating Noneconomic Damages in Michigan: A Closer Look at Compensation Beyond Economic Loss

Michigan recognizes that the impact of an injury extends beyond just financial losses. In legal terms, these losses are referred to as noneconomic damages. In everyday terms, this is what most people refer to as “pain and suffering,” although noneconomic loss extends beyond that. In this blog, we delve into the intricacies of noneconomic damages in Michigan, understanding what they encompass and how they contribute to a more comprehensive compensation framework. 

Defining Noneconomic Damages

Noneconomic damages, in the context of medical malpractice law, encapsulate the intangible losses that an individual may suffer because of negligence on the part of a doctor or hospital staff. Unlike economic damages, which are quantifiable and include past medical expenses, future medical care, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and replacement costs, noneconomic damages are more subjective and address aspects of pain, suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. The Michigan legislature has identified several categories of noneconomic damages that a Plaintiff may recover for. Those categories are set forth in MCL 600.1483 

Types of Noneconomic Damages in Michigan

Pain and Suffering: Pain and suffering damages are designed to compensate individuals for the physical and emotional distress they endure as a result of an injury caused by negligence. This category encompasses not only the immediate pain experienced but also the long-term consequences that affect the person’s overall quality of life. Considerations a jury may consider in awarding damages for pain and suffering include severity of the injury, the duration of the pain, and the impact on the individual’s daily activities 

Inconvenience: This category takes into account the difficulties and adaptations the person, and their family, has had to overcome in dealing with a new injury, such loss of a limb, or paralysis. In every way, these types of injuries can change a person’s entire existence and create inconvenience for them and their family

Physical impairment or physical disfigurement: Physical impairment or disfigurement damages address the visible and lasting effects of an injury on an individual’s body. This category takes into account any permanent changes to the person’s physical appearance or functionality caused by the incident. Scarring, loss of limbs, and other long-term physical disabilities fall under this category. Compensation aims to help the injured party cope with the challenges associated with altered physical capabilities and appearance. 

Loss of society and companionship: In cases where a personal injury results in the death of a loved one, the surviving family members may pursue damages for the loss of society and companionship. This category recognizes the intangible and emotional losses experienced by family members due to the absence of their loved one. It acknowledges the impact on relationships, emotional support, and shared experiences that can never be replaced.

Loss of consortium: Loss of consortium damages extends beyond the emotional impact on surviving family members to include the loss of the marital relationship itself. This category compensates the spouse for the loss of companionship, intimacy, and the ability to enjoy a normal marital relationship with the injured party. Loss of consortium damages recognizes the profound effects an injury can have on the dynamics of a marital relationship. 

“Other” noneconomic loss: This category may include emotional distress, encompassing the psychological impact the injury has had on the individual. It can also include loss of enjoyment of life, which addresses the diminished ability to participate in and enjoy activities that were once a significant part of the person’s life. Whether it’s hobbies, sports, or simple everyday pleasures, compensation may be awarded to account for this loss. 

Limitations on Noneconomic Damages

Michigan implemented specific laws that impact the amount an individual who suffered an injury as a result of negligence by a physician, hospital, or other provider, can recover for noneconomic damages. The Michigan Legislature passed the Michigan Tort Reform Act in 1995, introducing various provisions that affect personal injury cases. One of the key elements of this act is the limitation on noneconomic damages.  

Michigan’s damages cap disproportionately affects those who have suffered severe and life-altering injuries, limiting their ability to seek just compensation for their pain and suffering. 

The damages cap also undermines the principle of jury decision-making. By imposing a predetermined limit on non-economic damages, the cap takes away the jury’s ability to assess the unique circumstances of each case and make an appropriate award based on the facts presented.  

Until the Michigan Legislature repeals the Tort Reform Act, or the Michigan Supreme Court strikes down the caps as unconstitutional, this is the current state of the law today.  

The Michigan Legislature has set forth this “cap” on noneconomic damages in MCL 600.1483. Each year the state treasurer adjusts the limitations on damages to reflect the cumulative annual percentage change in the consumer price index. For 2024, the caps are:  

$569,000 low cap 

$1,016,000 high cap  

High Cap Cases

The high cap on noneconomic damages is reserved for the following injuries:  

  1. The plaintiff is hemiplegic, paraplegic, or quadriplegic resulting in a total permanent functional loss of 1 or more limbs caused by an injury to the brain or spinal cord.
  2. The plaintiff has permanently impaired cognitive capacity rendering him or her incapable of making independent, responsible life decisions and permanently incapable of independently performing the activities of normal, daily living.
  3. There has been permanent loss of or damage to a reproductive organ resulting in the inability to procreate. 

Low Cap Cases

Every injury (including death) that does not fall into the above category, is limited to the low cap on non-economic damages. 


Navigating the limitations on noneconomic damages in Michigan requires a comprehensive understanding of the current law. Individuals pursuing compensation for noneconomic damages should work closely with experienced legal professionals who can navigate the intricacies of Michigan’s legal framework and advocate for fair and just outcomes. That is why, if you think your doctor, hospital or other healthcare provider made a mistake, you’ll want to work with the best medical malpractice lawyers in Michigan. To get started, call our medical malpractice lawyers at 616-207-8825, complete our free consultation form, or send us an email. Many times we can tell you if you have a valid claim in our initial phone consultation. No appointment is necessary for an initial phone consultation. deserve. Remember, time is of the essence in these cases, so don’t delay in seeking the legal assistance you need.