Pain and Suffering in Personal Injury Cases
After a minor traffic accident, the claims process is fairly simple – parties file an insurance claim, and insurers evaluate the dollar value of the damage before issuing a check. But when injuries occur, accidents are much more complicated; for injured parties to get the compensation they deserve, they will likely need legal representation.
In Texas, personal injury victims may pursue “noneconomic damages,” also known as “quality of life” damages. According to Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code:
“Noneconomic damages” means damages awarded for the purpose of compensating a claimant for physical pain and suffering, mental or emotional pain or anguish, loss of consortium, disfigurement, physical impairment, loss of companionship and society, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, injury to reputation, and all other non-pecuniary losses of any kind other than exemplary damages.
So, what is the dollar value of pain and suffering? The answer to that question depends in large part on who you choose to represent you in your personal injury case.
The Long-term Effects of Injury
Noneconomic damages for pain and suffering account for not just a person’s injury, but how that injury affects their life and the lives of their family members. These are some of the factors that often result in the award of noneconomic damages:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder – For some injury victims, the terror and panic they experienced when they were first injured never goes away. They may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition characterized by “reliving” the traumatic event over and over, nightmares, mood disturbances, and withdrawal from friends and family.
- Disability/disfigurement – Suffering a disabling or disfiguring injury also causes psychological trauma. When an injury results in a permanent disability, the victim may be fully reliant on others for care, or at least require assistance with everyday tasks. For most individuals, the loss of one’s autonomy is distressing and can cause depression and anxiety. If a disability can reasonably be accommodated at home, families may need to modify their residence (such as installing a wheelchair ramp).
- Loss of companionship – In wrongful death cases, juries may award damages to the survivors for their loss of companionship. These damages may also be awarded to the immediate family when their loved one suffers a permanent severe disability, such as traumatic brain injury.
The judicial system in Texas allows injury victims (or the survivors of those killed in an accident) to pursue exemplary damages if they can show the defendant who caused the injury acted with malice, fraudulently, or was grossly negligent. In order to win an award of exemplary damages, a jury must unanimously find the defendant guilty of one of those behaviors.
Typically, if a plaintiff in a personal injury case was employed at the time of the accident, they may seek compensation for lost wages. If the plaintiff is a child, a non-working adult (such as a stay-at-home parent), or a retired person, they cannot seek compensation for lost wages. But their time is valuable nonetheless, and exemplary damages may be one way of compensating them for their noneconomic losses.
A plaintiff, defendant, and insurance company rarely will agree on what’s “fair,” when it comes to damages; and insurance companies will not pay more than individual policy limits. But there may be additional sources of compensation for injury victims.
If you’ve suffered an injury in an accident, or lost a loved one in an accident, you need an experienced personal injury attorney on your side to ensure you get the best possible outcome in your case. Often, with the help of an attorney, personal injury victims find a case can be settled outside of a courtroom, although cases involving exemplary damages do require litigation.
The Evans & Herlihy Law Firm handles personal injury cases on a contingency basis, meaning you pay nothing up-front for representation. Our fee comes from any settlement you may receive. If you need help, contact us online or at (855) 414-1012 to request your free case consultation.