When you are in an accident and you break your leg, you can go to the doctor who will hopefully be able to mend it. While it may be inconvenient for you, in a few weeks you will be able to walk again. Similarly, if someone breaks your phone and buys you a new one, then your property has been restored and you can go about your day. However, what happens when you are in an accident and as a result, you experience something that is harder to understand and to see, mental anguish. It is a well-known fact that people can experience extreme emotional trauma as a result of a personal injury accident or traumatic event. In these cases, people often wonder if they are able to recover any money for mental pain and anguish?
The Texas Supreme Court set forth the standard for evidence of mental anguish damages in the case of Parkway Co. v. Woodruff, 901 S.W.2d 434 (Tex. 1995). Under that standard, the Court made it a requirement that in order for a person to recover for mental anguish damages, they must prove that they have mental anguish by: “direct evidence of the nature, duration, and severity of their mental anguish, thus establishing a substantial disruption in the plaintiffs’ daily routine.”
Recovering Compensation for Traumatic Events & Anguish in Texas
This can be a hard task for people who have experienced mental trauma. In the case of City of Tyler v. Adeline Likes the Supreme Court of Texas, the court articulated their concern for mental anguish. The court began by noting that, Texas does not recognize a general legal duty to avoid negligently inflicting mental anguish. While negligently inflicted anguish may be an element of recoverable damages when the defendant violates some other duty to the plaintiff, this depends on both the nature of the duty breached and the quality of proof offered by the plaintiff. For many breaches of legal duties, even tortuous ones, the law affords no right to recover for resulting mental anguish.
The court seemed to struggle with whether or not mental anguish from this sort of conduct should be something that a person could seek monetary compensation for. The court noted, that although mental anguish is a real and serious harm, there are two principal reasons why courts are not willing to recognize it as a compensable element of damages in every case where it occurs.
First, mental anguish it is difficult to predict. This is partially why it can be very difficult for a person to seek recovery for mental anguish and pain. The court noted that the invasion of the same legal right may lead to extreme anguish in one person while causing essentially no emotional damage to another person. The court was reluctant to extend such broad sweeping ability for a person to recover for mental anguish because of this variation in human nature and behavior. The aim of the law is to provide similarly situated people the same treatment; therefore, it is difficult for the law to distinguish between those instances when mental anguish is reasonably foreseeable from particular conduct and those when it is so remote that the law should impose no duty to prevent it. For this reason, Texas courts at one time categorized mental anguish in most types of cases as too remote or speculative to be compensable as actual damages, holding the emotional consequences of the tort relevant only to exemplary damages.
Second, even in circumstances where mental anguish is a foreseeable result of wrongful conduct, its existence is inherently difficult to verify. For years, the fear of false claims led us to require objective bodily symptoms of anguish in most types of cases.
In 2011, the Texas Supreme Court again addressed the issue of mental anguish and required that whenever mental anguish damages are sought that a person would be required to prove the direct evidence standard that was established in the Parkway case. However, while in other areas of the law it can be much more difficult to establish emotional trauma personal injury is a field where it can be easier for a person to recover for emotional pain and mental anguish. This is because whenever there is a personal injury case there is always the fear that a person is doing to die, and this can be naturally very traumatic for a person.
Case Examples of Mental Anguish Compensation
Texas courts have found in several cases that a person could recover for mental anguish. The following are some examples of the extreme and outrageous behavior that has lead to people suffering mental anguish.
In the case of Service Corp. Internat’l v. Guerra, 348 S.W.3d 221 (Tex. 2011), a woman was allowed to recover for mental anguish when she suffered sleepless nights as a result of her husband’s grave being tampered with, burning in her stomach, continued headaches, and suffered from intense periods of worrying and anxiety. Similarly, in the case of Fifth Club, Inc. v. Ramirez, 196 S.W.3d 788 (Tex. 2006) where a man was severely injured by heaving his head slammed into a concrete wall during a fight, the Texas Supreme Court found that there was sufficient evidence to support a claim for mental anguish. In subsequent cases, the Supreme Court has similarly concluded that the severity of a particular personal injury gives the jury a reasonable basis for finding future mental anguish damages.
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