How is Pain and Suffering Calculated after a Car Accident in Texas?
Trying to determine how much someone’s “pain and suffering” is worth after a car accident is one of the most vague undertakings in the world of law. Many legal concepts have firm lines drawn with clear rules. Unfortunately, many others are built on shaky guidelines and differ between cases. Calculating damages for pain and suffering is very much the latter. Pain and suffering damages are extremely individualized, but we can give you some guidelines for how yours might be calculated after a car accident in a Texas court.
Typically, pain and suffering damages are calculated by putting a price tag on the victim’s experiences. Attorneys make claims calculated based on what they’ve seen awarded in other cases. Often, courts will award higher pain and suffering damages for victims who have lost more – such as with lost ability to participate in activities – and who have faced greater damage – such as victims with PTSD symptoms from their injury.
If you have been injured in a crash in Texas, you should consider talking to a Dallas car accident lawyer about your case. The Queenan Law Firm can help you understand how much your car accident case may be worth and how you can best get compensation. For help filing a car accident claim, call our attorneys today at (817) 476-1797.
What Are Damages in a Car Crash in Texas?
“Damages” is the legal name for the awards a victim receives in a car accident lawsuit or settlement. Damages are one of the main four elements of proving someone else’s negligence in a personal injury case. This means that if you cannot prove damages in court, you cannot even win a lawsuit – they are an integral part of any injury suit.
Damages can cover many different things. Ultimately, any negative effects that you suffer because of an accident are part of the “damages.” The phrase “damages” is a legal term that applies to the calculation of how much you have lost as a result of the accident and your resulting injuries. Criteria for these calculations could include the physical damage your car suffers, the cost of medical expenses, and even wages that you miss out on while missing time at work due to the recovery from your injury.
Any financial consequences are called “economic damages,” since they deal with paying you back, monetarily, for problems caused by the negligence of the other party. These are alternatively called “compensatory damages,” because they compensate you for your losses. Economic damages are usually readily identifiable by using documented evidence such as medical bills, insurance statements, and paychecks. You should have your attorney assist you in gathering all of the relevant official documentation for economic damages before filing your complaint so that your claim is as accurate as possible.
Though money can set many things right, it cannot replace everything. These irreplaceable consequences of an accident are called “non-economic damages.” When you suffer from pain after an injury, no amount of money can ever set that pain right again or erase the mental suffering from your memory. Similarly, the loss of a loved one cannot be compensated by money and will not disappear after a financial reward.
Caps on Damages
Many states set a maximum, called a “cap,” on how much you can receive in non-economic damages. In Texas, car accident victims face no legal limit on non-economic damages. That means that a court and a jury can award you whatever amount they think is fair, with no upper limit.
Determining Damages in Court
Courts and juries will typically use the amount that you and your lawyer claim in your case as a baseline for determining damages. However, the amount that you claim in damages is not a minimum or maximum limitation on how much you may recover. Depending on the evidence that you introduce and your testimony, a jury may determine that you deserve less or sometimes even more than you are claiming that you deserve.
In order to determine what a fair amount of compensation might be, a court will take into account evidence of bills incurred as a result of the accident as well as testimony by medical experts. It will also rely on statements made by the victim themselves, detailing the effects that the accident and resulting injuries have had on their day-to-day lifestyle as well as their long-term health and happiness. For a full accounting of how courts arrive at their damage calculations, keep reading below, or call our offices to speak with one of our Fort Worth car accident attorneys.
Calculating Pain and Suffering in Texas Car Accidents
Pain and suffering is one type of non-economic damages, and since Texas has no cap on economic damages, it has no cap on pain and suffering. That means that a jury is allowed to award you as much money as they think is fair to try to compensate for your pain and suffering. To be clear, the jury – not the judge – decides how much your case is worth in a lawsuit.
In a lawsuit, the jury is responsible for deciding facts, and the judge is responsible for deciding the law. That means that questions of how much things are worth is ultimately a fact the jury decides. Because jurors are just regular people, decisions can vary greatly from case to case or jury to jury.
There are no clear-cut guidelines as to what injuries are worth what amount. It is generally true that more severe injuries are worth more in pain and suffering damages than less severe injuries, but not always. Very severe injuries may be surprisingly easy to repair, which means that they may actually cause less pain than other injuries. Similarly, some less severe injuries like whiplash injuries may cause prolonged pain that will last for the rest of your life and might be worth more.
Since the name is “pain and suffering,” pain is only half of the consideration. The suffering aspect is often where high payouts can emerge. For instance, a traumatic brain injury might not cause much pain, since the brain itself does not have the nerve endings to feel much pain. Moreover, brain injuries often place victims in comas, and unconscious people do not really feel their pain. Brain injuries are very severe, though, and victims of brain injury are affected for the rest of their life. This can completely change their personality, their ability to care for themselves, and the way they think. That kind of suffering is separate from the pain, and it can lead to very high compensation.
Beyond this, there are really no guidelines or price tags attached to pain and suffering. The evidence that you are able to bring to court about how the injury feels, how it affects your life, and what changes you have had to make are really what determines, for a jury, how much to award you.
Proving How Much Pain and Suffering and Other Non-Economic Damages Are Worth in Texas Car Accident Cases
As mentioned, there is evidence you can bring to court to show how much your damages are worth. While most evidence of pain and suffering is not going to include clear prices or values like medical bills or vehicle repair invoices would, this evidence can still be crucial to your case.
When claiming damages for the pain and suffering you faced, your testimony about your experiences is going to be the most important evidence. Only you can truly explain what your experience was like, and the judge and jury will have to listen to the words you use to describe your pain. Juries may get an idea of how much your injury should be worth based on how much your lawyer has claimed in the case, but the way you talk about your injuries could help to either assure them that the value seems fair or help them to see that the value should be adjusted up or down based on what you say about it.
Your testimony might be your main piece of evidence to prove pain and suffering, but the jury might also be able to use other evidence. Their observations about how you are in the courtroom could help show them that your pain is severe. TV shows and movies often depict victims coming into the courtroom in casts and neck braces, but these kinds of tactics are often just theatrics that doesn’t fool jurors. Instead, seeing real effects such as limping, slowed speech, or scarring can help them decide for themselves how severe your injuries are.
The testimony of other people in your life can also help explain to the jury how bad the injuries were. Spouses or loved ones who can attest to the changes in your personality, the increased sadness, the reduced activity, etc. can help prove these damages to a jury.
Formulas for Non-Economic Damages in Texas
Sometimes, especially when the case is filed through insurance, pain and suffering damages are claimed at a rate that is arrived at through various formulas. Insurance companies and lawyers might simply multiply economic damages to come up with a value for pain and suffering. For example, a serious injury might seem to be worth 3-times the damages in the case for pain and suffering, so a claim for $10,000 in economic damages might come alongside a claim for $30,000 in non-economic/pain and suffering damages.
Other times, insurance companies and lawyers will come up with a per diem (“per day”) value for pain and suffering. Then, they simply project how long the pain is expected to last and multiply it by the per diem rate, claiming that much in noneconomic damages.
Overall, non-economic damages can include more than just pain and suffering. For instance, punitive or “exemplary” damages are also lumped under this category. These damages are paid in cases where the defendant has a history of bad actions that cause injuries or where courts have previously ordered them to reform their behavior, and they have not. These damages could also be available for gross or severe negligence in some cases. Punitive damages are often decided in a much less scientific way, with courts either picking a fair value that essentially functions as a fine against the defendant or by, again, multiplying the compensatory damages.
Overall, these formulas are a jumping-off point. From there, lawyers and juries can adjust the specific value based on what evidence they see, potentially raising or lowering your non-economic damages if the injuries seem worse or lighter than initially claimed.
What Other Kinds of Pain and Suffering Count as Non-Economic Damages?
Non-economic damages include all kinds of damages that are not calculated by looking at bills and financial records. This includes all kinds of pain and suffering, not just the physical pain and the mental suffering associated with an injury. In addition, other kinds of intangible harms can be compensated as well.
One of the most obvious kinds of pain and suffering that also falls into this category is discomfort. Just because an injury isn’t actively painful doesn’t mean that it is comfortable to live with the injury. Chronic pain or discomfort can be calculated by estimating the long-term effects of sustained discomfort on your livelihood and can prove to be very substantial in terms of damages. In order to be considered, the discomfort does not need to be caused directly by the accident. For instance, if the pain or discomfort that you are dealing with stems from the medical procedure that you underwent in order to cure injuries suffered in the accident, you may validly introduce that discomfort for the sake of damage calculation, even though the pain exists because of the medical procedure rather than directly from the accident.
Likewise, “suffering” is such a broad, general term that it can be used to cover other things like emotional distress, anxiety about the injury, or a sense of loss related to your injury. Mourning lost abilities or lost function in your body is certainly something that should lead to compensation.
When you undergo an injury, there is often a lot of emotion involved. Fear is a major emotion related to trauma: fear of the injury, fear that you will die, fear that your condition will not improve. Other emotional reactions, whether they occur during the accident or later as an effect of the injury, can also lead to compensation.
Sometimes, accidents cause significant changes. Changes to your appearance (disfigurement) is often a big factor in cases involving burns or facial injuries. Injuries to sexual organs can also be extremely traumatic and life-altering. The effects of these injuries, aside from the medical bills, constitute a loss in and of themselves.
When is Pain and Suffering too Mild to Recover Damages in Texas?
Dealing with an injury can also have more mild negative effects on the victim’s well-being or lifestyle. No matter how small or insignificant you may feel these effects may be, you nonetheless deserve compensation when considered alongside other harms. Personal changes such as embarrassment or inconvenience might seem mild, but combined with other forms of pain and suffering, they can be grounds for damages.
For instance, if your injury required you to undergo surgery which left you with a large and visible scar, you will not be limited to recovering for the cost of the procedure. As part of its consideration of non-economic damages, a court will take into account your testimony about how the presence of your post-surgical scar affects you. Perhaps the scar is unsightly or causes others to feel uncomfortable in your presence. Maybe seeing the scar brings back painful memories for you about the ordeal you were forced to endure. You deserve to be compensated for the discomfort that the accident or any subsequent medical procedures have caused. To get a full picture of what you may recover for in a given case, speak to one of our excellent Houston car accident attorneys today.
Pain and Suffering After a Wrongful Death Caused by a Car Accident in Texas
In the most serious of circumstances, a car accident can be fatal. The State of Texas is home to one of the highest rates of fatal car accidents in the entire country. In the most recently published data available, the Texas Department of Transportation estimates that one person is killed on Texas roadways every two and a half hours.
The likelihood of death as a result of a car accident is on the decline due to advancements in safety measures and collision avoidance technology. Still, with so many people driving on a daily basis, the threat is very real, and an untimely death of a loved one can leave a person grief-stricken and traumatized.
When a loved one dies in a car accident caused by negligence or recklessness of another driver, you have the ability to file a lawsuit on their behalf. This lawsuit is called a “wrongful death” suit, and it functions much the same way as the typical car accident negligence suit discussed above. The key difference is the proportion of non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, that is recoverable. The nature of the accident, relationship of the deceased to the other parties, and the proximity of the other parties to the accident itself are all factors that will affect a court’s consideration of non-economic damages for pain and suffering.
If a loved one has died in a car accident caused by negligence or recklessness, you may have legal recourse to recover for what you have lost. Speak to one of our Plano, TX car accident attorneys today for a consultation on your legal rights.
Call Our Texas Car Accident Attorneys for a Free Consultation
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, take your case to the experienced Arlington personal injury lawyers at The Queenan Law Firm. We have decades of experience helping car accident victims get compensation for their pain and suffering in Texas. Call us today at (817) 476-1797 for a free consultation.