When someone has suffered a catastrophic personal injury, or a family is reeling from the wrongful death of a loved one, so much of the trauma that lies in the wake of such a tragedy doesn’t show up on medical bills or in lost paychecks.
When juries consider the damages that can be awarded in such cases, that compensation can include not only tangible “economic” damages like medical costs, rehabilitation expenses, and past and future lost wages, but also “non-economic” damages – often called “pain and suffering” damages – that are designed to compensate for the anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience, discomfort and ongoing pain experienced as the result of someone else’s mistake.
Trial Judge Rules That $1 Million Cap is Unconstitutional
In Mississippi, a law passed in 2004 limits awards for non-economic damages to $1 million. Now, the Mississippi Supreme Court is being asked to overturn a circuit judge’s 2012 ruling that the damage cap is unconstitutional.
In upholding a jury’s award of $6 million in non-economic damages in a wrongful death case, Coahoma County Circuit Judge Charles Webster said the Mississippi Constitution guarantees every citizen a remedy for an injury done to his lands, goods, person and reputation with that remedy to be determined by a jury. “The issue is not whether the limits imposed under the statute are reasonable. Rather, the issue is whether the Legislature has the authority to impose any limits, reasonable or not,” Webster wrote.
What Are “Pain and Suffering” Damages?
Pain and suffering damages encompass both the initial pain experienced – such as the immediate pain an individual in a car accident may feel – as well as long term pain and anguish that may develop over time as the result of a trauma (such as a brain injury the effects of which aren’t immediately felt, or the pain of surgery made necessary by a crash).
The goal of pain and suffering damages is to provide enough financial assistance to make the victim feel whole again. Although no amount of money is sufficient to compensate someone for a lifetime of discomfort and misery or loss of a loved one, pain and suffering damages can provide a small measure of relief as well as a sense of justice.
Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages
Within the current $1 million limit on non-economic damages (or beyond that amount if the law is stricken), calculating the amount of damages that should be awarded is highly subjective and varies from case to case. Some of the factors a court or jury considers when attempting to quantify pain and suffering damages include:
- Cost of prescription medication to treat ongoing physical and mental pain
- Projected limitations and restrictions on your daily routine
- Effect of injury on your sleep patterns
- Impact of injury on your relationships (personal and professional)
- Your long-term prognosis
Evidence Needed to Prove Pain and Suffering Damages
Given the difficulty to quantify the nature of pain and suffering damages, the evidence that needs to be preserved and gathered to prove those damages can also be complicated. One thing that is clear, however, is the more evidence you are able to produce to support your claim, the better your chances to recover adequate damages.
Types of evidence that are most effective in proving pain and suffering damages include:
- Photographs of the injured party before and after the accident
- Personal diaries or journals describing the victim’s physical and emotional state
- Letters or testimony from friends and family explaining how the personal injury has negatively impacted the victim’s life
- Proof of mental health treatment
The fate of Mississippi’s cap on non-economic damages remains to be seen. But cap or no cap, if you have suffered a catastrophic person injury or loss of a loved one, it’s important that you take the time to preserve records, pictures, letters or other documentation that you and your lawyer can use to get you compensation for the pain and suffering you have endured and may continue to face for years to come.
Mississippi and Gulf Coast Catastrophic Personal Injury Lawyers
At Rushing & Guice, we work tirelessly to secure the most favorable outcome for families during a trying time. We can and do recover compensation for lost wages, loss of the enjoyment of everyday life, mental stress, pain and suffering, loss of future income, permanent disability, and medical bills. Call us at (228) 374-2313 or fill out our online form to arrange for a free, limited initial consultation.
This article has been prepared by Rushing & Guice, P.L.L.C. for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.