Pain and SufferingWith economic damages, you can put a precise dollar amount on how the injuries you suffered. For example, if you broke both legs, you should receive a bill from every doctor or hospital you visited, and may receive reimbursement for the amount you spent treating the breaks. But what about pain and suffering? It’s hard to come up with a precise dollar amount that fairly compensates you for the pain. Nevertheless, Texas law allows accident victims to recover compensation for the physical and emotional pain of suffered an injury. In short, a good way to think about pain and suffering is to ask yourself, “How much would someone have to pay me to suffer that injury?” Ideally, you should receive that amount of money for getting injured through no fault of your own.
Mental AnguishMental anguish is a more heightened form of mental suffering. Generally, it must consist of more than occasional anxiety and sleeplessness. In Texas, you can qualify for mental anguish damages when you suffer a serious disruption in your daily routine or a high degree of mental distress. For example, your injury may prevent you from riding in a vehicle anymore because of the constant fear that another accident will strike you again. Housebound, you might qualify for mental anguish damages.
Loss of CompanionshipAfter an accident, you might not enjoy the same relationships with your loved ones as you did before. For example, your injuries might prevent sexual intimacy with your spouse. If a spouse died, then you could also bring a wrongful death suit and receive compensation for the loss of care, comfort, affection, and companionship. Children also can receive compensation for the loss of guidance, love, and emotional support that they would receive from parents who died or became injured. Although money is no real substitute for the lost relationship with a loved one, it is the best that the court system can do to compensate you. Of course, if you were estranged from your spouse or parent before the accident, then you have a much weaker claim to compensation, so expect some probing into your personal life. For example, defense attorneys have been known to scour victims’ social media accounts to find out the true states of their relationships with their spouses or parents. A successful claim doesn’t demand a perfect relationship, but you must prove a real loss of companionship and affection to a jury.
DisfigurementCar accidents can cause life-altering scars or burns, particularly to the face. You can certainly receive money to pay for the medical costs of treating these injuries. But you can also receive compensation for more intangible damages. For example, many people’s identities are tied up in how they look, so bad burns or scars on visible areas of the body can particularly traumatize survivors. Damages for disfigurement are possible for any injury that deforms you or impairs your body’s symmetry, beauty, or appearance.
Lost Enjoyment of LifeWe don’t spend all of our lives at work or with our families. Instead, we usually enjoy hobbies such as reading, walking, playing sports, going to movies, or attending Houston Rockets games. When a physical injury prevents you from pursuing your favorite hobbies, then you may claim physical impairment damages. These damages compensate you for the lost enjoyment of life you suffer when you can no longer engage in activities that you most enjoyed in the past. As with all non-economic damages, the jury must make a best guess as to how much money will fairly compensate you for your diminished enjoyment of life.
Evidence Is KeyJuries can take a skeptical view of non-economic damages. They might think you blow things out of proportion and don’t suffer as much as you claim. For this reason, you must gather as much helpful information as you can to show the intangible effect the accident has had on your life. Generally, you should collect the following evidence:
- Proof of prescription painkillers to show your physical pain
- A detailed pain journal that notes the location and severity of your pain on a daily basis
- A sleep schedule showing how your injury has interrupted your sleep
- Testimony from friends or family explaining how your injury has damaged your life
- Testimony from mental health professionals
- Your own testimony, explaining how your injury has changed your life for the worse