Pain and Suffering Damages Claims
When you are injured in a car accident or as a result of malpractice, you normally experience two different types of injuries.
The first is obviously the physical injuries that require medical care and attention. Maybe it was a minor injury with some physical therapy treatment or maybe your injury was more significant and required surgery or some other more drastic form of medical intervention. All that medical treatment costs money and you are entitled to be reimbursed for all of those costs and expenses (as well as any lost income). This is referred to as economic damages.
However, those physical injuries can have a significant negative impact on your life that leads directly to emotional trauma and distress. The law also enables injured parties to be compensated for these non-economic damages, or as they are more commonly referred to . . . pain and suffering.
Below is a primer and explanation of non-economic/pain and suffering damages under Maryland tort law.
Is There a Limit on Non-Economic Damages in Maryland?
Yes, there is a cap on non-economic or pain and suffering damages in Maryland. That cap increases by $15,000 each year – currently, for personal injury claims that arise after October 1, 2020, the non-economic damages cap is $890,000. On October 1, 2021, that will increase to $905,000.
It is important to note that while the cap amount is different for medical malpractice cases and also for wrongful death cases, it still applies. It is equally important to note that there is no statutory cap on economic damages.
What Type of Non-Economic Damages Can I Be Compensated For?
Pursuant to the Maryland Code Annotated, Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article § 11-108, an injured party can collect non-economic damages for “pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, loss of consortium, or other nonpecuniary injuries.”
This is obviously a very broad spectrum of potential damages and is different from case to case. Additionally, it’s not only that there are a number of different types of ways to establish pain and suffering, but the degree of the injury and the length of time it takes to recover (or potentially not recover), also factors into the equation.
For example, if you are rear-ended in a car accident in Maryland and you end up fracturing your arm, that is a significant injury that will likely result in a meaningful pain and suffering award. But there is a difference between a nondisplaced fracture that will eventually heal on its own without surgery as opposed to a fracture that is so severe that it requires surgery and extensive rehabilitation to heal completely.
Not only is it stressful to have to undergo surgery, but surgery patients are frequently left with scarring (Physical impairment or disfigurement) that will also lead to significantly more pain and suffering than the non-surgical alternative even though the injuries were the same.
A good personal injury lawyer knows exactly how to ensure that the full extent of any client’s pain and suffering is presented not only to the insurance company but also to the jury at trial. There is no formula for how to calculate pain and suffering damages. Without the benefit of such an experienced and skilled attorney, clients will very likely not receive full and fair value for their claim.
What Can I Do to Ensure I Receive Pain and Suffering Damages?
There are a number of ways that a client can work collaboratively with their attorney to maximize their chances of securing a substantial pain and suffering award. Below are a few tips and suggestions based on experience.
Most people speak in generalities about their case when they have an opportunity to tell their story. There is nothing worse than a client at trial being asked about how the accident and their injuries affected them and having them say “I had trouble sleeping.” That type of general response is not going to move the needle. Detailed, specific explanations carry a lot of weight at trial and help with gaining sympathy which is the most effective pathway to big pain and suffering awards.
Keep a Journal
Whenever I am talking to clients who were just in an accident, I always tell them to keep a journal and write down all the ways their injuries are affecting them and their enjoyment of life. At the moment you think you’ll never forget, but if the case ends up in litigation, it will likely be more than a year before they testify at deposition and even longer before they take the stand at trial. Don’t rely on your memory. Write it down.
Make sure to provide your attorney with at least 1-2 witnesses who can take the stand and vouch for the pain and suffering you experienced. Family members, neighbors, co-workers, or friends make excellent non-economic damages witnesses. It can be very impactful to have them testify at trial.
What Does This Mean for Me?
There is no specific or established formula for calculating how much pain and suffering or emotional distress damages a client can receive for their case. Insurance companies will always be looking for ways to diminish the value of any claim and juries tend to be skeptical of claims of mental anguish or emotional pain.
It is critically important that you have a top-rated and experienced personal injury attorney to ensure that you receive a damages award that fully compensates you, not just for your medical expenses, but also for your pain and suffering.
So if you were injured in an auto accident, slip and fall or have any other personal injury or malpractice claim in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, or anywhere in the state of Maryland, contact Dubo Law today at 443-275-6345 and let us fight for you!
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