In a recent Texas car accident case, the jury found the defendant’s negligence legally caused the accident and the injuries that the victim suffered. The jury awarded the plaintiff $15,000 for past medical expenses and $10,000 for future medical expenses. Past pain and suffering was valued at $6,000, but nothing was awarded for future pain and suffering. The lower court entered judgment for $31,000, plus prejudgment interest and taxable court costs.
The plaintiff appealed. She argued that the jury’s failure to award anything for future pain and suffering cut against the great weight and preponderance of evidence. She argued that she’d presented future medical expenses evidence and that all future medical expenses would be incurred for the purposes of treating her future pain and suffering. Since she’d been awarded $10,000 for future medical expenses, she believed it was inconsistent for the jury to award nothing for future pain and suffering.
The appellate court explained it would only reverse if the verdict was so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence that it was manifestly unjust or shocking to the conscience. The jury is the only judge of whether the witnesses are credible or not.
The appellate court explained that there’s no fixed rule for measuring damages for pain, physical impairment, or mental anguish. Each case has to be decided on its own facts, with discretion to be given to the jury’s award. Awarding damages for pain and suffering can be more challenging because the harm is subjective rather than financial. This puts it squarely within the jury’s discretion. The appellate court explained that sometimes injuries have an objective manifestation that clearly supports a pain and suffering award.
A jury’s failure to award damages for past pain and suffering while awarding medical expenses has been considered an error. In cases in which there have been lacerations, concussions, and other more easily verified injuries, they have been found to support a pain and suffering award. In other cases, in which objective indications of injuries are less obvious or not there at all, the jury can disregard purely subjective complaints that are not able to be proven directly.
In this case, the plaintiff testified that the accident caused her lower back pain. However, a physical therapist who treated her testified that at times she was better, and at times she wasn’t. She also testified there weren’t any restrictions on the plaintiff’s activities. Her family practice physician testified that her pain had improved and also said it was likely she would experience discomfort for a long period. Other health care providers also testified that further treatment should be on an as-needed basis.
In 2014, the plaintiff was in another car accident and suffered a whiplash injury. She got medical care and testified that her neck was better, and she wasn’t trying to recover those damages in the current case.
The appellate court found that the jury was entitled to believe or not believe her complaints about ongoing pain. She argued the evidence wasn’t factually enough to support the jury’s failure to award future pain and suffering damages. The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s judgment.
If you are injured by someone else in a car accident, the experienced San Antonio attorneys at Carabin & Shaw may be able to represent you and develop a sound strategy for handling your case. Call our office for more information at 1-800-862-1260.