Free consultations (505) 889-3463

New Mexico Law on Pain and Suffering Damages in Negligence Cases

Posted in Auto Accidents

Many people are familiar with the term “pain and suffering” when it comes to damages awards following a successful negligence lawsuit, but not many people know that damages are not always automatically awarded to plaintiffs. There are several different types of damages awards to which a plaintiff may be entitled when a judge or jury finds that a defendant was indeed negligent. There are awards for medical expenses, loss of earnings, pain and suffering, and, in some cases, even punitive damages.

Pain and suffering is just one type of potential damages. This award looks to not only the pain the plaintiff has already endured but also the future pain and suffering they may have to experience. Pain and suffering damages are not clear-cut because pain and suffering is fluid, and it is hard to quantify. Unlike economic damages, they are not dependent on the economic losses a plaintiff may have suffered. Instead, they are solely subjective and at the discretion of the judge or jury.

There are instances when a jury or judge may award compensation for medical bills but then refuse to provide any compensation for pain and suffering. This can result in lengthy motions and appeals. Although it is difficult, it is important that a plaintiff be able to show precisely the type of pain and suffering that they have been suffering or will continue to suffer. Some common ways a plaintiff may do this is by quantifying the amount of pain they are in, by showing how their day-to-day life is affected, or by showing how they can no longer enjoy the activities they used to participate in. They can elucidate their pain and suffering by referring to the injuries, treatment, and future procedures they may need.

Due to the high burden that must be met in order to establish punitive damages, these are often thought of as the most difficult type of damages to obtain. However, punitive damages are also often very significant, and the amount of these damages can make a drastic difference in a victim’s life.

Supreme Court of Iowa Remands Case to Lower Court after Insufficient Pain and Suffering Award

The Supreme Court of Iowa recently released their opinion in a case stemming from a serious car accident. In 2007, a car salesman was in the passenger seat of a car a potential buyer was test-driving. Unfortunately, the woman who was test-driving the car made an illegal left turn, and the car was subsequently struck by another car. The car salesman filed a negligence lawsuit against the test driver and the other car’s driver.

The case was heard by a jury, and the jury found that the test driver was 95% responsible for the accident, and the other car’s driver was 5% liable. The car salesman was awarded about $17,000 in damages for his past medical bills. However, the jury gave him nothing for pain and suffering.

The parties agreed the award amounts were not consistent, and the jury was told to resume deliberations and arrive at a more consistent outcome. However, even after that instruction, the jury only awarded the car salesman one dollar. The case was then appealed, and the appeals court found that the one dollar was sufficient to remedy any potential inconsistency. However, the supreme court reversed that decision and remanded the case for a new trial on damages. The supreme court determined that by finding that the defendant was liable for roughly $17,000 in medical expenses, the jury should award a more consistent figure for pain and suffering. The court explained that, if the jury felt as though the plaintiff was not entitled to the higher award, it should not have found the defendant liable for the medical expenses in the first place.

Have You Been Injured in a Car Accident in New Mexico?

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, it is highly recommended that you contact one of the Albuquerque car accident lawyers at the Fine Law Firm. Although juries are instructed on how to evaluate cases, it is the unfortunate fact that in some circumstances they are not capable of rendering consistent decisions. It is important that you have a dedicated  attorney to help you through your case in the event that you are not offered fair compensation. Contact an attorney at the Fine Law today at 800-640-6590 to schedule a free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Maine Supreme Court Affirms Jury Verdict Denying Damages to Injured Neighbor, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, December 1, 2015.

New Mexico Officials Urge Drivers to Recognize Risk of Holiday Drunken Driving, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, December 8, 2015.