Our clients in 2014 have incurred millions of dollars in medical bills. But the real harm in personal injury cases is the physical and emotional pain and suffering that comes with the victims’ injuries. Today we are going to look at compensation for emotional injuries in accident and medical malpractice cases.
Let’s start out with some hard number on compensation for emotional injuries nationally, provided by Jury Verdict Research. This category includes cases involving emotional distress or post-traumatic stress syndrome.
|Year||Award Median||Probability Range||Award Range||Award Mean|
|2004||$76,500||$10,489 – $313,750||$1 – $111,500,000||$1,055,011|
|2005||$85,692||$12,158 – $363,126||$1 – $200,000,000||$724,153|
|2006||$118,293||$14,651 – $662,500||$1 – $27,500,000||$1,269,809|
|2007||$94,234||$13,750 – $406,200||$1 – $23,550,000||$788,988|
|2008||$100,060||$20,000 – $356,250||$1 – $188,000,000||$2,667,935|
|2009||$57,500||$10,000 – $287,500||$1 – $21,000,000||$425,814|
|2010||$45,000||$6,000 – $250,000||$1 – $2,798,251||$236,998|
|Overall||$81,000||$10,789 – $373,750||$1 – $188,000,000||$1,072,139|
What jumps out at you in these numbers? The median award is about 12 times less than the average award. Why is that? First, the average jury award is almost invariably higher than the median award because the very large verdicts tend to lift the average.
Wrongful Death Cases
But the big reason why the gap is so wide here between median and average is that there are two kinds of emotional injury cases: wrongful death and non-wrongful death.
Defense lawyers think that for very old victims, the value of emotional injuries in Maryland is less than it would be for a younger person. That would be true except for the fact that we have a cap on non-economic damages in Maryland wrongful death cases. So almost any wrongful death case is going to get up to the cap on non-economic damages. No defense lawyer is going to argue to a jury that a death of a person — the loss of whatever time they had left — is less than a million dollars. These “sentimental losses” as they are sometimes called, tragically have the same value in Maryland because of our stone ages cap on a jury’s right to award an amount they believe is most appropriate.
Types of Emotional Injury in Non-Death Cases
So what about emotional injury claims in non-death cases? Here are some examples of common emotional injury cases:
- Emotional distress due to witnessing an injury or death to another person (in the “zone of danger”)
- Emotional distress of not being able to see or play with your child
- Post-traumatic stress
- Anxiety about potential future disease or death from accident
- Depression about the impact of physical injuries
- Loss of consortium
What is the Value of These Types of Emotional Injury Cases?
The value of these cases ranges from the pennies to millions. There is probably not an area of case evaluation that has more of a mercurial “it depends” factor than with this intangible injury. Sometimes, emotional injuries are the bulk of a personal injury claim. In other cases, the value is almost zero. The key is how much suffering has been endured, would a reasonable person similarly situated endure that suffering, and whether the plaintiff’s attorney and the victim are able to adequately convey it to a jury.
Pure Emotional Injuries Versus Physical/Emotional Injuries
This issue can be summarized as follows: emotional injury cases without physical pain are usually a very steep hill to climb. Don’t get me wrong: these can be very large cases under the right circumstances. But the majority of these cases fail.