A recent car accident lawsuit illustrates the importance of establishing non-economic damages to the court.
In Bean v. Pacific Coast Elevator Corp., a California appellate court upheld $1.3 million in damages for the victim – of which $1.14 million was non-economic damages. Although his medical bills and costs were not all that high, the court ruled the substantial award was not excessive (as defense claimed) given his chronic pain and suffering and loss of life enjoyment.
In many cases, non-economic damages will make up the biggest award to which you are entitled. Compensation for medical expenses, for example, typically goes straight to the health care providers (unless the bills have already been paid, or it is for future medical expenses). Lost wages are another type of economic damages, which are clearly measurable.
Non-economic damages go directly to the victim, and they are an effort to make the victim whole, in a sense. If courts only considered economic damages, defendants would pay far less for the same negligence against a stay-at-home mother or a lower-wage worker or a retired veteran than they would to someone who is actively earning large wages.
The loss of life enjoyment, pain and suffering, anxiety and mental anguish, ongoing emotional or debilitating physical ailments, a compromise of self-worth, integrity and dignity – these are all things that don’t have an exact dollar amount attached to them, but nonetheless deserve compensation. That is what non-economic damages in Fort Myers car accident lawsuits are all about.
In Bean, plaintiff was a physically active, socially involved younger man – until the day he was rear-ended by defendant’s employee driver. Plaintiff was in his truck stopped at a red light when defendant’s driver approached from behind and reportedly did not see the plaintiff’s vehicle due to the glare. The resulting impact caused injuries to plaintiff.
Plaintiff was transported to the emergency room, where he underwent a series of imaging tests and was ultimately given pain medicine and sent home. In the days that followed, his condition worsened. He had trouble sleeping, dressing himself and using the bathroom. His neck and back pain became severe. His treatments continued and included spinal surgery, which greatly improved his pain, but it’s still ongoing. It’s also likely he’ll need another surgery within 20 years.
He suffered pain so intense he began to withdraw from his normal activities. He could no longer play baseball, engage in water sports, lift weights or go off-roading, as he once loved to do. He gained weight, due to a newly inactive lifestyle. At trial, his friends would later testify he had become greatly withdrawn. Their relationships with him had suffered. His familial relationships too had diminished. He couldn’t help care for his ailing mother. The constant cycle of pain medication had resulted in tensions with certain relatives. And he could no longer do basic repairs and maintenance in his own home. Even climbing a few stairs had become difficult.
Jurors decided the case in his favor.
Defense appealed on the grounds the non-economic damage award was excessive. Defense asserted the actual injuries weren’t that severe and such an award was unwarranted.
The California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District, Division One, disagreed. The court noted an award isn’t excessive just because it’s larger than what is ordinarily awarded. Even though it is what would be considered the high end of reasonable damages, the court ruled that taking into account the subjective nature of such damages, the seriousness of plaintiff’s injuries, the considerable loss of life enjoyment and his lengthy expected life span, the verdict was not so large as to shock the conscience and suggest prejudice, passion or corruption by jurors.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Bean v. Pacific Coast Elevator Corp., March 10, 2015, California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District, Division One
More Blog Entries:
Midwestern Indem. Co. v. Brooks – UIM Coverage for Bicyclists, March 20, 2015, Fort Myers Car Accident Lawyer Blog