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Calculating Pain and Suffering in Personal Injury Cases

The category of damages called “pain and suffering” can sometimes be the eye-catching part of a personal injury trial’s outcome. For example, a recent case awarded a plaintiff $10 million for pain and suffering in connection with a severe injury suffered by a teenager on a homeowner association’s badly maintained swing set. Someone who has been injured and is considering filing a lawsuit should take a moment to understand what pain and suffering damages are and what their limitations rae.

The categories of damages in Nevada civil litigation

Civil trial damages are divided into three categories:
  1. Economic (or compensatory) damages can be thought of as the consequences of the defendant’s wrong actions that can be reduced to a firm dollar figure without resorting to abstraction. Past and future medical expenses, lost earnings, and property damage are examples of economic damages. The scope of economic damages can itself be a controversy at trial. For example, a person’s future earnings are contingent on many factors, like the person’s age, years to retirement, and career path.
  2. Punitive damages are sometimes awarded in cases where the defendant has acted especially badly. The aim of punitive damages is to make an example out of the defendant to deter others from behaving in the same way.
  3. Noneconomic damages tend to be difficult or impossible to quantify using commonly accepted formulas. Examples of noneconomic damages include humiliation, anxiety, grief, and loss of enjoyment. Pain and suffering are just two closely related variations of noneconomic damages.
The types of damages that a plaintiff can seek in a case depend on the nature of the claim, the parties involved in the case, and other factors. Economic damages tend to be available in almost every case that isn’t simply barred on other grounds. But noneconomic damages can be subject to caps or even prohibited altogether. Such restrictions are usually contained in statutes that are designed to limit the liability risk of certain activities. For example, Nevada law limits noneconomic damages in professional negligence cases (e.g., medical malpractice) to $350,000. NRS 41A.035.

How are pain and suffering damages calculated?

A plaintiff’s claim for pain and suffering, or other forms of noneconomic damages, must be fair and reasonable and may not exceed any applicable statutory cap. Like all damages, pain and suffering also must be proven with evidence. The greater a showing the plaintiff can make of the tribulations suffered due to the defendant’s wrongful actions, the greater the potential damages award. Unlike a plaintiff’s medical bills, pain and suffering isn’t so much a matter of math as one of reasoned argument. Proving pain and suffering requires a careful collection of hard evidence, like photos and medical records. Documentation of the plaintiff’s medical condition, such as x-rays, can be especially persuasive. Oral testimony can also be vitally important. The plaintiff’s family members, friends, occupational therapists, and others can help to paint a picture of how the plaintiff’s life has changed after the incident.

GGRM is an experienced personal injury law firm in Las Vegas

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented injured clients in the Las Vegas area for over 45 years. If you have been injured in an accident and would like to speak to an attorney at no cost, please give us a call today at 702-388-4476. We can also be reached through our contacts page.

The Role of Wrongful Death in Nevada Personal Injury Cases

The Role of Wrongful Death in Nevada Personal Injury Cases
Wrongful death is a cause of action in civil lawsuits that follow deaths caused by the negligence or willful acts of others. Like a personal injury case, the central issue in wrongful death is whether the defendant was negligent toward the injured person, and whether the negligence caused the injury that led to death. Unlike ordinary personal injury cases, wrongful death cases are brought not by the injured person but by that person’s heirs or personal representatives.

Standing requirement for bringing a wrongful death claim

To bring a wrongful death claim in Nevada, the plaintiff must be a personal representative or legal heir of the person who has died. NRS 41.085. For purposes of wrongful death suits, a person’s heirs are identified by the state’s rules for people who die intestate—that is, without valid wills. On the one hand, this means that the potential list of heirs can be long. In cases where the deceased didn’t have immediate heirs (a spouse or surviving children, for example) the rules of intestacy can draw in people who at first seem far removed, like nieces and nephews or even distant cousins. On the other hand, someone who doesn’t qualify has an heir might not be able to bring a wrongful death suit. For example, a life-long partner of the deceased who was not joined to them by marriage or civil union could lack standing to bring a wrongful death claim. A fiancée would fall into this category as well. Note that it isn’t enough that the deceased person named someone as an heir in their will, because the statute’s definition of “heir” ignores the will. The “personal representative” of a deceased person is typically his or her estate lawyer, trustee, or executor. People in these roles are primarily focused on settling the person’s estate, which involves paying off debts ahead of distributing the remaining property to heirs. The statute allows such individuals to bring wrongful death suits to ensure that the responsible party pays the debts associated with the cause of death.

Damages available in wrongful death claims

The Nevada wrongful death statute allows plaintiffs to seek compensation for a wide range of damages. It draws a distinction between heirs and personal representatives for the types of damages that are available. Heirs can pursue monetary awards for:
  • The plaintiff’s grief.
  • Loss of support (for example, if the deceased was the primary earner in a household).
  • Loss of companionship.
  • Loss of comfort and consortium (in ordinary terms, the loss of one’s sexual partner).
  • Pain, suffering, or disfigurement of the deceased.
NRS 41.085(4). Personal representatives can pursue damages for things like funeral expenses and medical bills. A personal representative can also seek punitive or exemplary damages. The statute earmarks any damages recovered by a personal representative for the debts of the deceased person’s estate. NRS 41.085(5).

At GGRM we take wrongful death personally

For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has been committed to giving our clients the personal, caring attention they deserve. We set ourselves apart through our compassionate approach to every case. If you are thinking about filing a lawsuit in connection with the death of a loved one, our attorneys are here to help you sort through your options. For a free attorney consultation, reach out to us today at 702-388-4476, or contact us through our website.