The civil courts in West Virginia allow injured parties to recover for economic losses, such as accident-related medical bills, lost wages, and property damage in personal injury lawsuits. The courts also recognize that these aren’t the only harms victims may suffer. In many accidents, injured victims also have non-economic, or intangible, damages. A common category for these damages is “pain and suffering” – physical pain and emotional suffering. Learn about compensation for these damages in the Mountain State and consider speaking with a personal injury lawyer in West Virginia if you need more information or would like to discuss your case in greater detail.
When Can You Sue for Pain and Suffering?
Not all personal injury lawsuits lead to pain and suffering damages, but most cases involving severe physical injury will allow for intangible damage recovery. Major injuries typically cause emotional distress, mental anguish, lost quality of life, disfigurement, or cognitive difficulties – sometimes temporarily, sometimes for life. These non-economic damages go along with pain and suffering and paint a full picture of the victim’s losses. The courts will consider the following when deciding on an award for pain and suffering:
- Severity of the injury. If an injury is catastrophic or results in debilitation, the judge is more likely to award pain and suffering damages. The victim will have to live with the effects of the injury for a long period of time or for life.
- Degree of suffering. A particularly painful injury, especially one that leads to chronic pain, may deserve non-economic damage recovery. The judge might not deem damages necessary for a less substantial injury that is more of a nuisance than a source of physical pain.
- The victim’s age. Younger victims who are seriously or permanently injured may receive a larger pain and suffering award since he or she will have to endure the effects of the injury for a longer period of time.
The more serious the injury, the more likely the courts will award pain and suffering damages. It is also possible to recover these damages without a physical injury. If an accident was traumatic enough to have caused significant emotional distress or other harms, such as fear or humiliation, the courts might take this into consideration. In general, the courts reserve pain and suffering damages for physical injuries.
How Do the Courts Calculate Pain and Suffering Damages?
You may wonder how a judge could possibly put a monetary value on non-economic damages. There is no set equation that values pain and suffering because each case is unique, and the amount awarded is largely up to the judge’s discretion. There are a number of approaches an insurance company or judge could take when calculating pain and suffering compensation. One of the most common methods uses multiplication. The judge will take the monetary value of the economic damages and multiply it by a number that represents the severity of the injury – typically between 1.5 and 5, with 5 being the most severe.
West Virginia is one of many states that places damage caps on personal injury compensation awards. There is currently a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. If the medical malpractice resulted in death or permanent injury, this cap increases to $500,000. There is also a punitive damages cap of $500,000. There is no damage cap on non-economic damages from car accidents, or other causes besides medical malpractice, such as workplace injury.
West Virginia is a modified comparative negligence state, which means a claimant can take home compensation for pain and suffering even if he or she was partially responsible for a crash. The courts will reduce the plaintiff’s compensation amount according to his or her percentage of fault. For example, a plaintiff who is 20% responsible for an accident would take home $80,000 of a $100,000 total award. If a plaintiff is 50% or more at fault, he or she will not be eligible for recovery. Speak to a lawyer about pain and suffering compensation in your particular case.