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Pain and Suffering Damages in Hawaii

From the soaring cliffs of the Na Pali Coast to the pristine waters of Makena Beach, the Hawaiian Islands provide endless opportunities to escape the bustle of daily life. And while locals and visitors alike are seeking that aloha spirit, accidents can and do happen, even in the Rainbow State. Like other states, Hawaii treats "pain and suffering" as a legal term for both the physical and emotional distress caused by a physical injury. If you've been injured in this state, you'll want know how courts deal with pain and suffering damages in Hawaii.

Below is a table with laws relevant to pain and suffering damages in Hawaii, including limits on damages and the statute of limitations.

Statute of Limitations

2 years for personal injury, medical malpractice, and claims against the state (Sec's. 657-7, 657-7.3, 662-4)

Limits on Damages $375,000 cap on most pain & suffering damages (Sec. 663-8.7)
Other Limits Comparative negligence rule may prohibit or reduce recovery of any damages (Sec. 663-31)

Economic vs. Non-economic Damages

If you've been in an accident, you will most likely need to consider two types of damages: economic (or "special") and non-economic (or "general"). Economic damages refer to the more objective, precise costs of an injury, like medical expenses. Non-economic damages are the more subjective, nonmonetary costs of an accident, including pain and suffering (for example: depression, insomnia, and the loss of enjoyment of life).

The Difficulty of Measuring Pain and Suffering

Each person experiences pain and suffering differently, and two people with the same injury may have very different consequences based on their particular situations. This makes it hard to measure damages for pain and suffering. Courts often give juries very little guidance in deciding how much to award, although attorneys and juries sometimes use a number of factors to attempt to assign value to these types of damages.

Examples of factors courts may consider in determining damages for pain and suffering include:

  • Severity of the injury
  • Potential for ongoing consequences
  • Age of the injured person
  • Whether the injured had preexisting conditions
  • The amount of economic loss suffered

Some attorneys also use a "multiplier method" to arrive at a dollar value for pain and suffering. In this method, the attorney multiplies the economic damages by a certain number, usually between one and five. For example, if the injured party suffered $10,000 in medical bills, an attorney might argue that the plaintiff should be awarded four times that amount ($40,000) for pain and suffering.

Limits on Damages

Some states, including Hawaii, impose their own limits on these types of awards. Hawaii caps damages for pain at suffering at $375,000, except in certain cases involving multiple defendants (such as intentional torts and some vehicle accidents). Furthermore, the state's "modified comparative negligence" rule bars any recovery if the plaintiff was more than 50% responsible for causing the injury. In all other instances where the plaintiff is partially at fault, any damages awarded are reduced in proportion to the amount of negligence attributed to the plaintiff.

Quesstions about Pain and Suffering Damages? Contact a Hawaii Attorney

Damages for pain and suffering are inherently difficult to measure and vary widely from case to case. Additionally, Hawaii's comparative negligence rule could prevent or greatly reduce your compensation. Therefore, it's important to have both good documentation and effective representation for these types of claims. Learn more and evaluate the strength of your claim by talking to an experienced injury attorney, familiar with pain and suffering damages in Hawaii.

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