Pain and Suffering Damages in Mississippi
Mississippi is the heart of the South. It is a historian’s dreamland, with plenty of historical landmarks from the Civil War and Civil Rights movement. It is also the home of Oprah Winfrey and the source of much of our nation’s catfish supply. But, if you’re a resident, history buff tourist, or simply passing through on the way to Mardi Gras in Louisiana, take note of the laws governing pain and suffering damages in Mississippi – a car accident or medical malpractice mistake could drastically alter your lifestyle, while the damage caps could limit compensation.
What Are Pain and Suffering Damages?
You hear about “pain and suffering” damages in television shows and John Grisham novels, but what are they really? These damages account for the physical pain and emotional distress that a person deals with after an accident or intentional harm by another person. The emotional distress (or “anguish”) portion of these damages often factors in depression, anxiety, loss of sleep, and other mental symptoms that accompany the injuries sustained. Because there is no dollar amount immediately associated with them, pain and suffering awards are considered non-economic (or “general”) damages.
Some of the factors that may be considered when attempting to place a dollar value on pain and suffering include:
- How much will the injured party’s daily routine be limited or altered?
- Will the injury impact relationships at home or work?
- How does the pain or injury affect sleep or other lifestyle factors?
- Will the injury impact the party in the long term?
Limits on Pain and Suffering Damages
Obviously, with no easily calculable dollar amount attributable to pain and anguish, there is fear of, and potential for, abuse by sympathetic juries in the form of major awards – sometimes many times higher than the actual economic damages that occurred as a result of an accident. Many states, Mississippi included, have limits on these damages to keep awards under control. While these laws are intended to limit the potential for abuse, they also limit the recovery available to those who are legitimately injured and suffering excruciating pain or distress.
Pure comparative fault system does not limit damage recovery. MS Code § 11-7-15 (2013)
Non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, limited to $1,000,000. MS Code § 11-1-60 (2010).
Non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, limited to $500,000. MS Code § 11-1-60 (2010).
Pure Comparative Fault May Reduce Pain and Suffering Damage Awards
Mississippi is a “pure comparative fault” state. In these types of states, the law limits the injured party’s damage recovery in proportion to their degree of fault. The judge or jury sets percentages of fault for each party, unless a case settles first. For example, if a driver is injured in an accident, but was found to be 15 percent at fault (such as someone speeding), they can recover up to 85 percent of their damages. Even if a party is 99 percent at fault, she can recover 1 percent of her damages.
Laws Limit Recovery for Non-Economic Damages
Mississippi is one of the many states that have enacted caps on non-economic damages, including pain and suffering. Currently, the cap is set at $1,000,000 for all civil cases except medical malpractice claims, which are limited to $500,000. These laws have been under significant scrutiny in state and federal courts, including by a state trial judge who found the larger cap to violate the state’s constitution, though that decision never became binding due to a settlement while the case was under appeal.
Have Specific Questions About Pain and Suffering Damages in Mississippi? Ask an Attorney
Pain and suffering is hard to prove and the limits placed on those damages by law make getting significant damage awards difficult in many cases. With Mississippi's damages caps under scrutiny, the law could change as well. Speak to a skilled personal injury attorney in Mississippi to discuss your case, potential strategies, and chances of recovery.
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