Pain and Suffering Damages in Nebraska
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed December 11, 2018
Go Huskers! Need we say more? Nebraska is home to a lot of things – corn included – but the state may just be best known for its enviable collegiate and minor league athletics. Just ask Alex Gordon – a Cornhusker turned Omaha Storm Chaser and World Champion left fielder for that Major League Baseball team playing down the I-29. If you’re headed to Nebraska, perhaps to check out one of those sporting events, keep in mind that if you are involved in an accident or an unfortunate incident involving medical malpractice, the state’s laws may affect your recovery for pain and suffering. Read on to learn more about pain and suffering damages in Nebraska.
Pain and Suffering: The Basics
The somewhat vague “pain and suffering” damages concept is raised often in legal dramas and courthouse novels, but to accident victims, these damages are more than a plot line – they are compensation for insufferable pain and indescribable anguish. 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 anguish portion of these damages factors in depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other mental byproducts of an accident. Because there is no obvious dollar amount calculable from these injuries, pain and suffering awards are considered non-economic (or “general”) damages.
In attempting to place a dollar value on pain and suffering damages, a jury or judge might consider:
- How much will the injured party’s daily routine be limited or changed?
- How will the injury impact professional and personal relationships?
- How does the pain or injury affect sleep or other lifestyle factors?
- How does 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, Nebraska included, have limits on these damages to keep awards at a reasonable level. While the idea here is to reduce the potential for abuse, these laws also limit the recovery available to those who are legitimately injured and suffering excruciating pain or distress.
Negligence equal to or greater than defendant's is a total bar. Awards reduced by victim’s own percentage of fault. (Revised Statute Section 25-21, 185.09)
All damages, including economic and non-economic, are presently capped at $2.25 million. (Revised Statutes Section 44-2825)
Fault and Pain and Suffering Damage Awards
Nebraska is a “modified comparative fault” state. In states with laws like Nebraska’s, laws limit the injured party’s damage recovery in proportion to their degree of fault. If the case doesn’t settle first, the judge or jury sets percentages of fault for each party– and if a party is 50 percent or more at fault, they cannot recover at all. For example, if a driver is injured in an accident, but was found to be 60 percent at fault (such as someone running a red light), they cannot recover – as they are more than 50 percent at fault. The other party can recover up to 60 percent of her damages, if she files a claim, as she is less than 50 percent at fault.
Nebraska's Unique Cap on Medical Malpractice Damages
Nebraska doesn’t cap pain and suffering, or even non-economic damages generally, in all cases. However, in a subset of cases, there is an outright cap on all damages, economic and non-economic: medical malpractice claims.
This type of restriction is extremely rare. Many states will limit pain and suffering or non-economic damages because the amount is so inexact – who’s to say how much a few weeks of agonizing pain is worth in terms of dollars, after all? But Nebraska limits recover for all damages to $2.25 million – including lost wages, pain and suffering, medical bills and anything else that results from a doctor or other medical provider’s negligence.
That figure may sound high, but after medical bills are accounted for, and lost wages for a high-earner, recovery could be significantly higher than it would be without the cap in place. This might mean a victim of medical malpractice ends up with an insufficient award after the (negligent) doctor’s bills and patient’s medications are paid for.
Claiming Pain and Suffering Damages? Talk to a Nebraska Attorney First
Pain and suffering, on its own, is a vague and hard to prove concept. Add in the limits placed on those and other damages by law and you can see how obtaining a significant damage award can be difficult for many cases. A skilled Nebraska injury attorney will know how to devise a strategy to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
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