Court Finds Jury’s Pain-and-Suffering Damages Award Inconsistent with Its Medical Expenses Award

Earlier this month, a state supreme court decided a case that required the court to examine the two types of awards that are available in personal injury cases and determine if the two were consistent. In the case, Bryant v. Rimrodt, the court ultimately determined that the jury’s determination that the plaintiff was entitled to $1 for his pain and suffering was inconsistent with the finding that he sustained almost $17,000 in medical expenses.

The Facts of the Case

In the case, Bryant v. Rimrodt, the plaintiff was a car salesman who was injured while riding as a passenger in a test-drive with a customer. According to the court’s written opinion, the customer made an illegal left-hand turn and collided with another vehicle. As a result of the accident, the salesperson briefly lost consciousness and was taken to the hospital. He was treated by numerous physicians, with varying diagnoses, none of which was particularly serious. In fact, several treating physicians told the plaintiff that there was no physiological reason for his pain. However, he continued to suffer from back, neck, and shoulder pain. In the following year, the salesman filed a lawsuit against the customer.

After a jury trial, the customer driving the car was found to be at fault, and the plaintiff was awarded roughly $17,000 for medical expenses he had already incurred. However, when it came to damages for his pain and suffering, the jury awarded the plaintiff nothing. Both parties agreed that there had to have been some amount of pain and suffering, given the medical treatment the plaintiff sought. Therefore, the judge sent the jury back into deliberations with instructions to reconcile the verdict. The jury then returned a nominal damages award of $1. Not satisfied with the verdict, the plaintiff asked for a new trial. The judge denied the plaintiff’s request, and then he appealed.

The State Supreme Court Orders a New Trial

The court explained that the nominal pain-and-suffering damages award was not consistent with the finding of liability for the medical expenses. The court explained that, had the jury believed that the plaintiff’s pain was nonexistent or exaggerated, it should not have awarded him the $17,000 for medical expenses. However, once the jury determined liability as to the medical expenses, the damages award for pain and suffering the plaintiff sustained while undergoing that medical treatment needed to be consistent.

The case discussed above illustrates quite well the two different types of damages awards available in personal injury accidents:  economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are those that can be assigned an exact dollar value, such as past medical expenses. Non-economic damages cannot be precisely determined, such as pain and suffering, and they require the judge or jury to estimate what is fair, given the circumstances of the case.

Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a serious Virginia car, truck, or motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation to help you cover the costs of your injuries. You may also be eligible for compensation for the pain and suffering you endured as a result of your injuries. To learn more, and to speak with a dedicated Virginia car accident attorney about your case, call (703) 798-3039 to set up a consultation. Calling is free and will not result in any liability on your part unless we are able to help you recover for your injuries.

See More Blog Posts:

Contact Sports and Traumatic Brain Injuries, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, December 14, 2015.

U.S. Supreme Court Discusses Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act as It Applies to Personal Injury Cases, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, December 7, 2014.

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