If you or a loved one have been in a serious accident, then you know the recovery process can be full of pain and suffering. In some cases, that pain will never fully be healed. The good news for people in this situation is that the law is designed to help victims recover damages for their non-economic injuries, commonly called “pain and suffering.”
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It can be difficult to determine how much compensation a victim of an accident should get for their pain and suffering, but there are some key guidelines when it comes to the law in New Mexico.
What is Pain and Suffering, from a Legal Standpoint?
Before we dive into whether or not there is a cap on pain and suffering settlements in New Mexico, it’s essential to understand what goes into these kinds of settlements, so you can receive the maximum compensation you’re owed. According to Forbes, “pain and suffering refers to physical and mental discomfort you experience after you are harmed due to negligence or intentional wrongdoing.” This means it differs from economic damages, which are direct current or future financial losses that have occurred or that you reasonably expect to occur.
To give a concrete example, suppose you were in an accident in which you sustained a serious back injury. In that scenario, your medical expenses would be economic damages, as would payment for future lost wages if you could no longer work due to your injuries. Of course, economic damages don’t account for the entire story. With an injured back, you might be facing chronic pain. You may be unable to play with your children anymore. You may have PTSD, anxiety, or depression due to the accident and its aftermath.
These kinds of injuries constitute “pain and suffering.” They are very real, but–unlike economic injuries–it can be difficult to evaluate how much compensation should be granted as a remedy.
Overall, pain and suffering is generally broken down into two categories. First is physical pain and suffering, which relates to pain from injuries sustained in an accident. Second is mental pain and suffering, which covers mental distress, including cognitive changes resulting from brain injury, anger, grief, and a diminished quality of life.
Is There a Cap on Pain and Suffering Settlements in New Mexico?
Like many areas of the law, the limits on pain and suffering settlements are set on a state-by-state basis in the United States. Consequently, the most important factor in how much you’re eligible to receive in a settlement is which state the accident that caused the injury occurred in. Eleven states have set a cap on non-economic damages in lawsuits—but New Mexico is not among them. What’s more common is for states to set a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. The rationale behind this move is that capping the damages awarded in these kinds of cases lowers the cost of medical malpractice insurance for doctors, which in turn lowers the cost of medical treatment for everyone—or at the very least, keeps it from rising as much.
New Mexico limits medical malpractice non-economic damages to $600,000. It also limits pain and suffering damages in cases against the government or government employees to $400,000. In all other scenarios, damages for pain and suffering in New Mexico are uncapped. The most important thing to remember is that who is sued determines whether there is a cap on damages in New Mexico.
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How is Pain and Suffering Calculated?
Depending on the unique factors of your case, you might be eligible for uncapped non-economic damages, be right up against the cap, or be at a number far, far lower than the cap. How your pain and suffering damages are calculated greatly influences what you ultimately receive. In New Mexico, two methods are used for determining pain and suffering.
The first is the “per diem” method. This method is more commonly used when the pain and suffering occurs over a limited period. It works by multiplying a daily figure for pain and suffering, often equivalent to your daily wage, by how long the pain lasted. For example, if you earn $100 per day, and your pain lasts for 50 days, you would be eligible for $5,000 in pain and suffering damages.
The second and more commonly used approach is the multiplier method. In this scenario, a factor between 1.5 and 5 is chosen. That factor will then be multiplied by your total economic damages to produce your pain and suffering damages. For example, if you had $100,000 in economic damages, and the multiplier was 3, you’d be eligible for $300,000 in non-economic damages.
The greater your injuries and pain and suffering, the bigger the multiplier. And, while your pain may be very real, if it’s relatively low or limited in duration relative to other cases, then the multiplier would be lower.
How Kane Helps with Pain and Suffering Settlements
Because every accident is unique, every legal case that results from an accident is unique, too. A variety of factors influence the size of a pain and suffering settlement or whether you get one at all. You have only one chance to get your legal case right; if you don’t, you may not receive the full compensation to which you’re entitled. That’s why it’s critical you work with an expert in accident law. At Kane, we’ve helped countless clients win their accident cases. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation where we explore your next steps.