When someone is injured in an auto accident, it often will cost them more than the expenses totaled on medical bills. There is the time they lose at work (if they are even able to return), and the repairs that must be made to the vehicle.
But beyond that, a car accident can leave a person with lasting physical and emotional damage that adversely impacts almost every corner of their life – from their physical activities to their personal relationships to their overall daily mood. If someone is suffering from chronic pain, they aren’t apt to engage in activities they once loved.
Collectively, these are referred to in civil law as “non-economic damages.” That is, they are those losses that can’t be tabulated in exact terms on an itemized billing spreadsheet. Nonetheless, injured persons deserve to be compensated for them.
Such was the case in a recent car accident lawsuit, Bean v. Pacific Coast Elevator Corp., before a California appellate court.
According to court records, plaintiff was a physically active, successful businessman who was stopped at a red light one afternoon when he was rear-ended by an on-the-job truck driver.
Plaintiff was transported by ambulance to the hospital from the crash scene, where he was noted to be in extreme pain. Doctors ran a series of tests on him, and he was released later that day. He returned to work after several days, but continued to struggle with pain and completion of basic physical activities, such as sleeping, going to the bathroom, getting dressed and driving a car.
He underwent a series of treatments that only marginally helped. His lifestyle was altered dramatically. He could no longer play baseball, engage in water sports or do so many of the things he previously enjoyed recreationally. He could no longer make basic repairs to his own home, and he couldn’t help care for his elderly mother. He took pain medication for the chronic flare-ups, and this put tension on his familial relationships. His friendships also suffered, as he no longer engaged in many social activities he had once thoroughly enjoyed.
He continued to receive treatments in hope of relief when he suffered further injuries as a result of a second automobile crash in which he was again rear-ended. Doctors did not note any new or additional damage to his spine, but his pain continued to worsen. he was advised by doctors to undergo spinal surgery, which he did. This eased the pain, but not totally, and it’s likely he’ll need another one in the next two decades. Chronic pain remains about a 2 on a 10-point scale, though certain activities, like driving or climbing the stairs, are intensely painful. He went from being able to bench press 250 pounds down to about 40 pounds.
Plaintiff sued the company that employed the driver, and jurors awarded him $1.2 million total – $49,000 for past medical expenses, $78,000 in future medical expenses and lost earnings and the rest in non-economic damages.
Defendant appealed, arguing the injuries plaintiff suffered were “relatively minor” and the award of non-economic damages was excessive. Appellate court affirmed. Jury acted within its discretion to award plaintiff significant damages for non-economic costs related to his crash injuries.
Contact the North Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Bean v. Pacific Coast Elevator Corp., March 10, 2015, California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One
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