New Standard in Awarding Non-Economic Damages in a Personal Injury Case

Victims who suffer personal injuries at the hands of others are entitled to recover a variety of damages under Texas law. The two general categories of damages awarded in personal injury cases are economic damages and non-economic damages. Unlike economic damages, which are meant to compensate for tangible financial losses and expenses related to your injury (i.e., medical expenses and lost wages), non-economic damages are intended to compensate for intangible losses and harms that are more difficult to quantify in monetary terms. They are often awarded to address the pain, suffering, impairment, and emotional distress experienced by the injured party. Sadly, the long-term effects of non-economic injuries can affect a person’s life forever.

Recently, in June 2023, the Supreme Court of Texas issued an opinion for which non-economic damages are to be awarded. Prior to the Supreme Court’s 2023 decision, the long-recognized standard for finding mental anguish damages was required to be supported by evidence of the “nature, duration or severity” of the anguish, or other evidence of a “high degree of mental pain and distress,” for the existence of a compensable loss. Once the existence of pain, suffering and mental anguish was established, the jury was responsible for considering the evidence presented, and applying their common knowledge to awarding an amount to compensate an injured victim for the injuries they sustained. The Court has long-recognized that non-economic damages offer a financial remedy for non-financial harm that are not capable to calculation “with precise mathematical precision.”

On June 16, 2023, the Supreme Court essentially re-defined above standard by issuing an opinion that non-economic damages must not only require (1) evidence of the existence of a compensable loss, but also (2) a rational basis grounded in evidence between the injuries suffered and the amount awarded for non-economic damages. The standard now advocates proof of the existence and amount of damages.

So, what does that mean? What evidence must be demonstrated to justify the amount awarded? The Court declined to address what that structure or rationale should look like.

While the Supreme Court’s plurality decision is not considered binding authority, it advocates a new evidentiary standard that is foreign to our jurisprudence and effectively neutralizes the jury’s role by requiring them to rely on evidence that is much more challenging to present.

In order to receive maximum and just compensation for your injuries, economic or non-economic, it is imperative that you hire an attorney who understands what you have been through and can effectively convey your injuries to the jury to tie the evidence to your damages.

If you or someone you love have been injured by the wrongful contact of another, contact an experienced attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner. The law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz, & Stogner is the longest-standing personal injury firm in Texas, and our attorneys have the knowledge, experience, and resources necessary to obtain just compensation for our clients. For more information, call us today at 713-222-7211 or 1-800 870-9584.