Accident victims may be able to recover compensation for different kinds of economic and non-economic loss in a negligence claim. In a July 14, 2017 case, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee reviewed a jury award of damages to a plaintiff injured in a Tennessee car accident. The defendant admitted liability for the accident but appealed the amounts awarded for damages, which totaled approximately $271,000. On appeal, the court addressed some of the awards of damages, including medical expenses, lost future earnings, pain and suffering, and other damages.
In Tennessee, an injured party is entitled to recover for medical expenses reasonably and necessarily incurred in the treatment of the injury. On appeal, the court held that the medical expenses incurred by the plaintiff from the time of the accident through four months afterward were proven reasonable and necessary by a preponderance of the evidence. However, the court decreased the award by the number of expenses incurred after the plaintiff was discharged from her doctor’s treatment, which was not proven necessary to treat injuries from the accident.
Loss of Future Earning Capacity
Loss or impairment of future earning capacity is an element of damages in a personal injury action. Earning capacity refers not to actual earnings but instead to the earnings that the plaintiff is capable of making. Generally, this amount is calculated by comparing what the plaintiff would have been capable of earning without the injury with the amount the plaintiff is capable of earning after the injury. Courts routinely admit evidence concerning numerous factors, including the plaintiff’s age, health, intelligence, capacity and ability to work, experience, training, a record of employment, and future avenues of employment.
In the case, the appeals court found that the evidence did show that the plaintiff had lost income since the accident and that she suffered continued discomfort as a result of her injuries. However, the trial court did not make any findings regarding an impairment of the plaintiff’s future earning capacity. Instead, the award was based on a calculation of lost earnings. As a result, the appeals court vacated the future earnings damages and remanded for reconsideration with appropriate findings.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering encompass the physical and mental discomfort caused by an injury. It includes a wide array of mental and emotional responses that accompany the pain, characterized as suffering, such as anguish, distress, fear, humiliation, grief, shame, or worry.
The appeals court concluded the plaintiff’s testimony and medical records supported the award for past pain and suffering. However, neither the MRI nor the plaintiff’s doctor indicated that the plaintiff had suffered any permanent injury to her neck. Accordingly, the court affirmed the award for past pain and suffering but reversed the award for future pain and suffering.
Loss of Ability to Enjoy Life
Damages for loss of enjoyment of life are awarded to compensate the injured person for the limitations placed on her ability to enjoy the pleasures and amenities of life. This type of damages relates to daily life activities that are common to most people. On appeal, the court affirmed the award for past loss of the plaintiff’s ability to enjoy life, finding that it was supported by the evidence. With the majority of the jury verdict upheld, the matter was remanded for reconsideration of the damages for the plaintiff’s loss of earning capacity.
At Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, our Nashville attorneys can help plaintiffs take legal action to pursue compensation for their injuries. We can represent individuals in a range of negligence lawsuits, including truck accident cases, wrongful death claims, and slip and fall cases. Contact Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard at (615) 800-7096 or online to make your appointment with a dedicated negligence attorney.