Welcome to Big Sky Country. Gorgeous Montana is home to seventy-seven mountain ranges, Glacier National Park, some of the best beef this side of Japan, and the criminally underrated capital city of Helena. The state is also home to some pretty severe personal injury laws, including caps on pain and suffering damages, which locals and tourists alike should keep in mind before trying out Helena’s breweries or hiking the Rocky Mountains. Read on to learn more about pain and suffering damages in Montana.
How Do Pain and Suffering Damages Work?
The concept of “pain and suffering” damages sounds vague and open to interpretation, so what are they really? These pain and suffering damages account for the physical pain and emotional distress that a person deals with after an accident or intentional harm by another person. The emotional distress (or “anguish”) portion of these damages often factors in depression, anxiety, loss of sleep, and other mental symptoms that accompany the physical injuries, but can be just as devastating. Unlike easily calculable damages, like medical bills, these non-specific damages, such as pain and suffering awards, are considered non-economic (or “general”) damages.
Should you prevail on a claim for pain and suffering, the jury (or if you settle before trial – the lawyers) will consider these factors, among others:
Limits on Pain and Suffering Damages
Because these damages are so hard to calculate, there is fear of, and potential for, abuse by sympathetic juries in the form of major awards – sometimes many times higher than the actual economic damages resulting from the accident. Many states, Montana included, have limits on non-economic damages to keep awards under control. While ostensibly reducing the potential for abuse, these laws also limit the recovery available to those who are legitimately injured and suffering excruciating pain or distress.
|Modified comparative negligence laws. Party less than 51 percent at fault can recover. Damages are reduced by one’s own percentage of fault. Montana Code Annotated Section 27-1-702.|
Cap on non-economic damages set at $250,000. Montana Code Annotated Section 25-9-411.
No cap on economic damages.
Modified Comparative Fault and Pain and Suffering Damage Awards
Montana is a “modified comparative fault” state. In these types of states, the law limits the injured party’s damage recovery in proportion to their degree of fault – and if a party is 51 percent or more at fault, they cannot recover at all. The judge or jury sets percentages of fault for each party, unless a case settles first. For example, if a driver is injured in an accident, but was found to be 15 percent at fault (such as someone speeding), they can recover up to 85 percent of their damages. The other party cannot recover, as they were more than 50% at fault.
Statutory Cap on Non-Economic Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases
While there is no cap on non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, for cases in general – such as a car accident claim – there is a cap for medical malpractice claims. In medical malpractice cases, non-economic damages are capped at $250,000 per act of malpractice – this means if one act of negligence affects multiple patients, each can recover a maximum of $250,000 for their pain and suffering, plus any economic damages, such as lost wages from time off work due to the injury.
Pain and Suffering Damages are Hard to Prove: Talk to a Montana Attorney
If pain and suffering damages sound vague and hard to prove, you’re right. Plus, the limits placed on those damages by law make getting significant damage awards difficult for many cases. For these reasons, it usually makes sense to speak with an experienced attorney before pursuing such a claim. Talk to a Montana personal injury lawyer near you today.
Contact a qualified attorney.