Strategies, Challenges, and Answers

Damages 102 (General Damages)

The easiest way to define “general damages” is to say that they are not “special damages”.  Special damages are the monetary award to reimburse the plaintiff for a loss or expense that can be readily valued, i.e. the cost of medical bills or the costs to repair damage to property.  See the prior post, Damages 101 (Compensatory Damages) for more information on special damages.   On the other hand, “general damages” are those damages that by their nature can have no intrinsic monetary value, i.e. pain and suffering or emotional distress.

167743_black_4 When calculating general damages, many people believe that there is a formula.  For example, there are those who say that pain and suffering should be two times or three times the total of the special damages.  However, such a formula is not the law.  Rather, if a claim goes to trial in Nevada, the jury is told to calculate pain and suffering as follows:

No definite standard or method of calculation is prescribed by law by which to fix reasonable compensation for pain and suffering.  Nor is the opinion of any witness required as to the amount of such reasonable compensation.  In making an award for pain and suffering, you shall exercise your authority with calm and reasonable judgment and the damages you fix shall be just and reasonable in the light of the evidence. (Nevada Pattern Jury Instruction 10.05)

Some folks think that “emotional distress” and “pain and suffering” are the same thing.  In fact, a cause of action for “emotional distress” may give rise to an award of “pain and suffering” damages.  In order to recover for intentional infliction of emotional distress, a Nevada Plaintiff must show that the Defendant committed an extreme and outrageous conduct with either intention or reckless disregard, resulting in emotional distress.  Luckett v. Doumani, 121 Nev. 44, 110 P.3d 30 (2005).

Nevada also allows an award for damages even if the emotional distress was negligently caused.  State v. Eaton, 101 Nev. 705, 710 P.2d 1370 (1985).  However, the actions of the Defendant must result in “physical symptoms caused by apprehending the death or serious injury of a loved one due to the negligence of the defendant.” Id. at 718, 710 P.2d at 1379.  General physical or emotional discomfort was insufficient in terms of damage to satisfy the requirement for physical symptoms.  Chowdhry v. NLVH, 109 Nev. 478, 482-83, 851 P.2d 459, 462 (1993) (citations omitted).

If a Plaintiff can prove these elements of emotional distress, the Plaintiff may be awarded special damages to compensate for the cost of going to the doctor to treat the physical symptoms and may also recover general damages for the pain and suffering caused by the injury and the treatment.

Additional Information related the issue of Damages in Nevada Litigation can also be found HERE.  We at Mills & Associates encourage you to explore the “Categories” listed in the right column for related topics.

About Michael Mills

Mr. Mills practices in the area of civil litigation and appeals, with particular experience in matters involving trucking liability, insurance defense, insurance coverage, premises liability, products liability and defense of personal injury. Mr. Mills is a member of the Trucking Insurance Defense Association, the Defense Research Institute Trucking Committee and the Nevada Motor Transport Association. Mr. Mills is licensed to practice before the Nevada Supreme Court and the Utah Supreme Court. He is also licensed to appear before the United States Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts for the Districts of Nevada and Utah, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Mr. Mills has created 3 Blogs for the benefit of the insurance industry. He serves as editor and publisher of the Nevada Insurance Law Blog, the Nevada Coverage and Bad Faith Blog and the Nevada Trucking Law Blog.

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