After you or a loved one has suffered an injury you may wonder what sort of compensation you can recover. In the state of Maryland, there are three main types of compensation, also known as damages, that you can collect in a personal injury case: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.
- Economic Damages: This type of damages includes "loss of earnings and medical expenses" and includes both past and future medical expenses as well as past and future lost earnings. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 11-109 (LexisNexis 2015).
- Non-economic Damages: For personal injury, under Maryland law, non-economic damages includes "pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, loss of consortium, or other nonpecuniary injury." See id. § 11-108. Pain and suffering in action for wrongful death includes: "mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, care, marital care, parental care, filial care, attention, advice, counsel, training, guidance, or education, or other non-economic damages authorized under Title 3, Subtitle 9 of this article." Id.
- Punitive Damages: Unlike economic and non-economic damages, punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant for bad behavior and deter such behavior in the future. Smith v. Gray Concrete Pipe Co., 267 Md. 149, 159 (1972). Punitive damages are permitted in tort cases in Maryland. Owens-Illinois v. Armstrong, 326 Md. 107 (1992).
Pain And Suffering in Maryland
Pain and suffering is one of the types of non-economic damages you can recover in a personal injury case. Pain and suffering includes the physical, mental, and emotional distress that you may go through as a result of your injury. This is a very broad category of damages because there is a variety of potential consequences which can stem from an injury. If the injury is severe and the recovery takes a long time, the pain and suffering will likely be higher. If the injuries were minor and the plaintiff is able to resume normal activities after a short period of time, then the pain and suffering will likely be lower. Below are some examples of things that are compensable under pain and suffering:
- If you broke your arm slipping in a puddle at the grocery store, you could recover the cost of your medical bills under economic damages. You could also recover non-economic damages, that is, any pain and suffering associated with having a broken arm. For example, let's say you broke the arm with your dominant hand on it and it didn't fully heal for six months. During that time you took twice as long to do most everything because you had to use your non-dominant hand, you couldn't work efficiently because you couldn't type well with your arm in a sling, and you couldn't comfortably sleep with the cast. All these things would potentially be compensable under pain and suffering.
- Let's say you were in a house fire and suffered third degree burns on your face and chest because the smoke detector didn't go off and you awoke well after the fire started. You likely could recover pain and suffering for the burn injuries and the award would likely be larger as it can take a significant amount of time to recover from a burn injury and the burn may leave permanent scarring or disfigurement.
- Let's say you were in a car accident and as a result of the accident you have developed a fear of driving. You no longer drive because every time you get behind the wheel you have a panic attack. You may be able to recover damages for your mental anguish under pain and suffering.
Limitations on Damages in Maryland
Non-economic damages are not unlimited, however. Many states, including Maryland, have placed a cap on the amount of non-economic damages a plaintiff can recover. This means that the monetary compensation a judge or jury awards will be reduced a certain statutory limit. The limit in Maryland is $815,000 in an action for personal injury for each plaintiff for causes of action arising on or after October 1, 2015. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 11-108. In an action for wrongful death, if there are two or more plaintiffs, the damage award can be up to 150% of the non-economic damage cap. Id.