Pain and Suffering Damages in Personal Injury Cases: An Empirical Study
Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Forthcoming
48 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2016 Last revised: 3 May 2016
Date Written: April 12, 2016
Many jurisdictions award pain and suffering damages, yet it is difficult for judges or juries to quantify pain. Several jurisdictions, such as California, cap pain and suffering damages or other noneconomic damages, and legal scholars have proposed ways to control such damages. Reforms and proposals, however, have been based on limited empirical evidence. It remains an open question whether components of economic damages explain pain and suffering damages. This study employs a unique data set of Taiwan district court cases and uses detailed information on the components of pecuniary damages. Pain and suffering damages highly correlate with the plaintiff’s medical expenses, level of injury, and the amount requested by the plaintiff. The association with the amount requested by the plaintiff persists when one accounts for the likely quantifiable influences on pain and suffering damages, evidence of a possible anchoring effect. The strong correlation between economic damages and noneconomic damages persists in a large U.S. dataset of judge and jury trials, in which the noneconomic fraction of total damages is no greater than the pain and suffering fraction of total damages in Taiwan. Judges and juries consistently produce coherent patterns of noneconomic damages.
Keywords: Pain and suffering damages, medical expenses, anchoring effect, lost earning capacity, fault, age, pecuniary damages, non-medical expenses, judges, juries, Taiwan
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