How to Prove Mental Anguish in Texas

Attorney Doug Goyen If you or someone you care about has been injured in an accident, including a mental anguish injury accident, our personal injury attorney in Dallas can help you recover quickly and rebuild your life. Since 1997, the Law Office of Doug Goyen has successfully represented thousands of injured clients in Dallas and throughout Texas in a serious accident and personal injury cases.

If you were injured in an accident, you are probably concerned about unpaid medical bills, getting treatment for your injury and how you will pay for it, lost time from work and lost income as a result of the injury, receiving the full settlement value for your personal injury claim from the insurance adjuster, and hiring a personal injury lawyer who will get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

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If you have questions about these issues in your personal injury case, contact the Law Office of Doug Goyen. We produce results for our customers. We will present your medical bills and records so that they can be paid, we will find a place where you can be treated for your injury, we will get the proof needed to pay for your lost income, and we will get you compensated for the full value of your personal injury claims, including pain and suffering, mental anguish, and any other elements of damage that apply to your personal injury case. Call us at (972) 599 4100 and our Dallas accident lawyer can start working on your case today.

DAMAGE ELEMENT – MENTAL ANGUISH IN TEXAS

Injured person Personal injury attorneys handle injury claims that are frequently related to physical injuries. This page discusses recovering mental anguish damages in personal injury cases such as car accidents, truck accidents, premises liability where a dangerous condition causes an injury or any other type of personal injury case involving a physical injury that causes mental anguish. In many cases of physical injury, the injured person suffers physical pain and suffering as a form of damage, as well as mental anguish damages as a result of the changes in their life caused by the physical injury and pain.

In a personal injury case, one of the more difficult areas to recover from is mental anguish. Jurors are unable to see the mental anguish injury (unlike a broken bone on an x-ray). In some jurors’ eyes, mental anguish is almost likened to a type of mental illness, and mental illness issues are frequently considered “taboo” by many people. Jurors may be skeptical of the claim because it involves an injury that is not visible to them.

Most attorneys only accept personal injury cases involving mental anguish when the case involves some kind of physical injury and the mental anguish arises naturally as a result of the physical injury. An example would be an injury that caused a person’s vision to be permanently impaired. Obviously, in addition to the physical injury, the person would most likely experience mental anguish as a result of losing some or all of their vision. Other examples would be if their physical injury prevented them from continuing in a job or career they enjoyed, or if they were forced to stop participating in an activity they enjoyed, such as golfing or playing the piano. In many ways, it is related to loss of consortium, which is an element of damage when an injury prevents a person from having familial relationships, such as playing with their small children or losing the ability to have a sexual relationship with their significant other. Losing a significant portion of what you enjoy in life would undoubtedly cause significant mental anguish, and the law provides compensation for such an injury.

Damages for mental anguish are calculated based on how you were affected mentally as a result of the injury. The worth of mental anguish varies depending on the circumstances. Not all mental injuries are recoverable in a personal injury case. In many cases where the mental anguish is not obvious, getting a jury to award money for mental anguish is difficult. Unless there is strong evidence of significant mental anguish, insurance adjusters do not offer much on this aspect of damage (usually it needs to be more than just the person saying they suffered mentally, there needs to be outside evidence – witnesses, doctors, etc., and the evidence needs to be strong).

TEXAS LAW REGARDING MENTAL ANGUISH

Mental anguish claims have long been mistrusted in tort claims, according to Texas courts. They were first permitted in Texas cases where there was a physical injury or a particularly disturbing event had occurred. When mental anguish results in a physical manifestation, Texas courts have historically allowed recovery for mental anguish. See Parkway Co. v. Woodruff, 901 S.W.2d 434, 442 (Tex.1995) where the Texas Supreme Court discusses the types of proof required to support mental anguish damages in the past.

In City of Tyler v. Likes, 962 S.W.2d 489 (Tex. 1997) the Texas Supreme Court defines the types of cases in which mental anguish can be recovered. The Texas Supreme Court decided in this case that mental anguish is recoverable in the following types of cases:

1) Where there is a Physical injury: If a plaintiff suffers a physical injury, he or she may be able to recover mental anguish damages.

2) Where there is No physical injury: In cases involving a) intentional or malicious conduct, b) a breach of a duty involving a special relationship, and c) particularly disturbing events, a plaintiff can recover mental anguish damages.

a) Assault and battery, defamation, invasion of privacy, child abduction, or knowing violation of a statute such as the DTPA are examples of intentional or malicious conduct.

b) Breach of duty in a special relationship: Cases, where mental anguish damages have been allowed in Texas, include physician-patient relationships, insurer-insured relationships, handling of a corpse, and delivery of a death notice.

c) Particularly upsetting events include wrongful death and the grief as a result and, in some cases, bystander injuries.

In personal injury cases, mental anguish is frequently lumped in with physical pain. In Texas, however, it is recognized as a distinct element of damage.

Only in the following circumstances does Texas allow for the recovery of mental anguish without physical injury:

  1. bystander cases;
  2. intentional tort – child abduction;
  3. defamation;
  4. invasion of privacy;
  5. telegraph company failing to deliver a death message in a timely manner (from the old days – still a law); and
  6. negligent handling of a corpse.

Mental anguish has been defined by Texas courts as a high level of mental pain/anguish that is greater than mere disappointment, resentment, embarrassment, or anger. Grief, severe disappointment, public humiliation, despair, shame, wounded pride, or indignation are more akin to what Texas courts consider to be “mental anguish.” See Parkway Co. v. Woodruff, 901 S.W.2d 434, 442 (Tex.1995). One court upheld a $1,000,000.00 verdict for mental anguish caused by insomnia, ulcers, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fear and anxiety. In Woodruff, Homeowners had filed a lawsuit against a developer for damages resulting from a flood in their home. The evidence did not meet the standard because the plaintiffs’ testimony was limited to citing the existence of “mere emotions”: “I was hot,” “It was just upsetting,” and “I was just upset.” Woodruff, 901 S.W.2d 434.

Other Cases Where Mental Anguish Has Been Defined:

Mental Anguish Defined in Case. However, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s action caused an ascertainable degree of mental pain and distress. The existence of grief, severe disappointment, indignation, wounded pride, shame, despair, or public humiliation may be used to prove such mental pain and distress. Dillard Dep’t Stores v. Silva, 106 S.W.3d 789 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2003), aff’d in part, modified in part, per curiam, 148 S.W.3d 370 (Tex. 2004).

Mental Anguish Defined in Case – Extreme nervousness, inability to sleep, and impaired peace of mind may constitute elements of mental anguish. Ortiz v. Furr’s Supermarkets, 26 S.W.3d 646 (Tex. App.-El Paso 2000, no pet.); Underwriters Life Ins. Co. v. Cobb, 746 S.W.2d 810 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 1988, no writ).

Mental Anguish Defined in Case. A Texas Court of Appeals defined “mental anguish” as a heightened emotional injury beyond ordinary grief; it encompasses keen and poignant mental suffering, a high degree of mental suffering, or an intense pain of mind and body. The court also noted that damages recoverable for mental anguish should be for actual mental injuries rather than for mere fear, anger, or sorrow. Stevens v. Nat’l Educ. Ctrs., Inc., 11 S.W.3d 185 (Tex. 2000) (per curiam); Cigna Healthcare of Tex., Inc. v. Pybas, 127 S.W.3d 400 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2004, pet. granted, judgm’t vacated w.r.m.); Larrumbide v. Doctors Health Facility, 734 S.W.2d 685 (Tex. App.-Dallas 1987, writ denied) (child died five years before, and parents were recovering from grief).

Mental Anguish Defined. In a case addressing damages for disfigurement, an appellate court described mental anguish as “a relatively high degree of mental pain and distress.” It is “more than mere disappointment, anger, resentment, or embarrassment.” It encompasses “grief, severe disappointment, indignation, wounded pride, shame, despair, or public humiliation.” Hopkins County Hosp. Dist. v. Allen, 760 S.W.2d 341 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 1988, no writ) (emphasis added) (citing Teledyne Exploration Co. v. Klotz, 694 S.W.2d 109 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 1985, writ ref’d n.r.e.).

Mental Anguish Defined – Fear and anxiety which resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, ulcers, and sleeplessness constituted enough pain and mental anguish to justify a $1,000,000 actual damage award. Haryanto v. Saeed, 860 S.W.2d 913 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1993, writ denied).

No Definition Given to Jury for Mental Anguish, EXCEPT in Wrongful Death Cases. The Texas Supreme Court disapproved instructing the jury on the definition of “mental anguish.” Trotti v. K-Mart Corp. No. 7441, 686 S.W.2d 593 (Tex. 1985) (per curiam). The Court of Appeals held that the term “mental anguish” was not a legal term but one of ordinary significance and meaning and should not be defined. Gulf States Util. Co. v. Reed, 659 S.W.2d 849 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1983, writ ref’d n.r.e.). But, in wrongful death cases, mental anguish is now to be defined for the jury. Stevens v. Nat’l Educ. Ctrs., Inc., 990 S.W.2d 374 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1999), pet. denied, 11 S.W.3d 185 (Tex. 2000) (per curiam).

Cases where mental anguish has been permitted – Negligent injury to a child – legal malpractice claims for the parents (if more than just an economic loss).

Not Permitted – In Texas, mental anguish is not permitted in the following circumstances:

No Mental Anguish for Damage to Property. Mental anguish based solely on negligent property damage is not compensable as a matter of law. City of Tyler v. Likes, 962 S.W.2d 489 (Tex. 1997) (declining to decide whether mental anguish was a personal injury within the meaning of the Tort Claims Act). Seminole Pipeline Co. v. Broad Leaf Partners, Inc., 979 S.W.2d 730 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1998, no pet.) (holding mental anguish damages unavailable in a case involving only property damage caused by gross negligence because there was no evidence of ill-will, animus, or design to harm plaintiff personally). Douglas v. Delp, 987 S.W.2d 879 (Tex. 1999).

No Mental Anguish for fear of future Asbestos illness where the person is afraid of developing an asbestos-related disease in the future,

Bystanders cannot recover mental anguish if they witness medical malpractice,

Negligent misrepresentation cases cannot recover mental anguish,

Loss of parental consortium. Mental anguish is not recoverable as an element of damages under loss of parental consortium. Reagan v. Vaughn, 804 S.W.2d 463 (Tex. 1991).

Breach of contract cases are not allowed mental anguish damages,

Adulterous relationships. The court refused to recognize a cause of action for intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress due to an adulterous relationship between the defendant and the plaintiff’s husband. Truitt v. Carnley, 836 S.W.2d 786 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 1992, writ denied)

A woman was not allowed to recover when a store employee entered her home to retrieve overdue videotapes. A woman was not allowed to recover mental anguish damages for entry of employee of the store into her house to retrieve overdue rented videotapes. Phar-Mor, Inc. v. Chavira, 853 S.W.2d 710 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1993, writ denied).

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EVIDENCE AND PROOF NEEDED FOR MENTAL ANGUISH

There must be evidence of the nature, severity, or duration of the plaintiff’s anguish substantially disrupting the injured party’s daily routine, or such a high degree of mental pain that is more than anger, embarrassment, vexation, anxiety, or worry for mental anguish damages. Words like “I was hot,” “I was just upset,” and “it was just upsetting” are just emotions, not enough to help you recover from mental anguish.

If there is a reasonable possibility of additional future mental anguish, future mental anguish can be recovered.

Future Mental Anguish Damages. Damages for future mental anguish are recoverable if there is a reasonable probability that they will be suffered in the future. Lubbock County v. Strube, 953 S.W.2d 847 (Tex. App.-Austin 1997, pet. denied). After exposure to chemicals, a jailer was released from employment. The court reversed her award of future mental anguish because she was unable to show the requisite need for a high degree of mental pain and distress.

Future Mental Anguish Damages. Damages for future mental anguish are recoverable only if there is a reasonable probability that they will be suffered in the future. Dollison v. Hayes, 79 S.W.3d 246 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2002, no pet.); City of Ingleside v. Kneuper, 768 S.W.2d 451 (Tex. App.-Austin 1989, writ denied).

There is no set formula for the amount of recovery from mental anguish.

No Formula for Value of Mental Anguish. There is no set formula for establishing the amount of money to be awarded for mental anguish. Green v. Meadows, 527 S.W.2d 496 (Tex. Civ. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1975, writ ref’d n.r.e.) (the court upheld an award of $20,000 for mental pain and anguish suffered due to malicious prosecution).

No Evidence Presented on Value of Mental Anguish. There is no evidence that can be presented as to the value of the plaintiff’s mental anguish. City of Houston v. Jean, 517 S.W.2d 596 (Tex. Civ. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1974, writ ref’d n.r.e.)(upholding the jury’s verdict of $25,000 for past and future mental anguish).

To recover, there does not have to be a physical manifestation of the mental anguish. Texas courts have provided a list of cases in which mental anguish can be recovered even if no physical injury has occurred. 1) knowing DTPA violation, 2) bystander recoveries, 3) invasion of privacy, 4) corpse handling, 5) death messages, 6) battery, 7) negligent conduct causing wrongful death, and 8) negligent physical injury to a person

No Mental Examination Allowed Just Because Mental Anguish Alleged. Just because someone claims mental anguish does not call the plaintiff’s mental condition into question, so no mental exam can be ordered. (Previous mental problems are distinct from mental anguish caused by an injury – neither is sufficient to warrant a mental examination.) Coates v. Whittington, 758 S.W.2d 749 (Tex. 1988), superseded by statute, In re Transwestern Publ’g Co., 96 S.W.3d 501 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2002, no pet.).

DTPA cases must show Defendant acted Knowingly for Mental Anguish. To collect mental-anguish damages under D.T.P.A., a plaintiff must prove that the defendant acted knowingly. If the plaintiff proves that the defendant acted intentionally, the trier of fact may award up to three times the amount of mental anguish damages. Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Ann. § 17.50(b)(1).

TYPES OF CASES WE HANDLE

The Law Office of Doug Goyen’s lawyers that handle motor vehicle accidents causing injuries, including car accident injury cases, truck accident injury cases, DWI accident injuries, bicyclists hit by cars, motorcycle accident injury cases, pedestrians hit by cars, in which negligence has resulted in physical injury or death. When a person is injured, they frequently suffer mental anguish damages as a result of the severity of the injury and the changes it causes in their life. If you have been physically injured and that injury has also caused mental anguish as a result of a car accident, please contact our office for assistance with your case.

FREE CONSULTATIONS

If you have suffered mental anguish due to an injury, call us for a free consultation as well as a free strategy session with a personal injury lawyer in Dallas. A summary of your case, identification of the legal issues involved in your case, and identification of those legal issues that will help maximize your recovery in your case are all part of the strategy session. We will email you a copy of this strategy session for your records. Call us at (972) 599 4100 right away. There is no fee unless and until you win.

Directions to our main North Dallas Office: (Click the following link for directions to our office: Law Office of Doug Goyen)

15851 Dallas Pkwy #605, Addison, Texas 75001

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Mr. Goyen helped me take on my own insurance company, the great and mighty Allstate. My prior firm basically dumped me, with a permanent injury because the case didn’t meet their financial guidelines for a settlement. I was a bicycle rider hit by a car driver at an intersection, and Allstate was the company on BOTH SIDES OF THE CLAIM. My own insurance company tried to throw me under the bus to limit their payout! Without Mr. Goyen’s help, I would have been left with NOTHING! I had thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills, unable to receive treatment to correct the issue. He was unafraid and helped me get the best settlement I could … I am tremendously thankful! Pamala M.