When an accident causes visible or physical damage in Massachusetts, lawsuits seem relatively simple to measure and quantify. Emotional and psychological suffering is more difficult to assess as a dollar value.

Thankfully, Massachusetts law does allow pain and suffering damages to cover your injuries that may be less visible or more difficult to count. Courts use legal doctrine, precedent and discretion to determine a reasonable amount to award.

Pain and suffering damages

As FindLaw explains, pain and suffering damages in Massachusetts can cover a variety of things based on the determination of a court. These payments are meant to make some restitution for emotional distress, losing a companion, suffering embarrassment, suffering post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychological issues resulting from an incident.

A court can order pain and suffering damages whenever there are nonmonetary consequences to a party’s negligence. The statute of limitations in Massachusetts is three years for most claims. You may have an additional three years to file if your claim is related to faulty construction.

Limits and calculation

Many states subscribe to the doctrine of comparative negligence, which allows parties to receive damages even if they were partially at fault for an accident. Massachusetts subscribes to modified comparative negligence, requiring that the overall fault be less than 50% before a party is eligible. For example, if you are 60% at fault for an accident, you are ineligible for damages; but if you are 45% at fault, a court can order the defendant to pay all damages assessed less 45%. This doctrine applies to both monetary and pain and suffering damages in the state.

A court can generally order up to $500,000 for pain and suffering in most types of claims. State law prevents pain and suffering claims unless overall damage exceeds certain dollar amounts, causes death or severe physical damage in the form of disfigurement, loss of a body part or loss of sight or hearing. After a claim meets these minimums, however, a judge may consider other matters in determining the amount to award.