Insurance And Mental Anguish Claims

When someone in Weatherford, Mineral Wells, Aledo, Willow Park, Hudson Oaks, Azle, Springtown, Millsap, Brock, or anywhere else in Texas really gets mistreated in an insurance case, that person will probably have a claim for mental anguish. So, how does that work?
A 2004, Corpus Christi Court of Appeals case gives some insight on the answer. The style of the case is, Minnesota Life Insurance Company v. Elia L. Vasquez. Here is some background.
Elia Vasquez alleged that Minnesota Life Insurance Company unreasonably delayed payment of the proceeds of an accidental death policy that insured the life of her deceased husband. As part of the lawsuit, Vasquez sued for mental anguish damages. The jury awarded her $60,000 in mental anguish damages. There were other issues in the case which are not discussed here.
In reviewing the mental anguish award, the court stated Texas law which says: To support an award of mental anguish, a party must present either direct evidence of the nature, duration, and severity of her mental anguish, thereby establishing a substantial interruption in her daily routine, or circumstantial evidence of a high degree of mental pain and distress that is greater in degree than mere worry, anxiety, vexation, embarrassment, or anger. If a party’s pre-existing medical condition deteriorates or is compounded because of the torts of another party, the worry and pain associated with the aggravated condition can be considered mental anguish. Mental anguish can be established through testimony from the injured party explaining how she felt and how her life was disrupted. Other cases that had evidence to serve as examples included evidence of insomnia, humiliation, and an inability to function and maintain a normal relationship with family, feelings of physical pain, and an affect on work and family relationships.
In this case, Vasquez testified that during the time Minnesota Life was delaying the payment of the accidental death claim, she could not sleep due to the stress from the uncertainty of her financial situation. She was worried about the effect of the delayed payment on the mortgage on her home and felt that her “whole world” had caved in. Although her doctor had told her not to return to work for at least another year because of various health problems, she was so concerned about the loss of her home that she began looking for work. Vasquez was a diabetic, and she testified that during this waiting period, she experienced an increased blood-sugar level that her doctor attributed to her stress levels. Her blood-sugar levels were sufficiently altered to require a change in her medical regimen, from taking pills to having daily insulin shots. The court said that this evidence alone more than satisfies the requirements of legal sufficiency.
The relevance of this case to an Insurance Law Attorney, is that the case discusses the requirements of successfully obtaining a judgment on a mental anguish claim. Mental anguish is not that hard to prove in a case involving personal injury such as in a car wreck claim, but is much harder to prove in cases where an insurance company denies a claim or is slow in paying a claim.

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