The Texas Insurance Code allows for recovery of mental anguish damages if it can be proven that the illegal conduct of the insurance code was committed knowingly. Section 541.152 speaks to the knowing conduct.
An award of mental anguish damages may be upheld when the plaintiffs have introduced direct evidence of the nature, duration, and severity of their mental anguish, thus establishing a substantial disruption in the plaintiffs’ daily routine. This evidence must come from the claimant’s own testimony, testimony of third parties, or testimony of experts, and is more likely to provide the fact finder with adequate details to assess mental anguish claims.
In the context of applying these standards to an insurance case, the 1996 Texas Supreme Court case styled, Saenz v. Fidelity & Guar. Ins. Underwriters, is a good case to review.
In the Saenz case the court said, mental anguish consists of the emotional response of the plaintiff caused by the tortfeasor’s conduct. To establish mental anguish, a plaintiff must show more than mere worry, anxiety, vexation, embarrassment, or anger. Mental anguish implies a relatively high degree of mental pain and distress. It is within the jury’s province to judge the credibility of witnesses and the weight to be given their testimony. This is especially true regarding claims for mental anguish, which are necessarily speculative claims and, thus, should be left to a jury for determination. Part of the proof in a case includes the witnesses themselves, their demeanor, their voice modulation, and the gut feeling they project to the jurors.
In reviewing the evidence, the Court noted that Saenz testified that she was very worried about who would pay the medical bills after the time period set forth in the settlement agreement expired. She stated that she worried a lot about the medical bills. She stated she was afraid that once she was responsible for the medical bills her family might lose their house. She explained that when they purchased their home, her husband was working two jobs and she was working, and that she did not know how they would be able to pay for both the medical bills and the house payment. It was concluded that the evidence is sufficient to support the jury’s finding of past mental anguish.