If you have been injured in a car accident or other kind of accident, you may be thinking of filing a lawsuit so you can get paid back for all the expenses you incurred to help you recover. When you are suffering because of someone else’s negligence, there is a possibility you can make the party responsible for causing the injuries to reimburse you.
One of the damages you may be able to claim is pain and suffering, which you have probably heard of before. It may seem odd to people who aren’t familiar with tort law because it seems impossible to put a price on pain or suffering.
What Is Pain and Suffering?
When it is part of the damages you are claiming in a personal injury suit, pain and suffering have a different meaning than what most people are used to. As a legal term, pain and suffering refer to the physical and emotional stress caused by the injury.
While you can put a price on a doctor’s bill, because that is part of the hospital’s routine paperwork, non-economic damages like pain and suffering may be harder to put a price tag on.
Examples of pain and suffering might include physical pain, aches, mental anguish, and disfigurement. When you have permanent scarring as a result of your injury, you can’t claim it as part of your medical expenses, but you can claim it under pain and suffering. You deserve to be compensated just because of the inconvenience.
What Are Damages for Pain and Suffering?
Part of filing a personal injury claim is deciding how much to ask for in damages. After meeting with your personal injury lawyer and investigating your claim, the attorney will help you decide on a specific amount of money you will demand if the other party will agree to settle.
Your demand letter will include the documentation from all the bills you incurred, and the other party will have a choice to either accept your offer, reject it outright, or even make a counteroffer.
When you find out the other party’s position, you will have to make a decision about what you can live with. Because of the attorney-client relationship, you can share whatever you need to with your personal injury attorney in confidence. Your attorney will give you legal advice but follow your wishes as to how you want to proceed.
The Difference Between General and Special Damages
There are two basic types of damages in a personal injury suit, and they are usually referred to as general damages and special damages.
General damages are the damages that you may have a hard time putting a price tag or assigning a specific dollar amount to. Some people think of these as non-economic damages.
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental pain and anguish
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the trauma from the accident
- Scarring or disfigurement that cannot be corrected
- Reduced quality of life or loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium or companionship
- Loss of the ability to engage in activities you used to enjoy or to practice in the field of your choice
With special damages, you will be able to provide receipts and documentation to prove how much each item costs. Examples of special damages are considered economic losses and include but are not limited to:
- Medical bills
- Rental car reimbursement
- The ambulance ride to the hospital
- The cost of repairs to your vehicle when there is property damage
- Lost wages because of the initial accident and any time you had to miss afterward for medical treatment
- Future lost wages if you can prove that you will no longer be able to make as much money because of the accident
- The cost of home or domestic care, if either of those is necessary
How to Prove Pain and Suffering
There are many ways to prove pain and suffering. If you are the injured party in an accident and are not the fault party, you can show provide several different kinds of evidence to make your case.
One way to prove the extent of your suffering is to bring in friends who can provide testimony as to your state of mind while you were in recovery. Your friends and family can explain what you were like before the accident and what you went through because of your injuries.
You can use medical professionals as expert witnesses who will testify on your behalf as to what kind of injuries you had and what would happen to you because of those injuries. Even a minor injury can cause mental suffering, and serious injuries may cause accident victims to suffer psychologically and physically for years. Along the same line, you can bring in the medication you needed to deal with your pain.
Some of the most powerful testimony, though, is from injury victims themselves. No one else can really explain the pain, fear, and anxiety that came after the accident. As the victim in the case, you can describe every area of your life where the accident affected you.
How Pain and Suffering Is Calculated
There are many factors that will affect the pain and suffering award. Calculating pain isn’t random because it relates to the actual suffering you went through based on your injuries.
With the multiplier method, you can plug in the damages you can prove and then multiply them to come up with a reasonable award amount for pain and suffering. The equation looks like this: (All medical costs, including future ones) X (Multiplier) + (Total of economic damages, such as property damages, lost wages, etc.) = The reasonable value of the case.
Which multiplier you use will depend on the severity of the injury. At a minimum, pain and suffering will be worth at least 1.5 times the amount of economic damages. With a very serious injury, you may be able to use a multiplier of 5. Insurance companies understand that they have to consider all your bills, your emotional distress and that you will need to pay your lawyer.
The Per Diem method assigns a dollar amount for every day from the accident until the injured person has reached maximum recovery. This method is simpler, and you may want to use it if there aren’t a lot of other complicated parts of the case.
Examples of Some Pain and Suffering Judgments
You can work on some easy examples to get an idea of how much you will be able to ask for.
The multiplier method will take into account all your medical bills and medicines. Say that your medical bills totaled $15,000, and you had to pay $100 for a rental car and $500 for your vehicle to be repaired. If you are sure that you are recovered, you can go ahead and ask for a settlement. (Medical bills $15,000) X 2 + (Rental car $100 and Car repair $500) =$30,600.
Again, the Per Diem method is easier, because it simply signs a number for each day. So if, for instance, the attorney assigns the number 100 for each day and it took you 90 days to recover, you will be asking for $9,000. The longer it takes you to recover, the more money you will be asking for.
If you or a loved or have been injured in an accident, you might be able to get compensation not just for your verifiable damages but for the pain and suffering caused by the accident. At Skousen Gulbrandsen & Patience PLC, we have experience helping our clients recover the damages they deserve when someone has adversely affected their lives.
While it seems callous to put a dollar amount on the suffering you have endured, sometimes that is the only way to achieve justice. If you want to talk about what your claim might be worth, or if you just have questions about the process, please feel free to call today for a free consultation.