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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger

What Is Pain and Suffering in a Personal Injury Case? | A Guide

Accidents that lead to injuries can be life-changing. The effects often go beyond physical impairment and damage to property. Both physical and emotional pain and suffering can become a part of the victim's life.


This can lead to the loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, and more. Under personal injury law, victims may be able to claim pain and suffering damages. Many claimants ask the question, "What is pain and suffering in a personal injury case?"


This comprehensive guide will discuss pain and suffering in greater detail to provide victims with all the information they need when filing a personal injury lawsuit.


Understanding the Differences Between Economic and Non-economic Damages


In legal terms, economic damages refer to measurable financial losses, including medical expenses, lost earnings, damage to property, and future costs that are directly related to an injury. These expenses are quantifiable and unbiased.


Contrarily, subjective losses like pain and suffering, mental distress, loss of companionship, and a decreased quality of life are all considered non-economic damages. They are more difficult to quantify and typically rely on the verdict of a jury or the advice of legal experts.


Non-economic losses cover intangible, emotional, and psychological issues brought on by wrongdoing or negligent acts, whereas economic damages are tangible and quantifiable.


What Is "Pain and Suffering?"

What Is "Pain and Suffering?"


The word "pain and suffering" is a legal concept that represents the psychological and bodily harm the victim of an accident experiences. It forms part of the non-economic damages in a personal injury case. Any physical or emotional turmoil that a victim experiences after a personal injury accident may be counted as pain and suffering damages when filing a personal injury claim.


In some instances, the wrongful death claim that a family member brings on behalf of their loved one can also encompass elements of pain and suffering in the form of loss of consortium if the victim died in an accident that was the result of someone else's wrongdoing or negligence.


Physical Pain and Suffering vs. Emotional Pain and Suffering


As mentioned previously, pain and suffering can either be physical or emotional. Victims may experience both types following a traumatic accident. To understand pain and suffering, it's important to understand the difference between the two. The sections below will explore these two types of pain and suffering damages in greater detail.


Physical Pain and Suffering

Serious injuries can have lasting effects on the body. Although the wound may heal, physical pain often remains for many weeks, months, or years after the incident. Personal injury claims compensate victims for the suffering they endure, and the medical treatment and aftercare that are required are taken into account when calculating pain and suffering damages.


Moreover, the amount that's awarded for physical pain and suffering will depend on the extent of the injury. The court will assess the victim's medical bills, lost wages, and more when determining how much pain and suffering compensation they deserve.


Here are a few examples of physical pain and suffering that could qualify for compensation:

  • Traumatic brain injuries

  • Spinal cord injuries

  • Paralysis

  • Broken bones

  • Headaches

  • Nerve damage

  • Pulled or sprained muscles

  • Internal organ damage

  • Neck and back pain

  • Fractures or dislocations

Emotional Pain and Suffering

The effects of a traumatic incident aren't just limited to physical pain and suffering. There are also emotional consequences. A traumatic ordeal could lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mental anguish, and depression. These effects can significantly reduce a person's quality of life and can last for many days, months, or years.


Below are a few examples of emotional pain and suffering.

  • Psychological trauma

  • Insomnia

  • Loss of quality of life

  • Depression

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Frustration

  • Cognitive changes (in cases where there was a head injury)

  • Fear or worry

  • Anger or grief

Depression

Physical pain, disfigurement, and trauma caused by a personal injury accident can lead to depression. According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is considered a serious and common medical condition that can affect the way a person feels and thinks. It can also influence their behavior. Depression also has the influence to affect a person's ability to work.


Coupled with the financial constraints a victim might already face because of their injuries, this can be a serious cause for concern.


When determining the amount to award a victim in a personal injury case, the court will look at their medical history, healthcare bills, and witness statements.


PTSD

Another common type of emotional pain and suffering is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This condition can be defined as a serious psychiatric illness that may arise following a traumatic incident, such as a car crash, an assault, or a natural catastrophe.


Flashbacks, nightmares, heightened awareness, and emotional anguish are frequent symptoms of PTSD. Due to its negative effects on an individual's psychological well-being and quality of life, PTSD can be a significant consideration in personal injury cases.


It could result in demands for non-economic losses and the cost of therapy and care. In personal injury claims, mental health experts' testimony is frequently used to show that a stressful event caused the development of PTSD.


Insomnia

In personal injury lawsuits, the term "insomnia" alludes to the problems with sleep that may be brought on by the physical or psychological damage inflicted in an accident. It entails having trouble falling asleep or remaining asleep, which often results in long-term sleep deprivation.


Insomnia can worsen discomfort, affect one's ability to think clearly and have an adverse effect on one's general well-being. It may be argued as an element of non-economic damages in personal injury cases, emphasizing the added suffering and diminished quality of life endured by the victim.


Expert medical witness testimonies can be used to show the causal relationship between the damage and the onset of insomnia, thereby affecting the amount of compensation awarded.


Cognitive Changes Brought on By a Head Injury

Changes in a person's mental state after a serious head injury are referred to as cognitive changes. Memory issues, problems with concentration, poor judgment, and diminished problem-solving skills are a few examples of these changes.


Such cognitive impairments can have a major negative influence on a person's everyday life, employment prospects, and general quality of life. They are essential components of non-economic damage claims in personal injury litigation, emphasizing the significant effects of the damage done to the victim.


Loss of Consortium in Wrongful Death Cases


When a person dies as a result of a personal injury that was caused by someone else's negligence or wrongdoing, their family members can bring a lawsuit to claim damages. Among these losses are the loss of consortium.


Loss of consortium is a legal term that describes when a spouse or family member is deprived of or loses some intangible benefits and companionship as a result of the injury to the victim or their untimely death. Loss of consortium lawsuits may be filed separately or as part of a larger personal injury case.


Pain and Suffering By Accident Type


The truth is that different accidents can affect the human mind and body differently. The section below will explore some of these effects.


Car Accidents

Motor vehicle collisions are among the leading reasons for personal injury cases in the United States. Each day, pedestrians, passengers, and drivers are injured in motor vehicle collisions.


When a driver drives carelessly, such as while distracted, intoxicated, or speeding, it might result in a crash. Victims may experience significant physical harm as a result, including fractures, traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, and more.


A person's life may come to an abrupt end if they are unable to perform basic tasks as a result of their injuries. They could experience unfavorable mental health impacts in addition to physical discomfort, which can also be considered pain and suffering.


Medical Malpractice

When a person requires medical attention, they entrust the healthcare provider with their life. While in their care, it is their responsibility to keep patients safe.


Medical negligence happens when a medical provider breaches the standard of care and does not provide the necessary care and safety precautions. This can involve giving a patient the wrong prescription, misdiagnosing an illness or injury, or performing a surgical procedure negligently.


This can lead to physical pain and emotional trauma that stays with the victim for a long time.


Slip and Fall Accidents

These accidents might seem insignificant, but slips, trips, and falls can lead to serious injuries, such as broken bones, head injuries, and even death. When a person visits someone else's property, that person has a responsibility to ensure that they are not exposed to any hazards.


This could include slippery floors, loose floorboards, missing steps in a staircase, or torn carpets. These accidents can have a negative effect on the victim's well-being, and the pain that results can be severe.


Workplace Incidents

Many personal injuries occur in the workplace. Many environments present dangers, and if an employer fails to adequately mitigate these risks, they can be held liable for a victim's condition. Depending on the nature of the accident, injuries can range in severity and can cause trauma.


Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages in a Personal Injury Claim


The truth is that it isn't easy to place a monetary value on pain and suffering. Unlike economic damages that can simply be added together, it's harder to calculate pain and suffering. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also help with how to calculate your personal injury damages


Suppose a person is harmed in a pedestrian accident, for example. In that case, they can simply total up their past-due medical expenditures, project their future medical expenses based on the treatment they will need, and total up any lost wages from both the present and the future. Therefore, calculating the right amount of compensation for economic losses is simple.


However, it's difficult to place a value on things like headaches or the discomfort that a fractured bone brings. In fact, two alternative methods for evaluating pain and suffering damages have been created by insurance companies and may be employed to help determine the right amount of compensation if a personal injury case is settled.


These approaches may be useful, but if a claimant wins their case in a civil action, the court will determine the proper sum to be awarded for pain and suffering, and that sum might differ from what was established in any of these calculations.


The sections below will explore the multiplier and per diem methods in greater detail.


The Per Diem Method

This method involves determining a daily settlement award for pain and suffering and multiplying the amount by the number of days that the person has experienced the pain and is expected to experience it in the future.


The formula for calculating pain and suffering this way is as follows:


Daily Value ($) x Number of Days = Pain and Suffering Damages ($)


The cost of the pain and suffering the afflicted person endures on a daily basis is calculated based on their income or another amount. The daily value is often liable to change depending on the severity of the impairment, how it affects the victim's life, and the regional norms.


Calculations are made to determine how long the pain and suffering will last. By assessing witness statements from medical experts, the anticipated duration of the disorder can be estimated.


The pain and suffering damages are then calculated by multiplying the daily amount by the overall number of days.


If a claimant's pain and suffering is determined to be $50 per day, and they are expected to suffer for 100 days, then the pain and suffering damages can be calculated as follows:


$50 x 100 days = $5000


The Multiplier Method

To calculate pain and suffering damages, another method may be used. The multiplier approach entails multiplying economic damages by a certain amount. The multiplier often ranges from 1.5 to 5, depending on the seriousness of the victim's wounds.


The formula for calculating pain and suffering using this method is as follows:


Economic Damages ($) x Multiplier (Number Between 1.5 and 5) = Pain and Suffering Damages ($)


Suppose a victim's condition was serious and resulted in economic damages of $550,000 and a partial disability; they would qualify for a five times multiplier. The damages for pain and suffering would be calculated as follows:


$550,000 x 5 = $2,75 million


Proving Pain and Suffering in a Personal Injury Claim


In a personal injury claim, the victim bears the burden of proof, which means that it is up to them to prove not only that the defendant is liable for their economic damages but also their non-economic damages.


This means that the claimant will have to prove that they experienced physical and/or emotional pain and suffering as a direct result of the accident. This isn't always easy, as there is often little direct evidence to prove that the victim experienced these symptoms.


However, with the help of an experienced personal injury attorney, this becomes easier. Here are some of the types of evidence that can be used to demonstrate pain and suffering:

  • Medical bills

  • Photographs

  • Video footage

  • Doctor's notes

  • Expert witness statements

  • Notes from a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist

  • Personal journals from the victim

The court or insurance provider will be able to see more clearly how this event negatively affected the victim's well-being and day-to-day life due to pain and suffering when more proof is presented. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can help answer questions like how do I make up for lost wages until I get my settlement?


Even though claimants might be able to gather the majority of this evidence on their own, they could find it advantageous to work with quality injury lawyers to handle the case while they concentrate on making a full recovery.


How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help Victims Obtain Pain and Suffering Compensation


Hiring a legal representative to handle the case can be just what a victim needs when filing a pain and suffering claim. Here are some of the ways a lawyer can help:


Expert Advice

The truth is that a personal injury accident can be life-changing, and many are often left reeling. Pain and emotional distress also make life a lot harder for these victims, and fighting a legal battle can seem daunting. However, the financial constraints often make taking legal action a must.


Fortunately, when victims hire a personal injury attorney, they can rest assured that there is someone in their corner who is fighting for their rights while they take the necessary time to recover from their injuries.


Lawyers have a comprehensive understanding of personal injury law and can help put a claimant's mind at ease by pointing them in the right direction and providing expert advice.


Collecting Evidence

Proving pain and suffering isn't easy, and it's important that claimants present as much evidence as possible to support their claim. Lawyers can help by bringing in experts to provide witness statements and gather documentation such as medical records, police reports, medical bills, letters from the victim's employer, and more.


Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages

Legal representatives can also assist by calculating damages to help the victim ascertain what a fair amount looks like for their claim. They will work with experts to determine the extent of the victim's condition and ensure that they are not forced to settle for low settlement amounts.


They also know how to factor in future pain and suffering damages into the calculation to ensure that the claimant receives the compensation they rightly deserve.


Negotiations

A reliable personal injury attorney also knows how to negotiate a fair settlement amount. When facing insurance companies on their own, it's easy for claimants to be bullied into accepting low offers, but with the help of a lawyer, they can ensure that their rights are protected and that they have a good chance of getting a good settlement.


Representation in Court

If the matter cannot be handled by way of negotiation, then the attorney will represent the plaintiff in court, presenting evidence to a judge or jury to help the victim secure a favorable outcome. They will devise a comprehensive legal strategy that's tailored to the case to ensure that the victim receives the settlement they are rightly due.


Understanding Split Limits

Understanding Split Limits


There are generally two types of insurance coverage limits where bodily injury is concerned, and it's important for victims to understand them when filing a lawsuit for damages.


Irrespective of the number of plaintiffs involved, one figure reflects the maximum the insurance will pay for a single claim, while the other number is the highest the insurance company will pay overall. This second figure, for instance, would be relevant if there were any injured pedestrians or passengers.


If an accident was brought on by a major company or another sizable organization other than a private individual, additional insurance coverage may be implicated. This means that if the at-fault party's insurance policy only has a $30,000 maximum amount, the plaintiff cannot file a lawsuit against the insurer for a million dollars.


A reliable lawyer can help victims navigate the complexities of personal injury law and insurance coverage to ensure that their rights are protected.


Recovering Pain and Suffering Damages with the Help of an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney


Accidents or acts of wrongdoing can result in severe mental pain and physical suffering that reduce the victim's quality of life. When this happens, it's important for victims to approach a reliable personal injury lawyer for help proving pain and suffering damages.


Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys understand the intricacies of personal injury claims and the effect these events can have on the lives of victims.


This is why they leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of justice. By hiring expert witnesses, presenting medical bills and other evidence of physical injuries, and handling the matter when it goes to court, the law firm ensures that victims have a fighting chance at securing compensation.


Those who have been injured as a result of someone else's negligence can contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys to learn more and get started on their pain and suffering claim.


Victims can call to schedule a free consultation and have an expert legal representative go to war for them.

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