Pain and Suffering: Your Mental and Emotional Anguish After a Car Accident
When you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident, feeling pain likely will be your first indication that you’ve sustained injuries. Depending on the seriousness of your injuries, you may have to be hospitalized for a significant period of time. Your medical bills are likely to quickly skyrocket. You also may have to take time off work to recuperate. All of these unexpected expenses could lead you to decide to sue the person who caused the crash. You probably don’t just want him or her to cover your medical bills, however. You also want to be compensated for the pain and suffering your injuries from the car accident have caused you.
What Is Pain and Suffering?
Pain and suffering is a legal term of art that refers to a certain type of damages you can recover in a personal injury lawsuit. Naturally, pain and suffering refers to the physical pain your injuries caused you, but it also includes many additional things:
- The emotional and mental trauma your injuries cause you
- The extreme distress you feel if your injuries prove catastrophic and you become paralyzed, blind or otherwise permanently disabled
- The limitations placed upon you because of your injuries
- The embarrassment you feel if scars, a disfigurement or the loss of a body part makes you an object of curiosity, pity or other negative attention when you go out in public
- The possible shortening of your life caused by your injuries
- The possible loss of your career due to your injuries
- The loss of consortium your injuries cause with regard to your relationships with your spouse and other family members
- The depression and loss of your enjoyment of life you experience as a result of your injuries and their lingering effects
Types of Personal Injury Damages
When you sue the at-fault person who caused your accident and consequently your injuries, you are entitled to claim two types of damages: economic and noneconomic. Pain and suffering damages are part of your noneconomic damages, i.e., damages which, while very real, are nevertheless difficult to prove since they are subjective and have no dollar amount attached to them.
Conversely, you can easily prove your economic damages since you have bills or receipts for these types of costs:
- Ambulance rides
- Emergency room treatment and tests
- Surgery and in-patient hospital fees
- Prescription medication
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Wheelchair, prosthesis or other medical equipment
- Handicap-accessible vehicle
- Lost wages
Pain and Suffering Calculation
No one, even you, can attach an exact dollar amount to your pain and suffering damages, your attorney. Therefore, the insurance company and possibly the jury must calculate them somehow. While various calculation methodologies exist, the most widely used one is called the multiplier method. In this calculation, a number, usually between 1.5 and 5, is assigned to your injuries. The more severe your injuries, the higher this number. Your attorney then multiplies this number by the total amount of your economic damages and adds the resulting figure to your economic damages total to arrive at the amount you can reasonably claim for pain and suffering.
For example, assume your injuries result in your becoming a paraplegic, i.e., unable to move or feel much of anything below an injury to the spine, thereby necessitating that you spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair. Your multiplier almost assuredly will be 5 due to the catastrophic nature of your injuries. Assume further that your medical and other economic costs have already totaled $600,000. Your pain and suffering claim should therefore be the following: $600,000 x 5 = $3 million + $600,000 = $3,600.000.
Pain and Suffering Proof
Keep in mind that the amount of compensation the insurance company or the jury awards you for your pain and suffering damages depends on a variety of factors. For instance, they will take into consideration the severity of your injuries, the types of medical treatment you have already received and will have to receive in the future, and the length of time it will take you to recover, assuming you can ever fully recover.
Despite the noneconomic nature of pain and suffering damages, your personal injury lawyer can prove them by means of the following:
- Your medical records
- Your psychiatric records
- Photographs of your injuries
- Expert testimony by physicians as to your prognosis
Remember that in a personal injury lawsuit, your burden of proof as the plaintiff is that of a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, the evidence you produce at trial must convince the jury that it’s more likely than not that not only did the defendant cause the accident that resulted in your injuries, but also that the damages you’re claiming, including your pain and suffering car accident claim, are valid. This burden of proof is considerably below the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that a prosecutor must sustain in a criminal case.
Another thing to remember is that, depending on the state in which you live, you may be limited by law as to the maximum amount of pain and suffering damages you can recover, regardless of the evidence you present. In other words, some states “cap” your pain and suffering damages.
Need for a Local Personal Injury Attorney
Personal injury lawsuits are complex, especially when it comes to establishing and proving pain and suffering damages. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to contact a local PI attorney as soon as possible after your accident. Look for someone who has a history of obtaining favorable settlements and jury awards for his or her injured clients. Such an attorney can provide you with the legal advice, counsel and representation you need. They will know how to aggressively pursue the maximum amount of compensation your state allows. They will also know which types of evidence insurance companies and juries pay the most attention to.
Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer
Submit a request online today or call us at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced pain and suffering lawyer in your area.