After a serious accident or incident, you may be suffering from any number of injuries — both physical and mental — that require medical attention, rehabilitation and other forms of care.
These losses can impact your short-term routines and daily activities. What’s more, severe injuries have long-term consequences that change your normal life.
What Kind of Damages are Pain and Suffering?
These are damages that cannot necessarily be quantified by a specified dollar amount. Damages like medical bills and lost wages can easily be calculated to the penny, but pain and suffering is completely subjective. However, a jury is responsible for placing a specific dollar amount on these damages.
It is the subjective feelings of the injury victim, meaning only the victim can explain the pain and the affects of that pain.
It is also the subjective opinion of the jury, meaning that every person on a jury has a different value of another person’s pain and suffering damages.
Although subjective, it is not difficult to quantify the extent of a person’s damages. Lawyers use medical records, photographs, videos, and testimony to convey how a person’s life was affected by both physical injuries and emotional trauma. Many lawyers use formulas to calculate this number, like a dollar amount per day from the date of injury to recovery.
Emoji Faces Show the Types of Pain & Suffering Damages
The infographic below shows 25 different types of pain and suffering damages a person can claim in a lawsuit. It helps injury victims understand the full extent of their damages and the types of compensation available in a settlement. These claims are in addition to claims for economic damages, like lost earnings and medical expenses.
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Explaining the Types of Pain and Suffering Damages
• Physical Pain: Physical pain is defined as damage to the body that creates mild to severe discomfort. If you suffered injuries during an accident or altercation, such as those to your back, leg, neck, or head that causes pain or distress, you can pursue damages for physical pain.
• Mental Suffering: Mental suffering, or mental anguish, includes feelings of distress, fright, anxiety, grief, depression, or mental trauma due to an accident or event. If an element of an incident leaves lasting emotional trauma, damages could be awarded for mental suffering.
• Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Loss of enjoyment of life references any damages from an event that severely alter a person’s life or ability to participate in activities or hobbies that they previously enjoyed. If you can no longer engage in activities you enjoyed prior to an injury, you can recover compensation for loss of enjoyment of life.
• Physical Impairment: If you sustained an injury that limits your ability to move, coordinate actions, or perform daily living activities, you can pursue damages for physical impairment.
• Disfigurement: If an accident causes permanent damage or changes to a person’s body, such as to their physical appearance, this would be classified under disfigurement. Damages such as permanent scarring are filed under this type of claim.
• Loss of Quality of Life: Loss of quality of life is defined as a reduction in a person’s ability to enjoy or engage in life as they did prior to an event or accident. For example, if a person loses a limb, has paralysis, or incurs serious head trauma, they could cite loss of quality of life in a claim.
• Fright: If an accident, incident, or injury causes sudden and extreme fear or terror that severely impacts your life, you may be able to receive compensation for fright.
• Shock: Shock is defined as a psychological injury resulting from an accident or event. It can be triggered by witnessing an accident or from injuries a person sustains from an incident. As a result, shock is a type of non-economic damage in a claim.
• Anger: A person can claim non-economic damages for anger. This type of loss can be claimed if an accident or interaction causes severe mental pain and suffering that results in persistent anger which was not present before an accident.
• Indignity: Indignity, when speaking of non-economic damages, is defined as insults or damage to a person’s dignity or self-respect following an accident or altercation. Indignity can take the form of disgrace, vulgarity, ill treatment, abusive language, or intentional disrespect.
• Mortification: Mortification refers to the feeling of shame, wounded pride, or extreme embarrassment that comes after an accident, incident, or even false imprisonment. If a person feels ashamed or extremely embarrassed after a life-changing event, they may be able to pursue damages under this category.
• Nervousness: If an accident or altercation causes unnatural or acute uneasiness or nervousness, it is possible to cite this condition in a claim. A clear example of nervousness would be a change in personality or demeanor that was not present prior to the accident.
• Embarrassment: Embarrassment, in terms of non-economic damages, is similar to mortification. It is defined by the feeling of shame or disgrace due to an incident or the events afterwards. This could be due to physical or mental anguish and can be cited as a type of pain and suffering in a claim.
• Apprehension: If an accident or interaction causes reasonable fear or uncertainty that something bad could occur, this type of pain and suffering could be cited as apprehension. This is especially true if this sensation limits your ability to lead a normal life.
• Terror: A person who suffers an intense fear of injury, disability, or death due to an accident in a way that impacts their life could pursue non-economic damages under the definition of terror.
• Grief: Grief is typically defined as a deep sorrow or sadness resulting from a loss. If an accident or altercation results in the death, loss, or disappearance of something or someone a person holds dear, they may be able to recover damages under this category.
• Inconvenience: If an accident or event jeopardizes, introduces hardship or injustice, or hampers your daily activities, business, or your ability to engage with loved ones, you can cite inconvenience as a type of pain and suffering.
• Ordeal: An ordeal is defined by an accident or instance that causes a painful, horrific, or traumatizing situation. The event typically lasts for a long time or longer than expected. As a result, a person can claim an ordeal as a form of non-economic damage.
• Depression: If an accident or altercation seriously affects how a person feels, how a person acts, or how a person thinks, they can recover compensation for depression in a personal injury claim. Depression can also be categorized, among many other things, through severe and sudden personality shifts.
• Anxiety: Anxiety is defined as a generalized feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease and typically concerns uncertain events or outcomes. In a legal context, anxiety is a type of pain and suffering if a person exhibits these symptoms as the result of an accident, altercation, or other incident.
• Humiliation: A person can claim humiliation if they feel like they have been disgraced, belittled, or made to look foolish after an accident or altercation.
• Damage to Reputation: Damage to reputation is defined as someone making untrue statements about a person’s reputation in a way that puts them in an unfavorable light in their community or to their family and friends. As a result, this is something that can be compensated under non-economic damages in a claim.
• Loss of Companionship: Loss of companionship, also referred to as loss of consortium, can be cited as a type of pain and suffering if an accident causes someone to be depraved of the benefits of married life or parenting. This can be through the loss of the ability to show affection, care, or security, as a few examples.
• Emotional Distress: Emotional distress can be a combination of other types of pain and suffering. For example, emotional distress could be claimed if a person experiences anguish, sadness, or fury as a result of an accident.
• Sexual Dysfunction: If an accident, altercation, or other incident causes a person to have difficulty returning to the level of sexual activity that was normal to them before an accident, they may be able to cite sexual dysfunction as a type of non-economic damage. Normal sexual activity can include physical pleasure, desire, or arousal.
Does Bodily Injury Refer to the Same Damages?
Many insurance polices, especially auto insurance, have different types of coverage available to the insured. These include property damage, rental car coverage, and bodily injury benefits. Typically, the “bodily injury” benefits are for pain and suffering damages.
For example, if you were in a truck accident that was not your fault, you can make a claim against the trucking company for your injuries. The trucking insurance policy provides for “bodily injury benefits,” which is the coverage portion to pay your pain and suffering damages.
What is the Compensation for Pain and Suffering in a Lawsuit?
There is no set amount, or even guideline, for determining the amount of pain suffering for an injury victim. In fact, the award amounts vary depending on the state where the incident occurred. Some states limit the types of claims and others have caps, or damage limits, on the amounts.
Juries often struggle with the fair amount to award a plaintiff and many juries spend countless hours deliberating on a fair amount for the verdict.
Courts will sometimes modify a pain and suffering award if it is too low or too excessive However, most times the jury determination is the final number.
Many judges are reluctant to and even not permitted to disturb the non-economic amount of a jury award.
How much Can You Sue for Pain and Suffering?
In general, there is no limit to the amount you can sue for these damages. However, some states have damage limit caps on these damages. This means there is a limit on this type of damage in a lawsuit.
For example, in Michigan, there is a damage cap on pain and suffering damages in both medical malpractice and product liability lawsuits. This means that even if a jury awards a high amount of money the judge must reduce the award to the damage limit.
How do you Calculate Settlement Amounts?
Settlement amounts are determined on a case by case basis. Because the impact of an injury is different for every person, a settlement amount is based on the unique circumstances of each case. Although many lawyers and insurance adjusters negotiate settlements based upon other settled cases, this is not always the standard for resolving a matter.
There is no “settlement calculator” to determine these damages. The best way to prove a claim for these damages include the:
- Testimony of the injured party who describes the physical pain, emotional trauma, and psychological harm caused by the injury. The victim can claim all or some of the twenty-five types of pain and suffering damages identified in the above infographic.
- Statements of family members, friends, and even co-workers is helpful to understand the impact of an injury on a person’s life. These people can describe how the person was before the injury and after, often in ways that the victim is unable to describe. This includes changes in personality, demeanor, and even the zest for life.
- Medical records and physical therapy records are very helpful. Most records include sections for “complaints” to describe how the patient is feeling. Many charts even have the a pain scale for the patient to rate their pain from 1-10 (least to highest amount of pain)
- Prescription records and pharmacy records document the type and amount of pain relief medications being prescribed and used by the patient.
- Testimony from physicians regarding the severity of your injuries and your treatment is great evidence. Doctors are great at describing how an injury causes pain in a way that a non-medical person cannot explain. For example, everyone knows that a broken arm hurts but a doctor can explain the physical mechanism of that pain.
- Evaluations from psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health providers are strong evidence to support your claims. These professionals understand how pain and disability affects a person and the emotional impact it has a on a person’s life. They can explain this to a jury so the full impact of your injuries is understood.
- Photographs and video are helpful in explaining damages as well. For example, it is easy to describe and explain a bed sore in a nursing home lawsuit. However, if you show a photo of that injury to the jury they will much better understand the excruciating pain associated with the condition. The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” holds true when proving pain and suffering damages.
Different types of injuries are associated with different types of pain. Many people sitting on juries have had or know someone with a similar injury in the past. This fact often drives their understanding of the feelings of the plaintiff. It can help increase the damage award.
For example, a juror who has undergone a surgery for a herniated disc has first hand knowledge of the condition. This may make the juror more, or even less, sympathetic to the damages being claimed in the case. You simply never know how much will be awarded.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer About Damages
An experienced personal injury lawyer will help you maximize your settlement.
A well-versed attorney will gather all of the evidence, speak to witnesses, and get medical testimony to support your claim for damages. The presentation of these damages and how your life has changed due to an injury is the key to winning a top settlement.
To learn more about your pain and suffering settlement, contact the Buckfire Law Firm today.