Pain and suffering is an important element of compensation in all Michigan personal injury cases. These types of claims are considered “non-economic” damages, meaning that the amount cannot be precisely stated in a dollar amount. Our personal injury attorneys use our skill and experience to maximize the amount of compensation for pain and suffering damages.
When you file a civil lawsuit for personal injury damages, you can claim damages for your pain and suffering that resulted from the accident. These damages cannot be claimed in contract cases or business lawsuits because the law does not provide them as an element of recoverable damages.
You can claim these damages in cases involving car accidents, medical malpractice, dog attacks, and any accidental injury case in which a physical or psychological injury was caused by the negligence of another. The suffering can be the result of the physical injury itself or from the psychological harm caused by the physical injury itself.
Emotional damages, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are also a type of pain and suffering damages. Quite often these damages last for years even after the physical injuries have healed.
What are the Different Types of Pain and Suffering Claims?
The Michigan Model Jury Instructions provide the different types of compensation that comprise a pain and suffering claim. These include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Fright and shock
- Denial of social pleasure and enjoyments
- Embarrassment, humiliation or mortification
A plaintiff is entitled to receive compensation for each of these claims if they apply to the specific case. Some injury victims experience all of these damages while others may have several of them.
What is an Example of Pain and Suffering?
There is no specific definition of pain and suffering and it is up to the judge or jury to determine whether an injury victim experienced those damages. Examples include the pain you experience when you break a bone or when a dog’s sharp teeth bite into your leg. Many times, it is what the injury victim feels during the many months of recovery after a surgery or the agony of going through physical therapy.
Proving Pain & Suffering Claims
There must be evidence of pain and suffering to claim these damages in case. Many times, it is quite obvious that a person suffered both physically and mentally due to an injury. Despite being obvious, it still must be proven and the extent of the suffering becomes important in determining how much money is appropriate compensation.
There are several ways to prove these damages. First, the injury victim can testify about the pain associated with the injury. The credibility of the person is important for this proof. Additionally, family members and friends are often called to testify on their observations of the injury victim and the nature of the pain and suffering observed on a regular basis after the accident.
Doctors, physical therapists, and other medical providers can also testify on the pain associated with certain types of injuries. Many victims receive strong pain medications to deal with the pain and physicians do not prescribe these drugs unless they are badly needed. Also, medical records and hospital charts often include patient pain ratings and these can be used as evidence in the case.
To prove pain and suffering claims, our experienced attorneys rely on your medical records, testimony, physician testimony, and other factors. Many times, we request that you be evaluated by a psychologist or psychiatrist who understands how to find out exactly how an injury has impacted your life both physically and emotionally. Quite often, close relations are damaged after a serious accident and compensation can be awarded for the negative affect on these relationships.
How Much Money Can You Sue for Pain and Suffering?
For most accident and injury cases, there is no legal limit to the amount that you can sue for pain and suffering damages. You can demand whatever amount that you want however most cases are limited by the amount of the insurance policy limits that will be used to pay your settlement.
For example, if you suffered a herniated disc in a rear end auto accident and required surgery, it will be difficult for the insurance company to argue that you did not have pain and suffering. In fact, those damages could conceivably greater than a million dollars depending on your recovery process. However, many drivers and vehicle owners have insurance policies with liability limits of only $100,000 or less, which makes it difficult to get you the actual amount of your damages.
Our attorneys will explore all possible sources of insurance policies and other sources to get you the highest dollar amount for your claim. You may even have your own coverage that will pay money beyond the insurance limits of the person who caused your accident.
For cases involving medical negligence and products liability, there are pain and suffering damage caps in Michigan. There are two levels of these caps and the amount you can receive depends on the specific nature and type of your injury. These amounts change on a yearly basis and our attorneys will tell you the limits that apply to your case and your likely settlement amount range.
Examples of Pain and Suffering Settlements
In a recent trial won by Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C., the jury awarded $3,000,000.00 to an elderly assisted living resident for thirteen days of severe pain and suffering before she passed away. In another case, the insurance company paid more than $2,000,000 in a truck accident settlement to compensate our client for his past, present, and future damages. We also won a child dog bite victim a settlement of $ 425,000 for injuries to her face suffered in a dog attack. In these cases, the amount of insurance coverage was enough to fairly pay the harm caused to the victims.
Is Emotional Distress the Same as Pain and Suffering?
Emotional distress is similar to pain and suffering, but not quite the same. A person can have emotional distress about an injury or the effect the injury has had on his or her life, but this is a separate type of claim. This type of claim is often proven by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker who can best explain to the jury how person’s emotional distress after an accident has impacted their life.
A person who can no longer participate in hobbies and activities has a denial of social pleasures and enjoyment. This is a type of emotional distress. The same is true for other types of mental anguish that are emotional and psychological in nature. If you are embarrassed by a scar or a burn injury, this too would qualify for emotional damages that you can sue for in your case.
These damages can be considered separately by the jury. For example, the jury can determine that a person endured pain and suffering and emotional distress and add the damages together. This can be in addition to economic losses and other types of compensation available in the case.
Is There a Pain and Suffering Calculator?
While it might be helpful to have a calculator or written guidelines to determine these damages, they simply do not exist. A calculator does not have feelings or emotions and would not be able to calculate a specific dollar amount for an individual anyways. There are too many factors that are used to determine the proper amount for a specific person and justice would never be served if a machine was used to place a dollar figure on a person’s suffering.
The amount of a settlement for pain and suffering depends on a number of factors, like severity of the injury, the type of medical treatment, and the permanency of the injury. The injury victim is entitled to pain and suffering damages for the actual injury as well as for the period of recovery. In many cases, there is no full recovery and these damages are projected over the future lifetime of the victim.
Can I Get Future Pain and Suffering Damages?
Yes, the law in Michigan allows for a determination of damages over a person’s lifetime. This is especially important if the effects of the injury are permanent in nature. In many cases, there is no full recovery and these damages are projected over the future lifetime of the victim.
Quite often, attorneys and insurance companies use a life expectancy table to determine the likely age that the person will live based upon figures determined by the Center for Disease Control. A judge or jury can then itemize year by year the amount of pain and suffering for a person over their entire life expectancy.
These amounts are completely discretionary. While one set of jurors might set damages at $50,000 a year for the next 30 years another set of jurors could determine the amount should be $10,000 a year in the same case. As such, it is important to have a lawyer on your side with experience in selecting the best jury and to prove your damages at trial to maximize the amount you will receive in your case.
Find Out What Your Case is Worth
To find out the settlement value of your case, contact our experienced lawyers at the Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. law firm now. Our attorneys will evaluate your case to see if you are eligible for a pain and suffering settlement. We charge no legal fees or costs until we win or settle your case.
Call today for your free, no obligation case review!
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