The phrase “pain and suffering” is often used in the context of personal injury cases yet plenty of people are unaware of what these words really mean. Most people are aware it is possible to obtain compensation for medical expenses and lost time at work after an accident. It is also possible to obtain considerable financial compensation for pain and suffering. Let’s take a look at what this phrase means.
Defining Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering is best defined as the physical and emotional pain resulting from the injury. The legal definition includes agony, aches, affliction, discomfort and additional pain associated with the injury. The bottom line is an individual who endures a personal injury is not the same as he or she was prior to the accident. These injuries really do take a toll on the body as well as the emotions.
Let’s take a look at an example for added clarification. Consider a situation in which you are driving to work early in the morning. A drunk driver headed home from the bars after an all-night drinking session t-bones your vehicle, breaking your leg and causing excessive bruising. Your body hurts to the point that you find it difficult to sleep. You become depressed as you have become an insomniac, ridden with excessive pain. The combination of insufficient sleep, pain, depression and emotional anguish all fall under the umbrella of pain and suffering.
Physical Vs. Mental
The physical is not only the pain and discomfort you have suffered to date; it is also the detrimental effects that will be endured as time progresses. As long as these detrimental effects are the result of the negligent party’s actions, compensation is justified. Mental pain and suffering is best thought of as a by-product of physical injuries.
Examples of mental pain and suffering include emotional distress, anxiety, mental anguish, anger, fear, shock and the loss of enjoyment of life. Mental pain is best defined as a negative emotion the victim suffers after feeling the pain/trauma from the accident. Mental accounts for the pain felt to date as well as the pain that will likely be felt in the future. If the mental pain and suffering is significant, it can include extreme depression, sleep disturbance, mood swings, sexual dysfunction and lack of energy. If the mental pain and suffering is egregious, it can be classified as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Calculating damages in a lawsuit
Judges do not provide juries with much guidance for gauging how to quantify pain and suffering in a personal injury lawsuit. There is value chart available to determine how much compensation should be awarded. Sadly, some judges merely instruct the jury to use good sense to determine the amount of compensation that should be provided to the victim.
In some situations, a multiplier is used in which the value of pain and suffering is a multiple of the injured party’s aggregate medical expenses and lost earnings. This multiplier is typically in the range of 1.5 to 4. In other words, pain and suffering is upwards of four times the value of the medical bills and lost earnings. However, this multiplier is typically limited to minor injury cases.
Pain and Suffering is not the Same as Economic Damages
Certain damages stemming from a personal injury are fairly easy to quantify. It is fairly easy to measure out-of-pocket damages. As an example, lost wages and medical bills can be tabulated with ease. Such damages are referred to as economic damages. Pain and suffering is categorized as non-economic damage. Though it is not possible to quantify, the physical and emotional pain is quite real. You deserve compensation for this just as much as you deserve compensation for lost wages, medical expenses and other costs that can be quantified with ease.
Contact Wright & Gray if you would like to discuss your personal injury claim.