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Why "Pain and Suffering" is a Big Factor in Personal Injury Cas

  • What does “pain and suffering” mean in the context of a personal injury case? In legal terms, pain and suffering refers to the physical and emotional stress an injury can cause. People who suffer an injury because of the negligent acts of another, whether in a car accident, because of medical malpractice, at work, or for a host of other reasons, may be able to receive compensatory damages in a lawsuit for their pain and suffering.


    Compensatory Damages


    Compensatory damages are monies awarded to the injured party for economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include straightforward losses such as for medical bills, wages and property damage. Pain and suffering, which usually fall under the umbrella of non-economic damages, are not as easily quantifiable as economic damages, but are often a major contributor to negatively affecting a person’s physical and mental quality of life into the future. That’s why it is so important to factor in pain and suffering when determining what damages to seek in a personal injury claim.


    Pain and Suffering


    Physical pain and suffering includes the effects of long-term pain on the body from the accident or negative changes over time to the physical body that would not have happened if there had been no accident. It can include things like scarring, disfigurement and long-term disabilities. Mental pain and suffering results from the emotional stress caused by the trauma of an accident and resulting bodily pain. It can include things like insomnia, anxiety, anger, depression, anguish and distress, humiliation, lack of energy, sexual dysfunction, moodiness and even post traumatic stress disorder. Pain and suffering can also be applied to wrongful death cases for loss of companionship, comfort, protection, marital care, parental care and more.


    Here is a fictional example in which a pain and suffering claim might be awarded:


    Imagine you are in a car accident caused by a distracted driver that leaves you with cuts and bruises, including a major laceration on your face that requires several stitches. Your wounds eventually heal, but the severe scarring on your face will likely never disappear. Every day when you encounter people, you feel embarrassed and humiliated by the scar on your face. You no longer feel attractive to other people. You no longer want to leave your home and you start missing days at your job—where you had worked as a sales representative--until you eventually lose your job.


    As you can see, pain and suffering caused by a careless accident at the negligent hands of another can greatly reduce a person’s quality of life. And although, as stated before, they are usually considered non-economic damages, pain and suffering from an accident can actually have far-ranging economic impacts. The emotional toll from an accident may require treatment by a health professional. In more severe accidents, people may be so traumatized mentally following the pain and shock of the incident that they may have trouble holding down jobs or may never be able to return to work at all, leading to long-term economic loss.


    Determining Pain & Suffering Damages


    There is no exact formula for determining how much in monetary damages to ask for because of pain and suffering in a personal injury case. The severity of the accident, doctors’ reports, therapist reports, substantiated loss of income and many other things will factor into a settlement amount. Where you live may also come into play. Some states have caps on the amount of non-economic damages that can be recovered.


    Understanding what qualifies as pain and suffering in a personal injury case and what kind of damage award you could reasonably expect can be quite complicated. If you suffered an injury due to the negligence of another, it’s wise to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney in your state to find out whether you might have a viable case for damages.