When someone else’s misconduct causes you to suffer a personal injury, the law typically entitles you to compensation for all of your losses, both tangible and intangible.
“Pain and suffering” damages are a form of compensation for the harm you endure due to an injury – for example, respiratory distress or the every-breath agony of broken ribs. Pain and suffering damages often amount to the largest component of a personal injury claim.
Medical Conditions That Commonly Generate Pain and Suffering Claims
The following injuries frequently generate pain and suffering claims:
- Dog bite puncture wounds.
- Road rash from a car accident or a motorcycle accident.
- A back injury caused by falling debris at a construction site.
- Bedsores from nursing home neglect.
- A broken back from a train derailment.
- A broken collarbone from a collision with a car while cycling.
- A broken hip from falling on an icy sidewalk.
- Broken legs from being hit by a car as a pedestrian.
- A broken nose from a physical assault.
- A broken wrist from a bicycling accident.
- Burns from a kitchen fire.
- Cardiac arrest from an electric shock.
- A concussion from a rugby match.
- The confinement of being in traction;
- Crushed fingers from a printing press accident.
- A crushed limb from an elevator malfunction.
- Gastrointestinal illness from food poisoning.
- A herniated disc due to heavy lifting.
- An infection from a dog bite.
- Loss of a finger due to a defective lawn mower.
- Lung disease from asbestos exposure.
- Respiratory distress (difficulty breathing);
- Severe hand burns from a defective cigarette lighter.
- A severed nerve from medical malpractice.
- A torn ligament from a football tackle.
- Whiplash from a rear-end traffic collision.
Many other painful conditions frequently arise in personal injury lawsuits.
Factors Affecting the Value of a Pain and Suffering Claim
Some of the most important factors that affect the value of a pain and suffering claim include:
- Ability to engage in hobbies and activities.
- Age of the victim.
- Cost of future medical care.
- Defendant’s conduct.
- Duration of the pain.
- Emotional distress.
- Impact on personal relationships.
- Impact on quality of life.
- Insurance policy limits.
- Intensity of the pain.
- Medical expenses incurred.
- Necessary lifestyle changes.
- Pain and suffering already experienced.
- Permanent disability or disfigurement.
- Plaintiff’s credibility.
- Pre-existing conditions.
- Rehabilitation time.
- The clarity of liability.
- The degree of humiliation suffered.
- The lawyers’ skill and experience.
- The type of injury.
Many other factors might also come into play.
Proving Pain and Suffering
You might be able to rely on the following types of evidence to prove pain and suffering:
- Any evidence of permanent disability or disfigurement.
- Documentation of any decrease in quality of life, such as inability to engage in hobbies or exercise.
- Documentation of sleep disturbances or other lifestyle changes.
- Employment records showing lost work time or inability to perform job duties.
- Evidence of missed activities or events.
- Financial records showing costs incurred for pain treatment.
- Medical expert testimony.
- Medical records.
- Medication records.
- Pain and suffering calculators used by medical professionals.
- Personal journals or diaries.
- Photographs and videos.
- Physical therapy or rehabilitation records.
- Psychiatric records.
- Records of visits to specialists.
- Testimony from family, friends, or coworkers.
- Your own testimony.
Each item of evidence can help generate a comprehensive picture of the effect of your pain and suffering on your life.
Calculating Pain and Suffering: The Nuts and Bolts
How do you put together all of the evidence for pain and suffering into a specific dollar figure? Some methods are more popular than others, but there are two that are most commonly utilized.
The Per Diem Method
“Per diem” is a fancy-sounding Latin term that simply means “per day.” How much is your pain worth per day? It might not be that much for a broken finger, but it might be a lot for suffering the confinement of traction.
Once you use the above-listed factors to decide on a daily rate, simply multiply that rate by the number of days you suffered, from the date of your accident until the date that you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). You reach MMI on the date that your doctor declares that your medical condition has already improved as much as it is ever going to.
The Multiplier Method
The multiplier method is an alternative to the per diem method. Under the multiplier method, you select a multiplier with a value of between 1.5 and 5. Multiply that by the amount of your total medical expenses:
- Multiplier 1.5 X $10,000 in medical expenses = $15,000 in pain and suffering damages.
- Multiplier 5 X $15,000 in medical expenses = $75,000 in pain and suffering damages.
- Multiplier 3.5 x $20,000 in medical expenses = $70,000 in pain and suffering damages.
The multiplier is selected by applying the kinds of factors discussed in the section above.
Many insurance companies will use a pain and suffering calculator based on a software program. Colossus, for example, is a popular software program that insurance companies like to use.
Software programs sometimes incorporate hundreds of factors into their analysis. Nevertheless, they are heavily biased in favor of the insurance company’s interests – in other words, in low offers.
Negotiation, rather than calculation, is the way that parties resolve most pain and suffering claims. Parties will use pain and suffering settlement examples from other cases to make offers and counteroffers. The foregoing calculation methods are still relevant, but they are often just starting points for negotiation.
One of the reasons why defendants in personal injury cases don’t want to go to trial is the possibility of a ‘runaway jury,’ especially if the defendant is a corporate entity. A runaway jury, driven by emotion, might award ten times as much in pain and suffering damages as the amount that would have been negotiated in settlement talks. The verdict might even surprise the plaintiff.
Insurance Company Policy Limitations
If you are relying purely on an insurance policy to pay your pain and suffering claim, policy maximums are your ultimate limitations. Of course, if the defendant has financial resources, they might be financially capable of paying any amount that exceeds the insurance company’s policy maximum. If the defendant is an individual, however, they might not be able to afford to pay.
Hire a Trusted Lawrenceville Personal Injury Lawyer
Pain and suffering is an inherently ambiguous concept. How do you measure it? If you’re representing yourself, you might end up settling for $1,000 when a skilled personal injury lawyer could have gotten you $10,000 or more. An experienced Lawrenceville personal injury lawyer should know exactly how to maximize the value of your pain and suffering claim.