What Exactly Is Pain and Suffering?

September 18, 2019 @ 9:30 am

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You’ve probably heard it before. It’s a term attached to every personal injury lawsuit, and it’s one of the most misunderstood legal claims: pain and suffering. It’s an aspect of personal injury law that seeks a monetary fix for something that can be difficult to prove and even more challenging to measure. Getting a settlement equal to the degree of pain and suffering you experience depends on any number of factors — the first one being how the court defines pain and suffering.

The Legal Definition of Pain and Suffering

Legally, pain and suffering are inclusive terms that address injuries, which may be hard to assess. They include not only physical discomfort but also the mental and emotional distress that typically accompany an injury.

Difficulty in defining pain and suffering centers on the fact that, even if the physical source of pain is visible and seemingly straightforward, other problems associated with the injury often go deeper and cause additional issues.

These issues may include things like:

  • Nerve damage, which can cause anything from numbness that reduces a person’s ability to function to nervous tics that are embarrassing or debilitating pain.
  • Scarring, loss of a body part or complications in healing, which can strip skills, confidence and abilities from people, leaving them with mental and emotional issues that interfere with their responsibilities and quality of life.
  • Head trauma and injuries to the brain, which can result in personality changes, depression, mood swings and reduced mental capabilities.
  • Emotional trauma or grief, which can manifest in mental disorders like PTSD, depression and injury-related phobias.

By suing for pain and suffering, attorneys are attempting to win compensation that will assist their clients in getting the additional care and assistance they need.

How To Calculate Pain and Suffering

Awarding appropriate compensation for pain and suffering in personal injury lawsuits is a responsibility that typically rests with a jury. While compensation amounts can vary widely, they usually correspond to the injury’s degree of seriousness. For example, injuries that are more severe, injuries that require longer recovery times and injuries that have long-lasting impacts on a victim’s livelihood are usually viewed as being deserving of larger settlements.

While any number of formulas could assign a dollar figure to what you might deserve, courts and insurance companies may use one of two common ways to calculate the worth of pain and suffering.

  • The first assesses a victim’s actual damages and multiplies or increases that total by an injury’s degree of severity.
  • The second uses a per diem allowance that establishes a certain dollar amount for each day of recovery based on the injury’s degree of severity.

Even with seemingly objective formulas, the perceived severity of an injury plays an enormous role in determining the fair amount that others feel you might deserve for the pain, distress and other complications associated with your injury.

Three Facts You Need To Know When Suing for Pain and Suffering

The life changes that result from pain and suffering are very real. Victims may lose their livelihoods. Their pain may manifest as illnesses, humiliation, anxiety, insomnia or a number of other challenges. However, claims of pain and suffering require skilled legal representation for three key reasons:

  • Claims of pain and suffering are typically classified as compensatory damages and, more specifically, general damages. Unlike special damages, which can be tracked through financial documentation, for example, general damages are more abstract and more difficult to prove.
  • A successful claim of pain and suffering relies on you being able to prove that your initial injury was someone else’s fault and that a solid relationship exists between that injury and your other problems associated with it — that the injury and nothing else caused the additional issues of pain and suffering.
  • Many personal injury lawsuits for pain and suffering are settled out of court simply because pain and suffering can be difficult to prove. Nevertheless, out-of-court settlements are legally binding. Changes require the approval of both parties. If that isn’t achievable, renegotiation may require court action.

Proving Your Claim

If you are struggling with the pain and suffering that accompany an injury, let Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Bassett and Haik help you get the compensation you deserve. Call us at 800-356-6776 to speak with an experienced legal professional, or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We understand exactly what constitutes pain and suffering, and we’re ready to help you do something about it.