After suffering an injury due to someone else’s negligence, there are basically two classifications of financial restitution. The first of these are called special damages. This will encompass everything from your medical bills to legal fees incurred as a result of the case. These costs are black and white costs that you will need to be reimbursed for by the guilty party. The second aspect of the case is where things get tricky, which is known as pain and suffering, also referred to as general damages.
Now, we say this gets tricky because there is no real guideline that can give you a hard figure to expect. This will literally depend on the injury itself as well as future possible complications and any changes in your quality of life. For instance, if you were in an accident and had permanent loss of the use of your arm, pain and suffering in a case such as this would be far more than a broken arm where a full recovery was expected in a relatively short period of time.
Pain and Suffering Defined
Per the Law.com legal dictionary, pain and suffering is defined as:
The physical and mental distress suffered from an injury, including actual broken bones and internal ruptures, but also the aches, pain, temporary and permanent limitations on activity, potential shortening of life, depression and embarrassment from scarring, all of which are part of the “general damages” recoverable by someone injured by another’s negligence or intentional attack. The dollar value of damages for pain and suffering is subjective, as distinguished from medical bills, future medical costs and lost wages which can be calculated, called “special damages.”
What are Pain and Suffering Damages?
As stated above, these are non-economic damages realized as a result of an injury due to the negligence of a secondary party. The damages you receive for pain and suffering can generally be broken out into these elements:
- Pain and suffering you go through as a result of the injury, including mental and emotional trauma
- Future complications and inconveniences
Examples of General Damages (pain and suffering)
- Mental pain
- Mental anguish
- Loss of job/career
- Lower quality of life (for instance, you lose self-sustainability)
- Actual physical pain and suffering from physical injury
- Severity of the injury itself
Proving Pain and Suffering
While you may be able to physically show an injury, the damage done often goes far deeper than just that injury. Proving pain and suffering will require significant documentation, most of which will be taken care of by or through the direction of your personal injury attorney.
Examples of this are:
- Written documentation from medical doctors outlining the details of your injury, including pain levels throughout treatment and recovery
- Written documentation from mental health doctors outlining the mental issues and/or state of mind regarding the injury as well as the pain and suffering it has caused
- Expert witness testimony to corroborate the above
- Full documentation on every aspect of your treatment (x-rays, therapy, medications, etc.)
- Your personal testimony related to the accident, the injury, and your mental and physical state due to the after-effects of the injury
- Testimony from friends and family members as to your mental and physical state as well as any hardships on all parties as a result of the injury
Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages
Even though there is no finite way of knowing what you will receive, generally speaking, insurance companies and attorneys have a formula they use that will give you an idea of your settlement. This formula entails adding up all past, present, and future medical bills and multiplying that figure by anywhere from 1.5 to 5. The multiplier is subjective and dictated by such factors as the severity of the injury, loss of quality of life, and how long the injury will impact your life. That number is then added to the cost of special damages, which is your loss of salary (past, present, and future), medical bills, property damage, and the like. Those two figures are added together to offer an estimated value of the case.
For instance, let’s say the plaintiff is involved in an accident that will cause permanent spinal damage, requiring a lifetime in a wheelchair. The multiplier in a case such as this would be on the high end, meaning four or five times of your special damages. If all costs, past, future, and present, were an estimated $2 million, this could be a $10 to $12 million lawsuit.
If, on the other hand, you cut your lip on a bottle that was cracked at your local taproom, your multiplying factor would be relatively low, in the 1.5 to 2 range. Assuming the injury did not cause you to lose any work and the injury was not serious, meaning plastic surgery would not be required, you may have incurred about $1,000 in costs. So, you would probably have a case in the $2,500 to $3,000 range. Have you recently been injured and need to hire a personal injury attorney? We would love to help. Your initial consultation is free, and you are under no obligation to use our legal services, so please do not hesitate to call us at 855-633-0888 . If you would like to learn more about our personal injury legal service, you can also click here.
Taryn J. White is a legal research specialist and Injury law news reporter. Her current accomplishments include helping those facing any injuries from vehicle accidents, workplace accidents, and medical malpractice.