Many of us have heard the term ‘pain and suffering’ but they may not understand how important it is in a personal injury case. What is pain and suffering in a legal sense, and how can it be accurate calculated in a lawsuit?
First, let’s clarify what pain and suffering is. There are two types:
- Physical: This is the pain that you are actually suffering physically from your injuries. It is not just the pain that you have had to date. It also is the negative effects that you are probably going to suffer in the future due to the negligence of the defendant.
- Mental: This type of pain and suffering is due to your being physically injured. But it is more than just a byproduct of the physical injuries. Mental pain and suffering include mental anguish from your disability or injury, emotional pain, loss of enjoyment of activities, humiliation, anger, shock and fear. Mental pain and suffering are any sort of negative emotion that you suffer from having to endure pain and trauma from the accident.
Serious mental pain and suffering are common after major accidents and can include debilitating anger, depression, loss of appetite, sexual dysfunction and loss of sleep. You may even suffer post traumatic stress disorder.
To understand pain and suffering better, let’s say that you get into a car accident and break several bones and have a concussion. Due to your injuries caused by the other driver, you are angry, depressed, cannot sleep, and have lost appetite. Because of these issues, you are referred to a therapist. All of these issues are related to your accident injuries and pain. You would be entitled to compensation for mental pain and suffering.
Mental pain and suffering can also prevent you from working even after your physical injures are gone. If you are unable to concentrate at work and are losing income or even your job from mental pain and suffering, you can be compensated for it in a personal injury lawsuit.
Calculating Pain and Suffering
Juries are not given much in the way of guidelines to determine the value of your pain and suffering. There is no legal charge for a jury to consult to determine what you deserve. In most states, the judge will just tell the jury to use good sense, experience and background to determine a fair, reasonable amount.
It is common for a multiplier to be used in some personal injury cases where your pain and suffering amount is determined by multiplying your total medical bills and lost earnings by a certain number. The multiplier can range from 1.5 to 4, which means you could be entitled to that much more money times the value of your physical damages. But the multiplier is merely a rough, ballpark estimate and will not apply in every case. It is most valuable in a minor lawsuit where damages are below $50,000.
But there are several other factors that will determine how much your pain and suffering are worth in a personal injury lawsuit:
- Whether you are a good or bad witness
- Whether you are likable and credible
- Whether your testimony about injuries is consistent
- Whether you appear to be exaggerating claims of pain and suffering
- Whether your doctors support your claims
- Whether you jury believes you lied at any time
- Whether your diagnosis and injuries seem to make common sense. If you claim, for example, that a minor car accident where you sprained your ankle prevented you from working an office job all year, this is rather hard to believe.
- Whether you have a criminal record