Did you recently suffer harm due to someone else’s careless, reckless, or malicious behavior? If so, you’re likely facing more than just the immediate physical repercussions. For many survivors, the emotional aftermath is equally distressing or even worse. In fact, some people experience considerable pain and suffering even without physical injuries.
The good news is that if you are dealing with pain and suffering after a traumatic event, you could be eligible for pain and suffering compensation. As you consider your options, one pressing question on your mind might be, “How much can I get for pain and suffering?”
The best way to answer this question is to call a personal injury lawyer.
How Are Pain and Suffering Different From Emotional Distress and Mental Anguish?
The terms pain and suffering, emotional distress, and mental anguish have distinct meanings in a personal injury claim. Let’s break them down:
Pain and Suffering
There are two key components to pain and suffering: physical pain and suffering and mental pain and suffering.
Physical pain and suffering refers to the bodily pain and discomfort a victim endures as a direct result of an injury. It covers both the immediate pain that arises after the accident and any ongoing discomfort the victim continues to suffer.
Mental pain and suffering encompasses the emotional and psychological consequences of an injury or other personal harm. It includes a broad range of negative emotions and psychological effects, such as fear, anxiety, shock, humiliation, anger, and loss of enjoyment in life. It can also cover post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stemming from the incident.
Emotional distress is a type of mental pain and suffering but usually gets its own category in personal injury claims. Emotional distress refers specifically to a victim’s psychological reactions to an injury or the trauma of a harmful incident.
Some jurisdictions require you to have a physical injury to claim emotional distress compensation, but not all. For instance, some states allow a person to claim emotional distress after witnessing a traumatic event, even if they did not suffer physical harm themselves.
Some jurisdictions use this term interchangeably with emotional distress. In others, mental anguish has a distinct meaning.
In states that allow separate claims for it, mental anguish usually refers to more profound and longer-lasting psychological consequences than those we associate with emotional distress. These include intense feelings of grief, shock, or even depression that result from a traumatic event.
Will a Pre-Existing Condition Hurt My Pain and Suffering Claim?
If you have a pre-existing condition, it could influence your pain and suffering claim in several ways. Insurance companies often scrutinize medical histories and might argue that your current pain and suffering stem from this prior condition, not the incident in question. They do this to minimize the compensation they must pay or deny your claim altogether.
However, just because you had a pre-existing condition doesn’t mean you can’t recover compensation. The legal concept of the eggshell plaintiff rule states that defendants must take victims as they find them. This means if an incident worsens your pre-existing condition, the responsible party remains liable for the increased harm, no matter what your health was like before the incident.
A skilled lawyer plays a key role in these situations. They can gather and present medical evidence and expert testimony to differentiate between the pain and suffering resulting from the incident and any discomfort from your pre-existing condition. They can also challenge arguments from insurance adjusters aiming to minimize your suffering or devalue your claim.
How Do You Calculate Pain and Suffering Compensation in a Personal Injury Case?
There are two primary methods for calculating pain and suffering compensation in personal injury cases: the multiplier method and the per diem method.
While these are standard methods, the negotiation process often involves a blend of both, plus other factors unique to your case. A skilled attorney can advise you on the best approach and advocate for maximum compensation on your behalf.
The Multiplier Method
In this approach, you start by tallying up the actual out-of-pocket losses you incurred due to the injury accident. This includes medical bills, lost income, and any other quantifiable financial losses resulting from the injury.
Once you have this total, you multiply it by a certain number. The more severe and long-lasting the injury, the higher the multiplier.
The primary advantage of the multiplier method is its simplicity and its capacity to adjust based on the severity of the injury. Scaling the multiplier offers the flexibility to account for various injury intensities, from minor inconveniences to life-altering conditions.
However, the multiplier method has its drawbacks. Determining the appropriate multiplier is a subjective process that frequently leads to disputes. What one person views as a two on the injury scale, another might see as a four. Additionally, in cases with minimal economic losses but significant pain, the compensation might not truly reflect the victim’s suffering.
The Per Diem Method
This method assigns a specific dollar amount to each day you endure the pain and suffering resulting from the incident. This period extends from the date of the injury until you reach your maximum level of recovery.
Most claims use the victim’s average daily earnings from before the incident to determine the daily rate. For example, if you normally earn $200 per day at your usual job, you could use that amount as the daily rate for your pain and suffering. If it took you 150 days to recover, and you use the $200 daily rate, your pain and suffering claim would be worth $30,000 under the per diem method.
The per diem method provides a tangible daily valuation of the pain and suffering a victim experiences, making it more relatable and sometimes easier to justify. Assigning a daily value acknowledges the ongoing nature of recovery and emphasizes that every day of suffering matters.
However, there are challenges to this approach. Determining a fair daily rate is difficult, especially when you use subjective factors or lack a steady income for reference.
Another significant challenge is establishing the end date for compensation. Deciding when a victim has reached maximum recovery is often subject to debate, especially in cases where pain lingers or fluctuates over time.
What Factors Can Affect the Value of a Pain and Suffering Claim?
Unlike compensation for tangible losses like medical bills or lost income, pain and suffering compensation addresses personal consequences that are inherently subjective.
Several factors can come into play when determining the appropriate value for this category of compensation, such as:
- Injury Severity: More severe injuries typically result in higher pain and suffering awards. Chronic conditions, debilitating injuries, or those that leave permanent scars or disfigurement often lead to greater compensation. The rationale is that these injuries have more profound consequences for your daily life and mental well-being.
- Duration and Recovery Time: The length of time it takes you to recover significantly influences the value of your pain and suffering claim. The compensation is usually higher if an injury takes longer to heal or requires prolonged medical treatment. This is because longer recovery periods often mean more extended periods of pain, discomfort, and disruption.
- The Effects on Your Daily Life: If the injury disrupts your ability to perform daily tasks, enjoy hobbies, or engage in social activities, your compensation could increase accordingly. Injuries that hinder you from doing things you once loved or from performing everyday functions like dressing or bathing add weight to a pain and suffering claim.
- Emotional and Psychological Trauma: Not all injuries are physical. If an event or injury contributes to psychological conditions like depression, anxiety, or PTSD, these factors could amplify the value of your claim. The emotional toll of an injury, especially if it requires therapy or counseling, plays a significant role in calculating pain and suffering.
- Your Age: Younger victims are more likely to receive higher compensation, especially if the injuries will affect the rest of their lives. For instance, a child who suffers a permanent disability will likely receive more pain and suffering compensation than an older individual, considering the long-term effects on the child’s life.
- Your Credibility: Credibility plays a key role in pain and suffering claims. You must provide consistent and earnest accounts of your pain, suffering, and losses in quality of life, and when these accounts align with your medical records, they strengthen your claim. Conversely, if the insurance company detects inconsistencies or thinks you are exaggerating, it could devalue your claim.
What Documentation Do I Need for a Pain and Suffering Claim?
If you pursue a pain and suffering claim, you’ll need to provide concrete evidence that substantiates your experience and shows how the injury or incident has affected your life. Documentation fortifies your claim and provides a clearer picture of your suffering to insurance companies, judges, and juries.
Here are some examples of the types of documentation you could use to bolster your pain and suffering claim:
- Medical treatment records
- Diagnostic records
- Prescription records
- Therapy records
- Radiology reports (e.g., X-rays, MRIs)
- Surgical records
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy notes
- Discharge summaries
- Medical bills
- Photographs of visible injuries
- Photographs of the incident scene
- Entries from personal journals or diaries
- Video footage of the incident
- Video that showcases your physical limitations
- Medical equipment receipts (e.g., crutches, braces)
- Testimony from medical professionals
- Other expert testimony
- Letters from therapists or counselors
- Psychiatric evaluation reports
- Documentation of missed work or lost income
- Testimony from family, friends, or caregivers
- Documentation of lifestyle changes
- Records of canceled events or activities
- Documentation of sleep disturbances or disorders
- Records of consultations with specialists
- Records of any home modifications or accommodations
How Can a Lawyer Maximize My Pain and Suffering Settlement?
When you work with a knowledgeable injury lawyer for your pain and suffering claim, they can streamline the claims process and optimize your chances of a favorable outcome by:
- Evaluating the strength and validity of your claim
- Guiding you through the claims process step by step
- Identifying and preserving useful evidence of pain and suffering
- Calculating a fair and accurate claim value given your condition
- Consulting with medical professionals to validate your claim
- Organizing and presenting your documentation effectively
- Negotiating aggressively with insurers to maximize your settlement
- Representing you in court if litigation becomes necessary
- Advising you on the best strategies to approach your specific case
- Ensuring compliance with all legal timelines and deadlines
- Preparing you for depositions and testimony
- Challenging the opposing party’s evidence or testimony
- Seeking expert witnesses to bolster your claim
- Protecting your rights and interests throughout the process
- Providing regular case updates and answering all your questions
- Researching relevant case law to strengthen your position
- Drafting and filing all necessary legal documents
- Advising you on potential tax implications of settlements or awards