What Does “Pain and Suffering” Mean?
The idea behind compensation in personal injury cases is that the money makes the injured person “whole” again. For objective costs, this is easy to calculate. Your repair bills and medical expenses can be presented in black and white to an insurance company or jury. But the stress from an injury adds a physical and mental toll that can’t be calculated by bills. This is a subjective form of damage that also needs compensation. The legal term “pain and suffering” covers this personal part of what you deserve.
In a minor case, pain and suffering could just be compensation for the annoyance of putting up with the injury while you heal. But it can go far further than that. Even after an injury heals, the traumatic consequences of an accident can scar someone’s body or mind for life. Serious mental illness is not uncommon after a major accident. The bills might be covered, but the victim is nowhere near whole without more compensation.
Insurance companies recognize that they need to cover pain and suffering costs as part of their calculations. However, they often lowball this number and pay you less than you deserve. This is one reason why having a personal injury lawyer on your side can raise how much you get. We can challenge the calculations made by your insurance company and get you a higher settlement.
There are two main ways that lawyers estimate pain and suffering damages. The first is to take all of your objective costs and then multiply that number by some amount, usually from 1.5 to 4. The multiplier depends on the severity of what you’ve experienced. The second way is to figure out how many days you were injured and then assign a pain and suffering cost to each day. It must be stressed that these are estimates only, but they’re useful numbers to see if an insurance company is giving a reasonable offer or not.
In truth, the amount of pain and suffering damages you can receive are whatever your lawyer can get an insurance company to give up or convince a jury to award up to the limits of the law. When you hear of multi-million dollar awards in personal injury cases, much of that is from juries awarding huge pain and suffering damages. However, to get these kinds of awards requires hard work from both your lawyer and you. You have to provide evidence.
One potent form of evidence is a personal journal kept by you recording your physical and emotional experiences during your injury. Keeping a truthful record of your experiences and feelings during your injury will provide a solid basis for a high pain and suffering claim. If possible, the journal should be supported by photographs or even videos of your injuries.
The journal can be further supported by your lawyer asking friends and family to testify to the changes they’ve noticed in you since your injury. If you have a mental health professional, their testimony can be of great value if they can show that you incurred a mental health problem due to your injury. All of this gives objective weight to your subjective pain and suffering and will make it much more likely that you’ll get a favorable outcome.
Never accept an insurance company’s offer of a settlement without running it by a personal injury lawyer first. You may be due far more than you think.