You were driving to work in the morning, minding your own business. It was an average Tuesday—until a distracted driver crashed into you and caused major injuries.
Now, you’ve been away from your job for some time because of your injuries, and your medical bills are piling up. You know you need to do something, but between your injuries and your bills, your options seem slim.
If this sounds like your case, you may be able to sue for pain and suffering damages. Here’s what you need to know before you file a lawsuit.
What Is Pain and Suffering?
Pain and suffering is a legal term referring to the host of injuries a plaintiff (you) may suffer as the result of an accident. The concept itself is somewhat abstract, but the plaintiff can seek compensation for pain and suffering.
This is based on a key concept in tort law, the type of law covering most civil lawsuits.
Unlike criminal law, where you have to prove that the defendant is guilty of a criminal offense, tort law is designed to redress a wrong done to someone by another party, usually in the form of monetary damages.
Because of this, the goal of tort law is not to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but rather to prove that the defendant caused harm to you which can be classified in monetary terms and for which you deserve financial compensation. The idea is to discourage someone else from inflicting the same harm on another victim.
What Counts as Pain and Suffering?
Pain and suffering, in particular, deals with the specific injuries a plaintiff suffers as the result of a defendant’s actions.
Most of the time, people think of pain and suffering in terms of physical pain. For example, if you broke your neck as a result of a car accident and could not go to work for several months, costing you significant wages, you could sue for pain and suffering.
However, pain and suffering also apply to emotional and psychological trauma, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional distress
Emotional pain and suffering are more difficult to prove than physical pain and suffering, mostly because a broken arm is easier to demonstrate on an X-ray as a direct cause and effect than depression or anxiety.
What Are Pain and Suffering Damages?
Keep in mind, however, that it is not enough simply to have an injury. Tort law is based on the idea that one party inflicted damages on someone which can be redressed through financial compensation.
Pain and suffering damages are thus financial compensation for having to go through pain and suffering that would not have occurred if not for your accident and the actions of the other party. The key, then, is to name a specific financial number to compensate you for your loss.
In a minor case, pain and suffering damages address a minor inconvenience, like your medical bills and lost time at work. In a major case, it addresses agony and suffering, such as the pain of knowing you can never pick up your child again.
How Insurance Companies Calculate Pain and Suffering
The tricky part about pain and suffering is that it can be difficult to put a number on an abstract concept. How can you put a monetary value on being able to play with your children or drive yourself to work each day?
For this reason, pain and suffering damages are often calculated in terms of numbers that are easier to quantify, including:
- Medical bills
- Medical records
- Lost wages
- Prescription records
- Receipts for over-the-counter medication
- Photographs of injuries
Attorneys are taught two ways to calculate pain and suffering: the pain and suffering multiplier or the per diem approach.
Pain and Suffering Multiplier
The multiplier method multiplies the plaintiff’s actual damages by a certain number, depending on the severity of the injury.
For example, your attorney might use your lost wages and medical bills as your actual damages. They would then multiply that total by a number between 1 and 5, depending on the severity of the injury.
If you incurred $4,000 in medical bills as a result of a broken arm, your attorney might multiply that number by 3 based on the impact on your life and conclude that $12,000 represents a reasonable amount for pain and suffering.
Keep in mind that there is no hard and fast rule for how insurance companies calculate pain and suffering, nor is there a hard and fast rule for plaintiff attorneys to calculate it. It depends on the case your attorney can make for you and what you can prove about the severity of your injuries.
Per Diem Approach
The other method is the per diem method, which is Latin for “per day.”
In the per diem method, you demand a certain dollar amount per day for every day you have been forced to live alongside the pain and suffering caused by your accident.
To reach a number under this method, one technique is to divide the wages you would have earned in that time period per day, as well as an average amount you would spend on your injuries each day. Each day would thus be assigned a number each day from the day of the accident until you reach full recovery.
Guiding You Through Pain and Suffering
If you’re considering suing for pain and suffering damages, the attorneys at Sweet Lawyers are here to guide you through your case.
For our team of personal injury lawyers, our job is about more than a personal injury claim–it’s about giving people the tools they need to recover their lives. We are proud to give our clients the support they need to start over after an accident.
If you need to speak with an attorney about your options, click here to get in touch.