Most people have heard of the term “pain and suffering” before sometime in their life, but they may not exactly understand that it is a key factor in many personal injury cases. You may have some questions, like: What exactly is pain and suffering from a legal point-of-view? How is it calculated for the use of an insurance claim or lawsuit involving an accident injury?
What is “Pain and Suffering”?
There are two primary categories of pain and suffering: physical and mental pain and suffering.
- Physical pain and suffering. This is the pain from the victim’s physical injuries. This can include not just pain and discomfort which the plaintiff has endured by also the devastating effects that he or she may suffer in the future caused by the negligent actions of the defendant.
- Mental pain and suffering. This is caused by the victim being harmed physically, but it is more a result of these physical injuries. Mental pain and suffering can include things like mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment, fear, anger, humiliation, or anxiety. Mental pain and suffering is essentially any type of negative emotion that a victim may suffer directly caused by enduring the physical pain and trauma of the crash or incident. Significant mental pain and suffering can also involve anger, depression, loss of appetite, lack of energy, sexual dysfunction, mood swings, and sleep disturbances. Even more severe mental pain and suffering can be included under symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Mental pain and suffering, similar to physical pain and suffering, includes not only the currently experienced effects the plaintiff has endured but also the mental pain and suffering which he or she will experience in the future.
Examples of Pain and Suffering
Now we are going to examine some different ways of how car accident victims may experience pain and suffering after an accident.
First, we are going to look at a particularly serious case. Let’s imagine that someone was involved in a car crash that resulted in multiple broken bones and a serious concussion. That would be considered a severe incident. Because of these multiple injuries, the plaintiff became extremely depressed and agitated, had a hard time falling to sleep, and experienced a loss of appetite. Because of these issues, the plaintiff had to also see a psychologist or therapist. These issues are directly resulting from the crash, and the plaintiff would be entitled to compensation for mental pain and suffering because of the accident.
Mental pain and suffering can become so problematic at times that it ultimately stops the victim from going back to work even after healing from all physical injuries. When this happens, the claimant’s depression due to the crash may linger for a while after his or her physical condition has healed, such as broken bones or a concussion. Even then, the victim would be able to recover compensation for damages caused by mental pain and suffering, like lost wages.
Next, we are going to look at a less serious example of mental pain and suffering. Let’s imagine that someone is involved in a car crash sustains some back injuries. Because of this back strain, the plaintiff is left unable to exercise for many weeks and is consequentially not able to run in a marathon that he or she had been training for. Due to being unable to run the marathon, the plaintiff is angry, upset, unhappy, and perhaps even a bit depressed. The plaintiff does not require mental health assistance, but these consequences, while relatively minor, would still qualify as mental pain and suffering.
Calculating Pain And Suffering
Judges do not provide juries with many instructions for determining the value of pain and suffering in a personal injury claim. There are no guides that juries can reference when figuring out how much to award a plaintiff in a lawsuit. Judges will more often than not instruct juries to use reason, good sense, background, and experience when evaluating what would be fair and equitable compensation for a claimant’s pain and suffering.
Possibly, you have heard previously about a “multiplier” being used in a lawsuit involving a personal injury. This means that pain and suffering are determined as being valued at some multiple of the injured party’s total medical casts as well as lost earnings. These are referred to as the plaintiff’s “special damages.”
Usually, the multiplier is considered to be between 1.5 and 4. This means that pain and suffering is 1.5 to 4 times the value of the plaintiff’s special damages. The catch is that the multiplier concept is just a rough estimation and does not really apply in most personal injury claims. It is usually used for minor injury cases with damages less than $50,000. However, even in small claims, you should be wary of how you apply the multiplier.
There are certain factors that may alter the value of the pain and suffering portion of a personal injury claim. These could include:
- If the plaintiff is or will be a good witness
- If the plaintiff is likable
- If the plaintiff is credible
- If the plaintiff’s testimony of his or her injuries is consistent
- If the plaintiff is exaggerating his or her claims of pain and suffering
Utah Area Car Crashes
When people are harmed in a car crash, they usually have to spend thousands of dollars on costly medical treatment and may have to miss several weeks of work immediately following the incident. In these cases, injured parties may be eligible to seek compensation for their damages such as medical expenses and lost income due to the negligence of another party with the help of a vehicle collision attorney in Utah.
For many years, the expert Salt Lake City personal injury lawyers at Siegfried & Jensen have helped countless families receive the full and fair settlement they need to recover after a tragic accident. Contact our offices today at (801) 845-9000 to see what your options are following a car crash or tragic accident.