Your Complete Guide to Pain & Suffering Damages
If you were injured in an accident, you can pursue compensation for any losses you suffered so you don’t have to pay out of pocket for your medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. But as you’ve likely realized, the aftermath of a serious accident isn’t limited to broken bones and damaged property. It can change your whole life in ways that are difficult to quantify.
This is why personal injury claims allow you to request pain and suffering damages. These are separate from the economic damages meant to pay for surgery, car repairs, and missed income. Also referred to as non-economic damages, pain and suffering damages compensate you for the less tangible ways a serious accident affects you. Before you pursue compensation for pain and suffering, you should learn what it is, how it’s calculated, and how a personal injury lawyer can help with your claim.
What Is Pain & Suffering?
If you were injured in an accident someone else caused, you might already know you can bring a claim against the at-fault party to cover your medical treatment and property repair costs. But what about the anxiety or PTSD you struggle with after the accident, or the fact that you can no longer enjoy your favorite sport because your knee will never be the same? If it feels unfair that you’re left with lifelong consequences from an accident you did not cause, you’re right. You deserve compensation beyond your actual costs from the accident, and that’s why pain and suffering damages exist.
What’s the Definition of Pain & Suffering?
Pain and suffering is a term that describes the physical and emotional pain that accident victims often suffer from. This type of loss is not as tangible as other losses. While everyone can see you have a broken leg or a dented car after a car crash, they can’t see the depression or crippling pain you have to deal with afterward.
There are two types of pain and suffering. One is emotional, which addresses the psychological and mental distress that a severe accident can cause. Common examples of emotional pain and suffering include
- Intense fear
- Loss of enjoyment of life
If you’ve noticed these emotions after the accident, you should know you’re not alone. It’s common for injured victims to have intense emotions after experiencing a life-changing situation. While monetary compensation can’t go back in time to prevent the accident from happening, it can allow you to take time off work to heal your emotional state and pay for therapy if necessary.
Many people struggling with emotional pain and suffering also deal with physical consequences, such as major injuries and even disabilities. This is why the other type of pain and suffering is physical. This refers to how a lifelong injury can significantly affect your daily routine and your life as a whole. If you will be in pain or discomfort for years and will likely never be able to enjoy your favorite hobby again due to your injuries, you deserve compensation.
Even if you’re expected to recover eventually, you have likely spent months enduring the healing process, dealing with pain and requiring help from family to get through your daily routine. You should be compensated for the physical and emotional pain you’re going through, and that’s why you should pursue pain and suffering damages.
How Does Pain & Suffering Differ from Economic Damages?
When you think of the compensation to expect from an injury accident, you likely think of economic damages. These usually include compensation for your medical bills, such as surgery, follow-up doctor appointments, and medication. Economic damages will also pay to repair or replace a damaged vehicle or other personal property. If you had to take weeks or months off work due to your injuries, your economic damages will include the income you missed out on earning.
Simply put, economic damages are straightforward to identify and calculate, as they usually have a clear cost. Non-economic damages are harder to prove and quantify, since it can be tough to put a price on the pain and depression you’ve endured since the accident. Fortunately, an experienced personal injury attorney knows how to calculate pain and suffering damages, so help is available if you want to pursue this compensation.
What Types of Cases Often Qualify for Pain & Suffering Damages?
To be eligible for pain and suffering damages, you must have been affected enough to have emotional or physical struggles that severely affect your life. Considering that even a relatively minor car accident can cause physical pain, PTSD, nightmares, and other serious issues, it should be no surprise that most personal injury claims request damages for pain and suffering.
These are some of the most common types of claims that involve pain and suffering damages:
- Car accident
- Truck accident
- Pedestrian accident
- Motorcycle crash
- Bicycle collision
- Slip-and-fall accident
- Medical malpractice
- Product liability
- Dog bite
You can also get pain and suffering damages in a wrongful death claim. For example, if losing your loved one has led to intense grief for your family, you can request damages for loss of consortium. This often refers to the fact that your loved one’s death led to the loss of care, comfort, companionship, intimacy, or guidance from them. Through no fault of your own, you now have to live without these important benefits, and you deserve to be compensated as you come to terms with these losses.
If you were injured or lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, talk to a lawyer about initiating a personal injury or wrongful death claim. They can tell you if you should pursue pain and suffering damages on top of your economic damages.
How Can You Prove Pain & Suffering?
If your lawyer determines you should request compensation for pain and suffering, the next step is to prepare to strengthen your claim with evidence. A skilled lawyer will guide you through this process, but knowing what to expect is helpful before you begin your case.
Why Is Pain & Suffering Harder to Prove Than Economic Damages?
Non-economic damages are notoriously more difficult to prove than economic damages. After all, when you request compensation for economic damages, you can gather up your receipts for medical bills you’ve paid and estimates for future medical care. This will determine the amount you’re compensated for medical bills. Similarly, when you need money for car repairs after an auto accident, you can prove your claim with receipts and estimates from a mechanic.
By contrast, you can’t show receipts that display what your chronic pain, anxiety, or depression have cost you since the accident. You also can’t turn in estimates that quantify the expected losses you’ll face because of physical and emotional pain. This is why it’s important to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to strengthen your request for compensation with evidence. After all, while proving pain and suffering is not as simple as establishing your need for economic damages, it certainly can be done with help from the right lawyer.
What Evidence Can Strengthen Your Pain & Suffering Claim?
Getting compensated for pain and suffering requires you to prove that you’re struggling with emotional or physical distress, and that the accident directly caused it. This will require solid evidence. While you might not have receipts showing exactly what your losses are worth, you can find ways to show how much your life has been affected by what happened to you.
Medical records are among the most important types of evidence. If you suffered serious injuries or are now disabled, proving this with medical records will lend credibility to your claim that the accident changed your life. For instance, if you suffered a traumatic brain injury, medical records showing this will support the idea that you deal with frequent headaches that keep you from enjoying life.
These are the most common types of evidence that will support your request for pain and suffering damages:
- Medical records that detail your diagnosis and treatment after the accident
- Records from a psychologist or counselor discussing your emotional state
- Photos of the injury or disability that causes constant pain and loss of enjoyment of life
- Statements from witnesses who can attest to your emotional and physical pain
- Personal journal detailing how your emotional and physical issues affect your routine
- Video showing how much help you need on a daily basis after the accident
The more evidence you can include for the insurance company or judge to review, the more likely you are to get damages for pain and suffering. If you cannot find evidence to support your claim, schedule a consultation with a lawyer to find out if it’s worth it to pursue these damages for your case.
How Can a Lawyer Help with This Step?
If you’re unsure how to gather evidence on your own, especially while struggling with emotional and physical trauma, you’re not alone. Many injured victims lack the time and energy to find evidence for their claims, as they’re still dealing with pain, insomnia, doctor appointments, and other issues relating to their accident. This is where a skilled personal injury lawyer comes in.
Your lawyer will talk with you to learn more about how the accident occurred, what physical and emotional injuries you suffered, and how your life has changed. They can then determine what evidence would be appropriate to include with your claim for compensation. Experienced lawyers can request the police report, medical records, and photos of the scene. They can also contact witnesses for testimony on how the accident has affected your life.
If your case ends up in the courtroom, you’ll be especially glad to have an attorney on your side. Knowledgeable attorneys know how to present evidence to a judge and jury in a way that will make the maximum impact. They can tell a moving story in the courtroom to make it clear that the accident has changed your life in various ways, and that getting compensation will help with the healing process.
As such, an attorney can do more than tell you what evidence you need for your claim. They can collect it for you and put it together in a compelling way that paints a vivid picture of how the accident changed everything for you. This will improve your chances of getting the damages you deserve.
How Much Money Can You Receive for Pain & Suffering?
If your lawyer tells you that pursuing pain and suffering damages is a good idea and begins gathering evidence, your next question might be about how much money you can expect. Every case is unique, so there’s no way to know how much you will get until you begin your claim, but it’s helpful to learn how pain and suffering damages are calculated.
What Factors Will Affect Your Pain & Suffering Claim?
In general, the amount of money you get depends on how severely the emotional and physical pain has damaged your quality of life. For instance, a permanent disability will result in higher compensation than a temporary injury expected to heal over time.
After reviewing the details of the accident and your evidence, your lawyer can tell you an estimated amount to expect. But in most cases, these factors will influence the amount you’re awarded:
- Your age
- The type and severity of your injuries
- The length of your expected recovery time
- The extent of the medical care you’ll need
- The impact the injuries have left on your routine and overall quality of life
- The mental and physical pain people with your injuries usually suffer
- The strength of the evidence you present
How Is Pain & Suffering Calculated?
There are two ways that insurance companies can calculate the amount of pain and suffering damages to award injured victims. One is the multiplier method, which adds up the actual damages for costs like medical bills, lost wages, and property repair. They then multiply that total by a number between 1.5 and 5, depending on the severity and permanence of your injuries. So, if your economic damages total $5,000 and the insurance company chooses 3 as a multiplier, you could get $15,000 in pain and suffering damages.
The other way to calculate these damages is through the per diem method. This assigns a dollar amount to the level of pain and suffering you deal with each day, starting with the day of the accident and ending on the day when your doctor attests that your condition will not improve further. If your pain is valued at $150 per day, and you’ve reached maximum recovery after 200 days, you could get $30,000 for pain and suffering. Putting a dollar amount on pain can be difficult, but more frequent and intense pain will generally result in a higher amount. In some cases, the amount will equal the victim’s daily earnings before the incident.
No matter which method is used, keep in mind that the total is a starting point for negotiations. The insurance company will always try to pay as little as possible, while your lawyer will fight to get you the maximum amount. This means you won’t know the exact amount to expect until your lawyer is done negotiating and gets the claim approved for payment.
What Are the Damage Caps for Pain & Suffering?
Depending on your state, your claim might have a damage cap for non-economic damages, which is the maximum amount of money you can request. For instance, Colorado has a damage cap of $250,000 for medical malpractice cases and most other civil claims.
For some types of personal injury cases in Colorado, the court might agree to order $500,000 in pain and suffering damages, but only when there is a clear and convincing justification. Your lawyer will let you know what the damage cap for your case will likely be.
How Do You Pursue a Pain & Suffering Claim?
Now that you know what pain and suffering damages are and how they’re calculated, you should prepare to start your case. Consider the steps involved in this type of legal action first.
How Do You Find the Right Lawyer?
Your first step should be to talk to personal injury attorneys in your city. Most offer a free initial consultation, which allows you to meet with the lawyer, ask questions, and determine if you feel comfortable leaving your case in their hands. During the consultation, you should find out how many cases like yours the lawyer has handled, what kinds of settlements they’ve reached for clients, and what awards they’ve earned in the legal field.
You should also find out how the lawyer fees work. Many personal injury law firms work on a contingency fee basis. This means you only pay once your case ends and you get a settlement, at which point they take a percentage. This allows you to get legal help with your claim soon after your accident, even when you don’t have a steady income due to your inability to work while you recover. If the lawyer you’re talking to works on a contingency fee basis or has other reasonable payment options, and you feel confident they can handle your legal issue, you’ll sign the paperwork to initiate the attorney/client relationship and begin your case.
What Challenges Will You Face During Your Case?
Always remember that the insurance company’s objective is to find reasons to reject your claim or pay the lowest amount possible. This is especially true with non-economic damages where there aren’t receipts to prove your costs.
So, be prepared for the insurance company to question your injuries throughout the case. For example, they might claim you didn’t submit enough evidence or that your medical records don’t show severe injuries. They might also claim that you caused the accident or were injured before it. Fortunately, a skilled lawyer can combat these claims by submitting sufficient evidence and arguing your case in court when necessary. This is why it’s so important to have a legal professional by your side throughout the case.
How Can You Increase Your Chance of a Fair Settlement?
There are some ways you can help your lawyer help you during your case. First, gather as much evidence as possible, including photos of your injuries, medical bills and estimates, and doctor notes. Your lawyer can collect additional evidence if necessary, but putting together the documents you already have will save time
Next, avoid downplaying your pain. Many injured victims get into the habit of rejecting help and claiming they’re okay when they’re not, since they don’t want to feel like a burden to loved ones. But this could backfire, as many victims need loved ones to provide sworn testimony about how the accident changed their life. If they claim that you seem fine, you won’t get pain and suffering damages.
In addition, insurance companies often look at social media pages. If you have posts stating that you feel much better and pictures of yourself enjoying life like usual, they can use this against you. Instead of documenting your life on social media, consider keeping a journal detailing the difficulties you have faced each day since the accident. Your lawyer can use this as evidence to support your claim.
How Can Our Law Firm Help?
If you’re ready to begin your Colorado personal injury claim, contact Genco Injury Attorneys for a free case evaluation. Our lawyers have spent years helping injured victims get the compensation they deserve, recovering millions of dollars for clients across Colorado.
Whether your case is successfully settled with the insurance company or ends up in the courtroom, our legal team has the skills and experience to get you the damages you’re entitled to. Call our law firm at 720-802-9120 today to start your claim.