When people get into an accident—whether it’s a car wreck or a slip and fall—the losses they endure can go beyond just the cost of hospital bills or missed time from work. You can also experience a whirlwind of emotional and physical pain that can greatly impact the quality of your life. This is what’s known as “pain and suffering.”
But, what exactly is “pain and suffering”? And how do you prove something that can be so massive, yet intangible, as emotional and physical agony?
In this article, we’ll look at the legal definition of pain and suffering, how these damages are typically calculated in a claim or lawsuit, and how it’s proven with the help of a skilled Dallas personal injury attorney.
What Is Pain and Suffering?
“Pain and suffering” is a legal term that refers to the emotional distress, mental anguish, and physical pain a person may suffer after being injured in an accident.
It’s an abstract term and can come in many forms, but it typically refers to:
- Actual pain and discomfort, which can be temporary or permanent
- Depression, anxiety, memory loss, insomnia, PTSD, or other emotional and psychological disorders
- Loss of enjoyment or quality of life
- Physical limitations that impact your lifestyle
- Loss of consortium, which is the inability to be intimate with your spouse or partner
Examples of Pain and Suffering After an Accident
Most people think they aren’t entitled to compensation for their pain and suffering after an accident. Or, they think their mental and physical trauma isn’t “severe” enough to warrant a fight with the at-fault party. But, that’s simply not the case. Anybody involved in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence deserves fair compensation for the anguish they’ve experienced— or may potentially suffer from for the rest of their lives.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of how someone might experience pain and suffering after an accident, and see how they might apply to your situation.
Example #1: Pain and Suffering Can Be Minor or Temporary
Let’s say that someone suffers from a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property and breaks their leg. The victim is an avid jogger and enjoys running for physical and mental health benefits. But, as a result of the injury, the victim can no longer enjoy their daily jogs and they become frustrated, unhappy, and maybe even a little depressed. The victim has no need for short-term or long-term mental health assistance. However, the negative emotional side effects they endured still qualify as mental pain and suffering, even if they’re temporary or seem minor compared to other cases.
Example #2: Pain and Suffering Can Be Severe and Long-lasting
Now, let’s look at a more severe example of pain and suffering. Let’s say a man was hit by a drunk driver. Unfortunately, his friend was killed in the accident and he suffered severe injuries, including multiple broken bones, a back injury, and a concussion. The victim had to undergo a long stay in the hospital, and as a result, he became depressed and angry, had difficulty sleeping, and even experienced traumatic flashbacks to the night of the wreck. His doctors informed him that he will no longer be able to lift his kids up or engage in any activity that might cause strain on his back. In addition to the physical agony he feels, he also feels mental anguish due to the accident and is referred to a therapist for ongoing treatment. This victim would be entitled to an award for all of the short-term and lifelong pain and suffering that is a direct result of the car accident.
Example #3: You Can Endure Severe Pain and Suffering Even If You Don't Endure Severe Injuries
It should be noted that medical expenses and the severity of your injuries do typically figure into the calculations of pain and suffering. However, in some cases, you can endure severe pain and suffering even if your medical bills or injuries aren’t severe. Consider this scenario: a woman is bitten by a dog and has multiple lacerations across her face. Thankfully, she doesn’t have a lot in the way of medical bills and she’s expected to make a speedy recovery; however, she’s left with permanent scars on her face—something she has to look at every day for the rest of her life. The facial scars wreak havoc on her self-esteem, leading her to develop severe depression and reducing the quality of her life. While her injuries and medical bills were relatively minor, that scarring caused a great deal of lifelong emotional and mental distress. For this reason, she is entitled to compensation for mental pain and suffering due to the accident.
How Do You Calculate Pain and Suffering?
So, how do you put a price tag on something like pain and suffering?
While there is no exact science to calculate pain and suffering damages, one of the main formulas personal injury attorneys and insurance companies use is called “the multiplier method.”
The Multiplier Method
Just like the name implies, the multiplier method involves adding all of the victim’s actual damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc.) and then multiplying that figure by a certain number, typically between 1.5 and 5. This multiplier may be based on a few factors, such as:
- the severity of the injury
- your prospects for a quick and complete recovery
- the impact of your injuries on your day-to-day-life
- and whether or not the other party was completely or partially at fault for the accident
For instance, if you suffer from severe or life-altering injuries following an accident, need long-term medical treatment and can no longer work due to your injuries, the multiplier might be somewhere around a 4 or 5. On the other hand, if you sustained some injuries, like broken bones and lacerations, but are likely to experience complete recovery in a matter of months, your multiplier might be closer to the average number, which is typically 3.
An example might help illuminate this concept. Let’s say a victim incurs $50,000 in medical bills related to suffering from broken ribs after a car accident. His Dallas personal injury attorney might meet with him and conclude that a 3X multiplier would be a reasonable number for everything he’s endured, netting him $150,000 for pain and suffering alone. The total combined award for pain and suffering alongside medical expenses would be a total of $200,000.
Proving Pain and Suffering
If the idea of taking your actual expenses and using a multiplier to calculate your pain and suffering seems like it leaves a lot of room for the math to get fuzzy, it often does. And the numbers become even more blurred once the at-fault party’s insurer starts their counter-argument.
So, how do you prove pain and suffering? And, how do you increase your odds of winning fair compensation for everything you’ve endured?
The most advantageous steps you can take is to: (a) document everything; and (b) consult with a skilled and experienced Dallas personal injury attorney.
When we say “document everything,” we mean everything. Every detail of your experience is important and can be extremely helpful in building your claim. Keep a daily journal and take time to write down everything from missed work, to headaches, to sleepless nights, or any activities that you’re now unable to do because of your injuries.
Records from a mental health professional are also helpful and often necessary if you claim injuries such as increased anxiety, insomnia, or depression. The same goes for physical pain. If you experience ongoing pain or discomfort, make sure you see a physician so that they’ll be noted in your medical records.
Your Attorney’s Experience Can Impact What You’re Offered
Our Experienced Dallas Personal Injury Attorneys Will Fight For Your Pain and Suffering
Accidents can shatter your life in the same way that they can break or shatter a bone, but the important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. The skilled personal injury attorneys at The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare are in your corner and can help you recover fair compensation for any injuries you’ve sustained, including pain and suffering.
Our attorneys have an average of over 20 years of experience fighting for victims and have successfully resolved many kinds of personal injury cases for clients throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.