What is it and how is it measured?
In a personal injury case, it is extremely difficult to determine the amount of pain and suffering inflicted upon the client. Every injury, every injured person, every accident, and every case is different so it is difficult to “measure” the amount of pain and suffering in a personal injury case. Two people can have the same injury and one can suffer little while the other suffers a great deal; or one offers better proof than the other with more complete documentation or better witnesses; or they can be in two different parts of the country and get completely different settlements or awards.
There are many factors that must be taken into account to determine how much money someone will get for their pain and suffering. Juries and insurance companies look at:
- The credibility of the witnesses.
- Were the injured person’s actions consistent with those of someone who was in pain?
- Were there any pre-existing injuries?
- Were they able to do what they normally do in their everyday lives, or were they forced to change or reduce their activities.
- What is their tolerance for pain in general?
- What do they do for a living?
- What is their marital status and family situation?
- How sympathetic a witness do they make?
- How skilled is their attorney at presenting their case?
All these factors go into the evaluation of pain and suffering.
Job and income, age, community and lifestyle, attorney, geographic location, attitude and witness quality, pre-existing injuries or conditions, and amount of medical treatment are all factors in determining pain and suffering. The amount of money awarded for pain and suffering is not just pulled out of a hat. There are some tools that insurance companies and lawyers may use to help them arrive at a figure or at least a range for the purpose of determining how much to “demand” from the other party or how much to ask a jury to award. As your experienced personal injury attorney I can help you to assess the value of your pain and suffering—what factors to include and what resources to utilize.
Medical treatment post-accident is extremely important. If the amount and type of treatment appears to be reasonable and necessary for the injury, the injured party comes across as much more honest to the jury. More or less treatment does not necessarily mean more money for pain and suffering, but it’s definitely a factor that is considered. Of course, running up the bills unnecessarily is looked at with a fair degree of suspicion. Stretching out treatment for a minor injury may look like greed to a jury and certainly to an insurance company. It is important, though, to continue treatment for as long as necessary. If you are still in pain, a jury will still be less likely to award you a large amount if you did not continue to be seen by medical providers.
In addition to physical pain endured from an accident, there is also the calculating of lost wages. If you work full-time and miss any amount of time due to the accident (i.e. doctors appointments, hospitalization, feeling ill, doctor’s orders etc.), you are entitled to be reimbursed for the wages you would have earned had you been at work. All the insurance company wants is documentation to support your claim and you should be paid for your loss. If say, your doctor tells you to take off two weeks, documents it with a signed authorization your employer writes a letter to say how much money you lost, and your doctor documents when you may return to work, even if you used vacation or sick time, you should be reimbursed for the time you lost from work. It becomes more difficult when time off work becomes months or even up to a year or more. In this instance, the company you work for may not be willing to hold your job. So, it not only becomes an issue of your wages lost for your current place of employment but also your future earnings.
All these things factor into determining the amount of pain and suffering in a case. The details of each case always differ from one case to another and so it is your job to keep as much documentation as possible. Then, your attorney can do his/her best to get you the awarded settlement you deserve.
If you were involved in an accident in Texas, we’ll be happy to mail it to you (together with a host of other free stuff.) You can either email us, call us at (512) 343-2572, or fill in the form to the right.