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Understanding "Pain and Suffering"

Steve Wagner

Whether or not you’ve been involved in a personal injury lawsuit, you’ve probably heard the term “pain and suffering” and not thought too much about exactly what it means in the legal sense. No doubt, this would change quickly if you were involved in an accident, medical malpractice, or other personal injury, at which point you would probably have a lot of sudden questions.

What is “pain and suffering” really?

The first question most people have is about the actual definition of “pain and suffering.” There is physical pain and suffering, to include the current physical injury and also the physical effects that are expected to impact the victim as a result of the defendant’s negligence. This is separate from medical expenses and lost wages, which may also be part of a personal injury claim.

There is also emotional/psychological pain and suffering, which can be more difficult to understand. In its simplest form, mental pain and suffering includes any negative emotions that result from the trauma of an accident or from the injuries caused by an accident. This can be depression, humiliation, anger, post-traumatic stress disorder, or any negative psychological impacts that can impact daily life (loss of appetite, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, etc.).

Proving Pain and Suffering

There is not a definitive way to “prove” pain and suffering; however, there are things that can support your claim to a jury or insurance company. First and foremost, it is absolutely critical that you seek medical attention if you are injured. If you never saw a doctor, it will be much more difficult to receive adequate compensation for your pain and suffering. From the first moment, you should document your symptoms, medical services or care received, and impact on your daily life. The DMV provides a list of potentially-useful information, such as records from your doctor, prescription and OTC medication receipts, proof of lost wages, a personal journal of pain and missed activities, such as school, and pictures of your injuries. When claiming emotional suffering, it is usually necessary to have records and statements from a mental health professional who is treating you.

The Value of Pain and Suffering

In reality, juries are not given much guidance in the area of valuing pain and suffering. Some plaintiff’s attorneys or insurance companies may use a computer formula or one of two simpler common methods:

  • Multiplier Method, wherein the plaintiff’s total medical bills and lost wages are multiplied by some number, usually between one and five;
  • Per Diem Method, which requires an estimation of the value of pain and suffering for a single day and then multiplies that by the number of days injured.

In short, this can be a very gray area, and an experienced personal injury attorney is recommended in order to help you increase the odds that you recover the appropriate amount of compensation for your pain and suffering. At Wagner Reese, we understand personal injury law and can help you understand and maximize your pain and suffering damages. Call us now for a FREE consultation: (888) 204-8440.


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