Although most people are familiar with the concept of “pain and suffering”, they may not be aware that it is an important component in many personal injury cases. What is pain and suffering legally? How is it calculated in an injury-related lawsuit or insurance claim?
What are “Pain and Suffering?”
There are two types: mental and physical pain and suffering.
The plaintiff’s actual physical injuries are called “physical pain and suffering”. This includes the pain and suffering the claimant has experienced to date as well as the likely future adverse effects of the defendant’s negligence.
Although mental pain and suffering can result from the claimant being physically injured, it is more of a side effect. Mental anguish, emotional distress and loss of enjoyment of one’s life are all examples of mental pain and suffering. Any negative emotion caused by the trauma and physical pain that an accident victim experiences is called mental pain and suffering.
Anger, depression, anxiety, loss of appetite and lack of energy can all be signs of severe mental pain. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause more severe mental pain and suffering.
How to Calculate Suffering and Pain
The guidelines that judges give to juries for determining the amount of pain and suffering in personal injury cases are not very helpful. Juries are not given any charts to help them decide how much to award. Most states have judges instruct their juries to use their experience, good judgment, and background to determine what is a fair and reasonable amount to compensate the plaintiff for his pain and suffering.
A “multiplier” is a method used to calculate pain and suffering in personal injury cases. This multiplier works by multiplying the victim’s medical bills and lost wages (which are known as the claimant’s special damages).
The “multiplier”, which is often between 1.5 and 4, is a measure of pain and suffering equal to 1.5 to 4 times the value the claimant’s special damage. The “multiplier” idea is only an estimate and it does not apply to all personal injury cases. This is especially useful for minor injuries cases where the total damages exceed $50,000. However, even small cases require you to be careful when using the “multiplier.”
There are many factors that can affect the value and worth of the pain-and-suffering component of a personal injuries case. These are:
- What the plaintiff’s character is and will be as a good witness or bad witness
- Whether the plaintiff is likeable
- Whether the plaintiff is credible
- Whether the plaintiff’s testimony about his/her injuries is consistent
- Whether the plaintiff exaggerates his or her claims about pain and suffering
- Whether the plaintiff’s doctors support the plaintiff in his claims of suffering and pain
The jury may decide whether or not the plaintiff lied about any matter, even minor. As a general rule, if the plaintiff lies, the jury loses.
Whether the jury can make common sense of the plaintiff’s injuries, diagnosis, and claims
If the plaintiff has a criminal history