How Pain and Suffering Is Calculated in a Personal Injury Case

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How Pain and Suffering Is Calculated in a Personal Injury Case

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There are several types of compensation, also known as damages, that may be awarded to make a personal injury victim whole after their accident.

The primary goal of personal injury law is to prevent financial hardship for people who are injured by the negligent or reckless actions of another person, a business or the government.

If you or a loved one were injured because of someone else’s actions, you shouldn’t have to pay for their mistakes out of your own pocket.

Most of these “compensatory” damages are based around your actual costs. Compensatory damages should cover the cost of your medical treatments, rehabilitation, continued care, mobility assistance and home modifications if you are disabled by the accident.

Injured parties may also be compensated for any wages they lost due to the accident. The law will even take into account lost future earnings or job retraining if your injury prevents you from returning to your previous occupation.

In addition to compensation for tangible damages, you can also be awarded compensation for pain and suffering. These types of damages are intended to compensate you monetarily for damages that can’t really be quantified with a specific dollar amount.

If a personal injury victim suffered burns to their face, arms and legs and are left with scars after their recovery, there will be a severe emotional and psychological toll for them. Not only will they have to see a painful reminder of their accident every day in the mirror, they will also have to deal with the altered perception of everyone around them.

How do you put a monetary valuation in something like scarring? Or on suffering from PTSD after a bad accident or animal attack? It’s not always easy, but it is often required by the courts and attorneys whenever compensation for pain and suffering is awarded in a personal injury case.

What Qualifies for Pain and Suffering Damages?

There are a lot of different types of physical and emotional injuries that qualify for pain and suffering compensation.

  • Actual physical pain or discomfort you feel – like suffering from permanent back pain after a car accident
  • Emotional and psychological pain, such as PTSD, anxiety, depression or memory loss due to your injuries
  • Loss of consortium – essentially losing physical and emotional companionship – is primarily for surviving family members and is available in some personal injury cases and wrongful death cases
  • Physical limitations may get lumped into loss of consortium and includes things like no longer being able to do your job or the things you love, like skiing or playing catch with your children

Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages

Putting a valuation on these types of damages can be difficult and is very specific to each case. Not every person will have the same personal costs for the various categories of pain and suffering damages. For example, not every person who is injured has a husband, wife, significant other or children, in which case loss of consortium damages may not apply to them.

If an injured person was an avid rock climber and can prove to the court that they dedicated every weekend to rock climbing – an activity they can no longer do because of their injuries – they may receive significant compensation for that physical limitation. A rock climber who can no longer climb rocks will suffer a great loss of happiness and fulfillment due to their injury and should be compensated accordingly.

Things like physical discomfort and suffering can be hard to gauge since those emotions are based on personal experiences and perception. Medical professionals are frequently consulted or even brought in to testify to the level of pain and discomfort the injured party may be experiencing.

An Example of Pain and Suffering Damages

Carrie DeJongh, a 40-year-old wife and mother of four, went into a health center in Sioux Center, Iowa for a CT scan. Before the scan the doctor injected her with a contrast dye to improve the image quality of the CT scan results.

DeJongh was allergic to the dye and went into anaphylactic shock. The doctor failed to administer epinephrine or take the appropriate steps to monitor her vitals and DeJongh died.

The family filed a wrongful death suit against the doctor and the medical center and won in court. They were awarded $1.5 million for the pain and suffering DeJongh experienced prior to her death. Each child was awarded $5.5 million for loss of parental consortium and DeJongh’s husband was awarded $6 million for loss of spousal consortium.

In that case, the judge likely took into account DeJongh’s age, the age of the children and the activities that she performed for the household. If DeJongh had been older and her children had been adults the compensation likely would have looked entirely different. If she were in her 70s, the role she played in the household and the impact her death would have on her children’s lives, while still relevant, wouldn’t have been as profound.