What Is ‘Pain and Suffering’ In Personal Injury Cases and How Are These Damages Calculated?
If you were suffered injuries due to someone else’s fault, you might be entitled to compensation for the damages and losses you have incurred. One of the damages commonly awarded to personal injury claimants are “pain and suffering.”
Since any non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, are very subjective, it’s difficult to assign a dollar amount to those damages. For this reason, you should get help from an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you identify and calculate pain and suffering in your unique case.
At Howe.Law, our personal injury attorneys represent accident victims in Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee. We are committed to helping our clients recover all of their damages, including pain and suffering. Call our offices 844-876-4357 to discuss your case.
What is pain and suffering?
Pain and suffering are non-economic damages and a type of intangible loss. The main distinction between economic and non-economic damages is that the latter are not easily measured by a dollar amount.
In personal injury cases, pain and suffering are a combination of physical, psychological, emotional, and mental trauma that the victim has endured and will deal with in the future due to the injury and/or accident.
There are different types of pain and suffering damages that can be compensable in personal injury cases in Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi. For example, a Georgia trial judge once listed all types of pain and suffering that a victim can claim in a lawsuit against the negligent party (Food Lion, Inc. v. Williams):
- Physical pain and suffering, both past and future
- Mental anguish (emotional distress), both past and future
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disruption to the victim’s everyday living
- Disruption to the victim’s bodily health and vigor
- Diminished earning capacity or the loss of the ability to work and earn income
Note: The injured person may also be able to recover damages for humiliation, anxiety, fear, worry, depression, grief, shock, disfigurement, inconvenience, anger, sleep disturbances, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sexual dysfunction, and many more.
With a skilled attorney on your side, these and certain other types of pain and suffering damages may be compensable in your personal injury case in Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi.
Let our personal injury lawyers at Howe.Law investigate your case and determine what may be considered pain and suffering in your unique situation.
How to calculate pain and suffering in my personal injury case?
The most common way of calculating pain and suffering in personal injury cases is the so-called “multiplier method.” It works by adding up all of your economic damages – medical bills, property damage, and lost wages (loss of income) – and multiplying the total amount by a multiplier ranging from 1.5 to 5.
The multiplier is determined on a case-by-case basis and indicates the severity of the victim’s pain, injury, and suffering. While the insurance company may be inclined to use a lower multiplier when calculating your pain and suffering damages, you will need to present a strong legal case and be very persuasive in proving the distress and detrimental effects that you have suffered and are likely to endure in the future.
It’s essential to seek help from an experienced personal injury attorney to help you maximize the value of your pain and suffering damages and make sure that the insurer uses an appropriate multiplier.
Depending on the facts of your accident and personal injury case, it may be more appropriate to use the “per diem” method to calculate pain and suffering.
The per diem (Latin for “per day”) method works by assigning a daily dollar value to your pain and suffering in order to seek a specific dollar amount for every day you have to endure the pain caused by your accident. Then, that daily value is multiplied by the number of days you were affected by the injury.
There are two types of pain and suffering damages that you have to consider when determining how much money you can receive for all the harms and losses of your injury:
- Past and ongoing, which account for any physical, mental, psychological, and emotional effects of the injury that you have suffered from the date of the accident and continue to experience to this very day.
- Future, which would estimate the pain and suffering you are likely to endure for the rest of your life.
Are there any limits on how much I can receive for pain and suffering?
Some states have passed statutes that limit (or “cap”) the amount of pain and suffering damages that a victim can be awarded in their personal injury case.
While Georgia does not place a limit on pain and suffering damages, Mississippi has a statute that caps all non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, at $1 million. However, under Miss. Code § 11-1-60, non-economic damages are limited to $500,000 in medical malpractice cases.
Tennessee also puts a monetary cap on pain and suffering damages. Pursuant to T.C.A. § 29-39-102, plaintiffs in personal injury cases cannot receive more than $750,000 in pain and suffering damages. However, the damages cap can be increased to $1 million when:
- You have suffered an injury or loss that is “catastrophic in nature” (severe burns, spinal cord injury that led to paraplegia or quadriplegia, death of a person who has minor children, or two of your hands or feet or one each has been amputated);
- The defendant destroyed, concealed, or tampered with evidence;
- The defendant is guilty of acting with intent to inflict injury;
- The defendant was impaired by alcohol; or
- The defendant’s misconduct resulted in a felony conviction.
What factors affect the value of my pain and suffering damages?
There are a number of factors that come into play when calculating pain and suffering damages in personal injury cases. These are only some of the factors that can impact your pain and suffering settlement or award:
- The severity of your injury. As a rule of thumb, you will recover less money for your pain and suffering if you sustained a minor injury compared to someone who has suffered a spinal cord injury and was paralyzed.
- The degree of fault. If you share responsibility for causing your injury, your degree of fault can reduce the value of your claim. Mississippi is a pure comparative negligence state, which means you can recover damages even if your fault is greater than 50% ( Code § 11-7-15). Tennessee and Georgia follow the doctrine of modified comparative negligence, which bars plaintiffs from seeking any compensation if they were mostly at fault (O.C.G.A. § 51-11-7and T.C.A. § 29-11-103). Your compensation becomes smaller in proportion to your degree of fault.
- The type of medical care required to treat your injuries and recover. A victim who needs invasive procedures and surgeries to treat their injury may be able to recover more money than someone who was prescribed medication and was ordered to rest to fully recover.
- The recovery timeline. Estimating how long it would take to fully recover from your injury can also impact the value of your pain and suffering damages and your personal injury claim as a whole.
- The long-term consequences. You should also consider any long-term effects stemming from your injury in order to assign a monetary value to your pain and suffering.
The best way to increase the value of your settlement and seek fair compensation for your pain and suffering is by documenting your injuries, pain, suffering, and recovery every single day. This can be done by keeping a journal. Also, it’s equally important to seek legal counsel from a personal injury attorney to help build a strong legal case and maximize your compensation.
What types of evidence do I need to prove pain and suffering?
You have the burden of proving the negative impact of your injury on your physical, mental, and emotional health stemming from your accident.
Your personal injury attorney can help you strengthen your legal claim by collecting all available types of evidence to prove pain and suffering, including:
- Medical records showing your complaints of pain
- Results of medical exams and tests proving the degree of pain
- Prescriptions for pain medications
- Information from your journal about the severity of your pain and suffering
- Expert testimony about the extent of your pain, suffering, mental anguish, and other effects of the injury
- Testimony from vocational and economic experts about the impact of your injury on your earning capacity and ability to work
- Testimony from your spouse, children, parents, family members, neighbors, and other people about the effects of your injury on your life
You should discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney in Georgia, Mississippi, or Tennessee to determine what kind of evidence you need to collect to build a strong case and prove your pain and suffering damages.
If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence and believe that you are entitled to pain and suffering damages, do not hesitate to contact our attorneys at Howe.Law to go over the facts of your personal injury case and help you receive the compensation you deserve. Our personal injury lawyers are licensed to practice in Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our attorneys by calling 844-876-4357.