Most of us know what “pain and suffering” is, but what does it mean, exactly, from a legal perspective? And how is pain and suffering quantified and calculated for the purposes of a personal injury claim?
Types of Pain and Suffering
For determining damages in personal injury claims, there are two types of pain and suffering — physical and mental:
- Physical pain and suffering: This is the pain and discomfort of actual physical injuries. It includes not only pain the victim has already suffered, but also any lingering pain and discomfort the victim is likely to suffer in the future as a result of the injuries.
- Mental pain and suffering: These damages result from the victim’s physical injuries. They may include mental anguish, shock, anxiety, fear, anger, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and any negative emotion suffered by the victim and resulting from the physical injuries caused by the responsible party’s negligence. Severe mental pain and suffering may involve depression, loss of appetite, low energy, mood swings, sexual dysfunction, sleep disturbances, or PTSD. Damages in a personal injury claim include both past and future mental pain and suffering.
Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages
There are no set guidelines in the legal system for establishing the dollar value of a victim’s pain and suffering. Juries are typically instructed to use their judgment and experience in determining fair and reasonable compensation.
In some personal injury cases, pain and suffering is calculated as a multiple of the claimant’s “special damages” (medical expenses plus lost earnings). The multiplier used in most of these cases is between 1.5 and 4. As an example, for a claimant whose special damages total $20,000, using a multiplier of 3, pain and suffering would be calculated at $60,000.
However, this system only provides a rough estimate, and does not work in all personal injury matters. In some cases, the impact of the injury on the future well-being and lifestyle of the claimant may far exceed the norm. For example, a relatively minor injury that results in a disfiguring facial scar could leave the victim with mental pain and suffering damages far exceeding the value of special damages multiplied by a number between 1.5 and 4.
A number of factors may affect the value of pain and suffering damages in a personal injury claim, including:
- Severity of the injury
- Liability of the insured for the injury
- Future prognosis
- Claimant’s credibility and likeability
- Claimant’s ability to be a good witness
- Consistency and veracity of claimant’s testimony regarding his or her injuries
- Support of claimant’s physicians for pain and suffering claims
Call Us Today
If you or your loved one has been seriously injured by an act of negligence, you need an experienced injury attorney who is committed to fighting for your rights and interests. At Herman Herman & Katz, LLC, we have been representing injured Louisiana people for more than 70 years. We are proud of our victories achieving settlements and verdicts for our clients. Contact us for a free case evaluation with no obligation to find out if you have a case, and what damages you may be entitled to claim.