What Constitutes Pain and Suffering in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?


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If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you may have a personal injury claim. Whether it was an individual or an organization that was at fault, you may be able to sue them for compensation for what you lost due to the injury. The amount of compensation in a personal injury lawsuit is called damages, and there are several types that you may be entitled to.

What Are Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Most of the types of damages that a plaintiff can sue for in a personal injury case are considered compensatory. That means that their purpose is to compensate the injured party for what he or she lost due to the injury. Damages awarded in a personal injury lawsuit are meant to make the plaintiff “whole” again from a financial standpoint. That means that an attempt has to be made to monetarily quantify the consequences of the injury. Some damages are easily quantified because they are already assigned a dollar amount like medical bills and lost wages. It’s much more difficult to place a dollar amount on other damages, such as pain and suffering.

The following is a list of different types of damages that are the most common in personal injury lawsuits:

  • Medical Care: Damages awarded in personal injury cases almost always include the cost of medical care that the plaintiff incurs due to the injury. This amount includes reimbursement for medical care the plaintiff has already received and compensation for the estimated cost of future medical care related to the injury.
  • Income: If the injury has an impact on the plaintiff’s income, damages can include the lost salary and wages. Additionally, plaintiffs can be compensated for future wages they will not receive due to the injury.
  • Property Loss or Damage: If there was loss or damage to any property – car, clothing, or other items – as a result of the injury, then the plaintiff will likely be entitled to compensation for it.
  • Pain and Suffering: Plaintiffs may be entitled to compensation for the pain caused during and after the event that caused the injury.
  • Emotional Distress: These types of damages are typically only awarded in cases where serious injury has occurred. They cover the psychological aspects of the event like fear, anxiety, and loss of sleep. Emotional distress damages are sometimes included in pain and suffering damages.
  • Loss of Enjoyment: When an injury results in a plaintiff no longer being able to enjoy things that he or she used to (hobbies, sports, exercise), loss of enjoyment damages may be awarded.
  • Loss of Consortium: These types of damages relate to the plaintiff’s relationships with his or her spouse and children and what is lost due to the injury. Sometimes these awards are given directly to the affected family members rather than the plaintiff.
  • Punitive Damages: In some personal injury cases, the defendant’s actions are considered especially egregious or careless and the plaintiff may be awarded punitive damages. The goal in awarding punitive damages is not to compensate the plaintiff for his or her injury, but instead to punish the defendant.

What is Pain and Suffering?

In personal injury cases, pain and suffering can be simplified into two categories: physical and mental.

Physical pain and suffering is the actual bodily pain that the plaintiff suffers due to his or her injury. It includes the pain and discomfort the plaintiff has suffered since the injury, as well as any physical pain that is expected in the future.

Mental pain and suffering can also be caused by a personal injury due to the defendant’s negligence. It may include things like emotional distress, mental anguish, fear, anger, insomnia, appetite changes, anxiety, shock, humiliation, and loss of enjoyment of life. It can also include mental disorders caused by the event like depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and even posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Basically, mental pain and suffering is any kind of negative emotion or psychological issue that a plaintiff goes through as a result of his or her injury.

Like physical pain and suffering, mental pain and suffering include the negative effects to date as well as what may be expected in the future.

How Are Damages for Pain and Suffering Calculated?

The court doesn’t provide the juries of personal injury lawsuits with many guidelines for deciding the value of a plaintiff’s pain and suffering. There are no set amounts for specific types of pain and suffering that juries can refer to. Instead, in most states, the judge typically instructs the jury to use its good sense, background, and experience when determining a fair and reasonable amount to award the plaintiff for his or her pain and suffering.

However, there are some factors that play into a jury’s determination of the value of a plaintiff’s pain and suffering. Some include:

  • If the plaintiff is a good witness
  • If the plaintiff is credible
  • If the plaintiff is likeable
  • If the plaintiff’s testimony is consistent
  • Whether the jury believes the plaintiff is exaggerating his or her pain and suffering
  • If the plaintiff’s doctors support the claims of pain and suffering
  • Whether the plaintiff’s diagnosis and prognosis make sense to the jury
  • If the plaintiff has a criminal record

Get What You Are Entitled to for Pain and Suffering

If you or a loved one has been catastrophically injured and someone else was at fault, you may be entitled to the damages listed above. At Ross Feller Casey, we have a history of winning large awards for our clients, including for the pain and suffering they have endured and will endure. Contact us today for a free case evaluation so that I or one of our other expert personal injury attorneys can help you get what you are entitled to under law.

About the Author

Dr. Matthew H. H. Young is a nationally recognized Harvard-educated physician and attorney whose practice focuses on catastrophic injuries caused by medical malpractice.

Matt Young

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.