What Is Pain & Suffering?

Personal injury law works on several premises, but first and foremost among them is this: if someone causes you pain and suffering, you deserve just compensation. That’s what it’s all about! Usually, this comes down to a literal injury. For example, you were hurt in a car accident that was someone else’s fault, or perhaps when an employer failed to properly implement standardized safety procedures.

Other times, the injury might not be physical. For example, libel and slander also fall under the umbrella of personal injury law. But in those cases, the “injury” was financial. Either way, you deserve compensation. 

Some aspects of personal injury law are easy to weigh, while others are more difficult.

The easiest aspects to weigh already happened, or they’re happening right here in the present: you have medical bills for injuries sustained, increased insurance payments for an accident that wasn’t your fault, etc.

The most difficult aspect to weigh are those that occur in the future: reduced earning potential, difficulty finding a job, long-term physical therapy, PTSD, etc. The latter also falls under the category of pain and suffering: something you might experience from the time the accident occurs to well into the future.

But what is pain and suffering, and how does a judge measure it? Pain and suffering a dollar amount placed on the emotional trauma a person sustains because of an accident. This is the most difficult aspect of personal injury to explain to a judge, and it’s also the most difficult for a judge to calculate when deciding damages because it’s not something tangible. And then there’s the fact that some laws might limit the amount of damages in this category. 

Oddly enough, the work that insurance companies do can help your lawyer determine how much to ask for either in or out of court. Some of these methods take the bills incurred because of the accident, place a multiplier on them, and then use that to find a new number, which in turn becomes the pain and suffering calculation. A different method used the number of days a person is in pain, while placing a (sometimes arbitrary) “daily rate” to determine a new number.

These methods are the ones most commonly employed by insurance companies, and might also be used by a personal injury lawyer. But because of the ambiguous nature of pain and suffering, it really comes down to an ask: what does the victim want, and does his or her lawyer think it’s a reasonable ask to make? After all, each accident is different. It might just come down to circumstance. Was someone killed? Was a crime involved? Will you also ask for punitive damages?

Discussing the specifics of your accident will help your lawyer provide you with a basic estimation of what you might receive for pain and suffering — and everything else.