Accidents can sometimes cause serious injuries and immense pain and suffering to victims. In such instances, the accident can turn into a legal matter if a third party’s negligence caused it.
If you’ve been in an accident, the sooner you can file and settle your pain and suffering claim, the sooner you can start focusing on your recovery. While it’s easy to claim tangible losses such as property damage, lost wages, and medical expenses, putting a definitive figure on pain and suffering can be challenging.
You may wonder if hiring a lawyer is necessary when seeking compensation for pain and suffering or just doing it on your own. Filing such a claim can be complicated, so it’s essential to have an experienced lawyer represent you and negotiate on your behalf and get you fair compensation.
Here is everything you should know about making a pain and suffering claim.
What Is Pain and Suffering?
Even though there is no universal definition of pain and suffering, in personal injury law, the term refers to emotional or psychological turmoil or any unquantifiable inconvenience you may experience after an accident. There are two types of pain and suffering: physical and mental.
Physical Pain and Suffering
Physical pain and suffering refers to the hurt you are experiencing due to the actual injuries. Physical injuries vary depending on the accident. Some accidents result in life-threatening injuries while other injuries only need a little care. This type of pain and suffering includes current and future pain and discomfort after an accident.
Emotional Pain and Suffering
Physical injuries bring about emotional pain and suffering. Also known as mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering refers to anger, anxiety, depression, fear, and shock a victim experiences after an accident.
Emotional pain can become so severe that it results in mood swings, loss of appetite, and lack of energy or the will to work. In this case, your suffering can linger long after your physical injuries have healed.
Emotional pain also includes future emotional anguish you will likely experience due to the accident.
What Damages Can I Recover for Pain and Suffering?
If you suffered injuries due to someone’s negligence, you may qualify to receive compensation for both physical and emotional pain and suffering. Damages awarded for pain and suffering aim to compensate you for any hurt, discomfort, and emotional turmoil you experience due to the accident.
The following are damages commonly awarded for pain and suffering:
- Loss of enjoyment of life – These are damages awarded when the injuries severely alter your ability to enjoy life or other activities you used to partake in.
- Physical Impairment – Damages awarded when the injuries limit your ability to perform daily actions or move
- Disfigurement– Awarded when the injuries have caused changes to your body, such as permanent scarring
- Mortification – Refers to feeling shameful or embarrassed because of how the accident has affected you
- Apprehension – Payment for injuries that have caused you to experience fear
Who Pays for Pain and Suffering?
According to the law, every person must behave in a way that does harm other people. Regardless of the particular facts of the accident, the law uses common sense as a baseline for determining fault in personal injury cases. For instance, did the person act with reasonable care before the accident happened? In other words, was the person negligent?
A deliberate act or an accidental omission can
involve direct or indirect negligence.
How Is Pain and Suffering Calculated Under the Law?
Attaching a monetary figure on pain and suffering is challenging. Lawyers, insurance companies, judges, and juries have different ways in which they may calculate damages for pain and suffering.
The two common calculation methods are:
- The Multiplier Method
- The Per Diem Method
The Multiplier Method
Under this method, pain and suffering damages get calculated using the economic damages of your injury as a reference point.
The insurance company and your attorney will usually negotiate a multiplier number.
Speak to your lawyer about the complexities of this system and how they can use prior experience to make an informed estimation of the value of your case.
The Per Diem Method
The per diem method, also known as the daily rate, involves calculating a figure for every day you have spent or would spend with the pain and suffering from the injuries. The challenge with this method is justifying your daily rate.
One way to do this is to use the money you earn each day. So if you earn $100 daily, the total sum would be calculated by the number of days you missed work. The logic here is that dealing with the pain and suffering each day is comparable to the effort you use to go to work.
For instance, if you suffered injuries that required you to miss work for 180 days, then the total settlement would be $18,000 or more. Other ways to determine the daily rate cater to low earners or the unemployed. Again, speak with your lawyer about this complex, vital part of your case.
Can I Sue for Pain and Suffering Without a Lawyer?
Practically speaking, no. You do not stand a chance to recover the pain and suffering damages you deserve without the help of an experienced attorney. The intangible damages and the difficulty in proving they exist make it very difficult to claim pain and suffering without a lawyer.
Most personal injury attorneys provide a free consultation, during which they review the facts of your case and assess the strengths and weaknesses of your claim. With enough information, your attorney can provide you with legal strategies to strengthen your case and determine if it has any merit.
Why I Need a Lawyer to File for Pain and Suffering
The only person who knows how much pain anyone is in is the person experiencing said pain. In addition, pain and suffering is invisible, so everyone else can only speculate. Therefore, it is difficult to prove and calculate the monetary value of pain and suffering.
Personal injury cases involve multiple parties, most of whom don’t feel the pain in question. Negotiating parties can undermine the victim’s pain to get out of paying.
An experienced lawyer can help your case by:
- Filing the paperwork on your behalf – Legal procedures can be complex, but lawyers are familiar with every process. Your lawyer can file the right papers on time to ensure your case is on record within the statute of limitations.
- Gathering evidence to prove damages – For a personal injury case to have merit, there must be proof of damages. Proving intangible damages is difficult, but lawyers know what to look for and how to present the evidence.
- Representing your case – Legal representation requires vast knowledge and deep understanding of the law, which experienced personal injury lawyers have. This representation can help your chances of winning a case if it goes to trial.
- Negotiating a fair compensation – Experienced attorneys know the value of every case and how far they can reach in monetary terms to get you a fair deal.
How a Lawyer Can File a Claim On Your Behalf
Your attorney may gather the following evidence to help your case:
- Expert testimony
- Pictures of your injuries
- Psychiatric records
- Medical bills
- Medical records
- Medical prognosis
Your attorney may work with medical experts to prove that you have suffered due to the defendant’s actions. Once you prove this, you can ask for damages from the at-fault party.
Most personal injury cases settle without going to trial. Your attorney may collect the at-fault party insurance provider’s name and policy number. Then, they may send a notice of claim to the insurance company indicating that you have been injured and wish to file a claim.
Process of Filing a Claim in Court
Filing a claim in court involves a series of steps, but you can settle before the final step.
#1. Filing the Claim in Court
Your attorney may file a claim in court to begin a lawsuit. A complaint is the first document stating that you intend to recover pain and suffering damages from the at-fault party.
After filing the claim, your attorney will have a month or more to serve the claim to the defendant. This means that the claim should be hand-delivered to the defendant so they cannot later claim that they weren’t aware of the lawsuit.
#2. The Defendant Hires a Lawyer
The defendant gets ample time to hire an attorney. If they have insurance, they must notify the insurance company, which can then appoint a lawyer to represent them in court.
Both parties share evidence and facts about the case during the pre-trial phase. They may both appear in court to inform the judge of the progress. During this time, the attorneys can schedule depositions, which involve questioning the opposing party’s witnesses under oath.
During the trial, your attorney presents evidence before the judge and jury to convince them that the defendant is liable for causing your pain and suffering.
Your case may come into a settlement agreement with the insurance company at any of the above stages.
What the Jury Considers
When deciding the outcome of your case, the jury will consider:
The Evidence Provided
This involves examining the evidence, both attorneys’ arguments, and the judge’s summary. During deliberations, the jury will have an opportunity to review the evidence and draw their conclusions.
Jurors can then discuss the case until they unanimously agree on the defendant’s liability and the appropriate amount to reward for the damages.
Before the jury goes in for deliberations, the judge can advise them to base their verdict solely on the evidence and credibility of the witnesses. The judge can also discuss the standard of proof they should apply in your case. Jurors must consider the law before drawing any conclusions.
Statute of Limitations for Pain and Suffering
The statute of limitations for filing for pain and suffering damages varies from state to state. You must file the lawsuit within the statute of limitations period or one year after you discovered the injuries.
If the statutory period runs out before your lawyer files a claim for you, you cannot file a legal action for any damages. However, the statutory window will only start running when you discover the injuries. In this case, the statutory window can be paused or delayed.
Contact an Attorney For Pain And Suffering
In most cases, handling the case alone can force you into complicated and unfruitful situations. Consult an attorney if an accident injured you. Your attorney can handle your case and get fair compensation for your pain and suffering.