Pain & suffering damages can be added to almost any personal injury case. And since serious injuries often involve pain and suffering, it is likely that these damages can be added to your case.
Despite how common these damages are, they can still be somewhat confusing for injured parties to wrap their heads around. In this article, we will cover what counts as pain & suffering, how to establish and measure pain & suffering, and the limits on recovering these damages.
Pain & Suffering Are Non-Economic Damages
There are three top-level damage types in personal injury cases. These are economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Pain & suffering counts as non-economic damages because there are often no tangible costs associated with the damages.
Economic damages cover definitive costs, such as medical bills. And punitive damages may be levied against defendants who displayed a willful disregard for the safety of others.
Pain & suffering damages themselves can further be broken down into two parts: physical pain and emotional suffering.
Physical damages make up the pain portion of pain & suffering. For example, if you break your legs in a car crash, that is going to be physically painful. The pain associated with your initial injury counts toward your damages.
Additionally, you will likely continue to experience pain and discomfort throughout your recovery. In some cases, this pain may even be permanent and require lifelong medication. That too counts.
Mental and Emotional Damages
Mental and emotional damages make up the suffering portion of pain & suffering. After suffering the same broken leg injuries from the aforementioned car crash, you may also develop PTSD.
It is not uncommon to be shaken up after a severe injury – or even a relatively minor injury resulting from a dangerous accident. Mental and emotional trauma can disrupt your daily life in a variety of ways. And you may require the help of a therapist or other mental health expert to move past your accident.
Establishing Pain & Suffering
It can be difficult to establish that you experienced pain & suffering as a result of your injury. Nobody but yourself can feel your physical, mental, or emotional pain. So how can you convince them that what you are feeling is real and should be compensated for?
One good idea is to keep a journal or diary of your pain levels, recovery progress or setbacks, and daily struggles due to your injury. This journal can later be used as evidence to show both the extent to which your injury has affected your life and how much pain & suffering you have felt over time.
Keeping records of your treatments can also help. You should do this anyway so that you can be reimbursed for your medical bills. But these records can serve as a paper trail to prove the extent of your injuries through your treatments.
If you are seeing a therapist for emotional suffering related to your injury, it is important to keep records of that as well. It will help to establish that your emotional suffering is real and impacts your life.
How is Pain & Suffering Measured?
Because pain & suffering are so subjective, it is impossible to place an exact monetary value on these types of damages. This is true for all non-economic damages. So instead, the court system relies on a variety of factors to come up with an approximated value for these damages.
These factors include but are not limited to the following.
- Your age
- The expected length of your recovery
- The medical treatments you underwent
- Future medical treatments you are expected to undergo
- The permanence of your injuries
- The impact your injuries have had or will have on your life
Your reported levels of pain, mental anguish, humiliation, and more can also play a role in the amount of compensation you receive. Again, this is why it is a good idea to keep a “pain journal.”
Limits on Pain & Suffering Recovery
As is standard for personal injury claims, there is a 2-year statute of limitations. Adding pain & suffering damages onto your claim does not change this. Where things can start to get complicated are the limits on the compensation you can receive.
In most cases, there are no set caps on the amount of compensation you can receive for pain & suffering. However, if your claim is against the State of Pennsylvania, your pain & suffering compensation is capped at $250,000. And if your claim is against a local government, the cap is $500,000.
Additionally, the compensation you receive due to pain & suffering is affected by Pennsylvania’s Modified Comparative Negligence statute. Under Modified Comparative Negligence, your compensation is reduced by the percentage of fault for the accident that is contributed to you. And if you are more than 50% at fault, you cannot recover damages.
As an example, let us say you were awarded $100,000 for pain & suffering. But, you were also found to be 20% at fault for the accident that caused your injuries. You would then receive 80% of the original amount, or $80,000.
And finally, if you have no-fault car insurance, that may place additional limits on your recovery in car accident cases.
Have You Experienced Pain & Suffering?
Pain & suffering are non-economic damages that can be added onto just about any personal injury claim. These damages are meant to compensate you for your physical pain and emotional suffering associated with your injuries.
Establishing and measuring your pain & suffering is vital due to the subjective nature of these damages. And even after your damages have been quantified, there may still be limits on your recovery.
An experienced Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer can help you navigate your claim and receive the maximum amount of compensation for your situation.
Contact Our Knowledgeable Personal Injury Attorneys in Media, Pennsylvania
At Donaghue & Labrum, our attorneys have decades of experience in successfully reaching settlements and winning trials for our personal injury clients. Contact us today for a free consultation regarding your case.