Calculating Pain and Suffering Damages in North Carolina | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Personal injury settlements and jury awards typically include two types of monetary compensation for the victim. Economic damages cover the cost of past, current and future medical care for the injury caused by the negligent or reckless party. They also cover the injured person’s loss of wages while recovering and their loss of future earnings due to the injury. One way to think about this is that the payment of economic damages compensates an injury victim by paying doctor bills and serving as a form of temporary or permanent disability income.

Most people who succeed with a personal injury insurance claim or who win a civil jury trial also receive noneconomic damages. The common description of noneconomic damages is “pain and suffering.” The term fits because this type of compensation covers emotional distress, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and, yes, physical pain.

A widely cited definition of pain and suffering in the context of personal injury law explains that “how much the defendant [who caused the injury] owes for pain and suffering is calculated separately from the amount owing for more direct expenses, such as medical bills or time lost from work—although sometimes these amounts are considered to arrive at a logical figure.”



Economic and noneconomic damages are available in all types of personal injury cases, including those arising from

As North Carolina personal injury attorneys, my colleagues and I calculate the economic damages owed to our clients in a straightforward manner. We add up unpaid hospital, therapy and pharmacy bills, estimate expense for future medical care, and consult with experts to determine how much switching jobs or leaving the workforce will decrease our client’s earnings over their lifetime.

No one can assign an exact dollar amount to physical sensations and experiences such as anxiety, sadness and a sense of profound loss. As a result, my colleagues and I do our best to calculate a just and adequate value for our client’s pain and suffering by considering seven factors:

  • The severity of our client’s injury;
  • Our client’s self-reports of physical pain, both immediately after being injured and up to the time of the settlement or civil trial;
  • The potential that pain and suffering will persist or recur, as happens with chronic pain syndromes, long-term disabilities and post-traumatic stress;
  • The amount of economic damages due to our client;
  • The emotional and mental tolls our client’s injury and suffering have taken on their family members; and
  • The conduct of the at-fault party.

Actually securing noneconomic damages requires presenting solid evidence that the party who caused our client’s injuries should provide compensation for pain and suffering. Types of evidence we use for this purpose include

  • Photos of our client’s injuries,
  • Medical records that document the care our client received following their injury,
  • Sworn testimony from our client,
  • Sworn testimony from our client’s friends and family members, and
  • Journal entries in which our client describes their physical pain and emotional distress.

Each case will be different, so the there is no standard “ask” for noneconomic damages. The amount we seek for an individual client will depend on all the factors listed above, and it will usually represent a percentage or multiple of the total economic damages.