What Is “Pain and Suffering” and How Is Its Value Calculated?

Pain and suffering are legal terms often used in personal injury cases to describe the physical and emotional distress experienced by a victim because of another party’s negligence or wrongdoing. These terms are crucial in determining the amount of compensation a victim may receive in a lawsuit. The following is a brief overview of their legal definition, their various aspects, and how they are evaluated in legal proceedings. For more detailed information about your situation, we recommend speaking with one of our experienced Outer Banks personal injury attorneys.

Legal Definitions

Pain and suffering are broad and somewhat subjective concepts in the legal world. They encompass a wide range of physical and emotional distress experienced by an injured party. Pain refers to the physical discomfort or agony resulting from an injury while suffering pertains to the emotional and psychological distress endured due to the incident. The types of pain and suffering that lead to financial compensation in an injury claim include:

  • Physical pain: This includes the actual physical discomfort or agony caused by injuries. It can range from minor discomfort to excruciating pain, depending on the severity of the injuries sustained.
  • Mental anguish: Mental suffering encompasses emotional distress, such as anxiety, depression, and fear, resulting from the accident. Witnessing a traumatic event or experiencing a life-altering injury can lead to significant mental anguish.
  • Loss of enjoyment: Victims may also experience a loss of enjoyment of life due to their injuries. This means they are unable to participate in activities they once enjoyed, affecting their overall quality of life.
  • Disfigurement: In cases where injuries result in permanent scarring or disfigurement, the victim may be entitled to compensation for the emotional distress and psychological impact of their altered appearance.

Determining Compensation

Calculating compensation for pain and suffering is not as straightforward as determining economic damages like medical bills and lost wages. The legal system uses various methods to assess these non-economic damages:

  • Multiplier method: This approach involves multiplying the total economic damages (such as medical bills and lost income) by a certain factor. The multiplier typically ranges from one to five, with more severe injuries receiving higher multipliers. For example, if the economic damages are $50,000, and a multiplier of three is applied, the pain and suffering compensation would be $150,000.
  • Per diem method: In this method, a daily rate is assigned for pain and suffering, and the compensation is calculated based on the number of days the victim suffered due to their injuries. The daily rate is determined by factors such as the nature and severity of the injuries.

In complex cases, expert witnesses may be called upon to provide their professional opinion on the extent of the victim’s pain and suffering. Their testimony can be influential in determining appropriate compensation.

Challenges in Assessing Pain and Suffering

One of the challenges in personal injury cases is quantifying pain and suffering. Unlike economic damages, which have clear monetary values, these types of damages are subjective experiences that vary from person to person. Additionally, there is no universally accepted formula for calculating non-economic damages, leading to inconsistencies in awards.

Caps on Pain and Suffering Damages

Some states impose caps or limits on the amount of compensation that can be awarded for pain and suffering in personal injury cases. In North Carolina, although there are no caps for pain and suffering in a personal injury case, there is a cap in medical malpractice actions.

Call Our Personal Injury Law Firm If You’ve Been Injured

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by another party, you may be entitled to damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Contact Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp to schedule a free case evaluation and find out what legal options you may have. Our firm has been successfully advocating for clients for more than three decades, obtaining more than $100 million in insurance settlements and verdicts.

Our OBX personal injury firm serves clients in the Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, and Kill Devil Hills areas.