Pain and Suffering in a Personal Injury Case? | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Virginia Beach Personal Injury Lawyer

Descriptions of settlements or court awards to plaintiffs in personal cases often include a mention of “pain and suffering.” In personal injury law, the term “pain and suffering” refers to the physical and emotional distress experienced by a victim as a result of an accident or injury caused by another party’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing. While medical bills and property damage can be relatively straightforward to quantify, pain and suffering are more subjective and challenging to measure in terms of compensation. This concept plays a crucial role in determining the amount of damages a plaintiff may be entitled to in a personal injury case.

Types of Damages

But what does pain and suffering mean in a legal sense? The explanation requires a brief discussion of the types of monetary compensation and damages a plaintiff can claim. These fall into the three categories of economic damages, noneconomic damages, and, in specific cases, punitive damages.

Economic damages reflect the direct costs of recovering from an injury. Medical bills, prescription medications, physical therapy, and wages lost while out of work fall into the category of economic damages. Figuring out what a personal injury victim is owed is as straightforward as adding up costs to date and estimating costs into the future.

Punitive damages are noncriminal fines that a jury imposes as punishment for recklessness or willful and wanton behavior. They are sometimes called exemplary damages because they are meant to serve as an example of what can happen to others who harm people.

In Virginia, punitive damages most often come into play when a drunk driver permanently disables or kills someone. Companies are also made to pay punitive damages when they continue making and selling products despite having ample evidence that the products pose serious dangers. Covering up the dangers or outright denying that the dangers exist when company executives know they are producing or marketing a harmful product can make the company liable for paying punitive damages. Except in medical malpractice cases, juries in Virginia can award any amount of punitive damages.

Pain and suffering falls into the category of noneconomic damages. No one can put an exact cash value on physical discomfort or depression, but the negative effects are usually plainly evident. Making someone else experience pain and suffering is something a negligent or reckless person or company should pay for.

Pain and suffering encompass a wide range of physical and emotional experiences that a victim may endure following an accident or injury. It includes not only the immediate pain and discomfort caused by the injury but also the long-term effects, both physical and psychological.

Here are some key aspects of pain and suffering in a personal injury case:

  1. Physical pain: This is the most obvious component of pain and suffering. It includes the immediate pain experienced after the injury, such as broken bones, lacerations, burns, or any other physical harm. It also accounts for chronic pain, discomfort, and physical limitations that may persist for an extended period or even become permanent.
  2. Emotional distress: Emotional suffering is equally important. Victims may experience anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or other mental health issues as a result of the accident. These emotional distresses can significantly impact a person’s quality of life and well-being.
  3. Loss of enjoyment of life: When an injury restricts a person’s ability to engage in activities they once enjoyed, it is considered a loss of enjoyment of life. This could include hobbies, sports, or even simple everyday tasks that the injury now prevents the victim from participating in.
  4. Disfigurement and scarring: Permanent physical changes resulting from the injury, such as disfigurement or scarring, can cause significant emotional distress and impact a person’s self-esteem and self-image.
  5. Loss of consortium: In some cases, the injury can affect a victim’s ability to maintain relationships and engage in normal family and social activities. This can lead to a claim for loss of consortium, which compensates for the harm caused to personal relationships.
  6. Future pain and suffering: The long-term consequences of an injury are also considered when calculating compensation. If the victim is likely to experience ongoing pain and suffering in the future due to the injury, these future damages may be factored into the compensation awarded.

How Much Is Your Pain and Suffering Worth?

Determining the monetary value of pain and suffering is a complex and somewhat subjective process. Insurance companies, judges, and juries often rely on several factors to make this determination:

  • Medical records: The severity of the injury, medical treatment received, and expert medical opinions are critical in assessing the extent of physical pain and suffering.
  • Psychological evaluations: Psychological assessments and expert testimony may be used to gauge the emotional distress experienced by the victim.
  • Impact on daily life: Evidence of how the injury has affected the victim’s daily life, including their ability to work, socialize, and perform daily activities, is essential.
  • Similar cases: Past personal injury cases with similar circumstances and injuries can serve as benchmarks for calculating pain and suffering damages.

Standard instructions given to Virginia civil trial juries explain that juries can award damages to a plaintiff for any physical pain and mental anguish the plaintiff suffered in the past and any pain and anguish the plaintiff may reasonably be expected to suffer in the future. Related damages can also be rewarded for any past and future inconvenience.

Doctors, mental health professionals, family members, and the plaintiff can all present evidence and testimony regarding pain, emotional suffering, and inconvenience. Insurance company representatives and defense lawyers will contest much of this, but a dedicated and understanding Virginia personal injury lawyer will fight for the settlement or jury award his client deserves.

A Virginia Beach personal injury lawyer will also help a plaintiff or the plaintiff’s family determine the proper amount of noneconomic damages to request in light of the facts of the case. One of the most important jobs for a personal injury attorney is to help an injured person calculate the value of harms that are real but do not carry clear price tags.

Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm Today

If you have been injured in an accident, a seasoned Virginia personal injury attorney from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can calculate how much you are entitled to in compensation from the at-fault party and can also pursue that claim for you. Call our office today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.